Becoming the message is better than creating the message.
You can try and persuade, you can copy-write and strategically, plan a speech.
But the great leaders of the world haven’t won our hearts and minds through language. Instead, they embody the message.
And we don’t hear it, but we feel it.
It’s hard to describe. And we’re drawn to that type of energy because we see that they’ve found or seen something we haven’t. We follow because we seek to be transformed. So we exalt the leader.
But the leverage of the internet has shifted the dynamic of power.
Is there anything more clear in 2018 that the individual has power beyond anything we’ve seen before?
To speak a truth. To reach a million people with a single tweet even if you don’t have a following?
Do you know you have that power now?
It’s hard to let that responsibility and that opportunity, fully sink in.
Of course, it’s not simply available to anyone instantly utilize.
One must embody a deep truth of sorts.
Then, speak that truth when it’s primed for the culture to hear, to react.
And so, suddenly a 16-year-old with an iPhone can speak to the world, share her voice, and speak her truth for those who stay silent or placate.
Sure, there are trolls, or there are those that will laugh off a voice due to age, gender, or economic status.
The people in power today think they should have more say than you because of their status. The more money in your bank account, the more you’re voice should be heard?
I don’t buy it.
Which is why this bravery from these high school teens is so compelling. Because we’ve seen the embodiment of a message. Now it’s those affected who are standing up. And it’s up to us to at least listen, put ourselves in their shoes.
This isn’t about agenda.I’m not claiming to have answers, but I am claiming that your voice matters as much as your neighbors, and that a precursor to change is listening, as is leadership with skin in the game.
That’s what gets our attention: skin-in-the-game.
And those who lead with skin in the game, who share their voice from a genuine place, we absorb. It’s almost like the best leadership comes from a form of innocence rather than dominance.
Feaux leadership seeks to confuse us. To add complexity to prove their authority.
True leadership brings simplicity to the truth.
A purity that we can feel in the message.
So it’s in your power to have a voice.
To speak your truth.
But maybe, just maybe it’s also worth listening to others with skin in the game. Forget the pundits. Forget the politicians.They have been given the platform, but it hasn’t always been earned.
Your neighbors, classmates, service workers, local communities…
Their voices are worth our respect.
I totally missed it.
Back in 2015, Wale, a D.C. rapper and Jerry Seinfeld put together a record.
How does something like this even come together?
“So I had heard his name and then he came to a show and asked if he could say hello, so he came backstage. I thought he was a very charming young man. And then I heard about the mixtape, and he came up with the idea of doing the whole album. It just felt so offbeat and that’s what appeals to me.” – Seinfeld
I’m a huge Jerry Seinfeld fan. I’ve seen all of the interviews but this record slipped through the cracks.
Jerry is a sucker for the offbeat. It’s why he did the Bee movie, a kids movie with adult humor. When you hear him interviewed, he’s got equal part lessons and equal part mystery. That’s the thing about Seinfeld, it’s like he barely talks. He scrapes the surface with everyone and it bothers you because you want to know more about what’s really going on under the hood.
It bothers you because he seems to be totally OK in a world of comics who are typically needy for attention and troubled (which makes their art, great).
I suppose only Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle have landed in this place, at least later in life where it seems like they can just be themselves.
If you want to dive in, there are classic interviews on Stern back from when his show was a hit. There’s some behind the scenes on the set interviews of him and Larry David. And, a more inspective view when he goes on Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” and the most you get out of him is that he’s content.
So he’s part lessons part mystery.
Or maybe it’s that the lesson is that there is no mystery to his work, he just works at it.
But what’s incredible about Seinfeld is the trajectory of his career.
He creates the greatest show o all time, and then follows it not by taking over the world, not by cashing in like the Marvel series with unlimited budget pumping out show after show…
Instead, he waits. He’s comfortable with that one hit.
Then he bides his time and then he strikes when he sees an opportunity. But he knows that he’ll never hit mass appeal again. So instead he seeks out the weird, and the interesting, the new and different.
He meets Wale. And Wale has a concept for an album the relates to the show. “The Album About Nothing”
And like his other moves, the masses miss it.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was turned down by every online presence except the unknown “Crackle Media” which effectively died after they couldn’t continue to pay for the rights. But now you can view CICGC on Netflix.
