Being an Influencer Is Not a Top Priority

Many people engage in online media to promote their services. The idea of choosing between becoming an online influencer or a communicator probably doesn’t occur to them. After all, they just want to win a few clients and projects.

I reached a point where I needed to prioritize my own online interactions versus a desire to do the work, scale a business, and maintain balance in my personal life. Some are able to build larger agencies and businesses that coincide with significant online profiles, but I struggle to do both. So a choice was needed. In many ways, it is a living decision, one that I constantly need to reinforce.

Last week, a top 100 influencers metric came out, as usual based on Twitter reach, though this time it measured the reach of persona’s following, specifically “how many people are following those followers.” I guess that’s potential RT reach? Anyway, I am not sure how that translates to influence, but many friends whom I do consider to be influential were deservedly on the list. My congratulations to them.

As I watched the usual accolades posted on my social streams, I grew jealous. I could have been on that list if I’d only chosen to focus on my personal network growth over the past few years. But then I reminded myself about my choices. I was able to detach.

How This Choice Impacted Me

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I secured an opportunity for my client Cade Martin serve as the primary portrait photographer for the NBA Wives Association (Behind the Bench) black tie gala last weekend. Cade is photographing MLB great Prince Fielder here. Check out all of his shots.

Many who have known me over the past 10 years would agree that I am not as prolific as I used to be online. I am a practitioner now, not an uber-influencer on the social media conference speaking circuit. Ratcheting it back was necessary to achieve those other objectives.

Instead, I am present enough to contribute to the larger conversation and market my business. Further, I use the tools to demonstrate competency with social media, particularly with my photography.

Frankly, I feel like online tools like Twitter, this blog and others are awesome, but they can blind you. You think the attention is necessary to succeed, but it takes a lot of energy and time to keep that influencer flywheel turning. Plus the necessary, um, political schmoozing is not my favorite activity. So I made and continue to make the choice to focus on other things.

This decision hasn’t been unkind to me. I earn a bit more than I used to, and I have better family relationships.

Having attained the right balance, I believe I am still credible to clients. At the same time, my intent is to promote them first, and not myself. I guess that’s old school, the client should be in the limelight, and not me.

Perhaps I have become just a member of the community rather than one of the top voices. Others have taken the mantle, and today, it seems some leaders are newer voices, at least to this old man. I kind of like that. Perhaps it is time for the next generation of influencers.

Me, I just want to build a good business, and do what is necessary online. My time as an uber-influencer — real or imagined — has passed.

Let Go

The hardest part of business and life for me has been learning to let go. Specifically, letting both the small AND the big things that seem like must solve issues fade away.

Sometimes not doing anything does more to heal a situation than over-reacting or demanding a resolution. You just have to drop the rock.

Letting go may be more of a selfish act than one would think. It is an act of forgiveness — or a decision to not become the judge and juror — and to let people off the the hook. In forgiving we free ourselves to work on and experience what matters, the people and projects in front of us.

Of course, the alternative is walking around holding grudges and/or worrying. It’s the equivelant of renting space in your head to things you can’t control. This type of mental energy is really unproductive, and something that I think impedes one’s ability to become successful.

Letting Go In Action

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Last week I won Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s Instagram forgiveness challenge, which means I will have a private conversation with the storied Archbishop and daughter via Skype. I am sure one of the questions will be how does one practice this live and let live attitude on an everyday basis, from traffic jams to highway robbery.

Bigger offenses are harder for me than small things. During the Instagram challenge I found myself practicing the principles of forgiveness and letting go of three distinct situations of theft. Two were professional, and the third situation was my grandmother’s estate. To be clear, the Tutus recommend reconciliation whenever possible; however they do recognize that sometimes you just let grievances and relationships go, and wish people well (The formal Forgiveness Challenge begins next week, if you are interested).

Prior to the challenge, in one of the professional situations I enforced and successfully protected my rights through threat of legal action. In the other two cases, I simply ended up cutting ties. But I never achieved peace of mind, and continued to experience resentment.

As part of the challenge, I wrote out my grievances, and then tried to look at it from the other persons’ perspectives. While I may not agree with their actions, I could see they were simply acting in self interest, rationalized and justified. No one thinks they are actually doing wrong, usually.

This is important. If someone doesn’t think they have done wrong, they won’t apologize or rectify a situation. See most people hold grudges because they are waiting for the other party to acknowledge and correct a wrong. The expectation of an amends is likely to remain unfulfilled, creating an ongoing pattern of negative resentment. The offended party becomes a prisoner of their own angst.

Judge My Own Actions

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The low probability of receiving an amends makes it critical to let go of small and big issues alike. Letting go frees the offended party. In the case of the three acts, I was able to see why these people acted, and I decided to let them off the hook. That doesn’t mean I endorse these parties actions, nor would I be surprised if there was repercussions later on.

That being said, by letting matters go and mentally wishing individuals well with their ongoing lives and careers, I was able to free myself of resentment. I could focus on what mattered; the people and opportunities in my life today.

