Why I offer my thoughts online
This past weekend I participated in The Annual Review, a workshop put on by the Forte Labs team that is ostensibly a goal-setting workshop (but was truly much more than that).
I'll offer my more detailed reflections on the workshop and my personal goal setting output in a separate post, but I wanted to focus here on a theme that really struck me: the value of sharing thoughts, dreams, aspirations and, yes, goals with others.
The intention for this post is to clarify why I started a public forum to offer what I find meaningful and compelling (spoiler: it's not fame, riches, or exploding glitter balls).
And I use the word offer carefully - everything I share is an offering with an open palm and no expectation. If a post resonates with you, wonderful and I'd love to hear what notes struck a chord within you. If you think a post is rubbish, wonderful and I'm especially interested to hear what notes were so dissonant for you. You can reach me at henry@ this URL and I warmly welcome any reflections, feedback, correction, or criticism you care to share. Turns out, connecting with others is a big part of it ...
Sharing online is, largely, out of character for me
Those that know me offline know that I'm generally a very private person. I rarely speak about my inner landscape without prompting, and that becomes more true with every passing year. That's not because I'm shy, have self-doubt, lack internal clarity, or question of my self-worth. Instead, I'm learning that the less I speak, the more I listen and observe, the more I learn, the more I can care for and serve those around me. I'll speak up when it feels safe and welcoming, sometimes. Most of the time, I prefer to be the hawk on the branch quietly observing my surroundings until it's time to fly.
If I'm reserved offline, then I'm downright cagey online. I haven't touched Facebook in any meaningful way in >5 years, I only joined Twitter a few months ago because of the Roam community, and I'm not active on any other social media. I do my darndest (often poorly) to keep up with phone calls, emails, text messages, and group chats, but that's usually it. And after doing a large cybersecurity project for a client this past year, I'm even more reserved and careful on any digital format of communication.
In many ways, my private nature is diametrically opposed to starting a very public (and very vulnerable) website where I share openly. Despite my reservations, I have long sensed an intuition that sharing online was important, and the volume of that intuition grew exponentially through much of 2020. I have learned to heed such calls from my muse but my resistance to offer myself in a public forum felt extreme and insurmountable.
I finally understand the wellspring of my resistance (logic, emotion, and logistics) as well as the compelling reasons writing publicly is worth the risk. Thank you to one of the workshop participants for enunciating so clearly and thoughtfully, to Tiago Forte for the gentle nudges during the workshop, and to Nat Eliason for the practical tacticals in his post on starting a life-changing blog. I bow to each of your examples and am deeply grateful for the cairns you leave that guide my way.
Dissecting the resistance and the why NO
I uncovered two limiting beliefs from my childhood:
1) Seeking attention is bad (Look at me, I've got it all figured out)
2) It's OK to get attention for being smart, so I must be perceived as smart
There are many reasons I have used to talk myself out of writing publicly
- It's time-consuming and requires a lot of effort
- I have no readership and no community that would care
- I refuse to contribute to the proliferation of mediocre or useless content
- There are many interesting, intelligent, and more established creators that cover similar topics to those that interest me
- I will no longer start anything I'm not committed to doing with diligence, precision, and care
All those are totally valid and true. But I could not deny that they weren't the main reason I've felt such paralyzing resistance. As is so often the case, finding the root of my resistance is a meditation that unlocks rich insight and a deeper flow state once resolved.
The participant's thoughtful reflection sliced through my Gordion knot: I didn't want to come across as attention-seeking or be disregarded as irrelevant. Both of those cut deep in my awareness.
Offering is not the same as wanting or needing attention
For the first, I seek to cultivate humility and beginner’s mind in all my endeavors. In fact, the more externalized success or recognition I receive, the deeper my commitment to cultivating beginner’s mind in that domain. I don’t want to be an “influencer”, to boast about my follower / like / dopamine hit numbers, and I certainly don’t want social media platforms to own me and my day.
All that really boils down to not wanting to seek attention. If I crave the validation and recognition of others, then I’m writing for the wrong reasons (for me).
Offering is not the same as expecting a certain response or a result
For the second, it's deeply vulnerable for me to share online. What if people actively poke holes in what I post? Or, even worse, no one cares enough to read or respond? Is that a reflection or feedback loop on the value of what I'm offering? Am I seeking to be seen as smart, capable, charming, handsome (ok, maybe not that one) by writing online?
Similar to the first point, if I need or expect anything from anyone via my offerings, then I’m coming at it from the wrong angle (again, for me) - that muddies my signal and decreases my chances of finding pristine harmony with others.
Releasing limiting stories is a deep and difficult practice
Hearing the participant's share made me realize these limiting narratives once had a valid purpose (checking my tactless loudmouth tendencies of years past) but no longer serve me today.
Now, with practice and care, I know I am capable of offering my awareness, learning, and passion while cultivating an ethos of resolute open-heartedness and open-mindedness. I release any concern for how many reads, clicks, or responses I get and double down on offering what I find meaningful and important in a focused and clear way. And I appreciate that there is a lot of value for me (and hopefully others) in doing so.
Appreciating the multi-faceted beauty of the why YES
Increase the surface area for serendipity.
Before, I really struggled to translate my somatic and visceral pull to offer my thoughts online into any semblance of logic or reason. Thankfully, hearing more experienced creators speak to their why elucidated the drive deep within me. The key reasons I am called to offer myself in writing online are to:
- Be of service to others
- Beam my signal for others to harmonize (or not)
- Engage in deeper, more meaningful conversation
- Fuel my learning engine
- Distill and refine my worldview
- Inspire my creative throughput
- Open myself in a vulnerable way
- Unlock unexpected paths of potential
Which of the following are compelling or resonate with you?
