My (Non) Plan for 2011

All right. In all accuracy what I am about to describe is in fact a plan. So much for my cutesy, eye catching title. But it could be considered a non-plan in more ways than one.

2010 was about a plan. I joined Twitter, and launched this blog in an effort to not only describe the nature of a square peg trying to live in the round holes of a materialistic, productivity-obsessed society, but also to join together with others who felt the same way. I wanted to connect with other people who wanted to get ahead, but found themselves to be Too XYZ. Though that has occurred to a small degree, and I have in fact connected with several great people as a result of my social media endeavors, I have not, (as I have written about before) formed a coalition of such souls. 2010 brought about many things for me, among them allies of varying stripes. For which I am grateful. But the establishment of a network of almost total like-minds did not happen as I had planned or hoped.

I had decent exposure, through Twitter, Brazen Careerist, and other such places. I could always have more, as I have seen blogs younger than mine get lucky enough to take off like wildfire. But overall I have a network of well wishers. Yet what 2010 taught me was that I couldn’t take people who are Too XYZ, and network with them in the manner that more conventional people do so. In other words, I had thought I could achieve my unique definition of success, using my own unique methods, by simply applying the social media rules and art form to people of like-mind. I have come to theorize, however that being an unconventional person, with unconventional methods and yes, unconventional weaknesses means that attaining even my own unconventional idea of success is nearly impossible when applying conventional tactics.

I know what many are thinking. There are all kind of gurus, super-bloggers, location independent freelance billionaires with passive incomes in the tens of thousands a month who got there by being exactly that: unconventional. Maybe. But as I have spent the last year looking into social media, and its alleged heroes, I have realized that for most of those types there is actually a common, and dare I say conventional thread. That common thread is their manner of marketing.

Leaving the rat race. Traveling the world. Living a dream. Saying “up yours” to the status quo. Creative visualization. LinkedIn. Blogs. Subscribing. Commenting. Linking. Tweeting. Re-Tweeting. TEDs. Podcasts. Conventions. Give-Aways. E-books. Asking “How can I help you today?” On and on and on. After awhile it all starts to sound the same to me. And maybe it is all the same, since in the end it all comes down to one (and I mean one) thing. Constantly selling.

Now, some people will flat out tell you that is it. Always be selling. Yourself and what you do. Sell, sell, sell. How? (See the above paragraph.) They make no bones about it. That’s fine, for them. I actually respect them a bit more for just coming out and saying it.

But then there are those who disguise their riches, their new “free” lifestyle, their fame, their influence, in terms of how much they loved life. How much they faced fear. Made themselves uncomfortable. Went out there and “just did it!” And they encourage us all to do the same thing, because there is no such thing as luck, and anybody anywhere can do what they did.

To me that is buying the house based on how lovely the weather was that day. What all of these gurus, (some of them very well intentioned I will admit) are actual selling is….salesmanship itself. They only think it is their desire, their vision of their future, and their passion that they are selling. But really, look carefully at almost all of their stories, and you will find, in the end, that they learned how to sell, or get hired, or mentored by, or subscribed to the blog of, or was introduced by an acquaintance to someone who taught them how to sell the shit out of themselves and what they “offer” the world. In some cases it is clear that selling was far more responsible for their success than quality of their product.

Then others see the lives these people live, and how passionate, and eager to help, and lovely they are, and we start to think that it is those things that got them where they are. Those things may have kept them where they are. But in the end, selling got them there.

And you know what? I hate selling shit. I tried it as a career and it sucked every bit as much as I thought it would. I have tried to sell myself at networking events and you know what? It sucked just as much as I predicted it would. Good, talented people get ahead by selling. As do really lousy bastards. But to quote a line from one of my favorite films of all time, Primary Colors:

I don’t care. I’m not comparing the players. I don’t like the game.

And I don’t. This game of selling is for the birds. Actually I have a caveat; this game of selling as currently defined by most people is for the birds. This version of marketing yourself and your wares that people insist you need to master in order to get anywhere as a freelancer. The version of marketing yourself and your wares that even the most open minded, generous, and status quo hating individuals in social media will beat you over the head with, and insist is necessary, only to turn on you when you determine you cannot do it. A version of marketing yourself and your wares that has at some point transformed into a nebulous altar at which 90% of the ironically self proclaimed non-conformists gather and before which they all genuflect whilst immersed in the ecstasy of the game changing wonders of Social-Media marketing and networking.

Yeah. For the birds.

It’s this manner in which we sell things, and ourselves, from which I am clearly unable to launch my life and my work. And reading the top 25 books on current marketing trends, subscribing to Seth Godin and 100 other blogs, stopping in on every web chat by every guru on this side of the equator (all of which have been emphatically suggested to me) is not going to change any of that. When it comes to traditional marketing (and social media does have its own traditions) I’m not worth a damn. Period.

