To be a great blogger, put on your bitch mittens

bitch mittens

You want authenticity? Here it is: I have been ill for more than two months — a cold turned to pneumonia and I am still wheezing and hacking. I have a toothache, an ear ache and a pinched nerve in my neck all at the same time. The unrelenting cold and snow this winter have worn me down. I am writing this in a crowded, noisy airport sitting through my seventh flight cancellation in two weeks.

In short, at this moment, I’m a bona fide man-bitch.

Within this period of chronic illness, the Content Shock post went viral. For more than two weeks, this one post became a career … something I never intended and of course could not plan for.

Although 95 percent of the resulting posts (more than 100) and comments (more than 1,000) were along the lines of “well done,” I also withstood my share of cheap shots.

I think in general I handled the situation well. But in at least one response my man bitchiness came through. I reached a boiling point mentally and physically and on one post I wrote a response that came across as impatient and unkind.

One fella wrote back “Kind of full of yourself, aren’t you?”

That hurt … but I deserved it.

Here’s the deal. Even though I was having a difficult week, I should not have said that. People do not really want “authenticity” (which means a reflection of a true situation). They want — and deserve by the way — constant patience and kindness even when we may be bursting at the seams on the other end of that Internet connection.

Wear your bitch mittens

Insulating your personal brand is different than not taking a stand on issues. I take stands on this blog almost every week. People may like it, people may not … that goes with the territory.

But with whatever I write, I want to connect to people in a professional, and hopefully uplifting way. I don’t always succeed, but that is the brand image I really aim for.

There is probably a camp who will say, “But it’s OK to have a bad day, Mark.”

No, it’s not. Not on the web.

I am a professional denizen of the Internet and how I show up means something. The Internet is forever and one slip-up can create an unintended viral disaster. We all know those stories.

Showing up as truly human and showing up as a person who people want to hire is a delicate dance, isn’t it?

I think that if I am trying to build a brand, I need to keep my daily bitchifications and dysfunctions where they belong … in the privacy of my home. I have issues. You have issues. We all have issues. But don’t be your own worst enemy by flying these as the flag of your personal brand if you are working professionally in this space to attract customers.

That’s right. I’m saying that you should not be authentic (gasp). It’s official. I am now kicked out of the Social Media Guru Club. About time, too. Who wants my secret de-coder ring?

Don’t become a meme.

Everything I do and everything I don’t do, everything I write and everything I don’t write, reflects on my personal brand … and the same is true for you and your company.

Be who you aspire to be. Be the person online who YOU would want to hire with total confidence. If you feel like shit, take a deep breath and pull out the bitch mittens before unloading in public.

Here is a good rule for a professional life on the web: “Be honest, be human, but be careful. And above all, never become a meme.”


Illustration courtesy we know memes

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  • You’ve pretty much summed up why I don’t partake in Facebook, too many people sharing things I don’t need (or want) to hear, well, that and the cat videos!

    Kind of makes to appreciate the hard time that celebrities must have keeping their cool 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As personal brands become more and more important this type of advice will become ever more invaluable.

    Necessary and interesting article Mark, very honest, nice one 🙂

  • billy

    stuff to stand by sir!

  • Mia Sherwood Landau


  • RandyBowden

    Agree Mark. I often watch those who practice their form of authenticity that always attracts the waiting wolves to begin the internet flogging. An old lesson, perceptions are hard to overcome, steer a calculated course.

  • I can’t wait to work the phrase “bitch mittens” into conversation. But seriously, don’t forget that your health is more important than anything…hope you start to feel better soon.

  • Thanks for sharing this story, Mark.

    It was probably good to get it off your chest (if not the cold and pneumonia, at least this!). Your content shock post was timely, and look at the great conversation it started. Much needed.

    And at least you’ve refrained from tossing in politics, which unfortunately seems to be creeping into more and more non-political blog posts and tweets these days. Surprising to me, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks Billy.

  • Thanks Barry. As my visibility rises on the web, so does the size of the target on my back. In the last month, people have tried to extort money from me, hack into my site, digitize and sell my books on their own, copy my content on their own and more. Yes, it is tough to keep my cool sometimes. : )

  • Go for it. Thank you!

  • “steer a calculated course.” So true. Thanks for sharing your wisdom today!

  • Thanks Rosemary. Bitch mittens also come in handy during inclement weather : )

  • Oh my yes. Politics can be the ultimate conversation killer, right? Thanks for taking the time to comment today Steve.

  • Mark, this post is a prime example of authenticity. Sometimes it sucks to always be wearing “bitch mittens” (LOVE the term by the way) but that is what comes with working in this industry. If people can’t handle it, then they can find another industry to work in. Just my two cents!

    I do hope you’re feeling better!! It’s suppose to be 80 down here in Georgia the next 2 days if you need some warmth!

  • Carla_Johnson

    Elegantly stated Mark, and I love your point “Be who you aspire to be.”

