That’s me, riding my dog in the photo over there. I do shit like that sometimes. Maybe you didn’t know that, so let me explain.
For the past 16 months that I’ve been blogging here, I have to tell you I’ve never been fully satisfied with the “voice” I’ve created for myself. By that, I mean the personality I’ve conveyed through my words.
In writing, especially blogging, there’s something known as finding your voice. It’s about how you come across to your readers. You know, serious, funny, witty, stoic, focused, humble, demure, etc. It’s about showing depth of personality.
I’ve been reading a lot on the subject of voice and self expression lately. Also of finding your “right people,” or the people you naturally click with and would be attracted to if you met in person.
There’s a part of me that has never felt fully self-expressed here. I’m coming across in mono, not stereo. I’ve created a persona that isn’t completely me. I’ve fallen prey to the old media line of thinking that you should be “professional” and serious in public settings. Or maybe I just haven’t had the courage to share who I am fully, or the skills to do so.
C’mon bloggers, I know you know what I’m talking about. Most every writer struggles with this in some way.
How do you convey your full personality through words? It’s not an easy thing. How do you show that you’re passionate, gutsy, funny, provocative, dynamic and vibrant like your friends know you to be? How do you let people know your full values, traits and even quirks through writing?
There are two areas that keep us (or me) from fully self-expressing ourselves:
- The first is courage. It takes guts to do something you’ve never done before. Knowing that once you write something online it’ll be out there for good can make you question every word, every sentence, every blog post. And what if people don’t like your fully-self-expressed self? That could make a grown man cry. Or at least stop revealing himself.
- The second is writing ability. I’m not talking about innate writing ability, something you can only be born with. I’m referring to a learned skill here. The skill of being able to write conversationally, drawing on all of your experiences and thoughts and feelings, and to get those across in a coherent way. I think you can learn that skill. Some people come to it naturally, and other people have to work at it. Like me.
Without the courage and skills, many of us end up with a half-assed persona online. Something that sounds stiff and formal in a way that we don’t sound in person. (Side note, this doesn’t just apply to writing, either. You can create personas that you use in real life in different situations, especially in business situations).
We create these little boxes for ourselves that can sound dry or boring, and then we wonder why we’re not a break-out success like we want to be.
The benefits of being fully self-expressed are too great not to consider. Your full three-dimensional personality will really click with the people you were meant to work with or write for. You’ll become magnetic to certain people, drawing them in with your true self. You’ll form a bond with those people like you never could with a watered-down self. Those relationships will become the foundation of your success.
Plus, it’s just so much easier to be yourself.
Oh, and I’m not talking about baring all of your past indiscretions, telling every secret there is to tell about yourself, or otherwise sharing everything about your history. I’m talking about getting your personality across. That will probably require some stories about your past, but not everything. You don’t have to be fully transparent to be fully self-expressed.
Some of my favorite writers have always been the boldest, brashest, wittiest and most expressive amongst us. People like Naomi Dunford, Lisa Barone, Ashley Ambirge and Johnny B. Truant always captivate me like no one else (and give me a case of the jealousies).
So, how can the rest of us become more fully self-expressed? I’m not sure it’s an immediate switch you can make. Maybe it is. I’m not the expert, remember? Maybe thinking of your blog as a performance is the answer.
In any case, I just know I don’t want to come across with a watered-down personality. I want people to know who I really am so I can really connect with the people I’m meant to connect with on a deeper level. And the people who don’t “get me” can continue searching for their right people elsewhere.
There’s a bolder side of me with more dimensions that I want to introduce you to.
To kick off this new chapter in my blogging life, I’m going to start by sharing 33 things I’ve never shared with you before. Hopefully you’ll know more about the real me after reading this. And then later, if I get back to not sounding like my full self on the blog again, you can call me on it, OK?
There’s no turning back now. Here we go:
- I’m 33, but my friends range from early 20s to mid-60s. Just last week I met a friend in his 20s in the afternoon, and then had dinner with my wife and two friends in their late 50s. I often go surfing with a friend who is 65. Age is in your mind.
- I skinned my knee a few weeks ago mooning some friends from a moving car.
- My closest friends are funny as fuck. Seriously. Sense of humor is one of the most attractive qualities in a person to me. My wife is hilarious. I have a huge group of friends I’ve known since high school and college. When we get together, everyone is a comedian. I love it. The sad thing is, as I get older, I find it harder to find new friends who I can be funny with. Humor becomes less and less a part of new relationships. I would like to change that.
- I really enjoy a filthy, drunken, gambling-filled weekend in Las Vegas once in a while. My bachelor party was in Vegas.
- I’m a huge fan of music. I played the violin, clarinet, trumpet and guitar as a kid. Listening to music (especially live) always makes me happy in a way that few other things do. My favorite bands right now include Citizen Cope, The XX, TV on the Radio, Wilco and Rilo Kiley. One day I want to play in a band again. A blues band maybe.
- I’ve lived in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Mexico. Houston kinda sucked, but everywhere else was awesome. I’m from a suburb outside of Portland, OR called Vancouver. The Pacific Northwest is great, but the rain really gets to you after a while.
- My favorite movies include Rushmore and The Big Lebowski. I like movies that are sharp and funny and intelligent. Juno and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are pretty awesome too. I’m also a sucker for great acting and directing on the scale of Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood or Penn in Milk.
- I have a big ego. Not like Kanye big, but big. My wife knows what I’m talking about. I don’t know if other people know that. Hopefully it just comes across as confidence. In my writing it probably hasn’t come across much. That’s because my ego is tempered by occasionally being scared shitless that the entire life I’ve been building could come crumbling down at any time. Ego tends to get suppressed while you’re attempting something new and difficult.
