Since writing Working for the Wrong People, I’ve
sorted out a few details that will help me to do the opposite, which is work
for the right people.
That is to say, I’m looking to shift the way I write and interact with people in general so that attention both goes to and comes from people who resonate with me and what I do (e.g. this website), and I likewise avoid creating tension between me and people who are out of resonance with me. It’s not that I need these people to disappear—I simply would like to devote myself to people who would actually care for it.
Have You Chosen Your Ideal Audience?
When I write, I often have an idea of the general type of person I am writing for. Any writer has to do this—your words will heavily depend on, for instance, whether you are writing for a child or an adult, an expert or a layperson, a believer or a skeptic, and so on. Whether you’re writing some sort of private account or for the eyes of other people matters, too. This is an unavoidable aspect of writing. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, it’s safe to safe that you are writing for no one.
To cut to the chase, my problem is that I never made the choice of who I write for solidly and consciously. Many times I have told myself that I am writing for myself; but, obviously it’s not just for me, otherwise I wouldn’t put it on the Internet for anyone who wants to see.
Now that I reflect on the situation, I can see that many times I have slipped into writing for a certain kind of person without realizing it. And, more often than not, that person is one I would indeed not write for consciously. It’s a person who I subconsciously attempt to impress and who I start to try very hard to convince, but at some point in the piece I say “Screw it,” and end up with a half-assed attempt to objectively prove something when there was no point in doing so to begin with.
The reason I “have to” impress and convince such a person is that this person doesn’t resonate with me and my work in the first place. This is, indeed, working for the wrong people. And the reason this person doesn’t resonate with me and my work, is that this sort of person is antithetical to the work I do. This means that, rather than being a growth-oriented person, this person is stagnant, either in one area of life or in general.
When someone is stagnant, this means they are not interested in change. Because this is a personal growth website, it follows that writing for people who are close-minded and/or don’t want to change makes me annoyed, angry, and second-guess myself and my words. It makes me lose touch with the point of my writing: instead of empowering people to change, I end up either trying to prove something or just hoping that I impress the pants off of people—or, I try to make myself look like an idiot. Hm… maybe trying to impress people and looking like an idiot are the same thing.
I’ve noticed that this anger, annoyance, convincing, and impressing are most prevalent when it comes to the subject of physical health (especially diet). This is because I expect people to be more resistant to both change and to my particular message in this area of life than in any other.
Finding the Right People
On the other hand, the premise of writing for people who are genuinely interested in growth is promising. It sounds hopeful. It sounds fun. It sounds like a joy and a pleasure to do.
A question I’m so far finding it helpful to ask is, Do you love growth-oriented people, or don’t you? That is, do I care about doing all that I can for people who are on a similar journey as me, or not? When I ask myself this I feel inspired to do a little something more for the people I know would appreciate it—even if I don’t personally know any specific such people yet (in regards to personal growth, anyway).
What’s more important than asking this question, though, is simply realizing that the people I’m supposed to write for, are growth-oriented people.
I know. That is painfully, dreadfully obvious. Did it really take me two years of blogging to figure out that one?
Well… As ugly as it sounds, I feel the answer is yes. It really did take me that long to realize that if you are going to talk about growth, you should talk about it with people who are interested in the subject.
Scaring the Right People Away (on accident)
I don’t mean to make myself look silly, but when I look around my world I see other people have made similar errors.
Here’s an example.
When I was a junior in high school (i.e. 16 years old), I took a class in calculus. On one particular day, there was a substitute teacher. This particular substitute did not exude the energy and enthusiasm that our regular teacher normally did during class. In fact, at one point in the lesson (which I believe was in conics), he said, “Come on, guys—I know this stuff is boring, but we have to get through it.”
The instant he said those words, I felt a drop in energy. The air in the room became thicker—stagnant, if you will. I thought to myself, You know, normally I’m OK with being here, but now it feels dreadful. Why the heck did he say that?
Indeed, his saying that was a blunder. I didn’t find the subject matter to be boring, but now that he had said that it was, I expected the way he presented the subject to be boring. That was disempowering.
Look at the bigger picture of this situation, too. This particular class was an Advanced Placement (AP) course—AP Calculus AB. Students cannot be required to take AP courses. This means that none of us had to be in that class. We just as well could have met our math requirements by taking different classes instead, like elementary statistics. But no—we chose to be there.
It’s certainly possible that some students regretted their choice to take calculus. I know at least a couple did. For me, calculus was my worst class ever grade-wise by far, and there were many, many times when I didn’t understand how I answered problems incorrectly—and this was frustrating. Even so, I appreciated the rigor of the class, and while I sometimes found myself unsure or lost, I rarely found myself bored.
Considering the circumstances, you could expect that the other students had substantial reason for being in the class, too. Even if it was just to have a good-looking report card for colleges, they chose to be there.
Whatever the case may be, obviously no one wanted to be bored. If we wanted to be bored, we would have taken elementary stats instead. Even if we didn’t plan on becoming calculus-geniuses, we could have had our math lesson without boredom—yes?
But, this particular teacher didn’t see it that way. From some place somewhere, he got the assumption that we were bored children, and the only way we were going to get through this math lesson was if he forced it upon us.
That wasn’t true, though. My classmates and I weren’t falling asleep during class or shooting spitballs at each other or stupid stuff like that. Even if we weren’t enthusiastic about calculus, we wanted to understand it, and we were willing to devote time and attention to doing it.
In this scenario, the math teacher wasn’t working for the wrong people per se. As far as I could tell, we were indeed the right people to be teaching calculus to. His error was that he was scaring the right people away, by saying that the subject material was boring. So, this teacher had the right audience. He had a bird in hand. But he didn’t realize that, so he crushed the bird.