And so 2011 is going to be about going at it my own way. And by my own way, I actually mean my own way. Not living life in my own way only to try to market it in a conventional way, but to proceed with my daily life, communications, research, passions, and yes, even marketing in my own way. If the gurus cannot cure themselves of their traditional social media marketing fetishes and help all of us, then I will do it myself.

And yes, I will be doing it. I never said that marketing and getting the word out in some form are wrong for me. I see their value. What I am saying is that it has be done at my own pace, using my own methods, and paying little attention to how it was done by “Cindy Happypants: Blogger Extraordinaire”, who changed the world while writing about selling donuts and living a dream. (Though I would date such a woman if she existed.)

In 2011, it may come down to me living with my family again for a while. If so, I’ll do it. It may mean less time networking, and more time alone, perfecting me. Fine. It will mean most of my day will be spent writing. Not selling my writing, or pitching my writing, or talking about writing. But the actual process of writing. Like doors closed, curtain drawn, I do this because this is all I know how to do, writing.

My novel at first, and then blogging, and then whatever time is left can be spent seeing if there are any magazines out there that want my stuff. And if I find them the days will be spent reading them, not making calls the schmooze the editor. And when I finally do decide I may have a piece worth pitching, I will pitch it. This may happen ten times next year. Maybe more, or maybe even less. I won’t be forcing it.

It will mean that I will be reading scripts, looking for acting projects and memorizing speeches. It will not mean saving up and moving to New York to make it on Broadway, because I don’t want to be on Broadway. I want to be a better actor, and that means acting, and studying same. Not paying someone to tell me how to do it, but doing it my own way. It’s not a hobby. It’s what I do.

I won’t be trying to learn to cook more things very often. I won’t be attempting to tackle home economics or Apartment Management 101. I’ll be going to bed when I am tired, and getting up when I am no longer so. I’ll be writing in the passive voice, and not all of my protagonists will be different by the end of my book. I’ll pass up the chance to attend the local business card exchange and instead opt for an audition at a local community playhouse. And if I get in to the play, I’ll blog about it on my acting blog that nobody reads, which brings in no money, and for which I have done all the marketing I know how to do, and for which I still have almost no readers.

I’ll retweet things I like, and not because I want to get on the good side of someone else who isn’t following me anyway. I will leave comments on friends’ blogs just because they are friends and deserve to have their stuff read, whether they have “social proof” or not. I won’t bother commenting on sites who require me to prove my expertise in something before taking me seriously and I will not prove my expertise through anything but the work that I do. Content shall be king in 2011. Judge my abilities by that and not by a work history, or to hell with you.

And it won’t matter what I know or who I know because I will be too busy being better than I was in 2010. And when it comes time to start knowing more people, I only want to know people who know how to behave in public, treat everyone with respect, and have the decency to return a message. Because nobody out there is important enough for me to sit around and wait weeks for just for the chance of kissing their ass. I don’t care how many pings their blog gets, whatever the hell they are.

And if I starve? Folks, half the time I am close to starving anyway. At least I’ll starve while doing my damnedest to be productive in my own way, and not starve while trying to tweak a resume so that it can be summarily ignored by the 30 trillionth hiring manager who just doesn’t have the time to understand that my “employment gaps” are due to misfortune and things beyond my control, and not because I’m not worth anything. If someone has no time to read what I write as a writer, and instead wants a flashy resume and some name dropping, they don’t want me. Nor do I want them.

And just maybe, in so doing, I will get to the point where I do what I want, just like Cindy Happypants: Blogger Extraordinaire. The only difference being I’ll get to be whatever I want first, as opposed to playing a half-assed game in order to have the privilege of doing so. Then I will have a product that will sell itself. (With a little bit of luck, which unlike most, I am not afraid to admit is a big part of our lives.)

And if anyone wants to join me…well…I’m still not Too XYZ for a little bit of company, and a little bit of help. And I am willing to give any help I can to anyone who wants it. But I’m not a guru, thank god.

Happy New Year.

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8 Comments

  1. Ty,
    I like to think that any of those bloggers, even Cindy Happypants, would say that being true to yourself is the first step. One of the reasons people leave traditional careers is that they can't be their true self at work. There's absolutely NO sense in doing that in an unconventional career.

    So I'd say 2011 sounds like a step in the right direction. I wish you much luck (wink) and happines.

  2. Thanks, Jen.

    As for Cindy, I am not sure. There do seem to be some high profile names out there who talk a good game about being yourself, but as I said, when it comes to marketing and mingling and such have pretty strict guidelines as to what one must do.

