What’s interesting is that about 20 months ago, I began to perceive that law might be a part of the “Shine” calling, in ways that I had never anticipated. At first, this nudging was simply other people making suggestions, which I resisted. I didn’t see the connection.
Then inquiries from “outsiders” (people I didn't know personally) who had no familiarity with what I'd been trying to do. Multiple inquiries, from different (unrelated) sources.
It was, quite frankly, a difficult time for me. By March 2016, I was completely broken—self-will was demolished. My response to God during those months was that I would do whatever He wanted, just please make the first step clear and plain. That's what I thought I was doing, and had intended to be doing, when I resigned my faculty position to pursue the Shinecast venture. Nothing had worked out as expected. I was confused.
Empowerment Through Law
The light on the path started blinking: “I equipped you as a lawyer you use that knowledge to equip and empower others.”
I said, “OK, show me the way forward.”
Doors opened, opportunities arose, resources appeared. It’s been a walk of faith.
Water is a powerful force. Over time, a stream of water can carve a canyon through solid rock. A single drip from a leaky faucet can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars in water bills.
Water will make an impact.
Words and Stories Can Impact
Whether you're a marketer, a social change agent, a rock band or a parent, you have a message you want to get in front of an audience.
Most of us want our audience to do something in response to the message.
We really want impact, more than reach.
In my own experience, though, most decision-makers start by focusing on reach.
They ask questions like what's the audience size, how many fans and followers on each social media channel, how many downloads…..as if the answers to those questions actually matter.
Few of us have both the reach AND impact of leaders like Richard Branson.
Anyone with enough money can buy reach.
Even in today's fractured media environment, if you have the financial resources you can buy reach in the form of traditional and “native” advertising. You can hire a major agency to develop and execute a promotional juggernaut to get media placements on television talk shows and cable news.
A savvy and well-financed promotional campaign can also help you conquer the blogosphere and social media channels. You can even buy social media followers.
But none of that chatter and noise has staying power.
Just because your message hits a channel with your large audience doesn't mean the audience hears it or pays attention. And that's not all…..
Even if your message momentarily resonates with the purchased audience, the effect will be ephemeral. When is the last time you intentionally set out to listen to a song by Nickleback or Creed?
We’re constantly bombarded with noise. We understand how hard it is to get attention.
In the marketing space, the communication objective is to find a way to get the attention of a desired audience. For most organizations, the objective is to get a message in front of the largest possible audience, as if the law of averages would somehow boost relevancy and attention.
I think that’s the wrong approach. I think the better way is to focus on impact and identify a small number of influencers who can help to share the message.
Floods begin with raindrops, avalanches start with snowflakes
That’s how Billy Ivey of BIG Communications made a splash through his #NapkinNotes. He shared humorous lunch bag notes to his kids that resonated with an audience of parents and soon-to-be-parents who then responded and shared with his own community.
Then Jon Acuff expanded the reach. Acuff is someone you might describe as an influencer among Christian parents with a sense of humor.
#NapkinNotes now has reach, but the initial focus was on impact. A dad writing notes to his kids.
I suspect Ivey’s kids will remember those notes long after Ivey’s career in marketing is history.
For brands, the lesson is clear:
Focus on impact and you’ll probably get the reach you desire.
Focus on reach and you’ll be chasing something that lies at the end of the ephemeral rainbow.
Sometimes I think Copyblogger's Brian Clark installed trojan horse in my computer a few years ago when I joined the Authority community.
Or maybe he's just a mind-reader.
Of course, it might simply be a coincidence that has something to do with the fact that we're both non-practicing lawyers of similar age who discovered the internet in the early 90s, way before most of our generation, and we both escaped from the drudgery of law practice.
And, just in case you're curious, this isn't a rant and it's not intended to be mean-spirited.
I feel a sense of validation, knowing that the brilliant Brian Clark comes up with many of the same ideas as I do—and succeeds at implementation.
And since this blog is where I tell my story of my own hero's journey, I thought I'd share this mini-epic—if only to serve as a reminder to myself that I am a hero who's generating the same ideas as early as those who are the masters of the internet universe.
Of course, I would also like to be one of the unemployable at Rainmaker Digital. I think I would make a great podcaster for their team.
[Tweet “The next great member of the @RainmakerFM @Copyblogger team should be @RealSheree”]
In any event, Brian is the “successful” one, at least in terms of business and finance. And I'm a Brian Clark/Copyblogger fan-girl.