It’s always about your latest hit. And apparently, even Netflix and Amazon didn’t believe he could produce again.
But back to the album, and to Wale.
I learned this bit of Jerry trivia because of Wale’s interview on Pete Holmes “You Made it Weird.” It’s a comedic show with a bent towards the bigger questions in life like religion, with guests ranging from Rob Bell and Aaron Rogers. And sometimes you love Pete for his joy and sense of humor and sometimes he talks too much over the guest…
But on the show Wale is refreshing.
He sees between the lines of old school hip hop culture and the new breed of rappers. Jay Z, Snoop, Dre and all the others lived the gangster life on the streets and rapped about it because it was their life!
Rappers today talk about drugs and guns but it’s more a metaphor for the culture, for the history, and it’s not always from real experience. There’s a divide between the old-school rappers and the new school. But the topics are the same, it’s just the worlds are different. Except for possibly drugs which are prevalent everywhere.
The name of the game for hip-hop is collaboration. So maybe it’s only natural that Wale is open to all and any collaborators, even Jerry Seinfeld.
What’s appealing about Wale is his earnest perspective, matched with a focus, which comes from his internal struggle of fearing failure.
Jerry is about the cash. He leverages art that’s working for top dollar. He’ll do the club for free to polish his skills, but when he’s got something to sell that he believes in, he goes for asking for as much as he can. It’s unclear what his monetary role was here.
But you put them together, and you bridge communities by uniting around a show that everyone can love, Seinfeld. That’s the idea anyway.
It hit #1, but I’m not sure the culture can sync up with something like this anymore.
Which is why this can go right on by without notice.
And I admit, personally after a few listens…it’s not quite there for me. I prefer his 2011 Album “Ambition” produced by Rick Ross. His happy/pop style upbeat album.
But the point is Wale and Jerry tried something new.
Something worth talking about. They knew it wouldn’t be for everyone and it’s this type of artistry that’s needed to break outside the noise and gather interest.
We want something fresh.
Doing that means taking a risks. Likely, it won’t work. But just maybe…
So, you keep putting out product.
This is the mixtape ethos.
You keep putting out product.
Too many emails are coming in.
Not from person to person. I love receiving those.
Heck, I love email. Hit reply and I want to get back to you, even if I always can’t. And with email, you can reach almost anyone in the world. I sent about 4 just today to people I’ve never yet met. It’s like your inbox is this wonderful place full of opportunity.
And It’s the gateway to making things happen. It’s how you introduce people, activate people to volunteer, share insight, notify people of your upcoming show…
It’s also the last feed where you can control the experience and have a conversation one-on-one.
Facebook’s having an existential crisis because they’ve ruined the experience by allowing the flow of too much information. Which is why it’s time to get back to local. Get back to relevant and personal communication.
But slowly email has been ever-crowding with E-blasts into the oblivion. Social media tactics ported over to email.
Some subject lines from my inbox today:
“The #1 Mistake Aspiring Speakers Make”
“Reason #2 to get off the fence”
“Hottest Way to Get Warm Leads”
I’m tempted to click but I don’t.
Funny how the impulse get’s you.
You’re at work, and the back of your mind is unknowingly scanning for shortcuts. And the subject lines feed into that.
Or maybe we just want to be doing anything other than what we’re doing right now. The keys to the world are right underneath our nose, heck, probably right in the middle of the task that you’re currently avoiding.
But instead, we reach for the marshmallow.
But I don’t blame you, the industry is built on this.
I’m likely guilty of this same thing on occasion.
Have you read “Hooked”?
“the hook model-a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior.
Through consecutive “hook cycles,” these products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging…”
Basically: Ther’es a model that hacks our brains reward system to leave us addicted to your product.
Basically: Psychological addiction is a major component of Social Media products, and is actively hired for. Daily Active Usage at all costs.
But we know this.
It’s only that recently the conversation is turning and some of us are changing our diet. Abandoning most outlets in exchange for a small trusted few. And I’m developing a poor taste for most anything prescribed to the masses.
First, because it needs to be stripped of its insight to fill the demand for shortcuts and shallow insight.