    But overall your point is good, and your comment appreciated. =)

  3. When I started reading this post, I took out a WORD doc and started responding categorically to different paragraphs. Then I got towards the middle / end when you talk about your “non” plan for 2011; and I got this huge ass smile on my face. Whether you were successful or not in terms of how you define success or society defines success, I venture to say you were successful in the area that I believe to be most important; and that's growth.

    This was not only one of the most well written posts I have ever read, but it demonstrates a clear attitude change (for the positive!). I love how you talk about “attempting status quo, conventional methods” and now you're saying – “screw it”. I love how you do 'admit' that there is value in some traditional marketing – just not for you. You sound much more open minded than you did a year ago.

    I'm proud of you.

    As for some of the beginning comments I was taking notes on – it seems rather petty now, but pasting them from the word doc in here anyways….

    You stated, “But the establishment of a network of almost total like minds did not happen as I had planned or hoped.” – and it probably never will. And that’s a good thing. Why? Because YOU are not a ‘follower’; you’re a thought leader. If you look at groups of people from a purely social psychology standpoint, most would fail the Asch experiment. You would not.

    You wrote, “That common thread is their manner of marketing.” – absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. When I read the blog posts of these so called “gurus”, I look at their pasts and “about” sections and sometimes I laugh. Most are or were marketers. As a marketer, candidly, if I wanted to get 10,000 visitors / day – I could easily do that for probably $10 / day; but for me, blogging was not about the number of followers, but more so – the quality of the people I interacted with. That said, I do believe there is this ‘second tier’ of bloggers who genuinely have something to say and have good content. They aren’t marketing folks, but genuinely have good stories or something meaningful to say; I don’t know where they get followers or how they “stick”, but there are a couple good blogs I subscribe to without marketing backgrounds – and I just enjoy their thoughts.

    “In some cases it is clear that selling was far more responsible for their success than quality of their product”…once again, I couldn’t agree more. Not using the blogging analogy for a second, but in ‘life’ I see this happen all the time. I was meeting with a couple VCs last week and the common thread among all of us was, “we would rather have an “A” team with a “B” product than a “B” team with an “A” product”. And to your point – how does one have an “A” team? Well, they must have done a good job selling themselves at some point.

  4. Thanks Jamie. I see your comments made it through the coding problem. =)

    I don't know if I am more open than I was a year ago, per se. But I do think I am more resigned, as I said, to the fact that the way I am going about things is probably not going to attract many proponents out there in the world. And through that calm resignation I have learned to say out loud more often, “whatever”, to the things other people seem so in love with, or seem to get so much our of, but which allude me.

    Is that being more open? Perhaps, in a sense it is.

    I also never really thought of myself as a “thought leader”. Perhaps I am…I suppose that depends on the definition. What is yours? To me, that sounds a bit more socially important/influential than I am at the moment.

    I like your notion of “second tier” bloggers who really are there for the information exchange, and the quality of relationships, as opposed to the glossy presentations of endless follower lists. Maybe I am, or at least am on my way to becoming, an influential second tier, non-monotized blogger?

    I recall you telling me some time ago that many can actually pay for follower numbers and such. I have to admit I never noticed that many of the gurus are/were marketing professionals in another life. That is very interesting to me.

  5. Love this post-I'll be in my room, curtains closed, writing too. Nice to know I'll have some company. I won't be tweeting, or blogging because I gave them up last year and I haven't looked back. They sucked up a good portion of my time and effort with little return. All the best for 2011 Ty.

  6. Well it's 6:12 am and the nature of the internet is that I was following link after link and somehow ended up on this blog. In the last few days, I've read countless 'New Year resolution' posts (ok, so I didn't actually READ them, but skimmed), and they are the standard run-of-the-mill laundry-list type of things. In fact I've been debating rather or not to write such a post myself, in that I don't feel compelled to actually put plans in black and white and then make only lame attempts to put them in place. However after reading this entry, I can see where you can be a bit more all-encompassing in your approach. We have lives off the internet and personalities that can never fully be expressed here. Blogging and networking should be an enhancement to our lives; not BE our lives. In spite of all the importance place on social media and networking, it helps to not get too carried away in the fad.
    Happy New Year to you Ty!

  7. Thanks, Rishona. I am glad you enjoyed the post. And you are certainly correct: no matter how much power and potential there are in social media, we must not make it the focus. Even if some claim we can get rich by doing so.

    But that goes for anything, when you think about it.

    Happy New Year to you as well!

  8. Anonymous

    “I hate selling shit. I tried it as a career and it sucked every bit as much as I thought it would”

    depends upon what your 'selling'. Some stuff 'sells itself' and what your doing could be called/viewed as hosting the party.

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