Disclosure: I use Genesis framework on many of my websites (not this one) and I've been in the Authority community since 2013 and have paid for the Rainmaker platform since the beta days of July 2014. And I got to say hello to Henry Rollins at the 2015 Rainmaker Authority Conference. None of the links in this post are affiliate links.
From Go-Go's and Emma Peel to Digital Media Empire
Here's one of my videos circa early 2002, available on YouTube thanks to ValleyEarl (After posting to YouTube in 2007, I took mine down, since I'm risk averse):
While I was stalled as a freelance writer doing long-form copywriting for ad agencies and working as freelance online editor for a couple of manufacturing trade sites, Brian was building his own online business portals.
In 2000, I could see the future and I wanted to be part of it, but I knew that my HTML coding skills weren't going to take me where I needed to go and I didn't have the capital to hire developers.
Like Brian Clark, I was reading Wired, Fast Company, and The Industry Standard.
I thought about writing this blog post that evening but, like I said, I was busy with my last semester of teaching.
I was also in the midst of starting a new podcast, Birmingham Shines, which I planned to use as a promotional vehicle for my rollout of the expanded Shinecast® media empire.
Instead of writing a blog post about “great minds” or mind-melding, I filed the idea away in my head to write someday, or not.
We're Each On a Hero's Journey
A few days later, in early April 2015, I wrote my About page for the Shinecast.tv website.
And on that About page, I wrote this, pretty much in the form it appears here:
Each of us is a hero.
Our life is a journey.
On the path, we encounter the people, places and things we are given to teach us the lessons we need to move farther along the journey.
The mission of Shinecast® is to help you on this journey.
We can’t be the true hero of our own life unless we grow into the person we were meant to be.
Real. Authentic. Integrated.
Shinecast is where you find stories, inspiration and the tools to help you Discover, Grow, and Shine in all areas of your life.
The Shinecast vision is about living a whole, real and authentic life in the 21st century.
The Shinecast lifestyle is about achieving health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.
Although I published the About page on April 6, and made a few copyediting revisions since then, mainly to break up the paragraphs into shorter phrases, the essence of my message has been in development since late 2012.
The idea to use the hero's journey as my own metaphor came mainly through my use of the hero's journey as the framework for a freshman Communication Arts course I taught in Fall 2014.
I wanted to find a way to help students move beyond traditional academic essay writing and focus on storytelling.
The story behind this photo?
While doing yard work, a cacophony of chattering and screaming birds (of all stripes), prompted me to look up to see a snake slithering into this bird house, where the blue bird's nestlings were housed. I managed to grab my camera and capture a series of photos of the unsuccessful hero bird.
The message to the students in my class:
Each of us is a hero and we're on a hero's journey and we need to face our obstacles, fight our battles, and be transformed.
Aside from learning to tell better stories, I wanted the students to feel empowered as they began their college experience, rather than being stuck in a box that someone else created for them.
In the first class session, I scattered a bunch of boxes on the floor and asked the students to write a few paragraphs about what these boxes represented to them.
It was my way of getting acquainted. I don't like feeling boxed in.
I believe in the power of the hero's journey, so I decided to use it as the framework for all of the content I planned to create and publish under the Shinecast® brand.
The Shinecast mission is premised on the idea that life is a journey, we're on a path, and my Shinecast resources are intended to help shed some light along the way.
If you're interested, check out some of my podcasts on iTunes
That episode is about what makes a brand (hint: it's not the logo) and the importance of authenticity in finding your brand identity.
So anyway, that coincidence was, as they say, the last straw.
I had to chime in with this blog post and my own hero's journey to this place I'm at in mid-September, 2015.
This isn't the whole story.
Even though this version is highly abbreviated, this blog post is long enough, as it is….Keep in mind that I'm a lawyer. We like words. Perhaps I'll use this blog post in my memoirs some day.
Flashback: Spring 2012
By late Spring 2012, I knew I was going to leave my academic position sooner than later.
I had have big, long-term plans for building my Shine Springs Farm and Apiary, so I started looking for ways to transform my blog, The Ben Franklin Follies, into something more than a variety show of content, where I let my curiosity determine what I'd write about or, occasionally, curate.
In September 2012, I started my first podcast, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, and quickly realized that:
(a) My love for audio content was stronger than ever. I'd majored in broadcasting in college, with an emphasis on radio, and had worked as a college radio DJ and weekend board operator for my university's big NPR-affiliate station.
(b) Podcasting was only going to get bigger and I wanted to have a whole stable of shows.
(c) The Shinecast was a cool name for a podcast and could be a key part of my branding.
