Perth is a great place for a spot of introspection. With wide open blue blue skies by day. And a great swath of the Milky Way by night.
I have been walking my sister's dog in the long Kodachrome twilights and evenings. After the endless bustle of Sydney and the endless crowds of Singapore, I am totally in love with the expanse of quiet well-kept suburbs; with big houses and wide streets that are completely devoid of people. Bliss. Just me, the dog, the pavement, and the big sky.
I’ve been thinking… What’s this thing called life all about? Why do I do what I do? Does anything I do really matter? Over what timeframe? And for whom? From the single simple act of Walking the Dog Under the Stars, the questions can all too easily expand to fill the entire Spiral Arm.
To rein in the potential chaos, I thought I will start this series of posts with one about my blogging. Why do I blog? What does it do for me? What do I want it to give others? How does blogging fit into the larger picture of my life, and my life’s work?
Blogging has been part of my professional activities now since Jan 2005. There’re currently 732 posts, and 549 comments as of 3 Feb 2009. From the stats and the map-thingie it is clear that you read my blog, and you do so from many different places around the world. Some of you would comment too – thank you.
Generally most of the comments have been from people who operate on a similar wavelength of thought. They have been consistently enlightening and supportive. An example is my post about how fashion designers work from a basis of fantasy, unlike all other design professions.
Other comments have been challenging and confrontational. See this example about Transparency as a requisite for involvement and buy-in; and the related thoughts which became a separate post. These are truly appreciated as they force me to examine my beliefs and assumptions.
Only rarely have I deleted comments outright. Possibly two in the last four years. These are comments devoid of any meaningful content that I can engage with. Eg “This sucks.”
There is the one odd throwaway post that became more than I had imagined. This one about a spam phonecall I received turned into a frequently-visited shrine by many people who obviously appreciated a place to have their say.
I have yet to get a level of participation (comments, link backs) I would like. Perhaps I had been hoping for a level like Perez Hilton. Is this unrealistic given the difference in subject matter? I have experimented with You Asked – where I post responses to your questions. I have asked for “what do you thinks” and “share your thoughts belows" without much noticeable success.
Perhaps this is something I cannot really control (without posting pictures of some celebrity’s pink bits). Given quality versus quantity I would choose the former. But it is still nice to see larger numbers of comments. Maybe I should disable the spam filter!
Perhaps what I talk about by its nature doesn’t easily spark comments? I have tried to maintain a focused set of meaningful categories. And not stray too far from them. Maybe these have become too limiting in my own mind. Perhaps it is in the way I write? I take thoughts that grab me, think about them, organise them, sprinkle on some ideas and questions, and post them. Maybe there is too much thinking/synthesis? Or too little?
I’ve been thinking… so why do I blog?
I think of this blog as a repository of my thoughts and ideas. It is better to get these thoughts out of my head! Perhaps one day to turn into a book or some other structured narrative. The catharsis in and of itself is sufficient reward. And who knows, these thoughts may trigger something else out there.
Then the questions (always the questions): Am I making any difference at all to anyone out there? Am I contributing anything of real value often enough? Sometimes, it seems like no matter what new thoughts I had, someone somewhere has already thought it and thought it better…
It is an enjoyable discipline to write something daily (or rather write a pile when the inspiration strikes). There is great satisfaction in building a body of work. I have Stilgherrian to thank for this. I could still remember that bright sunny day on Darling Harbour, having a beer with Stil, when I made that commitment to myself to blog.
Profile building is another reason. In order to attract interesting people and opportunities, I need to get my voice and thoughts out there. If I am the product, then my blog is the product sampler (and my resume the sell sheet).
Have I met anyone interesting through my blog? Yes. Most definitely. Have there been interesting projects and opportunities – sort of, though not nearly as many as I would like. Do I get validation from the world at large? Totally. And that is surprisingly important to me.
So who am I trying to impress? McKinsey? Tom Peters? IDEO? Oprah? Or the super cool quirky person (that perhaps no one has ever heard of) with the next wow project that is totally left of field? No brainer on this one. As Stil put it “You asked it. You answer it. ;)”
I’ve been thinking… why do I feel that I have lost some spark with my blogging recently?
I have started to avoid blogging a bit more than usual. Too hard, no time, what have I really got to day. who is listening anyway? etc.
Looking back on recent posts, I can’t help but wonder if they have become rather academic and staid. I think they are still interesting thoughts, but are they now lacking kick and fire? Have I somehow deleted my personality, my larger self (beyond my work) from my posts? In my attempts to focus on a specific set of topics (around innovation and business), and also in an attempt to be fair, give the benefit of the doubt, and be “nice”, I may have unwittingly stifled the humanness. Not good.
As Mistress Mia put it “I don't get enough good Zern stuff from your blog.”
And Stilghrrian said “I was missing the perspective which is ZERN'S perspective, not that or any number of interchangeable business advisors.”
So what is the Zern perspective? Has it been eroded by my attempt to be fair to everybody, to be nice, to not voice opinions so strongly that they come across as being dismissive or harshly judgemental of others? Has the closet academic taken over too much?
I’ve been thinking… how can I make blogging more fun and lively again?
It is my blog and I need to reclaim it for myself. I have been doing too good a job of writing for “usefulness” that I have cut out too many of the “useless” observations and thoughts.
How many of the different voices within should I allow onto this blog? I have toyed with setting up a separate blog with a pseudonym, so as to talk about topics that are further outside the gamut I have set for this blog. The wider social, political and religious issues that may not have a direct-line influence on business and innovation. Perhaps it is time to bring these issues to light here.
Should there be more emotion? Shaking of fists and spitting of spittle? Or raucous laughter? Or naughty sniggers? Or gloomed thoughts (when I am feeling down)? I guess things have been too serious and proper lately! Double poo bucket to that. Time to shut the door on the closet academic a bit more often.
I realised also that I have been trying to control things too much. This temptation is especially strong currently as I take apart the other aspects of my life to re-examine them, so as to formulate a new path forward (but that is another set of posts to come).
Chris Brogan said in a recent post “we are all ‘doing it wrong’ … because there is no right way, we are all doing our own thing and what is right for one person may not be right for another. It's all really new. There aren't any ‘experts’.” (Thanks Mia for this link).
Stil: “let some spontaneity re-emerge.”
As a nod towards that, this post has been minimally edited.
I think… All I can do is to be who I am and think my thoughts and share my opinions and ideas. I need to trust that the right people will be attracted to what I have to say. And not worry about how others may or may not perceived my messages correctly or otherwise. I just need to keep doing what I am here to do. And stop second guessing myself or others. At the end of the day, this is a question of faith.
Wow, is it really that simple?