A few years ago, I had a friend who was having all kinds of financial difficulties. She kept delaying her loan payments so that she could pay the gas. Then she had some medical problems, so she had to delay other things to pay for that. One day, she wrote a lamentation about all of this in a blog post, and then said, “Well, at least I am leaving for my great vacation in a couple of days, so I have that to look forward to.” My head just about exploded.
As it turns out, it seems a lot of people prioritize the way my friend did. Now, I wanted to go on the same trip, which was going to be hugley expensive, but money was a tad tight for me at the time, so I opted not to. Not many people, as it turns out, seem to find that kind of thinking fashionable.
I sort of expected that priorities would shift as I got older (along with the people around me). However, it seems like in the world of Social Media, you are almost viewed as lackluster if you aren’t willing to risk it all.
This is what is on my mind having just completed Poke the Box.
Start and Ship
The main point of Godin’s book is not bad. You should be an initiator. Everything is scary. Everything has risk. Walking out of your door is risky if you think about it. But you do it anyway. So, send your ideas out there. Speak your mind. I think that’s a fine message. Too many of us are handicapped by anxiety or fear or worry or other things we make walls out of. So fine. What is my problem?
I guess I ended the book feeling like I was not cool enough for the cool crowd because I am not willing to throw everything to the wind to get my big idea out there, even if it fails. I am much more tortoise than hare. But to read Seth Godin and a lot of other people in the online space, the tortoise is not the hip thing to be. Slow and methodical is retro and boring. You’ve gotta be like the hare. Otherwise, people seem to say, you’re a scaredy cat (yes, I could work in more animal references if you like).
Obligation, responsibility, and not-about-you-ism
Here is what I would like to see more of in the world of Social Media. Here is what I would have liked to see in the manifesto on going, starting, and shipping that Godin wrote.
• Acknowledgment that sometimes it’s not fear that holds you back from risking it all. Sometimes it’s:
• Responsibility for other peoples’ welfare
• An obligation to the people you work for and with
• A larger, over-arching goal to which you are aspiring
• Acknowledgment that sometimes the ability to initiate is inhibited by your conditions. This is not a fault of yours. It’s just the way it is.
• Acknowledgment that sometimes working with a group or a team can have benefits. Godin notes that in schools, kids aren’t allowed to do solos or improvise – they have to play off sheet music. What about the fact that this helps create a cohesive song? That’s not so bad, right?
Who is speaking to and for me?
Here is a line from Poke the Box.
“There will be other jobs, better jobs, bosses more willing to create growth. The only way you will find those jobs and those bosses, though, is to have a personal standard that demands failure, not one that guarantees success.”
I’ve been finding thoughts like these all across the blogosphere, all across Twitter and Facebook.
“If you don’t like your job, just quit already.”
“If you’re having money problems, get a job that pays more. With some belief in yourself, you can do it!”
Now, I happen to be really really lucky. I have a job I love, an awesome family, and I am content with my life. Even from that perspective, I just find this kind of philosophy dangerous and separated from the world so many of us actually populate. I’m not sure where this disconnect comes from, but it seems omnipresent.
What really concerns me is that someone will read the words of a Seth Godin or another very well-respected person. They will throw their anxieties to the wind and will push for something with all of their might. They’ll fail. But then there will not be a clear way to bounce back. Will that person view him or herself as a failure because clearly they were not able to live out the words they had seen so many people write?
There’s nothing wrong with going, but it doesn’t have to be double or nothing
If you are feeling stuck in your life, I think Poke the Box could be a positive read for you. But I’d throw this out there for your consideration.
You can initiate thoughts in one arena of your life without starting from scratch every single time. You can make sure you have a solid footing before you start building your house. You can make sure there’s water in the pool before you jump. I don’t think that this makes you too anxious or too scared or too weak or too whatever else. To me, that just seems more real.
What do you think?