The One Thing You Must Do for Your Professional Development to Make a Difference
Be a Beautiful Symphony

I Have Become Human Spam

 

I started this blog in 2007--almost 9 years ago. 

When I began, it was a place that I used for reflective practice, for what John Stepper calls Working Out Loud. I LOVED those days. I had to control myself from posting to my blog several times a day because I was overflowing with so many ideas and possibilities and my blog posts practically wrote themselves. 

I read books and articles and wrote about how they were impacting my thinking. I shared ideas, responded to other bloggers, allowed myself to be passionate and excited and to follow what I loved and what interested me, even if it it didn't seem to have immediate application to my work or "make sense" to people who might be reading what I wrote. 

I did things like the 31 Day Blogging Challenge and the 31 Day Comment Challenge, projects that helped me develop my skills, but more importantly, they helped me to connect to a broader worldwide community of practice.

Through these kinds of projects and through my own reflective approach to blogging, I met and worked with people from all over the world--people who challenged my thinking, who brought me new ideas, who shared their experiences and struggles and who helped create a sense of community. 

We would read each other's posts, comment on each other's blogs, and engage in deep, thoughtful conversations that helped us grow both personally and professionally. 

Then something happened. Part of it was the rise of other platforms like Facebook and Twitter that favor short form, pithy thinking and approaches to problems. Some of the people I engaged with in the early days found ways to incorporate these strategies into their overall process, but for whatever reason, I wasn't able to do that as easily. 

At key points I found that I needed to take long breaks from being online and in taking those breaks, I fell out of the communities that I'd been so connected to in the earlier days. It's hard (if not impossible) to come back in when you've been away for awhile, so that definitely has had an impact. 

But the other thing I'm realizing is deeper, more insidious--something that I need to address head on. 

This morning I was reading Austin Kleon's Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get DiscoveredNumber 7 on the list is "Don't Become Human Spam" and oh, Dear God, did that one hit home. 

I have become Human Spam. 

I am no longer the host nor the beginner, nor the person who is working out loud. I no longer ask  big questions or engage with the messiness of the work that I do in a public space. I do these things in private--with a select group of people and in my journals--but I don't do them here because I've wanted to be "helpful" and to somehow be more "focused"  and "relevant."

I've been afraid of how people might be confused by the many types of things that I do and the many areas of interest that I have. I've been focused on finding and packaging "my brand" to make myself more comprehensible and digestible rather than on just being who and what I am and letting the chips fall where they may. 

I've been afraid that posts will be too long--that if I give you the "Why" and the "how" of my thinking, you'll tune out. (Many of you will, but so what? That's life) 

I've thought that my "value" comes from giving you 5 ideas for things you can do to help your career in 5 minutes, knowing in my heart that you are NOT going to be able to have a healthy thriving career when you only give it 5 minutes a day. But people want short posts and listicles, so that's what I should give you. 

I've been afraid to talk about how worried I am for all of us, of how I think that the structures and spaces we are living in at work and in life are sucking us dry. I do "career development" work, but there's a HUGE part of me that believes that all of our focus on work is in fact the big problem. If we aren't "productive, contributing members of society" then the message we receive from our culture is that we have no value. And I'm afraid that in doing career work, I end up contributing to that. 

So all of my fears have turned me into someone I don't recognize. I'm not bringing my "best self" to my work anymore, partly because I'm no longer working out loud. 

Screw that. 

It's killing me. It's killing the quality of my work. 

I have become Human Spam.  And I apologize to you for that. 

I need to switch things up around here. I'm not totally sure what that looks like, but I'm sure that it will be revealed to me as I apply the Vampire Test to my posts.

If it gives energy and life--if it feels juicy and meaningful, I will write about it.

If it feels dead, if it feels like 50 other people could have written it (and that they probably have), I won't write about it. 

Expect less "finished product" around here and more "work in progress." Expect me to talk about things other than how you can have a good career plan because honestly, I care about WAY more than what it takes to have a thriving career. You are more than your job. Work can give a sense of purpose, but so can volunteering, art, parenting, and a whole host of other things. 

