Your Point of View

If you’ve made the decision to put your own stories – blogs, videos, articles, poetry, spoken word, email campaigns, multimedia, whatever – into the world, there are two different kinds of gaps you can fill.

You can be on the lookout for untold stories and uncover them, becoming, over time, great at picking stories worth telling, the kind of information you’re able to uncover and the narrative that brings us along, engages us, and, hopefully, pushes us to act. This is what Serial was all about (except for the action bit).

Or, you can decide that the project you’re actually engaged in is to share your own point of view.  In this kind of project, you still tell stories but these stories serve as springboards to explore, elaborate upon and illustrate your point of view.

In both cases your job is to engage us, to connect with us, and, yes, to seduce us just a little bit. In both cases, we expect you to hone your craft. In both cases, you have the power to change us.

But because it’s so easy to underestimate ourselves, because we so often convince ourselves we have nothing to say, because we imagine that someday (someday!) we will have wisdom to share…we wait.

Because the act of deciding we have something to say feels a little too proud (“who am I to think that I can….?”), a little too exposed (“what if try and it turns out I don’t actually have anything worth saying?!”), a little too much like it’s the kind of things other people do (“they’re just good at that sort of thing…”), we put off starting. And we put it off some more. And some more. Until we prove to ourselves that we were right all along – we really don’t have a point of view worth sharing.

But that’s just not true. The dirty little secret is that the only way to become, tomorrow or the next day or maybe 10 years from now, someone who has something to say is to start to share our truth today.

Stand out

I recently had the chance to review 30 resumes from job applicants from top business schools.  The level of accomplishment in this group is just astounding.  Best grades, best jobs, speak multiple languages, have done things like volunteering in Nepal before hopping to a top job at Bain or McKinsey or co-founding an Argentine startup or, yes, working at Goldman Sachs.  And all of them have hobbies like “member of the Olympic archery team” or “have climbed three of the Seven Summits.”

What amazed me, beyond how wildly accomplished this group was, was that one out of the 30 had an online presence of any significance.  One.

One person whose body of work was readily available to see and explore.  One person whose mind and thought process and passions were easy to investigate.  One person who had more than a LinkedIn or About.me page.  One person who had a readily-available portfolio of work that gives real insight into who she is.

If this top .0001 percent in terms of accomplishment is missing this opportunity, that means big opportunity for you.  You have a huge opportunity to stand out even among (especially among?) this crowd.

That happens by putting yourself out there and showing the world your best thinking, your best ideas, your best work, in a public place that they can find and explore.  Or, more likely (since you’re just getting started), you’ll start by showing the world the work you can do today, with the knowledge that when you keep on doing it, in a few months or a few years down the road, it will be great work.

What better way could there be to stand out from the crowd?

Better yet, you’ll be amazed at how you learn and grow through the process of pushing your own thinking in this way.

1 to 100

There’s a perpetual mystique about blogging.  How do you do it?  Where do the ideas come from?  How do you find the time?  How do you keep it up?  The notion underlying the question is that sharing one’s thoughts regularly and publically about issues that matter (to you, and to your tribe) is something most of us don’t know how to do or to sustain.

1 to 100_curious georgeSo here’s some data:  In the last 18 months, I’ve written about 200 blog posts, which sounds pretty respectable.  It’s almost enough content to fill up a book.    By way of comparison, I’ve also written 18,574 emails (so sayeth Outlook – so those are just work emails).  Even as a reasonably frequent blogger, for each blog post I write I shoot out almost 100 emails.

In 18 months, I’ve written down and shared an idea, a thought, an opinion 18,574 times.  18,574 times I’ve had a point to make, and even though most of the time the point is short or simple, I have an enormous amount of daily practice in taking my ideas, writing them down, and sharing them with others whose opinion I hope to shape in some way.   My blogging pales in comparison to this, both in terms of volume and time required.  I’m sure it’s the same for you.

If you don’t want to blog (or micro-blog, or whatever) that’s fine, don’t blog. But don’t tell yourself that you don’t know how to do it, because you do.

And if you’re on the fence, maybe it’s time to stop telling yourself how this is something above or beyond you – because it isn’t – and just start.

A week

It hasn’t been a great winter for running for me.  Between the cold snowy weather, late sunrises and general busyness, I’ve just not gotten out there that often.

That didn’t stop me from deciding, this past weekend, to take my one free daylight hour and head out for a 7 mile, very hilly run in 25°F weather.  Brilliant, I know.  Usually I feel like most of the effort is in just getting out there, and after I start things get easier.  This time, between the cold and the brutal hills (I think there was maybe 1 mile of true flat road on this run), I spent the better part of an entire run talking myself into finishing the run.