Second, because tactically if we’re all doing the same things we’re likely doing nothing interesting.
Third, because try as the writer/producer may, many times things are misinterpreted.
So lately I’ve developed a downright aversion to some media.
Hey, we should enjoy junk food from time to time. There’s no shame in lovingly consuming something you know is bad for your body but good for your soul. And sometimes Buzzfeed et. all just feel pleasurable.
But they’re not nutritious.
Anyways, I’m ranty because I immediately regretted buying the latest marketing book I purchased.
Not because it lacked insight, but because of the 9-12 chapters surrounding the insight. And the 9-12 freebie downloads I was given which left me feeling empty.
They were full of copy suggestions for effect, and scripts that are meant to grab you that you can use etc. etc…
See, I was curious about surveys and asking the community questions that help you learn and get feedback.
It was when I was working on the census. So I bought the book, began listening…
And then after 2 hours of work, I recognized that everything I read at first felt right, and then felt implicitly wrong.
Tactically correct, but tone def.
So I tossed most of it and created based on instinct, keeping only a small % of learnings.
So where does that leave us?
Am I a part of this or outside of it?
Let’s get back to it: What we want is truth.
We want people who can speak to us in ways that invite our interests instead of trick us into buying in, only to feel a lack of substance in exchange.
If you think this is about simply just not selling, you’re incorrect. We’re always selling; our ideas, our projects, and you pay with time or attention or dollars.
It’s just that now we want to be engaged with thoughtfully in the process. To not be seen as a data point.
And that doesn’t mean you can’t do this at scale.
Steve Jobs and Jony Ive spoke to us thoughtfully. Nike speaks to us thoughtfully. They have an opinion on the world and you feel that they want the best for US.
They believe in our ability, but they stick to their own truth. We can go to them if we need, but we don’t have to if that’s not our taste.
It’s your life.
These aren’t bad intentioned people writing these. They are intelligent. I just feel as if they’re giving people what they want but not what they need.
Or they’re giving people what they’re compelled to click on but not which give them a sense of wellbeing or insight or meaning. Then again, it’s your diet.
When people see the truth, they prefer it.
Or at least, all those who are seekers in this life, do.
The reason you didn’t hear from as much last week is that I don’t send on a schedule.
Nights, weekends, mornings… I only share things when I can’t help but hit send. My email outbox is more like a magnet than a megaphone.
Why waste your time, or mine, on something that doesn’t have that feeling behind it?
But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing all of the time.
I’m taking notes constantly, filling Evernote, Are.na, and even my own inbox with emails addressed to myself to review.
I wonder if after I’m gone somehow my future family will get access to this pile of notes, quotations and half-written articles?
Like the stacks of papers in your grandfather’s den, but digital.
Sunday is the one day in my head to give a consistent update. It seems to help me get my bearings for the week, and it adds some context for where we’re at.
Since I’m already onto it, this go-round I’ll continue with more behind the scenes.
If there’s one rule I use for getting past writer’s block, it’s “start by saying something true.”
So Sunday’s I try and empty my head as much as possible of all of the static from the week so that “something true” can bubble up. Usually, this is where my best thinking about my priorities show up as well. Preparing for the week, to me, is the opposite of what you’d expect. I try and not plan, or think, at all. And that is exactly what gives me the space to see things clearly.
My other rule is to become the message.
You see writing or note taking is a type of study in actualization.
You gather. You curate. You rip pages from magazines and you piece together a collage to hang up on your wall in your bedroom in hopes that one day… you become that collage.
The beautiful thing about the community responses and conversations being shared here is that we get to see a bit of someone else’s collage. What are they seeing, noticing, and hoping to become?
Another way to see “become the message” is recognizing that your embodiment of an idea or cause is more powerful than talking about it.
Which is more about how to live than how to write.
And more about action than discussion.
They will follow you if you have already transformed, not if you simply tell them to transform…
So what are you listening to? Who are you listening to?
And when was the last time you cleared out all of the noise and answered those questions with “myself”?
Have a great week, and speak again soon,
I just came back from seeing “Spirited Away” which is considered the best animated film of all time. It was MUCH better the 2nd time and on 35mm. Something felt familiarly-worn about watching it that way with the scratches and marks showing on the screen.