Epiphany. It’s an overused – and quite possibly misunderstood – word, that often deservedly takes its place in the bullshit bingo of our contemporary culture, along with other overworked terms like “pivot”, “inflection point” and “paradigm shift.” In fact, there’s a delightful list (a la urban dictionary) of such terms over here. I thoroughly recommend popping over for a read and a giggle.
But I’ve had one today – an epiphany. And I’m going to share. (Yeah, not your typical FeedBlitz News post!)
So. Where to begin?
How about here: I’m an introvert by nature. Shy in unfamiliar social situations. If I’m on my own in a new environment without anyone I know being there, I revert back to wallflower mode, something I’ve done all too well since high school. Paradoxically, I love public speaking, but that’s not because I’m not shy. It’s because I’m in control. I love – ok, let’s be honest, crave – the attention, and being at the front of a room speaking gives me the control and attention for those 45 to 60 minutes. It’s a thrill, and I know that many of social media’s leading lights are built the same way.
And yet: Here on the blog, online on Twitter, on Facebook, I am not that person. I am horribly conscious of being the public face of my business. And that, coupled with my introversion and my background, leads me to edit (more on this in a moment). I will write what I want about my business, but God forbid that I say anything controversial, or express an opinion about anything other than marketing or FeedBlitz or email.
Yet when I read what the people I truly admire online write – whether they’re Seth Godin, Fred Wilson, or my friends on Facebook – they’re all expressing their opinions. Ones that will aggravate a goodly portion of their readership, potentially. Some use expletives with seeming impunity. And it doesn’t seem to harm them at all. Quite the reverse, in fact.
I’ve envied that for years. YEARS. I’ve often wished I could do that too.
What, you may ask, has been stopping me? Well, I could witter on about the broad spectrum of blogs we service here at FeedBlitz, how I’ve always worried that expressing an opinion contrary to a client’s worldview would be enough to lose their business; I’m shy and an introvert, etc. etc.
But it really all boils down to this: Fear.
Which is odd, in a sense, because running a small business competing against larger, better funded organizations with more resources at their disposal than I can possibly dream of requires no fear at all. If I were afraid; afraid of hard work, or of my competitors, or of failure, then this business would have been dead and buried years ago. I’m not, and it isn’t.
Indeed, Seth Godin has often talked about overcoming fear to be successful. Fear is good to recognize, acknowledge. But at some point one has to note it, face it, and move on regardless.
Ironically, I actually thought I was doing really well on the fear front. What I’d internalized from Seth and others was that overcoming fear as an obstacle to success was purely a business issue.
I was wrong.
It’s a life issue.
And this is the core of my moment of revelation today.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking now. It took you 47 years on the planet to realize this? This isn’t rocket science, Phil. This is obvious. Self-evident.
Well, yeah. Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake.
Comfort zones are, by definition, comfortable. They’re hard to see. They’re nice to be in. And stepping outside is hard. Not comfortable. Risky. Rewarding.
Indeed, had anyone mentioned fear and comfort zones in this context to me I’d surely have agreed. It is obvious! But it’s one thing to rationally understand that fear is the enemy in every aspect of one’s life; it is quite another to feel it. To believe it, and then to change it.
I now believe. And things are going to change.
In fact, they already were changing – I just didn’t realize it.
For example, I’ve recently become dimly aware that over the last couple of years I have indeed changed. Although still an introvert, I have increasingly enjoyed being with other people and putting myself out there, as they say. I have been blessed with some new, very close friendships with very special people who have helped lead me out of my little shell, are showing me my potential, and to whom I will be eternally grateful. I will not name them here – they know who they are. I am a better person (and FeedBlitz a better business) for their love, kindness and attention. Thank you.
But gratitude aside, my broader point is this: I’ve come to realize that what floats my boat now, at 47, is not entirely the same as what floated it for years 0 to 45. I’m no extrovert, to be sure, but I certainly get more joy and fulfillment from external sources and these strange beasts called people than I ever did before. This, for me, is new. It’s exciting. It’s a BFD.
But while I have changed internally, my online presence – and to a degree my real life one too – hasn’t much. Let’s face it, as a middle-aged Englishman raised to be unerringly polite and to not cause offence, it’s jarring to step outside that comfort zone and into uncharted territory – for me and my family. Finally recognizing the changes and starting to articulate them has not been without significant discomfort for the people closest to me, whom I care about the most.
The upshot is this: As I’ve slowly started to label and recognize what’s been happening, I have realized that, especially recently, I’ve been editing my interactions – and therefore me. Both online and in that messy thing called the real world.
I wasn’t ready for this change, or to even acknowledge its need, or even accept that change – whether I liked it or not – might actually be happening anyway. It’s really quite weird to suddenly realize that you’re not entirely the person you – and everyone else – thought you were.
Which brings me to today’s epiphany. The realization that to be fully me I must overcome my fears, embrace the risk that some people might actually not like what I have to say, or how I feel, and be myself.
This is not going to be easy for me (I have no idea how this is going to work out for you, either, Gentle Reader). I am still an introvert. I am still shy. I still love my family!
But I am also human. And you don’t get to see that here. Instead, you get the corporate rah-rah of the business blog. If this blog were a color, it would be beige. Meh.
So it’s time to change. I’m ready.
Resolved, then: To be Human.
This isn’t about “humanizing” (ugh) the business of FeedBlitz. It’s about humanizing me. I will be myself here, and on Facebook, and at home, and everywhere in real life. I will edit less. I will try to overcome my shyness more. I will be respectful and polite – but I will also be me. If I offend, so be it. But from hereon in, there will be pops of color to accompany the beige. I will try my level best not to be afraid.
So. Maybe this post is madness. Maybe it’s vanity: Self-indulgent narcissistic twaddle with no place on a corporate blog.
Maybe it’s the begininng of something new and much more interesting. Maybe you’ll get to know me a bit better (and maybe you will like me more, maybe you won’t. Your mileage may vary, as they say). Maybe it’s important for me to find, speak with - and at times raise – my true voice.
Look, I’m not going to be dropping f-bombs into every other post. The blog will stay relevant. I’m not going to cease editing altogether!
But I can be more myself. Take positions. Vouch for causes. Say what I believe. Everyone else can do this. Why not me? It’s time I joined the rest of you. I will be happier. I hope and believe that that will also make me, and FeedBlitz, and this blog, better.
So that’s that. Maybe not a huge epiphany to have as these things go; I don’t know – I haven’t had one before. But it seems important, and worth sharing.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And next week’s posts will be a little more run of the mill