- I like to drink. I’ll drink anything beside red wine (gives me migraines). Beer, whiskey, scotch, gin, vodka, you name it. Not that I’m an alcoholic or anything. I just like to have a good time. Oh, and I also like this drink called Fernet Branca that’s popular in San Francisco and Argentina, but virtually unknown elsewhere. Most people think it tastes like mouthwash. I think it’s delightful.
- In certain circles, I’m known to do the worm at parties.
- I’ve worked as a consultant for a lot of really big companies. Allstate, Microsoft, Kaiser, Wellpoint, Enron (yes, that Enron), Safeco and Premera. I guess it took me seven tries to figure out I don’t like working for big companies.
- Over the course of 5 years, I flew over half a million miles for work. That’s a hell of a crappy way to live.
- When I was younger, I nearly blew my hand off and killed my dog with makeshift fireworks. Thank god I’m more careful now.
- I worked full-time all the way through college. I grew up poor and didn’t know that getting loans and going away to college was really an option. So, I got a full time job when I was 18 working for the county Sheriff’s office as a clerk. I ended up becoming the IT guy for hundreds of cops, custody officers and administrative staff. I worked on cool projects like implementing an electronic police reporting system. I also got to shoot guns, drive cop cars and go out on duty calls. The cops I worked with were mostly great people who cared about the community. Oh and college? It took me five years to complete.
- A big part of me wishes I had gone through the traditional college experience. But another part of me thinks regret is a useless emotion.
- I’m secretly jealous of creative people, like artists, musicians and actors. Luckily I get to hang out with lots of creative people. Oh, and I guess I’m a writer now, so I should probably embrace this as my craft and stop being jealous. Or shut up and start making art, music or acting.
- My wife is an amazing artist. She attended a top graduate school for painting, and has shown work in San Francisco, LA, New York, Boston, London, Miami, Seattle and Portland. She’s going to be really huge one day soon.
- By the age of 27, I had never rented an apartment, and had bought 4 different homes/condos (and sold 3). (Here’s the last one we owned.) I love real estate and architecture and really want to become more involved again.
- I took acting classes from a former protege of Lee Strasberg (the father of method acting, and teacher of Dustin Hoffman, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Al Pacino). I absolutely loved taking acting classes.
- Some of the people around me think I’m throwing my life away or running from something. Before blogging, I founded and ran a startup company in San Francisco. We raised nearly $3M dollars in funding but ultimately didn’t succeed. Before that, I made a ton of money as a big company consultant. Some people think I’m crazy for doing “this blogging thing.” They don’t tell me to my face, but I know.
- My wife and I met when she was 16 and I was 17. We’re “high school sweethearts.” I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s the love of my life. I have her initials tattooed on my shoulder.
- I almost never read fiction. I probably read one fiction book for every 5 non-fiction books, and I only finish about 10 books a year. My wife consistently reads 2+ books every week, almost entirely fiction. We’re different in a lot of ways like that. We’re also strangely similar in others.
- I’m a really terrible karaoke singer. Actually, I’ve only tried like twice. One of the times, people were throwing the tokens at me that you purchase to sing a song. The song was “I wanna know what love is” by Foreigner. It turns out I only know the chorus to that one. The other time I tried was with the song “Freak Me” by Silk. Maybe I need to choose better songs.
- I made the entire room laugh and cry when I gave a toast at my best friend’s wedding. It wasn’t hard, I just used the story of how I bombed singing “I wanna know what love is.”
- I’m unapologetically liberal politically. But I think that very few issues are two-sided and that it’s a shame the media turns everything into a polarized fight.
- I am really enjoying eastern philosophy lately. I’m generally anti-religion. I think it does more harm in the world than good, and good morals don’t come from a book or believing in god. Eastern philosophy is interesting though, because it teaches us how to be happy, no matter the circumstance. If you’re constantly looking for the results of some external event or goal to make you happy, you’ll never really get there. Live in the moment. Happiness is a state of mind.
- My father had open heart surgery recently in his early 50s. That scares the shit out of me, for his future and for mine. It motivates me at the same time to stay healthy and stress-free.
- I think my blog/business Think Traffic is going to blow up. In a good way, as in it’s going to become a huge success. And I don’t just think that of every project I start. I also often wonder if I should merge this project with that one.
- Did I mention I have a bad memory? You know those friends who always know the exact date something happened, and who are constantly reminding you of funny things that happened 10 years ago? I’m not one of those people.
- Earlier this year, I won the title of “perviest mustache” in a competition held in Mexico. That made me proud.
- I really, truly, want to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed. I choose to work with small businesses because I’m passionate about it. The world is a better place when people are doing what they love, and when power and money isn’t concentrated among so few giant entities. Yes, working for yourself isn’t as easy as getting a job, but the fulfillment and freedom and contribution you can make to the world are worth every struggle. Plus, I sincerely believe working for yourself will get easier over the coming decade.
- A couple of relationships in my life have gone terribly wrong. I think about them often. I would have done things differently in both cases, but you can’t hold yourself responsible for other people’s happiness.
- I’m surprised that it was so easy to come up with these 33 things, and pleased that I actually have a lot more to share. Maybe this self expression thing won’t be so hard after all.
Thanks for reading all the way through this experiment. If you resonate with the soul I’ve just bared, subscribe to this blog, friend me on Facebook, or write me an email. If I’ve offended you or turned you off, thanks for reading anyway. I know that I won’t appeal to everyone, and that’s OK.
And bloggers, I challenge you to express yourself more fully. This felt really great. Try writing your own post like this. It might just be a breakthrough.