  • Hope that you feel better first of all. I think this winter has everyone in a bad mood (much more so for folks in the north where I used to live). People even get argumentative over scenery photos! I posted something about people losing their sense of humor on my personal Facebook, came back to it a couple of hours later and a couple of my “friends” were embroiled in a political, knock-down drag out. Hopefully this winter from Hades will be over soon and folks will get some sunshine – physically and mentally.

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  • First, hope you feel better soon!!!

    Second, I think authenticity doesn’t equal total transparency. Be yourself, but you don’t have to share EVERYTHING. I read once that when you’re going through a tough time in life or business, people don’t want to hear about it when you’re “in” it. But, you can always talk about it once you’ve come out the other side and share the lessons learned. Not only does that make you sound a lot less whiny, you’re more credible too.

  • Thanks for sharing Mark! I think it comes down to having a personality online versus being 100% authentic. Personality is good and so is sharing opinions even when not everyone will agree with you. On the other hand, there is definitely a line that you do not want to cross where you begin to lose credibility and respect.

    I love the advice about being someone YOU would want to hire.

    Feel better!

  • I recently read the book “The Circle” and whether you think it well written or not, find the story compelling or not it makes you think about authenticity and transparency and taken to the ridiculous nth degree. And it makes you wonder if we are headed in this direction? When I read a post like this, and thanks Mark, I get hopeful that maybe it will never get quite to the extremes of in “The Circle” (disclosure I am not promoting this book in any way ~ just mentioned it as a curiosity 🙂 relevant to this post)

  • Patricia Haag

    I wonder if “bitch mittens” will go viral, also.

    In all seriousness, I hope you are feeling better soon. I’m very familiar with being sick and in pain and having to put a good face on it. Best wishes, Mark and be good to yourself.

  • Hitting 70 up here too. HALLELUJAH!

  • Thanks Carla!

  • It definitely has affected me too Brad!

  • I will send you meatloaf:) Hope you feel better, and kudos to you for dancing the “delicate dance” with fleet feet. And when those feet are feeling a tad tired, you have the courage, honesty and humility to admit it publicly. You’re human-ness and humane-ness are qualities that keep us coming back.

    Now…hot toddy…meatloaf…rest…Cheers! Kaarina

  • Sorry Mark…I think you should move.

    I do agree that although it’s extremely difficult, we all need to be mindful of the inner bitch. It’s so tempting to lash out, but nobody wants to work with someone who throws tantrums.

    To me this isn’t really an issue of authenticity, tho. You’re not pretending to be someone else by maintaining a pleasant demeanor. You’re just being professional.

    Now if I’d follow yours and my own advice!

  • Thank you sir.

  • Agree 100% Thanks for sharing your wisdom Laura!

  • Thanks!

  • I have heard a lot of good things about that book actually. Great to hear from you Caroline!

  • Thanks Patricia!

  • Oh stop taunting me Kaarina. You have been promising me that meatloaf for two years now! : )

  • You and me both! : ) Thanks for taking the time to comment Katherine.

  • MrTonyDowling

    Another brilliant post, thanks again for the powerful insights. I wrote a post the other day (one of the very few I get to write these days!) about the opposite side of this spectrum, for those of us not ‘professional denizens’ of the web.
    We also must be aware of the permanence of the web especially in the sense of whats been called our digital footprint.
    Falling out with people online can be quickly picked up by a prospective employer for instance, and at the very least colour their view of us. I always check prospective hires with a quick ‘Google’ these days…
    There is also the extremely disturbing phenomenon of cyber bullying. One of the biggest issues facing us as an online society today, IMHO
    Imagine dealing with the besmirchment of your character, in the way you talk about above Mark, but when thats wrought and published by someone else in a sinister manner to cause distress or intimidation or some other plot to undo your good name?
    These are huge issues of citizens of the web, and especially for our kids to deal with as the web becomes more and more ubiquitous (if thats grammatically possible!)
    I’d love to read your thoughts on this flip side of your bitch mittens coin?
    Thanks as always, for making me think 🙂

  • Just you wait: one day it will happen in person!

  • A huge issue. Probably worthy of an entire post. You should share the link to the post you wrote!

  • Joining the ‘get well soon’ chorus, hope you recover and enjoy a lovely spring. And now that that’s out of the way.. as I always have, I’ll listen to my better angels and take the high road. I’ll get some mittens, but ain’t letting go of my boxing gloves.

    I hear what you’re writing, I do. And it scares the crap out of me. Yes we need to put our best feet forward, preferably not in our mouths. Yes we need to keep it real while being ourselves while out in the social webosphere trolling for work. Per @lauraclick:disqus I’ve always said: WYSIWY, this is the real me but certainly not the whole me. I filter, I edit, most of the time I think before I post – but I am so over this ‘one tweet runs a career, a life’ garbage.

