My last little musing had somewhat of a minor moment of virality upon social media amassing over two and a half thousand views in a seventy-two hour period. Now, I’ve never been one to analytically comb over the site statistics – I am aware that they are there and I have looked at them occasionally in my vainer moments – but generally speaking the bother of trying to turn them off was never deemed worth it. Why this time was different? Well the fact that I had a discussion explode on LinkedIn with another twenty or so emails from around the world. People from Europe, North America and the Orient – people that I have never met – felt moved enough to contact me with their support, their own stories and experiences. Mostly however, I received an overwhelming message of “me too”.
For me this shows the power, bad and good of a connected world. Good in that ideas can pass so freely and that even the smallest of communities can find support. Bad in that what little remains of privacy will soon surely be gone when things intended for a small audience go far beyond. Part of why my recent decisions have been so difficult is due in no small part through a feeling of being so alone. The academic world is a strange one that preaches to be supportive. Nurturing. To bring out the best in everyone. Yet the reality is that the academic world is drastically ill-equipped to train anything other than new academics. Or at least the middle majority is. I read with interest this week on New Republic that the top institutes, such as Harvard, are not interested in recruiting academics in their student populous – their students on selected on the basis of the criteria of who will be running the world in 10, 20 years from now. Likewise we can assume that the community colleges of the world are largely there to do the best by the students that they have in front of them knowing they will never set the world on fire, but at least they can make it a better place.
Anyway, I digress. I have often been told by readers of my blog that I should consider a career in writing. Truth be told, I never thought I had much of a talent for writing. I never much had the penchant for it. It was that thing I had to suffer through in school, languages always felt a bit “soft” for my tastes – an opinion brought about no doubt by my less than instantly obtained expert status. But in the last few weeks, I have had complete strangers praise my writing from around the globe. This has really given me pause-for-thought about the reasons that I started writing and continue to do so.
More years ago than I care to remember, I first started writing upon a social media site long since forgotten called Bebo. The reasons for which I think remain still a little unclear – perhaps simply because it was a thing to do. A relatively safe environment of vetted friends to express whatever I was feeling. A cathartic release to a teenage mind. If those posts had not been lost to the great black hole of the Internet’s memory – then I’m sure that I would not be able to look back upon them without cringing.
There were a few years due to circumstance that I lost the will and/or ability to openly write. But even through these times, every major life event was accompanied by a journal entry somewhere – even if safely hidden away under a pseudonym or secured drive.
I want to remember the exact reasons why I made this decision.
I distinctly remember thinking that I want to remember the exact reasons why I made this decision. Years from now, when I look back, with hindsight and those rose-tinted glasses of memories maybe, just maybe, there will be regrets. Maybe the reasons will be lost. In my lowest moments, when my whole world was falling apart, I want to be able to take myself back there in my mind. Relive those moments. Feel that pain – and remember. Remember, that every decision I made was the best one I could have made at the time.
I used to say that my writings, musings and mumblings in this place were for me and for I alone. It is my belief that you will never see successful people post motivation quotes and constantly linking and posting on social media. Successful people are perhaps enjoying the silence. Or perhaps they are more comfortable with allowing others to talk.
I think Paul Hudson put it into words better than I recently
Becoming successful is coming into your skin, growing into the outline of the person you created in your mind…
Successful individuals may write, but when they do so they usually do for themselves and themselves alone. Successful people, by definition, are more egocentric than others.
He later goes on to say that successful people are by nature and through necessity more egocentric than others. Maybe it is as simple as those people that are forever posting just have not found their dreams yet.
Not so long ago, my father pointed out to me that my writings could not possibly be for myself alone, if that were true then I would not have anything publicly accessible and I certainly would not be writing under my real name, upon a site that bears my name. Whilst, that was devastating to hear at the time for when you build an illusion in your mind to have it torn away always crippling, he was absolutely correct. It has not stopped me writing, but it has made me re-evaluate a few things.
I no longer pretend that my writing is done for introspection alone. By having a such a public channel to my consciousness it becomes a double edged sword. Often issues that I want to write about publicly cannot be done so without extreme controversy. This often results in non-public posts, or writing in an anonymous abstract away about a subject rather than those involved. The other side of the coin however, I feel is worth any sacrifice in writing liberty. I am a man that prides himself on his personability, his friendships and his connections with an ever increasingly global scale. By allowing so much of my mind to be publicly visible it means that so many people that I otherwise could not find the time to dedicate meaningful routine contact with are informed about my life. This has the phenomenal ability that on the rare occasions when I do manage to get to see someone in the flesh that we can pick up a conversation like no time has passed at all. As a crude example, flying back from Canada recently I managed to steal 2 hours with a close friend, that has been a prized and loved confidant for over a decade and a half hour now. Despite, having seen her last 6 months prior, a trifle compared to our usual annual get together, despite the crippling jet-lag and lack of sleep, the conversation came as easily as though we were both still in college.
Most importantly though, writing shapes us. You will have likely heard a writer confess that they found themselves in their writing to discover themselves, to understand themselves.
Writing for me allows me to explore my consciousness. It forces me to sit down, in a relaxed, quiet environment with no distractions and just think. Just think. I think that bears repeating. But this is not the unstructured thinking and obsessing that happens when I lie down and close my eyes. By sitting and writing I force myself to logically think through the problems that are in front of me, not just the ones lingering at the front of my conciousness, all of them. By thinking about each in an ordered way, it forces me to face the emotion associated with the situation and then critically evaluate the path ahead.
I once read that the human brain makes any given decision in 6 seconds or less. It does not matter if it is what we want for dinner or whether it is to change careers. The decision is made in 6 seconds, after all the brain is the world’s fastest analytical machine. However, emotion whether it be guilt, fear or whatever else hides the decision from us. The truth is, you have already made the decision, you just need to understand it.
To be successful we all need to be constantly changing the person that we are. The person that we are got us to this position. How many people can say that they are genuinely happy with everything in their life? To be the person that we want to be we need to be constantly evolving, constantly adapting. We need to critically evaluate who we are, where we are and where we want to be. Whether that means learning new skills or mastering the ones you already have. Betterment comes only from analysis and change. In a way, my writings here have always been a way to critically analyse the world around me and what more powerful weapon is there than the written word?