The Value of Silence

In an era when everyone can say whatever they want and often do, silence delivers more than you would think. In fact, there is great value in silence.

Let me give you an example. I had a client that was driving me nuts, and it was all I could do from expressing my frustration. I sat down with xx in a meeting, and was catching a fair amount of grief all while listening to the passionate defense of a few questionable decisions.

Though annoyed, I kept my mouth closed. I had already voiced my opinion on said projects. After a few minutes, the client said, “And we’d like to give you another $20,000 project.”

It literally paid to shut up.

When You Are Quiet

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When you are quiet, you have more energy. You become aware of everything around you.

You see things that are right in front of your eyes, things that you would normally miss. You are awake.

Online Perception

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Every now and then people need to say what they have to say. Some things demand an outcry. Recent NFL delinquencies come to mind. But when there you see a consistent pattern of mouthiness, it’s often perceived as egocentric.

I often see my past critical blogging as a petty attempts to justify actions, feel smarter than other people, or drive traffic in the face of a controversy. More importantly, such actions were hurtful to others.

When I became fully aware three years ago, I made a commitment to change. Often that meant not saying what came to mind. The value of silence outweighed the benefits of saying what I wanted.

I forced myself to a new content standard, one that didn’t engage in this kind of judgement. Content needed to be beneficial, and if it was critical, it had to be in a general way. This was difficult at times, but it built character.

Today, my blog is much less popular, in part because I did things like cut frequency and removed social media as a primary topic. But, I also know there is less traffic because posts are less controversial now. There is no train wreck to witness.

Yet my business and personal results are better now. I get more deals now because I am less vociferous. Clients feel safe now and don’t have to worry about a loose cannon blogger on their team. My relationships with others are better in all aspects of my life.

It’s the value of silence.

Poise

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I could not keep my mouth closed four years ago. What changed? First I became a Dad, second I realized how mouthiness was hurting myself and others, and then finally, I became the sole breadwinner in my family.

Today — most of the time — I avoid engaging in negative posts, actions and conversations.

I’m not always able to act with poise. In fact, earlier this year I received a communication from someone I caught red-handed poaching resources from one of my interests. The person demanded how I discovered their actions. My anger got the best of me and I reacted, calling them out for unethical behavior. It’s been war ever since.

That relationship was a competitive one already, but the additional negative energy was something I could have avoided. Instead, I created an unnecessary distraction and time suck. Yet another reminder that shooting your mouth off doesn’t pay.

But usually, I keep my mouth closed. Pick your battles wisely, my friends.

Introducing Tenacity5 Media

The Lady Soleil logo and naming kerfuffle a couple of weeks ago sent me in a different direction. Since then I developed and built a new brand for my company, “Tenacity5 Media.”

What does Tenacity5 Media mean? Tenacity and media are self evident, but the five is unique to me. The number represents the five principles I believe brands should keep an undying focus on to achieve their missions. They form the core of my company’s mission to develop great marketing campaigns.

The five tenacity maxims are:

1) Courage: Companies must be strong in the face of fear. Bold marketing wins, while safe approaches often guarantee middle-of-the-pack performance, or worse.

2) Resilience: Marketing takes time. Quick successes validate programs and are necessary, but to win a community’s loyalty, companies need to commit for the long haul. Smart brands attend to the now while building for the future.

3) Attentiveness: In an attention economy that depends on what others say about you, companies need an unrelenting focus on the customer. From research to outreach to service, marketing revolves around the customer experience.

4) Fluidity: Technology and media are in a consistent state of flux. As a result, norms for communication also change continually. Companies must adapt to evolving media.

5) Mindfulness: Every company is made up of people, and every person lives in a larger world. Our actions create impact, both positive and negative. Mindful companies build products and services that contribute to the larger welfare of our collective community.

Moving forward, you can see the company’s web site. It includes the services my company will offer in the near term. There are also links to Tenacity5’s Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. While a Facebook page has been created, I am not going to maintain it in the short term.

The Tenacity5 Media brand is a trademark of Lady Soleil, Inc., which was the fastest most affordable way to approach the rebrand. As my independent publishing is also maintained by the company, I intend to build out a Lady Soleil, Inc. web site to explain the business and claim its brands publicly.

I do want to thank everyone for their feedback. And I want to thank Aaron Mahnke at Wet Frog Studios for his quick work on the logo. In the end, I feel like I ended up with a brand that is much more authentic and representative of my approach towards marketing and media.

Will There Be Any Difference?

Tenacity5 represents my third attempt at scaling a company. The first concluded with the sale of Livingston Communications to CRT/Tanaka (now Padilla/CRT). The second ended for me when the three founders of Zoetica split ways.

It’s fair to ask, what will be different about Tenacity5?

First, I have zero intention of ever selling the company, or bringing on equity partners. Never say never, but there is no exit plan, rather a commitment to build something to last through the decades. I don’t enjoy employment, and I know this intrinsically. This is my path.

Second, I want to scale this company, and build something significantly larger than a boutique shop. In studying others who have built social media empowered agencies of 30 or more people over the past decades, I have noticed a unifying characteristic: They focus relentlessly on contributing to the market with ideas and best practices. At the same time, they tend not to get distracted or caught up in the day-to-day hubris of the sector. They rise above politicking and gossip even though they may be the subject of it. Some are A-listers, others are not.