    You correct, you edit, you apologize and move on. If someone else can’t let it go, it’s on them. Offline we act worse, we say worse we make terrible jokes and everyone laughs and no one gets canned (unless someone else tags that garbage online). I think it’s ok to have a bad day; I think if someone keeps at you, it’s ok to respectfully push back a little.

    Humans are flawed, self-centered, flatulent, egotistical, whiny, lazy, idiotic creatures. I know, I’m one of them. This comment will never be ‘right’ and I’ve got to get over that. We’re not perfect, will never be. We’ll always make mistakes and will never all agree. IMO that’s a good thing – diversity and differences keep things interesting. If a future client or prospective employer chooses to judge me based on one questionable Like or a hot-tempered tweet – never mind the context or situation or everything else about me, everything else I’ve ever shared or written – it’s their loss. FWIW.

  • MrTonyDowling

    Thanks Mark, appreciate the invite

  • Good for you! I always fear the wrath of a pissy comment so try to keep them neutral and if irritated I sneak in some sarcasm or don’t reply at all.

    Someone used my photo and I kindly asked that she give me credit or remove it and she did not, so I just walked away. It was not being used for commercial purposes and most of my Instagram pals are photographers and are happy to see their images all over the web. I am sure the woman who used my image can happily post my comment requesting credit, so I always right comments/emails/dm’s or try to as if everyone is watching. Scary!

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for being the “professional you” that you are with a great side of personality.

  • Jon P

    Hey, Mark, it takes guts to call yourself out. I hope the recipient of your anger got the message, and perhaps took responsibility for their own half of the exchange. Sometimes it’s easy to forget there’s a live human being on the other end of the wires, who wouldn’t consider saying in person some of the things they dash off online.

    Heal up soon, and thanks for sharing the hard-earned wisdom.

  • Well done sir!

  • As always Davina, you have contributed a comment exceeding the wisdom of the original post. This is a true gift and I thank you so very much! Well done!

  • Thank you for this very wise and generous comment my friend!

  • Thanks for the encouragement Jon. Great to see you commenting here!

  • Karin Sebelin ???

    Wonderful and authentic article, Mark ..

    I am so sorry for your personal situation …
    I wish you best recovery.

    You write:
    “There is probably a camp who will say, “But it’s OK to have a bad day, Mark.”
    No, it’s not. Not on the web.

    Why do you have a bad conscience for being YOU and showing emotions? Being human means having emotions .. sometimes we should give our emotions room.

    Authenticity means standing to the own weaknesses and never regretting our actions. Authentic acting means don’t having to behave FOR others!
    Why should we behave us FOR others?

    People who really like us, take us the way we are – WITH our emotions and weaknesses. They UNDERSTAND.

    Do we seek attention or true followers and fans?
    Do we impress with patience and false consideration (what could others think about me?)?
    Or do we show us naturally, with weaknesses and emotions that people are able to really feel us?

    I would prefer the latter one … sorry!

    I wish you all the best .. I really love your work!

    Best regards

  • Karin Sebelin ???

    Does professionalism mean we should behave … always?
    Does professionalism mean never give room to emotions?
    That is certainly false.

    “maintaining a pleasant demeanor” …. the word “maintaining” puts us in a kind of straightjacket and we have no room to escape !

    Our personality suffers.
    The end is:
    We react spontaneous and cannot control our emotions!

    Better giving room to our emotions and standing to our personality.
    People like us without any straightjacket!

  • I’m willing to bet you would not be very fond of me if I wrote the first response that popped in my head when I read this…

  • Karin Sebelin ???

    Let us be honest …
    tell me what you think 🙂

  • I’m sorry you caught a bad virus Mark. That sucks.

    Oh shoot, empathy displayed… better put on my “bitch mittens.”


    We are entitled to be human, online or offline, a device (or monitor) doesn’t change the fact that humans:

    1. Have bad days.
    2. Can seem “off” at times.
    3. Make mistakes, even be a little stupid.
    4. A lot of other stuff that falls under #3.

    The difference that I think causes issue is a LOT more people can see us all being human online, and sometimes it seems we forget that fact, so we do stupid stuff in the “public” that is online media.

    That said…

    Human also means:

    1. We can show compassion, and understanding, and even better… that can spread like wildfire over the World Wide Web.

    2. We can share criticism, and also have the ability to temper that criticism to reflect the feelings the person on the other side of the monitor has.

    3. We can just, above all, truly acknowledge there are humans online (for the most part, dang bots).

    4. And a whole TON of things that fall under #3.

    But human, and discourse online is NOT an excuse for:

    1. Vulgar, or mean spirited attacks on people (or offline for that matter).

    2. Failing to think a little before posting hurtful or hateful comments online (or offline for that matter).

    3. Well… you get the point (or offline for that matter). 🙂

    Yes, you CAN “have a bad day” online. Just remember, when you do, there are some people who also feel you cannot, so put on your bitch mittens. LOL 🙂

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