personal & professional

here’s a problem with the future of work: we’re all brands now. at least on social media, i think about my brand and how i present myself in the same way i think about business marketing. sometimes when i am advising clients, they ask me how to brand themselves properly on the internet.

this makes me think about my favorite people online – some of the folks that i love the most are authentic. this means that their content feels personal, and i feel a special connection because they are being genuine with the amount of personal and professional content that they can comfortably share online.

authentic doesn’t mean constantly available. i follow an instagram account in which an unseen user makes bubble tea against a white background. this user is more or less anonymous, and i don’t have any kind of emotional dialogue with this person, but the interaction still feels authentic: “here is something i like that i am comfortable sharing with you”.

i get sad – a lot. sometimes it is very difficult to manage, and for a while it was difficult to maintain an internet presence when i had intense, intermittent sadness. in order to be transparent with my engagement online, sometimes i’ll just let people know that i am sad. it gives some context as to my online habits, and it has become part of my brand. “connor is professional and creative, and sometimes he is very sad.”

a brand communicates to your audience “here’s what you can expect from me”. so, why make a brand that is too expansive for what you can give? for companies, branding connects products to specific people
“if you are x type of person, you might be into product y.” since we all engage in mini-forms of sharing on the internet, clarifying your brand can help manage expectations from the people you share with.

ultimately, we are human beings, not brands. however, when we step out into the world, we are always communicating – what we wear, how we carry ourselves, where we spend our time – all of this communicates something about our values and alignments. being on the internet, in a sense, is a form of being out in the world. and if we choose to participate, we can be focused about the way we style and brand our presence.

further, as human beings, we also have the capacity to grow. your brand is not a cage – if anything, it should help you move from one goal to the next. if you need to change your brand, you can (and should). of course, you have no obligation to change, or to explain your change to anyone. being online (being a human) is hard, and finding your truth and your level of comfort with being authentic online allows you to gracefully mediate your inner and outer lives.

let’s talk

writing doesn’t pay very much, but we do it anyway. art doesn’t pay very much, but we do it anyway. some people get lucky, some people don’t. it appears to boil down to a combination of skill and chance in terms of who gets to make art for a living. i don’t think this needs to be the case, especially now that each of us with an internet connection has the potential to reach the entire world.

i run a podcast/video series that you may know about, and my goal is to figure out what people are doing right. i want so badly to get paid to do the thing i love – to write and to help creative folks make money. but this means i have to first learn how to make money for myself. that means having my day job. that means doing a lot of unpaid prep work.

it is disheartening and i don’t know when this will end, if it ever does. but i hold on to the hope that it will pay off. and my research suggests it just might. and the best i can do in the meantime is to try my best, and to take care of myself in the process.

believe in your friends

here’s a link to one of my favorite this american life episodes. it’s about a blind gentleman who learns how to ride a bike. the takeaway is that there is power in believing in someone. you increase the likelihood that your friend will accomplish a task by simply believing in them.

this goes the same in reverse. if your friends believe in you, you are more likely to accomplish your task. belief is an energy, and is contagious. it creates motivation and community. it feels good.

of course, blind faith or false beliefs are destructive. we must always ground our beliefs in evidence and subject our faith to scrutiny. however, sometimes this means that our faith is strengthened in our friends, and ourselves.

you’re dope

negative self-talk is destructive.

“i suck”

“i’m not good enough”

“i don’t matter”

not only are all of these things false, but they are false and pervasive. these thoughts stick in our heads and its hard to shake them. they almost seem to multiply and compound on themselves until our brains are burdened with a cloud of negativity.

guess what? your brain is wrong a lot of the time. you are dope, and there is a lot of evidence of that. we just tend to forget it, or even ignore it.

for me, i try to do my best to combat my negative self talk by being aware of it, and also writing lists of things i am grateful for, things i’m proud of, and things i’m good at. sure, we all need to be critical of ourselves for growth, but talking ourselves down is not helpful at all.

discouraged? me too

every project has its setbacks. the path is never linear, and success is not clearly defined nor easily achievable. last night i stayed up awake for a bit because i was unsure of what i was doing, or whether or not it was valuable. this is a hard place to be, and i know for a fact that this happens to a majority of my more entrepreneurial friends.

but, i remember that there is hope. for every doubt that i have, there is at least one cheerleader in my court, and one clear example that what i am doing is valuable and meaningful. i try to identify these little victories and bits of positivity in order to maximize them. my friends and family believe in what i do, and so do i. the trouble is marrying these values with a viable business. i recently read this article by gumroad’s ceo sahil lavingia, in which he navigates his own successes and failures that he had to face at a very young age.

we are all being courageous in trying things that we’ve never tried before. and that courage carries us through the moments when we doubt ourselves and our venture. our courage and resilience are paramount in soldiering forward with open eyes and many ideas for making our vision work.

ask a question

i’m curious what challenges, setbacks, and struggle you are facing. as entrepreneurial folk, we’re often ambling in the dark with no handbook or map. the best thing we can do is try and try again, but i’d like to see if teaming up and working together can clarify the next steps of our ventures.

so, what’s up? what questions do you have for us at the orbit? we interview creative professionals every week, so odds are if we can’t answer your question, at the very least we’ll know where to look. submit your inquiries via this typeform here. no e-mail required, just your name, your locale, and your question. thanks in advance, and i look forward to seeing what you’ve got for us!

you’re already good at something

a lot of us are trying to learn a new skill set: programming, budgeting, waking up on time, drinking water. even as we are expanding our capabilities, i think it’s important to remember that there are some things you are already good at.

for a long time i wanted to be like my friends and become a software developer. it was really difficult trying to teach myself code, so i took some courses and went to meetups and interviewed folks i knew to ask them the best way to go about learning to program. then i realized that i had a skillset that others didn’t have: networking. using my social skills, i gathered a lot of information about writing javascript, freelance work, and the struggles of going at it alone. this led me to found my company, the orbit.

never forget that you likely were born with a superpower. it could be assembling ikea furniture, or making a tube of toothpaste last a really long time. but you never have to start from scratch with your skills, you build upon the ones you already have.