If you listen to the earlier episodes, it's clear that I was learning podcasting, but you have to start somewhere……
From Podcasting to Online Courses
The Shine Springs Farm Shinecast developed a small, but seemingly loyal, following.
Thanks to Copyblogger, I knew by that point that teaching and online courses were going to be huge, so I registered the domain, Teach Social Business, and put together a website where I would document how I was teaching a college-level social media/content marketing course I'd developed.
I intended to create some type of course to sell to other college professors who needed to teach a course in social media yet didn't fully understanding social media and content marketing.
I started posting to the Teach Social Business site and decided to take a few courses myself, to get a feel for how these online courses worked. It's still there, although it doesn't look very pretty right now.
Chris Brogan's Brave New Year
As it happened, my 50th birthday was coming up in November of 2012 and I'd been on a self-reflection and journaling binge through the Fall of 2012, trying to figure out how to transition out of my academic position into something entrepreneurial that would also support me at my current standard of living.
Chris Brogan happened to announce the launch of his Brave New Year course during the week of my birthday, which always falls around Thanksgiving. I signed up.
Over the next 60 days, I worked through Chris's course and was fairly active in the Brave Facebook group and Google+ community. I also did a couple of other small online courses and joined Corbett Barr's Fizzle program for about 6 months, just as it came out of the beta test.
One mistake I think I made in those months from December 2012 – February 2013 was to listen too much to the feedback I got when I posed questions to community members.
I remember sharing that I was going to develop a course to offer to college professors to help them teach social media and I distinctly remember getting a bit of pushback, including a comment from Chris Brogan that asked something to the effect: “What makes you think a college professor would buy your course?”
He may have meant this in the context of doing audience research, but I felt somewhat chastened. After all, it was Chris Brogan asking the question, not Joe Schmo.
Not long after that, Chris launched his own course, Social Media Mastery. I'm not sure if it had that exact name, originally, but that or a similar course came along not long after I put my idea on the table.
That was the first clue that my ideas had validity, even if I wasn't quite ready for prime-time.
Come On, Get Happy
I've always loved my idea for The Ben Franklin Follies, even though I've never expressed it well or executed it well.
Because I'm so in love with it, I've also always been reluctant to let it go and move on.
I still don't know whether I should let it languish or revive The Ben Franklin Follies and I'm still trying to decide. I know all the psychology about sunk-costs and all that. But hey, Pal Joey gets a revival every now and then and The Ed Sullivan Show was huge (in its day).
Some of the blog posts get decent traffic (by my measure), especially for a site that's updated sporadically and is all over the map in terms of content.
The Ben Franklin Follies truly is a smörgåsbord, especially if you go deep into the archives.
In February 2013, I sat down and wrote the basic outline for how I could transform The Ben Franklin Follies into something bigger and better and more focused.
I thought of Ben's essay, “The Path to Happiness,” and the Poor Richard maxim: “Early to bed, early to wise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
When I set out to look for domains (such as the happy life project), I discovered someone named Gretchin Rubin had written a book called the Happiness Project. I'd never even heard of it. Not wanting to be influenced by her thinking, I avoided even looking at her website. I know she's successful. Props. I look forward to reading it someday soon.
I had still have plans to publish The Happy Life Manifesto as a book of short essays.
After a great deal of back-and-forth, I ultimately revamped the Ben Franklin Follies blog around the theme of helping my audience on the path to health, wealth and wisdom.
And I found someone in England to design a logo for the Ben Franklin Follies:
By the end of March 2013, I had a website re-design completed and seemed ready to move forward.
But I languished.
Not sure if it was fear, or just too much on my plate.
I got my first two colonies of honeybees in May 2013 and spent massive hours each week from late May through August doing my Shine Springs Farm thing. I loved every minute of it.
Becoming an Authority
In August 2013, as I turned my attention from farming back to teaching, I also turned my attention back to developing my online media empire.
I joined Copyblogger's Authority program and signed up for the first Authority event as soon as registration opened.
I managed to keep my blogging alive, but I continued to languish, seeking advice and letting the short-sightedness of others poke holes in my balloon.
I got a couple of bits of meaningful feedback from and one naysayer who apparently didn't ready the part where I wrote that the existing content was all over the place and that I would be more focused in the future.
Of course, I let the naysayer's admonishment hold sway, at least for a while.
Turtles Eventually Win The Race
In the 20 or so months since my post to the Authority forum, I've continued to push forward, sometimes 2 feet forward, 23.9 inches back, but I'm making progress.
