0218 – a break from being so goddamn public facing all the time

This would surprise my younger self, I think. I don’t know. Hey Visa, one day you’re going to get tired of being public-facing all the time. You’re going to get tired of talking to so many people all the bloody time. After a while you’re going to learn that most people you encounter aren’t really interested in looking at things past the surface level that it’s presented to them at. [1]

So what are you going to do instead? Instead you’re going to take a step back from the ‘limelight’- mind you, it was never really worth as much as you thought it was- and you’re going to focus on creating a deeper, more lasting sort of value. This doesn’t actually mean that you change very much. It’s a cosmetic sort of change, but really a deeper sort of focus on what you really wanted. At least that’s the narrative I’m pitching you right now, and it’s up to you whether you want to believe it or not.

You see, you assumed that being in the public eye meant being able to shape people’s perceptions. And you thought that getting Likes and Shares meant that you were doing that. And in a primitive sense, yes, you were doing that more than if you had not been working on anything at all. But if you want to make a bigger impact, you have to go deeper. If you want to create a massive crater, you need to change your approach- you can’t just throw more little rocks. You need a massive, huge rock that’s going at a crazy speed. And to achieve that you need focus and depth.

I’m not saying you’re going to ‘lose your randomness’ (and believe it or not, there will be times where you wish you could. There will be times where you wish you could shut portions of your brain off, and the idea of taking medication to make that happen would actually seem really tempting.) Rather, you are going to teach yourself to use your ‘randomness’ to propel you along a particular direction. And if you don’t like that direction you can change it– you can turn around, you can go somewhere else. What’s actually going to happen is– you’re going to get bored of the superficial engagement. You’re going to realize that people Like and Share mainly as trivial entertainment, except for the few people who take these things far too seriously– and you don’t really enjoy their company all that much anyway, do you?

Good commentary is important and necessary, but not nearly as important I think as good work. And yes, commentary is a sort of work in itself, but doing really, really good commentary requires serious immersion. Serious practice. Serious focus. Maybe you might choose to do that some day, but first you’re going to focus on getting good at managing yourself. Managing your own time and energy and focus. At becoming a better writer. And you’re going to do that away from the mainstream public eye, because when you’re in the public eye you end up doing what you think the public wants to see, rather than what you actually want to see. [2]

So you’re going to focus instead on doing what you want to do. Writing what you want to write, as if the world didn’t exist. And your public facing assets are going to kinda grow moss, they’re going to be a little bit embarrassing because they won’t really do justice to your thoughts. But think about it this way- would you rather have a well-shot profile picture, or be really good-looking? Ideally both, of course, but it’s much easier to take a good profile picture (or get somebody else to take a picture of you!) if you’re really good looking, than it is for you to become good-looking if you have a great profile picture.

You spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to game your public appearances and discourse, trying to figure out how to win arguments. But you’re going to get tired of that, because it’s vacuous and stupid. You’re going to focus instead on turning inwards, and looking for the demons and villains on the inside that you need to take on and conquer. And when you do that, you’re going to be a whole different person. I don’t even know who that guy is yet, but I tell you with full honesty that I absolutely can’t fucking wait to meet him.

[1] And that’s not really a bad thing, you know. People develop at their own time, in their own way. I think marketing really needs to accept and understand that. Marketing that doesn’t understand that makes for a crass, ugly world. I’m thinking about the Volkswagen ads, and how they don’t pressure you to buy at all. They just give you this interesting, clever piece of information, piece of perspective and respect you enough to let you mull over that in your own time, in your own space, in your own way.

[2] The funny thing about this is the public is a sort of dumb creature. It’s not dumb because people are stupid, it’s dumb because people don’t really have the time and energy to focus on being great public citizens. Not many people devote a lot of time and energy into having opinions about things that primarily affect other people rather than themselves. These things might change with better social design, better technology, that sort of thing. I’m hopeful.

But that’s not the real funny part. The real funny part is- if you dig into yourself deep enough, and pay enough careful, loving attention about what’s really interesting, about what really matters, then the public will actually defer to your opinion. If there’s some guy who’s really, really good at guitar, we’ll defer to his opinions on which guitarists we should listen to. The public pays attention to novelty, yes, but it defers to legitimate authority. Which you earn by doing difficult work well.

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