Remain Teachable

This weekend I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. What would a four-time author have to learn at an event like this? Quite a lot apparently. It was a worthwhile experience, one that I am glad I approached with an open mind.

I learned more about book publishing in one day than I had in the past eight months. From the rise of new hybrid publishers to independendent book marketing jujitsu, I gleaned many insights.

More than anything, in this day and age of super pundits it is so important to remain teachable. There are so many experts who sit atop their pedastals, and point out the Way it Should Be. We see fewer and fewer posts about how people learned and grew.

Point being is that everything changes. To stay ahead — or really to just keep pace — you have to remain open to evolutionary shifts. Things change so quickly that if you don’t, you will be made a novice again, like it or not. So it’s remain teachable or get lapped.

If I attended the conference as a know it all writer who had published four books, then I would have denied myself a great experience. For example, I did not know how powerful GoodReads Groups could be (I started on called Living in Words, please join us!), or that most Kickstarter campaigns succeed (80% to be exact) if they reach 20% of their funding. I learned a whole bunch about how authors are building value for their readers, keeping them interested beyond launch periods.

One thing that became clear at the conference (at least in my mind) is the day of a blogger launching a book to their social media community is not a sustainable model. Hustling book sales by posting ceaselessly online is coming to an end. People want valuable content and insights from authors, not personal branding or self-aggrandizing chest beating.

These are just a few of the insights I picked up this weekend.

Methods to Keep Growing


Overall, the weekend got me thinking about remaining teachable. The ceiling for growth really lies within. Deciding how much one is willing to continue learning depends on how open-minded one is. Can we keep challenging our existing ideas and appraoches?

Here is a list of ways to exercise one’s mind:

  • Attend an industry conference
  • Take a class
  • Learn a new, but related sister skill
  • Read a book by a leading competitor
  • Travel to a different country and study a different culture
  • Use new tools to perform your work

These are just some of the ways I challenge myself. How do you push your own limits? Or do you settle for status quo?

Remain Teachable

Route 66 Missouri - 2010
Image by Dustin Holmes

There’s nothing worse than someone who knows it all. Yet, now more than ever we surround ourselves with paper experts, factions of wisdom, and pundits of the micro topic.

Online and in real life I meet and interact with many micro-pundits. Surely, there is corresponding micro-fame, and perhaps even micro-wealth that comes with such stature. But there is also a great danger of egotistical ignorance that comes with micro celebrity.

You could call me such a micro-pundit.

But really, wasn’t I really a modern King of the Vagabonds, one of the people who suddenly broke out because I shouted the loudest? And I did better than I ever had, but did I conquer? I had an agency of 8, not 800, yet I walked around the blogosphere like I mattered.
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6 Ways to Right Size that Big Blogger Ego

Ever find yourself or one of your blogging friends suffering from a case of big blogger ego?

Let’s be honest, this happens much more than anyone would like to admit. When you spend all day online with thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of followers, it can become easy to take everything too seriously. A false sense of importance takes hold.

Here are six easy ways to recalibrate your head based on personal experiences:

1) The Grocery Store Test

Go to your community grocery store for the weekly eats. If you don’t normally perform this household chore, go with your spouse. If anyone actually recognizes you, you probably have a right to feel like a weblebrity. More than likely, you will be just another citizen amongst citizens. And when you talk to them, tell them you’re a blogger or an Internet personality. Note their reactions. You have identified yourself to the normal world as an oddity.

2) Go to Hollywood

Walk of Fame
Image by Mot the Barber

Try telling everyone that you are an Internet star in the marketing blogosphere. Notice how impressed they are. Before you leave make sure to visit Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. Notice your name isn’t on it.

3) Attend a Different Web Conference

Go to a conference about a different part of the web, one that is not in your community. Since you’re reading this blog, attend something not marketing related like HTML 5, Ruby on Rails, or cloud for the enterprise. See how many people recognize your name in casual networking. If it is three or more, you have arrived.

4) Have Fun at Your Own Expense

If you can’t have fun at your own expense — a little self deprecation — then you have definitely become a legend in your own mind. This is not healthy! Do it for a cause or to lighten up a room where fellow community members are a little star struck. One of the core undercurrents in Dale Carnegie’s Great Depression era books on relationship building is self deprecation. It takes a right sized ego (or false humility) to enjoy a little fun at your own expense.

5) Coach a Little League Team

Or get involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or 4-H. Basically, get yourself around the same group of kids for a few weeks. Be present for them, and leave that phone in the car.

Hopefully, by the end of the experience, all of those children will have great respect for you and what you’ve done for them. See if any of them talk to you about blogging or the Internet (beyond talking games) through the experience, other than to find out what a blogger is. Somehow, investing time in children means more to them than a virtual career.

6) Visit the Wild

Guanicos in the Chilean Patagonia Mountains

Take a long, non internet connected visit in the wild. Notice how you become attuned to the beautiful nature? As you walk, you notice animals and birds. None of them know who you are, in fact they are more than likely afraid of you. But the sight of these beautiful creatures brings great joy to your heart. As Ralph Emerson said, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith.”

Please add your own right sizing exercise… Have a great weekend, folks!