A life of service is a life worth living (for me)
I am deeply compelled by a life of service. I practice Cha Dao (the Way of Tea as taught by Wu De of the Global Tea Hut), a ceremonial tea meditation that is grounded in a zen-flavored philosophy of service (and connection with nature). I strive to show up in service in every relationship, be it family, friends, colleagues, or complete strangers.
It is possible that some of what I share will be of use for you and for others. Whether it's practical how-tos, meditations on ethics and morality, deep dives into primary scientific literature, or anything else - I am most alive when I support and empower others to thrive. Writing online has the power to do that in potent and unexpected ways.
A clear beacon of warmth and welcome
By being integrous and precise with my words and my actions, I cleanly and clearly vocalize the notes of my being. For those that resonate, they can join with their heartsong and together our harmony will be more beautiful and powerful than any one voice alone.
In this way, I seek to build an aligned and diverse global community focused on similar challenges, opportunities, and desires. There is magic in being witnessed and being witness and mwe is more compelling than me.
A gentle and subtle clarification is worthwhile: although I actively seek community, I do not need others to validate my self-worth. Put another way, I will continue to play my heartsong even if no one ever hears it. And for those who want to join in with their own music, they will always be warmly welcomed.
Meaning in deep connection and rich conversation
I would rather be corrected than think I'm correct. I pour myself into reading, thinking, synthesizing, writing, and editing before publishing to this public commons - but I still make mistakes or unwarranted assumptions. The only way to balance and refine my worldview is by learning from, listening to, and connecting with others.
Most often, my daily conversations operate on a relatively shallow level and that makes a lot of practical sense. One intention for this site is to raise the standard of my intellectual discourse while scaffolding an expansive awareness by inviting dialogue and reflection.
A lifelong commitment to growth
I will only publish essays and articles that I have thoroughly researched (if it's an idea) or tried myself (if it's a suggestion or how-to). Committing to a high standard of excellence in what I offer also means that I have to fill in the gaps of my cognition by constantly learning, thinking, and synthesizing new awareness.
All that points to a lifelong growth mindset (a term coined, and thoroughly researched by, Carol Dweck). Writing with reasonable consistency instills systems to constantly keep me in my Zone of Proximal Development. The more actively I learn and expand my skills, the better I can serve others, the more fulfilled I will be in life and in legacy.
Build the Alhambra of my worldview, tile by tile
I care deeply about morality and ethics, and I am aware that I hold a few axiomatic truths that then inform every other corner of my life. I sense them within me, but I have yet to take the time to diligently document how I derive my complex emotional, intellectual, and spiritual landscape.
Writing publicly feels inspiring and compelling to do just that because a) folks can resonate (or not) and b) folks can offer feedback to highlight holes or fallacies in my derivations. With the resonance and reflection of others, I will iteratively build and clean my temple, one tile at a time.
Inviting my muse to dance
Sensing the potentials noted above, I feel motivated to write in a new and novel way. I journal often and enjoy writing poetry, but I've never written personal thoughts in a public forum and I find it invigorating (albeit in a somewhat terrifying “naked in a waterfall” sort of way). Since I began writing for this site, I've had a surge of creativity and inspiration in a way I cannot ignore. I thoroughly enjoy dancing with my muse, and it's especially joyous when that's coupled with service, learning, and community.
Reinforcing strength with vulnerability
I am very moved by Brene Brown's work and especially her comments on the strength and courage of vulnerability. I have no idea how anything I offer will be received, but I do know it feels very naked and vulnerable to offer anything at all. I am confident that practicing my vulnerability will make me a better man, son, father, partner, professional, leader, and citizen. I have no idea how, but I'm sure Brene does.
Opening doors I didn't yet know were there
I really appreciated Nat's comment that each writing piece acts as a micro-minimum viable product (MVP, from the Lean Startup predilection). Specifically, if a concept I share is particularly resonant, I have the choice and the option to see if I can add even more value by creating a new product or service.
The key piece here, at least for me, is that I do not explicitly seek monetization. I'm not writing or building a community so I can sell them things, and I'll never put advertisements on this site or in my newsletter.
That said, I do believe in the reciprocity of energy and value, and money is just one example of energetic and value-based exchange. I sense there is a way to do this honorably and cleanly without poisoning the communal well. Nat has a great example of a blog post he wrote about Roam that was garnering a lot of attention, so he doubled down with an online course that ultimately made >$400,000 in a single year! I took that course myself, it was worth every penny, and I was deeply grateful for the exchange to accelerate my learning while I accelerate his wealth. He earned it with a great offering!
I don't know if I'll ever have a similar story, and the important thing (for me) is that if I never make a dime from my writings then I am perfectly content and would still be doing it (for all the reasons above). And, assuming I can do so in an honorable and respectful way, why not explore the option? I live in a world of curiosity and open doors, so if I am aware of the potential for creating paid offerings that are valuable above and beyond a resonant essay then I am content to be of ever greater service (and to support my family and my projects in the meantime).
In short, I offer for me, for you, and for us
Taken together, there are many compelling and interwoven reasons why it makes sense for me to publish online. I get to learn, create, connect. Others get to resonate, reflect, and grow. And together, we can create rewrite the narratives that no longer serve to tell future generations a new story we’re excited to leave as our collective legacy.
I hope my offerings prove valuable on your life's journey.
For my fellow Roamans, here is the JSON of this article for import.