The Tutu Forgiveness Challenge taught me that justice and forgiveness are separate. Justice is not mine to seek in 99.9% of situations, except in the truly criminal context. Perhaps other people are better able to deal with the anger that comes from a true wrong. Me? I need to work through the anger, let go, and focus on the good things I can impact.

It may seem trite, but I think moving on is an essential part of success in business and in one’s personal matters. When I hold on to anger, it drains me and stops me from building things, and loving the people in my life.

A recent Lifehack article highlighted 15 things confident people don’t do. Number five was don’t obsess over the opinions of others, and six was they don’t judge others. Eight was they don’t make comparisons.

Look, the article had no methodology to it, but I think it’s points were spot on. I should judge my own actions and hold myself to standards, not others. Understanding this principle helped me let go of problems beyond my control, and forgive others. It is an amazing and freeing experience.

What do you think?

How You Live This Life Is How You Leave It

I just withdrew from a very contentious family incident surrounding my grandmother’s estate. She passed away in late January.

Thanks to ugly family politics during the past year, I and the rest of her direct descendants will receive nothing from her estate. Not even a photograph. That’s too bad. I visited her in France every other year throughout my childhood, she helped me propose to my wife, attended my wedding. And I served as her guardian from 2009 through most of last year, and saw her almost weekly for the last seven years.

I could have fought this, but why fight for a year or two in court over money and things? You see, to fight this would have continued a terrible legacy.

While my grandmother did some great things, she was not a great person. Punitive acts, harsh words or divisiveness marred almost every conversation. Plus the estate was squandered, the result of a decade of uninhibited spending and alcoholic behavior. The expenditure alone would have eaten a significant portion of the estate. It all added up to a distraction, a big negative sink hole.

The results from grandma’s life could be seen at the funeral. Outside of the family members who forcefully took over her care and estate last autumn, there were only four people in attendance.

The acrimony after grandma’s death matches her life. Some behaviors have been passed on, but the seeds of the past don’t have to take root in the future, at least not my future.

I remember discussing this matter with my last close relative of that generation, my step grandmother Miriam. She’s 95, and just lost her beloved Mort last year. She said, “How you live this life is how you leave it.” Miriam was right.

I could not help but consider the contrast between Mort’s passing, my paternal grandmother Jean, and my maternal grandmother Muriel. In the case of Mort and Jean, there was profound sadness. Both served their communities, easily made friends, and did their best to take care of others. Mort was such a well known volunteer and community organizer, his passing was felt throughout Philadelphia.

And then there is Muriel’s death.

I did love my grandmother very much. The painful discord during and after her life makes it much harder to reconcile her death, though.

I can only say that while she loved me, too (I think), in most situations she was a great teacher of what not to do. That includes giving instead of taking, and understanding when to fight as well as what to fight about. It always leaves scars for both parties, and can become a huge distration from what really matters in life.

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My grandmother Jean used to always say when something was troubling me that this too shall pass. Instead of remembering the bad, I hope I can cherish the good things like the many trips to the Vallongue in Provence (pictured above), as well as Paris, Rome, and Geneva (featured image). She did many things for me, and I know that. Only time will tell how I feel about her overall legacy.

But no matter what, she has proven that how you live this life is how you leave it. I’ll keep that in mind.

Waiting for Life to Happen

Do you wait for life to happen?

It was Jack Welch who said, “Contol your own destiny or someone else will.” Jack seems to have a superman attitude that fails to recognize the influence of outside forces, but… You can let the world run you, or you can create opportunities.

I don’t wait for things to happen, and I don’t give others full power to determine my destiny. This is true in business and in other pursuits. Yes, things are often out of our control, but we can always create another opportunity by proactively engaging.

I rarely have no options because I am constantly creating other chances and opportunities. If you don’t look for new business, it’s not going to land on your door. Even when opportunity does come, inevitably it’s because of proactive marketing and activities.

But the key is to do the footwork. If you do the footwork, the opportunities appear.

As the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. The hard part is walking down the hallway and turning all the door knobs until it opens. That’s when the fear kicks in. You have to walk through that fear.

Writing and Destiny

People often ask me when I will write another business book. My honest answer is I don’t know. I’d rather focus on writing fiction, at least for the immediate future, and so I do. And while I can’t invest the time in fiction like I would a business book, it won’t happen on its own. I have to write every day!

Because I want to publish fiction, I didn’t even look for a publisher last year. I went out on my own. Destiny is not kind to fiction authors who leave their fate in the hands of traditional agents and publishers.

Publishing Exodus was one of the most powerful and fulfilling moments of personal destiny I have ever experienced.

I honestly believe one of my books will break open some larger opportunity. Why? Because footwork produces opportunities. Perhaps it’s a movie deal, or a traditional publisher buys the rights to my books, or drops a fat contract opportunity in my email, or maybe by the time I am an old man, they just start selling en masse. But it won’t happen if I don’t pay attention to my hobby when I can.

Moving Forwrd

Today is the first full week of the year. I am pretty busy, but I think that’s because I busted my butt in October, November and December.