I've written an ebook on real food that's essentially ready for sale–just needs a final proof-reading (and a better cover).
This Musquee de Provence pumpkin that I grew last year is somewhat symbolic for me, as it represents many things I hold dear:
Healthy food, lifestyle, the beauty of nature in the Fall season, honeybees, homemade pumpkin pie, sustainable agriculture, the Thanksgiving holiday (my favorite)….
The pumpkin also evokes the Cinderella story.
I'm not in search of a handsome prince—although I will not object if the right one comes along—but I'm never content to settle for the status quo of a situation. Like Cinderella, I fulfill my duties but I am always open to finding new opportunities for growth and contribution.
The big difference between Cinderella and me is that I've never waited to be rescued by external forces. I've always worked to be proactive to grow, evolve and move forward in my life. Although I don't believe in magic, I do believe that when we have the right motivation and are open to the possibilities, that doors will open when, and as, we take action.
I tend to live my life in the present, rather than looking back often at past memories. It's hard to believe I'll turn 52 in a month. Seems like just a few months have passed since my 30th birthday.
For me, age has always been just a number. Just an arbitrary marker, nothing that has defined me. [I suppose one reason for that might be that I was always a year younger than everyone in my grade at school. That happens when you start first grade at age 5. When you're the youngest kid in your class, you try to play down your age.]
I have always enjoyed my birthdays and I've said repeatedly (and truthfully) that every year of my life has been better than the previous year. There isn't enough money in the world to convince me to return to my 20s or 30s or 40s.
I truly believe that every day, I am in the place and state I'm supposed to be in for whatever lesson I need to learn or experience I need to have to move forward in my life.
But I also like to think about the future and my path to getting there. So, as I approach my 52nd birthday in late November, it's time to embark on my annual visioning exercise.
I always like to spend my birthday month envisioning where I'm going next, thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next year, what I've accomplished in the past year, and so on.
November is actually a great month for visioning. It's less frenzied than December, when I've always been busy with year-end legal deadlines or end-of-semester grading on top of holiday festivities.
My birthday falls either the week of Thanksgiving or the week after. I use the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to solidify my November visioning efforts and create a framework to use in December when I start to really plan for the next year.
6 in 30
Related to my visioning activities, I have six priorities for the month of November.
Continue to emphasize eating a wide variety of real food, prepared at home from scratch. Real food will always be a priority for me. Hippocrates said:
“Let thy food be thy medicine.”
Real food has been at the centerpiece of my lifestyle since childhood and I'm reaping the benefits at middle-age. None of the health problems that plague so many people these days.
November priority is to ramp up my exercise and outdoor physical activity.
I slacked off way too much from August through October. 4 courses, 4 preps (2 or which are new or essentially new) has led me to push exercise off the agenda on far too many days. Even though I know how important exercise is to being efficient and at the top of my game when I'm pulled in many directions.
For the past 5-7 years or so, I've made it a practice to run on my birthday for at least as many minutes as my age. Example: 49th birthday, run at least 49 minutes non-stop on my birthday. I've always met or exceeded that goal.
In 2014, that means I will run 52 minutes nonstop on my birthday. I'm not where I need to be to do that right now, so I have 4 weeks to prepare to achieve that milestone.
Engage in my daily visioning practice to consider what's next in my life.
What do I want to do and be and accomplish over the next year? The next 5 years? Where do I want to go?
Since I tendered my resignation letter to Samford on August 15, the door is open for many new adventures. I am open to exploring a variety of opportunities and it's time to start identifying what some of those opportunities may be.
November is when I focus on the future and the steps I need to take to get on that path.
It's been a grueling semester at Samford with the teaching and service load I've had but I am determined to finish strong as we move into the final 4 weeks of the academic term.
I will deliver excellent learning experiences to the students in my classes.
Publish and Promote
I will proofread the final manuscript and layout for my ebook, 7 Days of Real Food. I will publish it and promote it. And I can use my Facebook promotion strategy and tactics as the basis for covering Facebook marketing in Social Media Practices class.
I'll also continue to write and publish daily blog posts on at least one of my websites.
And I will finish the first draft of my manuscript on the path to happiness. Ideally, I'll have it ready to publish in December.
The 6th priority for November is to have fun. I love the Fall season—the weather, the decorations, the food.
I love most of what I do each day, but I don't always take time to stop and think about that.
And I haven't been taking time to do things fun like just shuffling around in the leaves, taking in the colors, photographing the changing seasons, hiking, visiting with neighbors.
Time to Get To It!
