I remember the day when I created my first website. To be clear, I’m talking about my own personal website, not any of the webapps I’ve built for my clients and companies I worked for.
At the time I built it, I was in college, and I had a few projects under my belt that I wanted to showcase. I wanted to show others that I was capable of producing high quality work, that I was skilled, diligent and conscientious, and the main message basically boiled down to this:
If you’re looking for a web developer, you should hire ME.
I find it interesting how this approach is both selfless (client-centered) and selfish/self-centered at the same time. The reason why I think it’s selfless is because everything from the design to the copy and obviously the service - was something that was created for and tailored to the needs of a potential client.
But at the same time, it was ultimately a marketing tactic, and it benefited me as much as it benefited my clients.
Now let me get this straight: I love marketing. But not any kind of marketing, I love marketing in its purest, most ethical form - making others’ lives better, not taking advantage of them, just so you can make a quick buck.
I think all people can be great marketers and great salesmen, when they market or sell a product or service that they truly believe in. This is what social media marketing is all about. This is what Seth Godin means when he talks about Unleashing the Idea Virus. In the connection economy, which is what we are in right now, people talk to their friends about products and services, good or bad. If you’re doing a good job, and you’re reliable and consistent, people will spread the positive word. If you try to deceive people, you’ll be dead in the water before you know it.
Going back to the story about my original website, it served its purpose very well. It wasn’t my only marketing strategy, and I wasn’t doing any lead tracking, so I couldn’t isolate its effectiveness, but I’ve had leads tell me that they found me through my website a bunch of times (or at least got the information from the website) which was good enough for me.
Some time after creating the website, I decided to create a blog. My mindset did not change at all - I thought producing great content could help me establish expertise in my field (I was right and this is true today as well). I’ve experimented with various content and blog platforms, and I had the most success with a Tumblr blog on which I posted quick tips about the Ruby programming language.
Blogs are obviously a step-up from the static websites because they get updated, and people can comment (at least on most blogs). This was a better tool, not necessarily instead of, but in addition to what I had. I was solving the same problem, with a better tool, but that tool can be used for other things too, which is what I’m going to talk about in a minute.
Before I continue, I’d like to make a seemingly unrelated point.
Success is subjective.
I’m naturally a very driven and energetic person. I set high standards and sometimes even unrealistic goals for myself. I’m by no means an exception - America celebrates this hard-working, type A personality culture.
I always wondered, what is underneath that drive? Is it all about the external praise, or money, or is there something intrinsically interesting and appealing as well?
This is a complex question, one of those where 10 different people would give you 10 different answers, so I’ll just speak for myself.
So far, I’ve identified at least a few motivational drivers. Some of them are the need for security, and the boost in self confidence associated with growth. But I won’t be talking about those right now - instead I’ll focus on the one that’s most intriguing to me: creating something bigger than myself.
Now I’m going to get deep. Maybe even a bit dark, so proceed with caution.
Humans are mortal. For probably as long as we’ve been aware of our mortality, people were trying to find a way to live forever. All of those attempts failed, and the closest thing to immortality is creating something that’s going to outlive you.
This ticking clock is what motivates a lot of people to take action. Some people live in hope that they’ll get rich fast and retire early, so they can then live their lives the way they want to. Other people want to be famous hoping that when they die, they will be remembered.
I think this is a trap for a few reasons:
1. When it comes to a lot of things, I think many people can live their life the way they want to right now. They may not be rich, and be able to do everything they want, but I’ve realized that the things that make me the happiest are things I can do pretty much on any day - such as spend more time with my family and friends, read a book, play a video game, watch a sports game on TV etc.
2. It’s what happens during your life that matters. Take Van Gogh, for example. He sold only one painting during his lifetime. For all he knew, he was a failure. Now everybody knows who he was, and his paintings sell for millions of dollars. But does it make a difference to him? Would you trade your life with him if you could?
3. People reduce famous people’s identity to one simple thing. Many people know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone - but do we really know (or even care) what his personality was like?
Now what does all of this have to do with my website and my blog? I changed the reason why I write. Instead of trying to show off my skills, demonstrate my expertise and market myself (which I still do sometimes, but it’s not my main focus), I’m simply doing it because I want to share my thoughts. I’ve shifted from trying to impress others to writing to express myself.
Nowadays, when people want to share a moment of their life with others, they take a selfie and upload it to Instagram. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so hopefully this 1000+ word post will do. :)
Thanks for reading. :)