Can we chat for a few minutes? I've been thinking about how things are going around here and I've come to a few conclusions.
At the end of August, I sent out an issue of my weekly Creative Digest that ended up serving two purposes. You can read the full email here, but let's talk about those purposes.
The first purpose was intentional: I wanted to communicate to my most dedicated readers and listeners that I needed to put things on hold for a bit. My family and I were watching my stepmom's health deteriorate rapidly and I felt the need to press pause on the elements of my work that I knew could survive my leave of absence.
The second purpose was slightly less intentional, but was—dare I say—more important: I was really honest with subscribers. I was emotional while writing, I dropped a curse word (which aligns pretty seamlessly with the real, everyday me), and I didn't censor myself. My stepmom was dying and, to be honest, censoring myself didn't even come to mind. Bottom line? I showed my humanity in that email.
A few things have happened since:
- Immediately after hitting send, more people unsubscribed from my Creative Digest list than ever before.
- Within hours, dozens of subscribers checked in with me by replying via email, texting, calling or reaching out on social media.
- To date, that issue has a higher open rate and click-through rate than any other Creative Digest issue.
Here's the thing: I was initially a little disheartened to see subscribers dropping like flies. It's never fun to have quantitative evidence that shows people opting out of your humanity. However, I got over those vanity metrics pretty quickly because I knew, in my heart, that those who read my words, reached out, and engaged are the people who matter.
You see, I'm not a brand. I'm a human. I'm a person who has feelings. Those feelings are likely to surface on occasion.
Sadly, there seems to be an enhanced (and sometimes aggressive) focus on cutting humanity out of business, altogether. So much of what we see in this strange, amazing, creative world of entrepreneurship has to do with building a perfect brand.
"DON'T share your personal story," they shout.
"You've got to have consistency," they demand.
"Here are the seven things that will guarantee your success," they promise.
If you run a business, freelance full time, or have a side gig, it's important to think about how you present yourself, your products and/or your services to the world—no doubt about it. I am here to tell you, however, that being a human and running a business aren't mutually exclusive.
Take me, for example. I'm in the business of sharing stories. Some of the stories are my own and some are the stories of others. Sometimes I share via my podcast, sometimes I share on behalf of clients, and sometimes I share through various print and online publications. Depending on the medium through which I share a story, the presence of my voice tends to vary.
However, if you've opted into a medium I own and produce—like the Creative Digest, the podcast, or this space—you will likely notice that my voice has a strong presence. You have a front row seat to my humanity, my thought processes, my emotional state, my vulnerability, and my flaws. Take it or leave it.
I am not running this side of my work—my business—like a brand. I'm running it like a human. In a world full of deeply edited, perfectly staged brands, I hope many of you will find that refreshing.
Those only interested in a one-dimensional experience, free from any and all human traits, can opt out at any time. It's completely okay—encouraged, even. I realize that my brand (ahem) of humanity isn't for everyone. My life is real, my work is real, and sometimes the two collide in sad, wonderful, frightening, and exciting ways.
My hope is to recapture and revive the (seemingly) lost art of running a business like a human being and, thanks to the kind souls who make up the last two bullet points in my list above, I know many of you are with me.
I'm so incredibly honored to have you along for the ride.