Well Done

Success is an odd concept. Too often it is defined by somebody else and not you: parents, friends, colleagues. I remember as a child my main desire was to look and feel relaxed, that kid who wasn’t perennially awkward and uneasy in her own skin. I was bought a book, or maybe I bought it myself, I don’t remember: How to be Cool. It had lots of film stars on the cover, most of them in shades, because that was how you cultivated a persona that radiated confidence. In the ignorance of youth (and boy was I naive back then) all you needed was the physical tools to become famous, and that’s how it worked. Not much has changed in 40 years: all you need now is to break 1000 Followers on your online medium of choice and suddenly, BOOM, you’re the person to know. Except success shouldn’t be defined by other people’s beliefs, at least if you want to try and attain some notion of personal peace.

Only now do I begin to understand why ‘do it for yourself’ matters more than any other goal you’ll ever set.

If you don’t enjoy sport, you won’t understand why last night’s PSG v Barcelona game was such a big deal. Barcelona, effectively buried at home in the first leg of their Champion’s League tie by French opposition, did what is normally considered impossible and came back to win 6-5 away from home, with a display of determination that saw their win effectively sealed in the last five minutes of normal time plus time added on. Success sometimes means not assuming you’re beaten, that the opposition is fallible. It also helps if there’s some luck in the mix (one of Barca’s goals was the most amazing of deflections) but mostly you never give up until the game is over.

When history and your critics have condemned you to failure before the whistle is blown, there’s nothing left to lose, and here is where success is never defined by anybody else except the people playing the game. The reason I love football (and I do as a spectacle, because it is) is if a group of players believe enough in themselves and the task to be surmounted, it will happen. That was the case with Leicester City last season, and it will be again, as I’m confident that group of players will survive their relegation battle, but only now because they are fighting adversity on their terms. But I’m not here to pretend I’m a pundit, because success is knowing what you’re good at and not trying to be everything at once, and I’m straying from my own point.

meanwhile

Success is not what other people tell me it is. I define the parameters, from start to finish. That’s because, when all is said and done, I am the team here. Nobody else edits the Blogs or produces the graphics. There’s no writing team producing the words ever day. If an idea is created or developed, there will be input from other people, but the final production and ‘manufacture’ of the articles from those discussions falls into my lap. Effectively, when you are your own production company, PA and publicity teams? It makes satisfaction a lot easier to both quantify and gauge. There’s also far less stress because being beholden to other people in process can often be enough to send you batty. This means that creative freedom and inspiration don’t get stifled nearly as much as can be the case in collectives. It also allows me the opportunity to pick and choose what gets done and when.

The flip side to this of course is that there is often a temptation to do everything at once, because it is hard to work out what’s the most worthwhile idea in a pile of potentially great projects. That has been the hardest lesson of all to learn, but now I’ve cut things down to small, workable ‘blocks’ of time, it is becoming quite manageable and attainable. What that means in practical terms is as after this post is written, I’ll get a cuppa and a flapjack and spend a couple of hours setting up webpage frameworks for the back end of the Warcraft site, and looking to add a couple of new headers to the Writing one. What I’ve often overlooked is foundations in my projects, and without solid bases on which to build long term projects, things can have a habit of collapsing around me… but not any more.

guywithaplan
I am infinitely grateful for the opportunity to define my own rules going forward. It means that nothing is ever a bind, or a chore, even the stuff that seemed so before because it didn’t appear necessary. Once you realise that EVERYTHING, even the mundane shit, is a way forward, your life can shift about quite rapidly. It is, in effect, understanding that your half empty glass means you’re still not thirsty and it could be so much worse. This has taken many years to comfortably grasp, and there will still be days when I struggle to remind myself that backwards is the last resort. As long as the words keep working that’s great, but now there’s the acceptance that there needs to be more, too. That means the photography is becoming more important, alongside the exercise: a range of interests and not just an obsessive focus on one thing alone.

Fortunately for me I’ve picked a medium to work in where all my interests can effectively mesh. Now it is just up to me to make that happen.

Yeah, I can do this.

Your Game

numbersonly

If all you care about are numbers, success can be easily devolved down to a 1/0 equation. I mean LOOK AT MY INFOGRAPHIC PEOPLE I have a 30% increase in mentions from last month! But that is frankly nothing compared with the WHOPPING 50% rise in engagements! What is my secret? I’ll tell you, it’s the fact that I’ve only picked up 11 followers in the last month. I don’t give a flying fuck about who wants to follow me, but if they meet a certain criteria I will pretty much automatically turn them away at the door. If you’re here to play the ‘only way to win at Twitter is with a six figure audience’ card and you’re NOT Stephen Fry?

Don’t waste my time, amateurs.

rainbows

The thing is, however, that some of these people clearly aren’t fucking about on Twitter and have worked quite hard to get the numbers to work for them. Once upon a time, they were simply robot accounts with minimal if not no actual human content attached. However, once Twitter got wind of the fact their game could be botted and people could rack up enormous high scores and never actually engage their users? These accounts are no longer simply regurgitated monthly links to blog posts. There’s a complex game involving monetising and SEO via websites that some people play with as much commitment and dedication as you follow your favourite team. It’s not exactly going to make you a hit with the ladies, but becoming a smart marketeer clearly makes ends meet. Except if you looked closely at the 596k followers attached to my sample account above, there’s likely to be a fair proportion of not real people in that total.

I however, strive to seek out real people as a matter of priority.

bartender.gif

While some might obsess over popularity, I crave reality wherever possible. That means that yes, I go look at people’s feeds and read their biographies long before I press ‘Follow’. I keep a pretty close eye on what is being said or referenced too, and that means when someone leaves I’ll pretty much always go back and check why. You can consider it the equivalent of running a busy entertainment complex and constantly doing customer feedback to ensure the people who come to talk, eat and enjoy themselves are getting the maximum experience for their time spent. Yes, this does mean I listen to criticism too: I’ve cut back on stuff that won’t make sense to you if there’s not appropriate context. When I get cross at something, when before I would have done a bit of leery subtweeting, I now instead throw pot plants. This has helped me cut the drama in my feed down to an absolute minimum.

planttotheface.gif

When success is now defined as a man in the White House who has billions of dollars earned but not one ounce of decency or compassion to his name, that concept holds no thrill for me. If being bigger and better than anybody else is your definition of achievement, I’m not interested. This, for me, is a slow and brilliant story that doesn’t rely on my ability to fool a robot and everything on my skill as a writer. As I refine the process of replying to Tweets in both concise and increasingly creative ways, I want less and less to do with anyone who seems to think they know what I want without asking. If your version of ‘interacting’ is simply throwing anything you believe I want on my feed in the vain hope I’ll be grateful, without taking the time to both talk and interact? This is not respect, it is simply lip service, and in the end you will never truly succeed at anything without being able to care beyond a basic set of variables. You might be happy with the size of your referrals, but I honestly don’t care. That’s not what I’m here for.

That’s a journey that I’m only just beginning.