My most important lesson in business almost killed my blog

spock and kirk

I’d like to tell you about one of the most important lessons I learned in business and how it almost ruined my blog.

When I was in college I was a bit of a hippie. Long curly hair. A little disheveled. Slept on couches a lot. And I was a creative person who always followed his heart. I was a journalism major primarily because I was attracted to the people of journalism — idealistic, passionate folks seeking the truth (at least we did back then!)

But a few years later, after a stint at a newspaper and a couple PR jobs, ย I found myself in a sales position in Los Angeles for a Fortune 100 company. I felt like a fish out of water. I was just not like the other hard-driving people on the team. I was much more interested in the personal relationships and what made people in business tick.

Losing the hippie heart

At one point, my company got into a very difficult quality claim with my customer. Both sides were angry and emotional. I remember being on a tough phone call with my boss, explaining to him what the “right thing” was to do.

He patiently explained to me that I needed to keep the emotion OUT of it. I was being paid to make logical decisions based on the numbers, not on what I thought was “right.”

Something new clicked. I now realized why I didn’t fit in. I was managing my account like Captain Kirk when the company wanted me to be like Mr. Spock. And, for the most part, they were right. Business is run by the numbers. That’s where I had to focus.

Slowly but surely the “hippie heart” was beat out of me. As I look back, I actually think this was a good thing. It challenged me to think in a new way and grew me as a person. I was certainly a better business leader by learning this lesson.

But it didn’t work on a blog.

When I started my blog, I took the same no-nonsense approach. I was focused on the numbers and delivering my precise “marketing message” to my “target audience.”

Two things happened at this stage in my blogging career.

First, nothing happened. Crickets.

Second, I became bored. Who wants to write about that stuff every week?

I began to relax and have more fun on the blog. I let my personality shine through and maybe even wrote something funny now and then. I would take a stand about things that were wrong or positions I believed in. Slowly, I let the “heart” back in.

And something magical happened. Instead of finding my target audience, my target audience found me! Wonderful, amazing people (like you!) from all around the world found a reason to connect with me. When the heart showed up, my readers rewarded me.

This was my most important lesson in blogging: Have the courage to let your heart shine through.

To stand out, you need to be original. To be original, you need to dig deep and be you. You really have no other choice, but that’s not easy is it?

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  • Spot on Mark, if everyone wrote by the ‘numbers’ then every blog of the same genre would be a replica of the last. People visit your blog to see what YOU have written, in your style, with your personality.

    Some people won’t get your attempts of humor, some will, some won’t agree with your opinions, some will, that’s what makes things interesting and original.

  • I love this post Mark – and I think it’s time for me to give it a try instead of trying to run it by the numbers and follow all of the rules I need to start having some fun with it. It’s funny because the posts that I had the most fun writing are also generally my most “popular” – go figure ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement to have fun and be myself.

  • Kathryn Caywood

    Thanks for this post, Mark. It’s easy to write and be myself, but sometimes I get sidetracked into thinking that about the “should”s.

  • Ditto the great post comments. Wow, really liked it. It is so important to apply the right parts of your brain and heart to right parts of your business. No question it was the heart that brought me to your blog and keeps me coming back. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Christine Webber

    Just loved this blog thanks. It made me think about how important a good message in the photo is. Yours made me laugh out load and attracted the attention of others in the office who then engaged with your blog. How cool is that, using laughter as a marketing tool? Great thinking Mark!

  • Boom. Think you nailed it Barry. Thanks!

  • That’s great news Beth. I had a customer who was running her blog based on SEO advice and was miserable. I encouraged her to show her own passions and interests and the first post, she wrote about Pink Floyd and business. It was her most popular blog post ever by far and she never went back to the SEO!

  • It’s probably a blend. SEO is something to keep in mind but not be a slave to. : )

  • Awww. That is so cool. Thanks for telling me that!

  • For me the illustration is a chance to add a little entertainment value and have some fun. I often wonder if people “get it” when i put something like this up there because I almost never get feedback on the illustrations so i appreciate this comment very much Christine!

  • A great description of why companies struggle with “social”. After decades of beating the “Kirk” out of their employees, telling them they have to empathize and make emotional connections with their clients is like telling Spock a “knock-knock” joke and expecting him to ROFL.

  • Love that Ray. Be Kirk.

  • I love your point about the blog!..As I do the same ๐Ÿ™‚ nninoss dot com

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Ninos.

  • RhondaHurwitz

    Unlike you, I didn’t have the confidence to show much personality or heart early in my career … perhaps to the detriment of my advancement. I was more worried about fitting the company norms at that stage. It is very freeing having reached a stage where I can be confident in my business knowledge and worry less about my style of delivery.

  • LizReusswig

    Great post & analogy, Mark! Actually, I think you’re more like Gene Roddenberry! Whatever it is, I think a lot of us respond to your “heart & mind” approach! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • you welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Social Media and blogging is about being more personally rather than business like.

  • Linda Kinsman

    Excellent and timely post for me. I really let my personality shine through on my latest blog post and didn’t give one lick about numbers, which was liberating!

  • Amen Rhonda. I don’t have it all figured out either. I’m a student like you!

  • Ha! I actually got to meet him once when I was in college. Nice guy.

  • awesome

  • A lot more fun, isn’t it? And isn’t that a great thing to shine through for your readers?

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  • LizReusswig

    Am I a nerd that I think that’s really cool? ๐Ÿ™‚ My parents LOVE the original Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry was always considered something pretty special in our family!

