I don’t know what I’m doing

I’m going to level with you—I don’t know what I’m doing.

Typically, this fact doesn’t even bother me. I operate fine with a “let’s see if this works” or a “what’ll happen if I do this?” or even sometimes a “what if…?”

The only time not knowing what I’m doing becomes an issue is when I stop, evaluate and realize that I’m not happy. And if I’m honest with you (we’re all friends here, right?), I’m not happy.

I recently re-read an article I wrote about how I value doing good work over promoting it. When I read it, I realized that I now feel like a lying hack for having written it in the first place.

All I did for a while was promote—my newest book and my (now cancelled) KickStarter campaign. I even promoted interviews that were promoting the first two things. My calendar included 2-3 interviews a day for weeks just to promote. And it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

I got lured in by my own ego. People wanted my opinion? Wow! People wanted me to appear on their blog or at their conference? I was honoured! Ashton Kutcher tweeted about something I wrote? Dude, where’s my car!

It’s obviously validating to see your work being well received in the world. As non-detached to outcomes as I try/claim to be, it’s a pretty awesome outcome.

But I hate that sort of promoting. Not because I feel like I’m too good to do interviews (I actually think I’m too dull to do them, mostly) or because I’ve got such a huge following now that I think I don’t need to promote (fact: I don’t). Not even because I dislike the folks interviewing me, since I’ve been fortunate enough to make some friends along the way.

I just think my time would be better served doing the fucking work instead. Especially since writing is where I feel I can express my ideas, opinions and insight in the best way.

The horrible thing about tiny compromises in values is that they never seem that big of a deal at the time because they’re so small. But then they turn into a mountain range that feels almost impassible. Then you’re stuck on a slippery slope, which is too steep to climb. And yes, that slope is aptly named, “Unhappy due to lack of alignment with values”. Population: Me.

(Also, what a horrible name for the face of a mountain.)

I am most in service when I am creating.

Not because what I create is that good, but because it’s true to what I enjoy doing. And it bleeds out into work that connects with other people. When I line up what I do with what I know to be the truth, I write better. I work better. When I do those things, I feel like I’m serving the people that consume them better.

I think my issue is the way promotion is happening for me. When I’m writing for a publication (which is promotion), I enjoy it because I feel like I’m providing value to those who read it. I’m also actually doing the work I enjoy doing, because it’s me writing. Not me talking about writing (which I’m less good at anyway).

It is actually possible to promote your work by doing more… work. I’ve proven this, at least to myself, with my web design company that’s run for 16+ years without business cards, advertising, cold-calls, interviews or any brand-building. It’s succeeded purely on the merits of the work I’ve done.

So it was time to course correct. Not because I’m too good to do those things, but because they don’t align with the values I feel are important to me.

There’s no judgement on others that promote themselves—I encourage it, in fact, if it’s coming from a place of good intention. But for me personally, it’s not my deal. I don’t want to let anyone down, but if I’m being honest—brand-building/promotion was just something I thought I had to do. Until I realized it wasn’t. And what I really have to do is be real with myself.

I’m also not asking for or hoping that others will just pick up the slack and promote for me. If that does happen, it should be because that person has found value in what I’ve done and wants to share it. In that case, they’re sharing something of interest to them, rather than a plain ol’ promotion. This, I like, because I do the same—if I find something I enjoy or find useful, I’m going to tell other people about it.

Call it curmudgeon-ery or introversion or first-world problems or whatever else you want to call it. I never set out to build my own brand, so I couldn’t give two shits about the spotlight or making a name for myself. I love that my writing touches far more people than I could have imagined. But I want it to be about just that—the writing. I hope it speaks for itself. If this kills what little momentum I’ve currently got, so be it, but it thankfully won’t stop me from continuing to do the work, show up, and write.

So I think that’s what I’d like to do. Get back to writing books and writing for you here and on my mailing list, where I most enjoy writing, and designing for my clients.

As with most other things, this is not a done deal or a final thought, it’s more an exploration into something I’ve had on my mind for a while.