A week ago, I announced that I was going to be backing away from social media a bit. Not entirely, but certainly not doing as much as I have done for the last year and a half. The reaction to my sentiments has been entirely surprising to me. Not only have people been so kind and understanding and supportive, but many have said something along the lines of, “I know where you’re coming from.” In fact, that sentiment lies at the core of a brilliant blog post that my friend Tommy Walker wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the dangers of online entrepreneurship. Now that I think about it, you should probably go read that post, then come back here. It’s okay. I’ll wait for ya.
I’ve been trying to think of a way to encapsulate what so many of you have said. What Tommy said. And what I have been feeling. Suddenly, it hit me right upside the head. The story of Pinocchio is the perfect way to explain the feelings many have about the online world these days.
You’re skeptical, aren’t you? Well, bear with me here.
The wooden toy
As you probably know, the beginning of Pinocchio’s story begins mundanely enough. He is a little wooden puppet sitting on a shelf. He doesn’t have a personality, he can’t talk or think or feel or do anything, right?
Well, that’s kind of how we all start out in the online world. We are very stiff and we don’t have our voices yet. We sit there and wait for people to talk to us, maybe. We try to look the right way or sound the right way, but we’re just not sure of what we’re supposed to do.
Now, luckily for Pinocchio, Gepetto, the man who crafted him, wishes on a falling star. He wishes that his little wooden puppet can turn into a real boy that he can love like a son. Like in all good stories, a wish upon a star has no option other than to come true, but it doesn’t quite come true all the way. Pinocchio is able to walk and talk, but he still looks like a wooden puppet. The Blue Fairy and the amazing Jimney Cricket arrive and inform Pinocchio that he must prove his worth in order to become the real boy that Gepetto is wishing for.
As we stick around in the online world, we also wish to become “real” somehow, but in the meantime, we learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk. We may meet people who are our Jimney Crickets, and we are always hoping for that magical Blue Fairy who can swoop down and make things easier for us. But even the Blue Fairy cannot make Pinocchio into a real boy. He needs to do that himself. Similarly, hoping that a big name or a person with a lot of followers can swoop down and take you where you want to go doesn’t really work. They can offer you advice and help you out, but in order to reach your ultimate goals, whatever those may be, you need to do the real hard work yourself.
More money than you can shake a stick at
Along his path of becoming a real boy Pinocchio encounters unsavory characters who tell him that if he acts in a show, he can make more money than he could ever imagine. They are nice to Pinocchio, and despite Jimney’s warnings, Pinocchio considers the evil fellows friends. After all, one has the name “Honest John” and they both are promising him that his life will get better. The promise of money is enough to distract Pinocchio from his ultimate goal, and he pays a hefty price for this diversion. I mean, heck, he ends up turning into a donkey (otherwise known in some circles as a jack-ass).
In the online world, there are all kinds of diversions and distractions. If you are here to network, the promise of making a ton of money with a great deal of ease can be enough to pull you off your trail. If you are here to build your business, the people who say you can become an “influencer” may be enough to take you off course. Along the way, you follow people whom you assume have your best interests at heart. They may have titles like “guru” or they may seem really kind and friendly. You can also pay dire consequences for these distractions, however. Failing to promote your business whilst promoting only yourself can result in your business failing. Failing to remember the people in your community as you start to make money can lose you your credibility and your friends. The Blue Fairy and Jimney Cricket can only chase after you and remind you of your ultimate goals. They cannot control what you say and do.
Proving Your Worth
For Pinocchio, earning a real life is accomplished when he willingly sacrifices his own life to save Gepetto. He doesn’t know that doing this will make all of his dreams come true. He just knows at that moment that he wants to save the man who is his father.
As you work here in the online world, how can you earn that ultimate goal you are seeking? Do you remember what you are trying to accomplish here? Do you remember the path you started on?
Remember, Pinocchio’s nose doesn’t grow longer when others know that he has lied to them. It grows longer when he knows that he is lying to others. Have you been deceiving yourself in the face of this social media power? Is your nose longer than it used to be?
It is never too late to revisit where you started from and where you want to end up. Distractions and mistakes can be forgiven and easily fixed, but they need to be identified first. It is time to take this initiative. The Blue Fairy and your friend Jimney Cricket cannot make this happen for you. Dreams really do come true, but you must work for them.
It’s time to become real, don’t you think?
1st Image by Bjorn de Leeuw. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/nr49
2nd Image by Lynn Cummings. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lynnc