There is one struggle that I keep coming back to when I think about building a personal brand in the wild and wooly world of Social Media. That is the struggle to keep your eyes on your own prize, whatever that may be, to keep your feet on your own path, whatever THAT may be, and to not let yourself get distracted by what everyone else is doing.
This is pretty hard, because let’s face it, in the world of Social Media, all you really see is what other people are doing. Most especially, you see and hear about the things that people are getting rewarded for. It can make you wonder if you’re really doing things the “right” way. Of course, there is no right way. There’s just your way. But still, it’s hard to remember that every day.
This is not an abstract line of thought for this here blogger. After 11 months of blogging, I have reached levels of success I could not have imagined even six months ago, when it seemed like getting comments was like getting a rational sentence out of Charlie Sheen – possible but not highly likely. On the other hand, my blog does not attract huge crowds, and I have seen other people who have been doing this for not much longer than me skyrocket to levels of success far beyond where I am. I keep asking myself if I am really okay with that. Maybe you are asking yourself similar questions.
For me, it all comes down to whether you are a bonsai or a sunflower.
The sunflower is really a pretty amazing plant. It starts as nothing but a seed in the spring, but by July, that little seed can evolve into a plant that is 6 feet high. It can have leaves as big as your hand (or as big as your head), and the flower itself is gigantic. It sprouts up and zooms past the other plants in the garden, reaching for that huge golden globe in the sky that makes it grow.
If you’re a sunflower, you want to find ways to grow fast. You are reaching for increasingly high levels of success, and even though you start out on the same level as other people, you measure your success, in part, by how small those other folks start to look as you grow ever upwards.
If you’re a sunflower, your great big flower opens up and outshines everyone else around you. In fact, some of those around might not even have buds yet. You’re out there in the open catching all of the sun, all of the delicious rain, and everything else that being the biggest and the best can get you.
The thing about a sunflower, though, is that sometimes the flower part, with all of those seeds, can get too heavy for that stem. Because the sunflower grows so fast, its roots aren’t very deep. When you get to those heavy rains and thunderstorms in August, all of that weight on top of that giant flower, supported only by that one stalk, can sometimes be too much. Sometimes sunflowers bend over and break from all of that weight.
The practice of bonsai is a polar opposite of the sunflower. For a bonsai tree, the goal is not to grow up towards the sun. The goal is to become an organic statue – to fulfill a certain shape, a certain design. Sometimes, as a bonsai starts to grow, it gets clipped, because those branches or tendrils aren’t growing the right way or in the right direction. The art of bonsai is painstaking and slow and it takes years and years of patience to start to see the benefits of all of that work.
Plants that are used for the art of bonsai are not really as showy as sunflowers are. They’re kind of utilitarian in appearance, really. Simple brown trunk and branches, little dark green leaves. There’s no splash of color. Often even the bonsai pot is natural looking and simple. But with a lot of patience, a lot of tender loving care, and a lot of nurturing, that bonsai can become something beyond just a ficus plant. It can become a work of art.
Neither way is right or wrong
How you choose to approach Social Media is truly your choice, and what you come to realize is that you can only be happy in Social Media, or in life, if you follow the path that you are most comfortable traveling. A lot of people in Social Media choose the sunflower way. That achievement, that moment of glory, is seductive.
The bonsai way does not offer immediate fulfillment. Far from it. And boy, those sunflowers sure can look tall when you’re just wrapping yourself around a metal wire an inch at a time. But if you are a ficus plant, you’re not meant to be a sunflower, and if you’re a sunflower, no one is going to be able to train you into a living statue.
Which way are you going?
Are you a sunflower? Are you a bonsai? Perhaps you’re another kind of plant altogether.
I’d love to hear about it.
1st image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/dlockeretz
2nd Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/buzzt.
3rd Image by Brian Corll. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bcorll