Even in that context, one moment stood out.  The last mile of this run is practically straight uphill, and steep, and I was at the base of the steepest part of that incline.  I had psyched myself up by convincing myself that this section of the last hill was short and steep, and the strategy had been working as I trudged along with my head down.  Then, reflexively, I looked up to discover that the hill was about three times as long as I’d pretended it was.

At that moment I had an overwhelming urge to stop.

The interesting part is that being out of breath or feeling a huge burn in my legs didn’t demotivate me, but seeing how far I still had to go did.

And so, switching gears, I wonder: how do we really go about making changes in our lives? (Alternately: why do New Years resolutions fail?).

I’d propose that the thing that holds us back is that “looking up” moment, when you see how big the hill you want to scale is and decide that it’s just too darn big, too hard, too much, so you don’t start.

Despite being a believer in big audacious goals, when it comes to the hard work of personal transformation, I’m most successful when I start small.  If I want to cut out eating sugar, if I want to meditate daily or be more generous or ignore my inbox for an hour a day or give myself more whitespace for reflection, I’d much rather set myself a clear one-week goal and start on it today.

You can do anything for a week, easily.  And by committing to just a week, you don’t have to engage in the meaningless anticipation of what this undertaking will mean for you – because, let’s be honest, until you do it (whatever IT is) you really don’t know what IT feels like.  The powerful part is that a week is long enough to start getting used to a new habit: it’s long enough to change how salty your think food should taste (try it, it’s true).  It’s long enough to discover whether mornings or evenings work better for you for _______ [YOUR NEW ACTIVITY]; long enough to discover why, really, it’s hard not to check your smartphone right when you wake up or right when you go to bed or every time you step into an elevator.

Just one week.

Don’t allow the sight of the big hill keep you from starting to run.  Give it a week, start today, and see how you actually feel when you behave differently.  Then decide how big this is going to be for you.

10 (percent)

I’ve been finding a lot of power lately in 10% shifts in how I spend my time.  It’s an increment big enough to matter – an experiment big enough that you can learn something – but small enough that there’s no excuse but to start.

So, if you’re feeling stuck you could:

  • Work 10% more, or less
  • Sleep 10% more, or less
  • Turn your email off for 10% of your workday
  • Delete 10% of your emails, or reply to them with 10 words or less
  • Eat differently (veg, vegan, cro-magnon, all liquids, whatever) 10% of the time (aka one day a week…which I know is more like 15% but you get the idea)
  • Make 10% of your decisions in 10% of the time you normally take (and figure out if it makes a difference)
  • Etc.

Or if 10% doesn’t work you can try 10 days, e.g.:

  • 10 days of eating differently
  • Exercise for 10 days in a row
  • Sleep 8 hours a night for 10 straight days
  • Work 16 hour days 10 days in a row to ship a product
  • Write (and publish) a blog post for 10 days straight
  • Each day for 10 days, write down one thing you’re grateful for
  • Conduct a 10 day generosity experiment
  • For 10 days, apologize first
  • Etc.

Increasingly I’m feeling like long-term happiness results from our ability to evolve.  If that’s true, then discovering how to change is even more important than discovering what to change.

At least for me, all the big changes start small.   They start with an experiment that’s big enough to mean something but small enough that I can’t pretend it’s impossible.

What about you: do massive leaps work, or do you do better when you start small?

Your idea

At the start it’s just smoke, a wisp. It has no substance or form.

You can take it around to people for help shaping it, so you can better understand what it could be.

But the thing is, at the start it has no mass, and until it does it’s impossible for people to really do much of anything about it.  They can talk and you can talk, and that’s about it.

Mass gives it the ability to go places.  Mass means that with a push it can break through things.

Talk is fine, but the real work is giving your idea some mass.

About you

Take a moment and google yourself.  C’mon, I know you’ve done it before, so go do it again, and then come back.

Do you like what you discovered?  Do you like what people who don’t know you see when they google you? (because they are doing it, or they will).

That online identity is the first impression you make.

It takes less than 10 minutes to create an About.me page (I literally did this one in less than 10 minutes).  So why not claim yours today, because it can’t hurt?  You can just as easily claim a WordPress blog, a personal URL, even a personalized URL for Facebook, Twitter account, you name it.

The catch is that none of this changes what the world sees when they type your name into “the Google.”  No, to change that you have to produce stuff that others write about, link to, share…which sounds incredibly intimidating and insurmountable until you consider that there are zillions of groups (volunteer and otherwise), MeetUps, blogs, get-togethers, coffee klatches, and groups-waiting-to-be-organized-and-or-have-you-jump-into-the-fray-and-make-a-name-for-yourself out there.

Jump in not BECAUSE of the Google search results, but because there’s a chance, today, to make a mark, a connection, and yes, a name for yourself, within our outside of your day job.

Starting small is still starting.