  • hmmm… still trying to envision the long curly hair, Mark. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for the advice… there is life after SEO!
    btw… enjoying ROI. The only problem with eBooks is getting an author’s autograph!

  • email me your address and I will send you an autographed copy Joan. Thanks for reading my book!

  • he gave a speech at my school and I got to interview him for the university newspaper. I got to meet a few famous people that way!

  • Linda Kinsman

    Indeed it was more fun and yes!

  • Tiffany

    Great post! I believe in being yourself! It is the best way to build your audience!

  • Kerry O’Shea Gorgone

    This is excellent advice, Mark! You encouraged me to publish my first really personal post (on {grow}, in fact), and the response was incredible. Thank you, my friend! I’m glad to know you.

  • Thanks Tiffany/

  • You’re definitely growing as a blogger and it’s fun to see your success!

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  • Being original by being you does become easier, and life-affirming as you progress…

    Thank you Mark for sharing you!…

  • Kerry O’Shea Gorgone

    Thanks so much, Mark!

  • Always an honor to have you take the time to comment Dr. Rae!

  • Cool โ€ฆ Hippy Mark! … This is worthless without old pictures ๐Ÿ˜‰

    To be honest, I’ve learned it’s a mix and this is why I’m now working on a second blog (Something more inline with my long-term vision).

    When I was a fresh-faced blogger almost two years ago, my overall messaging and storyline were diluted, and my writing kinda scattershot.

    When I wrote posts it was fun, it flowed, and my audience was engaged, but I didnโ€™t have the focus I needed and I wasn’t attracting clients.

    I guess I was having too much fun, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    It’s taken almost an entire two years, but things started to come into focus when I started really paying attention to a certain group of bloggers: People I consider creative, ambitious and extremely helpful entrepreneurs, but who just happen to blog. (That would be you).

    So I agree with you up to a point. Yes, have fun, but realize why you started and if you’re not achieving your goals it’s time to refocus, and an ounce of Spock might even help.

    The art I’m still trying to master? Mixing fun with business and making it all work.

  • Mark – I remember a debate with you on the merit of principals. You put up a straw man (I believe ironically) which I tore down . and I realised you cared . Since then I drop by now and then
    For what its worth here is a post I wrote from the heart and enjoyed

  • brentmkelly

    Glad I found this post Mark. As a relatively new blogger in the insurance industry I have learned much. When I write for SEO/traffic/dollars I get little response. When I wrote from what’s on my heart I get engagement. Crazy concept. Thanks again.

  • Always my pleasure Mark… Thsnk you for the opportunity!

  • UsAndRufus

    This is exactly what social media needs to be: personal, relaxed, engaging. Using traditional techniques on social media just doesn’t work.

  • Like a breath of fresh air, this blog – thank you Mark… I personally have a hard time ‘running things by the numbers’ – mainly because most often, people use numbers to hide the fact that they actually have an opinion. Numbers almost always give a very limited view of whatever truth you’re trying to describe, which means people usually look for the right selection of numbers that will support their case – and then present them as indisputable proof. Instead, I’d love for people to just argue why they believe something is going to work. For it is a subjective world out there. Truth is something you need to believe in to make it true, and I’ve hardly ever seen numbers that actually convinced me – in the end, it’s usually something much more profound. You can read how 2 million people die of starvation, but if you’re honest, it’s the picture of the dying kid that will trigger you to give, isn’t it? Most C-level executives make crucial decisions based on gut-feeling, because they believe in their gut – and they don’t care if anybody else likes it or not. If you do care and are afraid to argue your point, you start looking for numbers to hide behind. But they’re very limited tools, that can only describe small sections of past truths. Numbers are not more real or valid than experience and intuition, yet they’re used like they are absolute. I am grateful for anyone that has the courage to go against that and follow their heart.

  • Natalie Scholberg

    Bravo! May the hippie in us never die–I’ve been processing thru the same stuff, trying to ‘make the numbers’ in social media. Lately, I’ve returned to the heart part and it’s quite refreshing; I’ve also started climbing (literally, in a gym)–great for body & soul!

  • Oh my! Awesome story. You had me at Go til finish. Really loved reading & it’s inspired me…

  • Really good point Craig. You certainly need to stay focus and aligned with the business goals!

  • Well done James. Nice to have you back in the comment section!

  • Beautifully stated Brent. So glad you found my blog. Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy day to comment!

  • Thanks for the kind comment.

  • Volkert, this is such a rich and wise comment. You have my head spinning with observation and ideas. This is a strong blog post in its own right. Thank you for this gift!

  • Nice. You’re climbing literally and figuratively. Love that!

  • Hurray. My job is done here. : )

  • Kruti Mehta

    That is a great piece of advice mark ๐Ÿ™‚ i follow that for my blog…Hope to shine like you some day.

  • Kruti Mehta

    Though my blog is more about personal stuff and my novel as i am a writer.

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  • I’m sure you will!

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  • Holly McIlwain

    My take-away, “Instead of finding my target audience, my target audience found me!” Since I’ve been a make it happen type business developer for so many years, this is a hard one for me too. I’ll do my best to follow your advice when I launch my blog. Thanks again, Mark-Tzu.

  • : )

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  • Mark,
    Thank you for the 2 wonderful lessons on Blogging:
    1.Have the courage to let your heart shine through.
    2.To stand out, you need to be original. To be original, you need to dig deep and be you.
    Mark, I will frame this & keep it on my desk!
    Warm regards,

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