why seth godin says we are all weird now + what this means for your blog
Your mama probably warned you that not everybody’s going to like you, and there’s no point in trying.
So often, though, we water down our point of view, we go for the subjects that (we think) have the broadest appeal, we try to play it safe. We’ve been trained to find safety in numbers, so that’s our aim: Facebook fans and ‘friends’ and Twitter followers, the more the merrier.
By trying to win over everybody, you win over nobody.
Go for mass appeal and chances are you’ll end up alone.
‘Everybody’ doesn’t exist anymore.
This is the overriding point that Seth Godin makes in his new book, We Are All Weird. There used to be a bell curve of ‘normal’, a.k.a. ‘the masses’, and then a handful of freaky outlier types to either side.
Then something happened.
The Internet took the concept of ‘choice’ and blew it to pieces.
People used to be ‘normal’ for lack of options: we all listened to the same few bands on the radio, watched the same lame sit-coms on TV. Options were limited.
Now, however, we can let our freak flags fly.
Whatever our tastes, our true interests, we can not only find them somewhere on the Internet, we can find other people who like the same things. So as choice continues to shatter into a zillion more, we flee the ho-hum hump of the middle for the interesting stuff at the edges and our fellow comrades in ‘weirdness’.
The bell curve, says Godin, is in the process of flattening out.
That big group of the middle keeps dividing and dividing again, into loose communities organized around interests and topics and subtopics and sub-sub-topics.
When we think we are talking – trying to talk – to the masses, we are actually addressing a “loose collection of tribes”.
And by attempting to be relevant to all of them, you won’t prove relevant to any of them.
Which means they’re not listening. They tune you out. They’ve gotten good at it.
Figure out who your people are.
Talk to them. Create for them. And only them.
I know, I know. Just how the hell do you do that? Often, ‘your people’ won’t exactly be who you thought they were. They will surprise you.
Bloggers will advise other bloggers to choose a niche. To specialize. Become the ‘go to’ person for whatever topic lights you up inside. Then you’re supposed to figure out what makes you different from everybody else in your niche: that unique point of awesomeness that will separate you from the crowds and laser through the noise and clutter.
Which is all very well.
I would suggest, though, that instead of thinking in terms of niche, you think in terms of purpose. What is the purpose of your blog? What is the Big Meaning? And I don’t mean in terms of what you want it to accomplish for you – although that is an important question – but what you want it to accomplish for others. What do you want to give people? What change in the world, however big or small, do you want to work toward?
To write about the power journey, as a creative and as a woman.
When you know what your purpose is, you can filter everything through it: every decision, every blog post, the books and articles and blogs you read in order to come up with and incubate ideas.
When you know what your purpose is, the niche takes care of itself. Your purpose becomes your differentiating factor: because your purpose is also your personal journey, taken in your particular voice, unique to you. What you learn for yourself you can then share with others.
When your purpose is strong, and your voice is strong, your tribe will hear your call and recognize you as one of their own. It won’t happen overnight, but they will find you. They will organize themselves around you.
I believe that there’s a point where your right audience is you, and you are your right audience, like two lines running parallel into the distance until they appear to narrow and converge. You make your way to that vanishing point, so that by writing for yourself you are writing for your audience, and by writing for your audience you are writing for yourself. It’s not an either/or proposition.
I like how Kelly Diels puts it:
…this platform building thang is about building an audience and a community so people will read my work, and about writing regularly. Having a blog is a writing practice… Blogging isn’t only about content marketing – I’ve publicly taken issue with that model – it can be about developing as a person and as an artist. Blogging doesn’t have to make you a dime to be a worthwhile and transformative practice.
Our choices reflect who we are. I suspect that one reason why it’s so tempting to write for Everybody is because it doesn’t saddle us with the responsibility of choosing our audience, of naming our tribe. When you face a million choices, it’s easy to become paralyzed…but to make no choice is, in the end, just a choice by default.
Like happiness, or money, maybe it’s best to come at that choice indirectly. You find your audience as an indirect benefit of looking deep inside yourself and your past to find your purpose; and then by following that purpose (or as some might call it, “living your brand”).
By making that meaning for yourself, you also make it for others. It is the value that you create. It is a wealth all its own.
As Seth Godin puts it:
…Rich isn’t a measure of a bank balance. No, rich means making a choice, choosing an identity and following a path that matters.
Based on that notion, we’re at our best when we’re weird, and when we’re enabling others to become weird as well.
If we’re going to demonize, criticize and isolate people who no longer fit our definition of normal, we will fail. The alternative is an attitude based on respect, the respect we accord to someone brave enough to choose precisely what it is they want.
So what do you want?