When Alexander (the artist later known as Alexander the Great) was a kid, his mother told him that he was the son of Zeus, who had impregnated her while in the form of a snake. Barring any physiological explanations, which frankly I don’t want to think about, this had to be a pretty heady moment for young Al. In addition to discovering who his dad was, Alexander also came to realize, in studying the Iliad, that he was also related to Achilles. That Zeus, he got around. Achilles naturally was a hero any boy could admire, but to think that Achilles was a distant relative, well, now you can see how Alexander would feel really confident as a little boy.
Whether it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, luck, or a combination of a lot of things, Alexander started living out his most cherished dreams at a very early age. By the time he had reached the age of 30, Alexander had conquered the Persian Empire, had become a Pharaoh in Egypt, had been declared a living god (being named a Pharaoh had more perks than Klout does now), and had even defeated the Indian empire. But Alexander did not die a fulfilled man. He did not even die a confident man. A few years before his death, one of his friends got tired of Alexander’s bragging and said, “Your father is behind all of your success!” Alexander killed that guy. With a spear. Ouch.
After each success, after each great event, Alexander found that his ambition only kept him wanting more. After conquering India, Alexander wanted to keep going to the edge of the world. He started commanding his officers to marry Persian women so that the cultures could become enmeshed. He started truly believing that he was invincible, and did many things to try to prove it. He was never satisfied. It was never enough. There was always another hurdle. There was always another obstacle to overcome. There was always a little more glory to grab.
In Social Media, you can play the role of Alexander the Great
Let’s be honest. It’s pretty hard not to get full of yourself when you’re in the online space, right? I mean, let’s just get that out there. You can write a blog post (like this) and nobody is talking over you, nobody is interrupting you. Most people who bother to leave comments will at the worst make it thoughtful. Many people are complimentary, so not only are you writing but you’re also getting nice feedback. Where else does THAT happen? On Twitter, people respond to you talking about what you are eating, what you are reading, and where you are going. On Facebook, you are perpetually cheered on as you post your goals, post pictures of your food, or do pretty much anything else.
It’s kind of ridiculous.
But like Alexander the Great, we all face a trap that is waiting to make us miserable. How? Well, let’s say you’re a new blogger. You’ve been writing and posting for three months and the only entity commenting has been a spam bot from the Netherlands (hey, it could happen). Suddenly, you write a post that gets 3 comments. Wow, now THAT is a rush. But then when you sit down to write your next post, you’re thinking about that last one. Why did those folks comment? How can you get MORE people to comment? So you try to figure out a formula, right? You want another success, but you want it to be bigger. If your next post goes back to zero comments you can feel pretty let down. But then a few weeks later you write a post that gets 20 comments. WOAH! Now that is your new level of success, but reaching that milestone isn’t a good place to stop.
For every success we find in the online world, there are more doors leading to successes that other people have experienced. If you get listed as a great blog on a site, you want to be up higher the next time. If someone gets an award, you find yourself wondering why you didn’t get it. When you do get that award though, it’s not enough anymore. Now you want to win it 3 years in a row.
It never stops.
And as a result, your presence in social media can become perpetually unfulfilling, consistently unsatisfactory, and it can even become an embittering experience. Eventually these negative feelings can cause you to lose interest, and while you might not literally die young like Alexander did, your online presence just might.
OK, I admit, I heard Admiral Ackbar’s voice as I typed that. Sorry, but it’s true.
Anyway, the fate of Alexander the Great is not an inevitable one. There are ways to make sure that your online work remains a pleasant experience.
First – enjoy where you are. Think about the fact that you are able to self-publish your writing whenever you want, and pretty much for free. That’s something we don’t think about very often, but we really should. Think about the fact that even if one person comments on your blog post, that’s a person who may not know you at all who read your work, found it interesting, and commented on it. That’s pretty amazing, right?
Second – get over your “I need to be better than you” complex. The longer I stay in the online world, the more I realize that longevity is an advantage. The longer folks stick around, the more people they get to know, and the easier some things become. If you’re newer, you have to wait. Be patient. Walk your own path.
Third – Don’t let the satisfaction of compliments go to your head. You’re not a living god. You’re a person who types stuff and then reacts at other peoples’ reactions. I mean, I realize I’m going all Morpheus on you here, but truth is truth.
You can be happy where you are. You can be happy with the level of success you are at right now at this minute. So let yourself enjoy it. Don’t go down the path of Alexander the Great. It is the way of perpetual dissatisfaction, and who wants that, anyway?
First Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kudumomo/5885936899/ via Creative Commons
Second Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/2965462060/ via Creative Commons