This personal brand/reputation issue has been a problem in the past.

Personal attention can become an unnecessary distraction on the road to corporate growth. You can have both, but I see many A-Listers with really small boutiques, and as many large agencies with no well known employee in the blogosphere. Building a company around an omnipresent personality can be helpful, but it is not a necessary component of attracting customers and building a scaleable company.

Third, in the past my efforts included an unfortunate tendency to keep projects too long; specifically, employees and clients who did not perform well. These difficulties were crippling (in my opinion).
In the past I cared too much about those that should have moved on, and kept investing in them, partly out of guilt. By doing so I excerbated situations and probably made them exponentially worse. I think all parties suffered greatly as a result.

This is a core business issue. Effective business managers let people go when they aren’t working out. Building a great business revolves around hiring strong talent that delivers, nothing less and nothing more. A great executive knows this, and manages their roster accordingly.

You can always help someone after they leave with decent severance, out-placement, references, etc. And doing unlikeable things is part of any job.

What principles govern your business?

The Waste Bin of Mindfulness

This blog post is running in support of my Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination! Please consider a donation to support better online conversations. At the time of publishing, $240 in matching donations remained.

I often come up with blog ideas and then scrap them. They’re too pointed, petty or pedantic. So in the name of mindfulness, they get tossed in the Waste Bin.

But rather than just delete the posts altogether, I kept a running list of titles for [censored] and giggles. Here they are:

  • The Machiavellian Guide to Managing Personal Branders
  • Stop Whining About Facebook Privacy. PLEASE!
  • I Don’t Want to Read Your Rough Draft
  • If I Had an Office, There Would Be No Chairs
  • You Can’t Replace Courtesy with Social Updates
  • Worthy A-Listers
  • Author: Why Is Being Underpaid and Poor Cool?
  • Real Authors Don’t Brag About Trade Books
  • Read the Dictionary
  • What Being in the Top 1% of Influencers Gets You

So what does this list tell you?

I still think like an [censored]. I’ve just developed a three second pause in speech, and the good sense not to publish inflammatory posts. Maybe one day, I’ll get to the point where I think more lovingly and with less snark.

It does feel better to not publish these things. And as a result, I think we can all agree this small corner of the world is more civil.

So what do you think? Should we restrain our own speech in the name of civility and mindfulness? The best five comments will win a copy of my former colleague Andrea Weckerle’s new book Civility in the Digital Age.

A version of this post ran originally on Kaarina Dillabough’s blog. Featured image by Steve Brokaw.

Reaffirming the Internet Breeds Incivility

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Perhaps you saw the dust-up yesterday. Peter Shankman called out my business partner Kami Huyse for a post about one of his tweets (pictured above). Kami was using it as an example to create a conversation about Internet civility… The original tweet was a demonstration. Time consumption abuse by folks who don’t value Peter’s time was used to flaunt rates and be generally flippant on Twitter.

Just an observation that Kami never pointed at Peter directly by name or link, instead using the content of the Tweet as a discussion point. While her title was sensational — I Don’t Have Time to Google You: Microfame Breeds Arrogance — I think she was making a point about mindful conversation in not calling out Peter. Then this happens:

1) Peter Shankman gets angry when he sees the post, responds by titling a second post with her name in it — An Open Letter to Kami Watson Huyse, APR — then linked to her, thus turning a conversation about one of his tweets (anonymously discussed) into a would-be blog war.

2) He also knew that doing so would put the post in search, particularly with his blog’s weight. He is a PR master (the founder of HARO), thus creating a permanent SEO “record” for Kami.

3) Peter turned the conversation about civility into a victim story about how he should get paid (“Still think it’s about me being a douche?,” asks Peter). Poor Peter. Frankly, I get the same BS where people are asking me for free work/blogs all the time. It doesn’t mean that I am entitled to drop a tweet like that and flaunt “my greatness” to my community.

4) Finally, Peter unleashed his fans on Kami, many of which seem to be unable to distinguish between the original story about civility and Peter’s spin about not getting paid. Instead they pile on hate and angst without thinking about the context of the story. Kami’s an experienced online communicator and can take the heat, but a less experienced person would be devastated.

Sorry, but this entire affair — and in particular Peter Shankman’s arrogant remarks as well as the many nastygrams from his fans — only reaffirmed Kami’s original point that the Internet breeds incivility. It also reaffirmed many, many negative feelings I have about personal branders. All in all, it was not a pretty day on the Internet.

Overall, I question the mindfulness of the affair. From Kami’s provocative stance to spark a conversation to pointed personality attacks from a supposed industry leader and finally, the pile-on commenting from fans, it wasn’t the most loving conversation I’ve seen.

In all activities online, I find it useful to ask myself is this about me, or about being of service to the larger community? When it is the prior it usually leads me awry. It’s ego-driven, and frankly creates personal investment that can lead to situations like the above. When I am trying to help others, it often becomes a much more mindful thing.

A good reminder as we go into the rest of the week that our tongues can be powerful weapons… Or forces for good. It’s a choice.