Now it’s time to keep moving forward, and create opportunities for the second quarter and beyond. If we want a full destiny, then we must take the necessary actions to make it appear.

What actions will you take to create opportunities in your life?

Featured image by Robert Gouley.

Wipe the Ledger Clean to Forgive

Forgiving others may be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s equally important. By forgiving, we are forgiven.

The act of forgiveness is often about clearing resentments from the past, perceived and real. That means wiping the ledger, and offering people a second chance. Specifically, give folks a clean slate to live without judgement.

Everyone is human and makes mistakes varying in degrees of sillyness, selfishness, and incompetence. Find me a perfect person, and I’ll find you a liar. When it comes to doing the right thing, we all live in glass houses to some extent.

Judging others and pointing fingers is a very dangerous game. Inevitably, people who spend their time judging others have their own flaws. That includes me.

My friend David likes to remind me that if I want to be forgiven for some of my errors, I need to do the same and let others off the hook. I have to accept people for the good and the bad.

Friday’s post about walking away from relationships generated some great comments. In one response, I stated a willingness to give anyone a chance, and then if I am disappointed or if someone does something crazy, I weigh the positives and the negatives. I am responsible for the outcome of the second chance or misnomer because I made a conscious decision to accept them for who they are, good and bad. No one is perfect, right?

If there is anything nine years of marriage has taught me, it’s to let people off the hook. If I keep score and hold grudges in my relationships, they will always be tenuous.

Forgive, But Don’t Forget

There are some mistakes that cannot and should not be forgotten. For example, it’s hard to overcome criminal acts such as violence and stealing works from people. These are obvious moments that should serve as a warning about second chances.

At the same time, some people do change. There are times when we extend a hand, and try to help someone overcome a terrible burden. But only a fool would do so blindly.

More often than not we’re really dealing with minor wrongs, too. For example, consider the person who undermines their fellows consistently. I might accept them for who they are, and let them off the hook. That doesn’t mean I’m going to volunteer to get shown up again. Far from it, I will wish them well, but avoid teaming with them.

Live and Let Live

There is a big difference between stewing on a resentment, wanting a fair deal, etc., and walking away and wishing someone well. To live and let live, I need to forgive. And then move on, and wish the other person well on their path.

I knew someone several years ago who just trashed me left and right. The trash talking was quite damaging, and I was really angry. At the first opportunity to do so, I cut all ties (which of course produced more trash talking). It has been several years, and I still wish to have no contact with this person. Nothing that I have seen from afar indicates that a new chapter in the relationship would produce a different result.

At the same time, I recently heard that x was expecting a child, their first one. I know the joy of parenthood, and was really quite happy for x. I felt a sense of joy and wished x well in mind and spirit.

Then I went back home, played with Soleil, and wrote another chapter for my next novel.

Live and let live means truly wishing others well, and dropping the rock. This is compassion. They have their path, I have mine, and neither needs to be defined as right or wrong. It just is, and that’s the joy of being human.

Forgiveness finds a basis in accepting others AND ourselves. I can only improve myself, and choose to love those in my life, both the good and the bad. It’s much better to be happy that others have a chance to live life to its fullest, and improve if they want to.

What do you think about forgiveness?

Image by Murrayh77

Living in Shutdown Town

A DC-area Starbucks is overloaded with furloughed feds talking smack about the shutdown.

The entrances to the Mount Vernon Bike Trail near your house — maintained as part of the George Washington Parkway by the National Park Service — is barricaded.

You can’t visit any national monuments on the mall.

Rush hour is slackened to a reasonable slog, but unusually random traffic jams fill the day.

Some of your friends and colleagues suddenly call you back, ready to talk now that they aren’t getting shipped out somewhere in the United States or beyond on this week’s government business.

A friend who is a subcontractor on a larger federal deal is laid off, a casualty of the shutdown.

And the online sites and radio are filled with vitriolic attacks, one party or government body blaming the others for this incredible stasis metropolitan Washington finds itself in.

DC is a government town. It’s kind of like what would happen to LA if all of Hollywood, from movies and TV to interactive and music, suddenly decided to go on strike indefinitely. The titans battle, while the majority of the workforce suffers. It’s surreal, yet happening.

The consequences are mixed, but progressively worsening as the region’s economic engine remains stalled out. As the situation evolves beyond days and into weeks, I wonder if DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) will decline into recession.

And then there are the safety concerns. Airlines are left to their maintenance duties without FAA oversight. Here in DC, wholesale portions of the local police force are federal, and some are currently sitting on the bench. For example, will there be drag races on the GW Parkway? Certainly somewhat amusing, but you can imagine a lot worse happening without the long-term presence of police.

That’s what it’s like to live in DC right now.

When I listen to the PR blame war, I can’t help but think that you just can’t put lipstick on this pig. Our politicians aren’t public servants. They’re selfish power-brokers, ideologues throwing mud at each other while those of us that actually live in this city are affected — some worse than others. We are all powerless over the ship of fools running the United States of America.

Shutdown or open for business, our government is broken.

What do you think?