Posts Tagged ‘path’

Social, But Not Completely Open

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

It’s very simple: complete transparency is a mistake.

You are not one person.

My fellow home theater enthusiasts aren’t really interested in my literary pursuits or my political beliefs. My customers aren’t particularly interested in the latest addition to my home theater or my enthusiasm for Apple products (or the stock!).

And the whole world doesn’t need to know where I am every second of the day.

I like social separation. I don’t particularly like things that try to munge together every aspect of my life. For example, I use LinkedIn cautiously. If I don’t know you personally, haven’t directly worked with you, then you’re not part of my network there. Being related to me isn’t a reason to connect with me on LinkedIn. If you’re a customer, I don’t particularly want you as a Facebook friend (and a word of warning, even if you are a Facebook friend, don’t be surprised if I don’t stay up-to-the minute on your news. I mostly ignore Facebook). Frankly, “social media” isn’t social for me. It’s a way of connecting. My social interactions are largely in person, direct, and limited.

I do like services like Path. It’s a closed social network. It has a hard limit on the number of connections, which is just fine with me. For those who are friends and family it is a wonderful way to keep lightly in touch. If you were a part of my Path (and please, don’t ask unless we have a personal relationship), you’ll see lots of pictures of the food I’m preparing or putting on my plate. For the world that would be boring, but for my friends and family, it’s a part of my life that they share.

You are not a brand. Stop confusing yourself with things. You don’t need to build a brand. You may need to establish a business side of your work, something separate from the other aspects of your life, that helps you have a conversation with people who might pay you. But if you broadcast all of the stupid things you do, how you got drunk, who you had sex with, and how bored you are at your job, I am less likely to hire you (the same goes for others who decide such things—trust me on that). I have passed over people for jobs because their broadcast personal life made them seem unreliable (one particular applicant for a job pasted their site with the job that really wanted to do, and it wasn’t even close the job they were applying for).

The opposite is also true: businesses are not people. For a business to be social, it has to be focused and friendly, but it can never be your friend. I really like Apple products, I own Apple stock, but Apple isn’t my friend. I don’t need a social relationship with the company that made my car, where I shop for food, or the local dry cleaners. I do find it useful to get news and information from them, and someone to listen and act when I have a problem, but I really don’t need another channel of happy talk from businesses.

I find that when a person is too open and social that I tend to quickly ignore them, tune them down, hide their frequent chatter. It is counterproductive for them to blast every aspect of their life to me. We’d connect better, perhaps, if we limited our conversations to our common interests.

Just like we would if we were meeting in person.

Start Planning For 2012: Your Goals

Monday, October 24th, 2011

It’s time. Past time, really. You need to start planning for next year.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to write a plan, but you do need one. The biggest organizations need plans and so do individuals and freelancers.

Where do you start? Get out a napkin. They’re the traditional planning medium for great ideas. If pressed, you can use an ordinary piece of paper. Put your electronic devices away and sit with your paper, a pen, and ask yourself one simple question:

What do I want from next year?

Don’t judge or limit yourself. Write down your answer. You can decide later if this is a goal for next year or the next decade. Just write it down at the top of the page.

Now, at the bottom of the page, write down where you are now, what you have now, your current reality. For example, if your goal is to “Publish a book,” your current reality might be, “I have an idea for a book, but I haven’t started writing yet. I don’t have a publisher.”

In between your goal and your current reality, this is where you write your goals. These are the steps, the pieces of your plan. If you need more than one napkin, you’re going into too much detail. Stay at this high level. Say what you want, state where you’re are, then draw a path to get yourself where you want to go.

If you have more than one goal, get more napkins.

Once you’ve written down your goals, your realities, and the steps, now you can pick up your digital device and flesh things out. Those things will include a budget, known obstacles, and assembling a team.

Better get started. Not much of this year left to plan for next.


Coming Into Your Own – Embracing Your Own Best Destiny

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Until recently, when someone would ask, “what do you do?” I’d pause and struggle a bit, then tell them about my job. “I manage a small technology company,” I’d tell them, or “I run marketing and internet projects for …” But what I really wanted to say was, “I’m a writer.”

That inner conflict, probably not much different than your own, came because of the choices I made about how I’d earn a living, how to raise a family, and how to establish as stable a future as possible. I struggled because I wanted to say, “I’m a writer, but I’m not doing the work of a writer.” I could point to a diploma and say, “It says here I’m a playwright, but I haven’t written any plays lately.” That was difficult and embarrassing.

I’d been through this struggle while in college. I had planned on working to become a doctor, signed up for all of the chemistry and biology classes, and buckled down. But it was the literature classes and the theater that really excited me. Without knowing what that path would bring me, I made the leap and raced down it. My friends even staged an intervention, sat me down and said, “OK, you’ve had your fun, but now it’s time to get serious and get back to work.” I never wavered, never doubted, and when they realized I was clear about my choice and, most importantly, happy, they never said another word about it.

I finished my undergraduate work and followed the path into graduate school, a three-year Master of Fine Arts program, still without really knowing where it would lead. Once again, I started on what I thought was the practical side, directing, but within a year I found myself teaching in the English department and writing plays. And I remember those years as productive and happy ones.

It’s not as if the time since then has been unhappy, but when I left grad school, I chose getting a job and earning a living over pursuing life as an artist. I wrote short stories occasionally, and did a lot of writing for clients and employers, everything from technical documentation to advertising copy. I don’t regret it. In fact, I now see it as very important. I needed to mature as a writer. I also needed to live. I did interesting work and made great friends. But I was not following my own best destiny and the further I strayed from that path, the more I struggled with the question, “What do you do?”

I do not believe in fate. I find the future completely unwritten. But I do know that for everyone there are passions and interests that can take hold and never let go for an entire lifetime. If you decide to step away from the path that most closely aligns you with these passions, be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it. Plan a path that will eventually, someday, take you back. Now that I’m back on the path, I’ve found, with delight, that all of the work I’ve done since leaving grad school is paying off in surprising ways. Business is good. I’m doing strong creative work. And I’ve got a play scheduled for production.

My daughters are both artists, one a musician, the other a painter. I hope that they can find paths that let them embrace those talents. If the choices that I made make that it possible for them to succeed as artists, then I’ll take pride in that. I see other parents worry about their children and they express concern that they’ll be able to find jobs and earn a living. I know that a person with talent and vision can almost always earn a living. The real question is can they embrace their talents and drives and find a way to unite what they love with what they do.

Yes, I’m proud of the paths they’re starting out on. Especially now that when I’m asked, “What do you do?” I can reply without hesitation, “I’m a writer.”