Contrarily, my regular teacher for calculus had been my teacher for another math class the year before. I actually looked forward to going to that class, I thought it was so fun (and it was a great distraction for the many woes I had as a 15-year old, but that’s beside the point). The fast pace of the class was engaging, the teacher was genuinely excited about teaching, and I thought my classmates were funny as hell: they joked around with each other and with the teacher on a daily basis, and she handled it well. I had excellent grades in that class.
The point of this story is, don’t fall for your own general assumptions so easily.
Here’s what I mean. In American culture, there is a general atmosphere of math being difficult and uninteresting. As such, it’s easy to assume that other people are generally not interested in math.
Does this mean that assumption is correct? No—as I expressed in my little story, that assumption is not true. On one hand, the substitute math teacher assumed we (i.e. the students) found math to be boring, but that assumption was wrong. On the other hand, our regular math teacher assumed a posture of being engaged with the subject, and our own engagement with it followed.
To an extent, both people were right. By assuming we found math boring, the substitute teacher reduced our engagement in the subject. By exuding enthusiasm, the regular teacher increased our engagement in the subject.
I’m not saying that the other students and I were totally malleable sponges whose interest in math was totally dependent on the attitude of the teacher. I would have taken calculus no matter who was teaching it, and I’m sure other students in my class would have, too. Likewise, students who didn’t care for calculus and had no substantial reason for taking it would probably fail miserably no matter who was teaching it.
What I am saying is that you might have people who resonate with you sitting right in front of you, even staring you in the face, and you don’t even realize it. When you don’t realize that, you might be tempted to fall for your own general assumptions (like “everyone thinks calculus is boring”) and treat everyone in the same, undiscriminating manner. From there you can continue to spiral downward until you assume that the “right people” don’t exist, and when you look around you all you will see are people who don’t resonate with you and your message, and who probably never will. The reason you will see this is a combination of (a) you have scared the right people away, and they have been replaced by the wrong people; and (b) you have so drained the enthusiasm and trust of the right people that they now look like the wrong people.
Make the First Move
There have been times where people didn’t reveal something about themselves to me until after I revealed something similar about myself to them—and this includes people who I have known for years. Why is this? Perhaps they weren’t sure of whether I’d be accepting of what they had to share, until I made the first move and made it clear that I would be. Even then, this didn’t happen with a straightforward, “I won’t judge you—I promise.” No—the only way that entire conversation was possible in the first place was by me simply taking the leap and sharing something in particular about myself. Without that, the other person might not have felt compelled to do the same, let alone trusting of me with the information.
This situation has gone the other way around, too. Sometimes the other person shares something first; then, when I inevitably feel I’ll be safe and accepted sharing something similar, I do so. This has helped me to make progress in exploring not only new ideas, but new truths about myself. Without mind- and heart-opening conversations like that, I might be more inclined to hide from my own truths. It makes me wonder what I might be unaware of in myself at this very moment.
The point here is, the right people won’t reveal themselves as such to you until you make the first move. If it’s not clear that you are right for them, then they won’t make it clear that they are right for you. And you’ll just keep either staring a hole through them or scaring them away—in either case, unwittingly.
If someone talks to you, assume they want you. They want the truth about who you are. They want to know what you really feel and think and believe. They want to know what you really do and why. If you’re honest about all this, and something you say touches the wrong nerve with someone, then it will be clear that you and that person are out of resonance with each other. If there is no resolving the situation, then you can simply move on, and open yourself again to someone who is in resonance with you. Use this strategy both in-person and through your writing, podcasting, videos, e-mails, art, and however else you may communicate in general.
If you have to talk to someone who you know is out of resonance with you, then limit your interactions with them. Stick to what’s necessary and keep things light—that is, don’t reveal the depth of your true thoughts and feelings to them. Feel your way through what is and what isn’t acceptable conversation and do your best to keep things brief.
There comes a point, though, where you just can’t stand to relate to people on this basis anymore. I go back and forth between feeling like this and feeling okay with some limited interaction. It makes the most sense to me to simply avoid relating to people on such a limited basis in the first place, since it is disheartening and has a way of subtly communicating to the “right” people that you actually are a “wrong” person for them, and they stay away from you.
Perhaps that is the challenge here. I know that as far as my website and work go, this has to be the case—either we relate to each other on a complete basis, or we don’t at all. We either resonate with each other, or we don’t. As for my life offline, finding and simply sticking to the “right” people will prove more difficult, but I can see that that will have to be done eventually, too. It will have to be done because the kind of person I desire to be would surround herself with people of a similar heart.
A Challenge and an Exploration
So that’s where I’ll end this piece—with a challenge; or, at least, an exploration. Maybe I don’t need a perfect solution, and instead can explore the space of possibilities.
Just like how there is no one right way to sing a song, there is no single way that you must live your life. You can play around with different keys and sing in different octaves and even throw different instruments into the mix: each approach may be different, but they might all work.
As for this website, I’ll continually resolve to focus on writing for growth-oriented people. The very idea is relieving and empowering at the same time. I trust this will work well.
As for you, how are the relationships in your life? Are you working for the right people? Do the people you serve generally appreciate what you do and who you are, or do you feel like you’re slaving thanklessly? Do you know what kind of person is “right” for you, or have you left that decision for your subconscious and the status quo to make? Do you always recognize the right people when you see them, or do you treat them like everyone else and scare them away? Are you being held back by your own vague, fallacious assumptions, or are you thriving on your own authenticity and initiative?
Don’t be afraid to make the subtle shift at hand here. It’s possible that the right people are already right in front of you, and they’re just waiting for you to reveal yourself to them.
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