Do you do anything special around your birthday to celebrate? Do have a visioning weekend or month like this?
I'd love to hear how you think about where you are in your life and what's coming next. Leave me a comment! I'd love to start a conversation about this.
I had an idea for a course and I figured I’d better take a few courses first, to experience the different ways an online course could be structured. Chris’s Brave course was priced reasonably and seemed to offer content that I’d enjoy.
In hindsight, I think it was something more than happenstance that Chris sent out an email promoting the course the same week as my birthday. Since my birthday is in late November, I always use the Thanksgiving holidays as a time to reflect on the past year, my dreams, where I want to go and where I am on the path. 2012 marked a particularly significant birthday for me.
So I purchased Brave New Year on November 26 and the first module landed in my inbox the morning of my birthday.
And that video from Chris Brogan launched me on a journey that has opened my eyes and expanded my vision for the future beyond anything I’d imagined since I was 25.
I wasn’t really looking for bravery, at least not as it’s typically defined. I’ve always been brave in the face of adversity.
But bravery is about more than steadfastness in the face adversity. As Chris says:
The opposite of bravery is not fear; the opposite of bravery is surrender.
Bravery is also about living with your whole-heart. We associate bravery with courage and courage is all about heart. The French word courage is derived from the Latin cor, or heart.
I'd already turned the corner but a few years ago I might have been on the verge of surrendering. And the course turned out to be just what needed to kick-start my visioning for another phase of my life.
As I worked through my birthday and December reflections, aided with the questions raised in Chris's Brave course, I started to realize I'd stopped dreaming big. I was dreaming safe. I was dreaming small. I wasn't really dreaming, I was just following directions for a pre-defined path.
I wasn't following my heart.
Deep down, I already knew this. But the times in my past when I’d ventured forth in pursuit of something bigger, I’d stalled either due to my own missteps, procrastination, (perceived?) lack of resources, or maybe just being ahead of the curve.
What I discovered when I worked through that first hour-long Brave video was a renewed enthusiasm for vision, for a specific vision I’d had since childhood. I could sense how I would weave the colorful threads of past experience into a coat I would wear into a new stage of my life.
As I continued into December 2012 and early January 2013, the vision began to coalesce into something more tangible and I took a few more steps on the path.
This week marks the 52nd week since I began the Brave journey with Chris Brogan.
The most astonishing thing is that I've come to realize over the past year that everything in my life has happened exactly as it needed to happen to prepare me for what comes next.
In Greek mythology, the Moirai–the three fates–control destiny, subject only to the overriding veto-power of Zeus.
In the same way that Dickens offers us the ghost of Christmas past, present and yet to be, the fates sing of things that were, are and will be.
I don't believe we are resigned to live as puppets in a destiny controlled by some external, all-powerful force.
We spin our threads and weave them into own tapestry by the choices we make, the actions we take.
But I also believe that we are inspired and designed to achieve something greater than our individual selfish desires.
When I was 17, I didn't get something I wanted. What I got was so much better. And in that process I was introduced to the symbol of the distaff. What does that matter, you ask?
The irony is, as I that I began writing this post and doing a bit of Wikipedia fact-checking to verify my memories of Greek and Roman mythology, I discovered a thread of connection.
I discovered the distaff is the symbol of weavers in all ancient mythologies and cultures, as well as the three Moira, the fates.
Is it a coincidence that my grandfather owned a cotton ginning company?
In any event, I make the connections because I'm writing my story.
To quote Chris Brogan again:
You are the author of what's coming next.
Another way to put it: You are the one who weaves the tapestry of your life.
[Tweet “”You are the author of what's coming next” says @ChrisBrogan “]
We need to be brave if we're going to weave an original tapestry.
If you want to be brave, you must have courage. You must have heart. You must have love. Because courage comes from love. And as I say in thesis one of my Happy Life Manifesto: It all starts with love.
Over the next few days I'll be sharing some of what I've been working on for the past year, some of what I envision. To be quite honest, some of the details are still a bit nebulous and are unfolding day-by-day.
I'm the author of my story, the weaver of my tapestry, but I don't yet know the ending.
Lesson: Don't seek to be brave if you want to dream to small.
What about you? How's your heart?
What story are you weaving out of the threads of your life? Leave a comment below and lets start a conversation.
And if you're interested in the Brave New Year course you can sign up here. (affiliate link). Chris is offering a 55% discount through December 2, 2013. Use the code OWNIT (case sensitive). Here's where I explain affiliate links, if you aren't familiar with this concept.