There will be fewer posts that link back into my old stuff and more posts that link out to ideas and people who get me thinking. Some of them will have to do with careers, but others won't. I learn from artists, from writers and poets, from designers and strategists. It's all grist for the mill and I do my best work when I share that. 

I want to be less hero and more host. Fewer answers and more questions. Less presentation, more conversation. 

If you're looking for my "brand"--it's learning from everything I can about how we can be loving, thriving, vibrant people who create loving, thriving vibrant lives and communities for ourselves. Some of these communities are at work and through work. Some aren't. I plan to be open to that.

If that turns you on, I hope you keep reading. If it doesn't, that's cool too.  Either way, I have to follow my heart in this. I have to stop being Human Spam. 

Comments

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Hmm, spam? I don't think so. Your writings often inspire my thinking on career development. I get some of my best ideas to use with my clients after reading your posts. Michele, you're one of my go-to bloggers; the people I rely on to stimulate my thinking and take my game to the next level.

So thanks for the content you provide, I look forward to continued stimulating stuff from you...No pressure.

Thank you for the kinds words, Scott! This ended up being partly a manifesto of sorts for myself, a reminder that I don't have to stick to finished thoughts all the time or do tips and tricks kinds of stuff and that I want to be more whole in the writing and thinking here. I have to tell you that it unlocked me in a certain way. :-)

Hi Michele
It has been awhile since we last spoke. I saw your article and wanted to say you are no a human spam at all. Why because you write about all the things that most of us are hesitant to write because it makes us more vulnerable and heck who wants to expose that. Your writing make me think, reflect and take one step toward courageous.

Your wrote "I Host Coaching, Community and Creative Gatherings for People and Organizations that Want to Thrive!" Well that takes questions that inspire conversation.

One article about creating a passion project has inspired me to do something I wanted to do for a long time so keep writing on anything that makes you think, reflect and act. I'm enjoying your learning process because they mirror mine :)

Mireille in Toronto

Thank you Mireille for your beautiful comment and I'm so glad that the passion project article inspired you! I was talking to a friend yesterday about the post and I think that it was a sort of "course-correction" for myself. A reminder of who and how I want to be in my life and how I want this blog to operate. I feel like I've gone too far in the direction of trying to think about what other people might need/want to hear from me and that has taken me away from the "working out loud" approach that I feel is more what is necessary in the world. Thank you for reminding me that I still have moments of writing/engaging that way and that they have an impact. That's probably the most important thing to me in my work-that what I do makes a difference. :-)

Being genuine and sharing your authentic self. That's a wonderful and inspiring manifesto.

Thank you for this post. Your awareness of how it 'feels' to lose alignment with outwardly serving readers and inwardly finding reflection as a thinker and as a blogger is just the message I needed. You see, I am relaunching my own blog for the third time. And this time, I have been committed to building a commercial success as my priority over creating the means for my personal reflection and growth as I had in the earlier endeavors. But I'm having problems finding my voice and find myself procrastinating rather than writing. I hear your declaration and find my own mission alignment in it. And I trust those readers I do end up serving now will appreciate the difference our feelings have for us.
~ a fully committed reader of yours

Thank you Nancy and Tyelmene for your comments and wonderful support.

Tyelmene, you've captured in a nutshell the dilemma I've been working with--using your blog as a reflective space vs. using it for commercial reasons. I'm a business person so of course I want to attract clients through my blog. But when I'm always thinking of it in those terms, it 1) causes major writer's block and 2) the quality of my thinking and writing seems to suffer. I'm hoping that this reminder to myself that I need to go back to my blogging roots gets me back in balance. I think it will because our real value to other people comes from being our full, authentic selves, sharing our thinking and ideas in process. Commercial success comes from engagement and I think that engagement has to begin with showing up as a human being. I wish you luck in your re-launch of your blog and I'm so happy that this post resonated with you at this point!

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