“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Just keep getting the damn words on the page! You're still very early in the process. Even though it may seem like you're been doing a lot of writing you're still in the process of peeling back the layers to understand the larger story you want to tell. The only way to peel is by writing–so keep at it, girlfriend!
This quote is from the instructor of my memoir writing course. I've been writing for about a year and a half but when you're reliving your life, trying to hash out the most important moments to find the real story, it can feel like well—a lifetime. During the class we have opportunities to get feedback on our writing. Although it can be cringe-inducing at times, the feedback is the most valuable part of the experience. People skip over stories you labored over and linger in unexpected places. For a writer, a reader's feedback is critical as it offers the most telling sign of what resonates with your audience, whether you're on the right track or if you need to rip up the floor boards and start again to build the right foundation.
Finding Your Story
Finding the story while writing a memoir is not unlike a startup or small business trying to find the most compelling story they can tell about their value proposition to customers and potential investors. In the beginning it's a bit like a game of hide and seek. First you'll look in one place for the story and then another. It can go on this way for quite a while until you find the story that your audience grabs onto and your business really takes off.
Don't Quit Don't worry. This is game of hide and seek is just a part of the process to refining your message. Don't give up! Don't wait for the perfect marketing message to appear before approaching your audience. Just keep crafting your story. Find out which parts of the story resonate with your audience. Actively look for the feedback of potential customers and investors. When someone takes an action on your site ask for their feedback. Recently, TechStars Boulder 2012 company 27 Perry, who has just launched their site publicly, contacted me to get my opinion. CEO Kelly James asked thoughtful questions about what appealed to me the most and was open to my thoughts. If she keeps doing this she'll find her story–probably sooner than later.
Just keep crafting and getting feedback. A story that resonates with your audience will emerge. Whatever you do–don't give up. Just keep peeling!
This tweet started a twitter firestorm. It's awfully difficult to communicate complex thoughts in 140 characters so this blog post attempts to sort it out with a few more words. 532 to be exact.
There's a delicate balance in the listening to others vs. listening to yourself equation. I suspect that people who are ardently on either side of the equation are probably there because of an extreme experience. Perhaps they blindly followed someone else's advice to disastrous results. On the other side is the guy who didn't listen to anyone else's advice and failed. The problem with both sides is a lack of openness. It's a tricky thing to be open and yet follow the guidance your heart to make the decision that is most compelling for you.
The Role of Others' Opinions
When I was in my twenties and wanted to do something different with my life my dad would always advise me to run it by my siblings–particularly my older brother. Sadly it led me to make some poor decisions because the advice was taken cart blanche. The thing is–my brother is very wise–as is my dad–but they can only make decisions that are right for them. Other people see through a completely different set of eyes than the ones in your own skull. It would be folly not to recognize that. Gaining the perspective of others can help you see things that otherwise might have evaded your own gaze. The rub is that you have to take their context into account. This context may mesh well with yours but it may not. Perhaps you can take a nugget or two from them to mix in with your own dreams, hopes, fears and goals to find something that makes your heart say '"Yes!"
Don't Ignore Your Gut
Looking back I don't think my dad wanted me to take the advice without running it through my own counsel. If we could time travel back I'm certain he would say something like…Run it past someone who thinks differently than you to see if there are any ways to improve upon your idea or things you haven't thought about. Then listen to your gut. The context I ignored in my twenties was that my dad, while an engineer, is also an incredibly intuitive man who truly trusts his instincts. This was a guy who built incredibly innovative concept cars by using both his analytical and more instinctive sides of his brain. He lived his life according to his own set of inner rules. I see now that he never would have advocated abdicating responsibility for your life and decisions to others.
It's Not An Either Or Game
These days I love to surround myself with people who are much more linear and analytical (accountants, lawyers and generally practical people) than myself because they always give me a different perspective. Their opinions show me new ways of thinking about a situation and often I end up listening mostly to my original idea tweaked a bit by their thoughts. Be open and listening to yourself aren't mutually exclusive.
Yesterday as I was driving to my writing class I stopped at a light next to a well kempt man holding a sign. Normally I ignore them but his chatter was so inviting that I had to see what was going on. His sign said:
Bad advice $1
Chuckling I had to learn more about this comedian who's stage is a street corner. It looked like he had everything he owned in the backpack next to him with a cup hanging from the side. Obviously he wasn't rich but looked like he knew how to hustle. Clearly people asking for money on the street are desperate and some of their pleas reflect that desperation. Others have a much more humorous creative take on their situation. These are the ones I will always give a few bucks in exchange for a picture of their sign. Here are people who know how to sell their situations.
One of the things that will always get me in a sign is a sense of humor. The other thing I love about this sign is the directness of it.
Snorting my tea onto my companion when I saw this sign while on the 16th Street Mall, I had to stop and give this woman and her friend some money in exchange for this shot.
Though you can't see it, this couple's sign asked for $25 for a marriage license. Whether they truly needed the money for a marriage license or not it was creative.
Are these people crazy?
These days whether you own a business or are even just looking for a job you need to know how to market yourself in a way that cuts through the noise to reach an audience that cares. Here's are a few things these "marketers" did well:
Understood the uniqueness of their situation or product
Communicated their unique selling proposition well
Know that part of marketing is entertainment
Appropriate use of humor
A willingness to be silly, creative or outrageous in order to make the sale
To survive in today's tight economy you have to know how to and be willing to market yourself. It's simply a requirement. When you have that inevitable "woe is me" moment just remember how first world your problems are.
A few months ago I wrote a post about the 11 Important Lessons I Learned This Year. Each of the lessons really deserved more than the 16 words I gave the longest one so I started to unpack them. If you know me at all, you know that rather than thinking linearly, I think in circles, swirls and stars. Given this predilection, I decided to just write about the ones I had something to say more about when I had more to say.
After a summer filled with illness I decided I had more to say about one life lesson in particular. In fact, I'd say it's the #1 lesson I learned this year.
#1 Today is the only one you have.
New? No. Trite? Maybe. But still.
Do you live as if today is the only one?
I know I certainly haven't. In fact I've wasted at least 50 days of my life laying around, immobilized by fears, eating potato chips and watching Meg Ryan movies.
I wasted at least 1,000 days in horribly negative situations or with negative people. I lived in a city that wasn't right for 2,920 days too long before finally finding the courage–or maybe just desperation–to move across the country to a city where I could breathe myself in fully. If you stretched out all the days I've wasted being worried, stressed out by negative situations, or even just wasting my time it'd probably run across the length of the United States. I used to regret all that time I spent being upset and not enjoying the moment. But then I realized that being upset about being upset was just silly. And, it's just going to ruin another day. This summer I contracted Whooping Cough. It struck so hard and fast that I spent maybe a couple of hours out of bed each day for the entire month of July. I soon became bored with watching movies and so I just sat in silence for hours each day. Although the realization of the importance of each day had struck in June I still wasn't really living it. Somewhere near the end of July I started living each day as if it were the only day I had. Since then I've created many small miracles in my life:
I wrote more in two months than I have in a year.
I changed my spending habits so that I only spent money on things I absolutely love.
I spoke my mind even when I didn't know how it would turn out.
I stopped dating someone I really cared for because they only brought drama and heartache.
I booked a trip to Seattle and Portland–my first real vacation in two years.
I started taking better care of myself and am even learning to cook.
Life hasn't been all bon bons and trips to paris but I have enjoyed every day. In spite of being sick or not knowing when I might land my next client I found a part of every day that was spectacular. I can truly say that I've enjoyed the journey.
How about you?
Do you live as if today were the only one you have?
Looking for feedback on a business idea?
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