Monday, April 18, 2011

Still Too XYZ After All These Years

This post is angry. With reason. Yet, if you are one of those who feel anger is not an acceptable emotion, do me a favor and simply opt not to read this. For today I am angry. Tomorrow I won't be. Today I am weary. I one day will not be. My life is complicated, and if yours is not, or if you feel mine need not be, read no further. And certainly click away now if you judge an entire person by the days, weeks, or sometimes months of unhappiness with which they must sometimes deal as they try to find meaning in anything.

Too XYZ continues to be a very apt name for this blog, as the concept continues to very much apply to me in just about everything I do. There are very specific elements to my psyche that prevent me from doing specific things. Like the color blind attempting to interior decorate, or the tone deaf opting to offer singing lessons, there are things which no matter how valuable, I cannot do.

And I cannot do them because I am either missing something, or something is damaged, or atrophied within my being. Now former friends and supporters of my work have often climbed upon the highest of horses and declared from their lofty position that unless I suffer from a disease that is documented somewhere in the annals of either psychology or medicine, I have no right to claim occasional crippling difficulties with my life. That in the absence of such a diagnosis, any problems, difficulties, or obstacles I have faced as I try ferociously to succeed in a contrary world are 100% my own making. And hence unless I can prove otherwise, I can and must fix everything all by myself.

It is as though they were the principal in the school of life demanding from me a note from my doctor proving to them that I cannot come into school that day (a rather condescending requirement if you ask me).

Yet in some ways, Too XYZ  has been my attempt at such a letter. Addressed not to the individual, but to the world, and ideally, those who share my view of same. Those with the same issues, whether or not there is a Latin term out there to describe them.

This blog is a place for me to be frank about my obstacles, internal and external.  A place to express perceptions, plans, strategies and simple observations. A place to seek advice, and gain perspective.

Yet, as I have oft written about in previous posts, I usually just get the same perspective over and over again. And that perspective can be summed up in one tidy sentence.

Change what you are and what you do, because it currently isn't good enough.

The type of blog this is. My content. The way I market. The questions I ask. The help I seek, and the people from which I seek it. The problems I face and the solutions I offer. Even down to the font of my business cards, the nature of my profile picture, and the articles on which I choose to comment. No matter what I share with people, or no matter what of other people's advice I observe passively (by going to their blog, or reading their articles), it can just about all be summed up by that italicized sentence I posted above.

I guess if I had a response it would be "Easy for you to say."

Because to tell you the truth, whether it be the big gurus like Godin, or the CopyBlogger guy, or some of the people I have encountered personally in my social media travels over the last two years, I have noticed a pattern; basically none of them had to start what they are doing from Absolute Zero. I don't mean the lowest temperature in the universe, but having zero resources, zero friends, zero experience and zero money when they set off. That is the place I am coming from, and still struggling to get out of. I have not yet succeeded. That isn't to say I won't. Just that I haven't, and that I still don't know how. 

Oh I know. Each of the people I am thinking of, whether familiar or famous, (and I am sick to realize that some of the people with which I am familiar are becoming famous by being great at being fake) will quickly point out just how hard it was when they started out. They had to have a big scary cry over quitting their 80K a year job when they started freelancing. "Could this work? What was I doing? Am I crazy?" But their 100K a year spouse reminded them to believe in themselves, and they pressed on. And they will tell you the horror stories of just how dumb they were at first. How they didn't know code, but learned it quickly because they had to. Or hated the idea of marketing but learned to love it. How they were introverted once, but became extroverted, and now can work the room with the best of them and make their fucking millions.

I have called it before, and I will again. Bullshit.

In each of the cases I am thinking of, the "rock star" in question, (whose ass everyone on the internet is happy to kiss in hopes of the magic rubbing off on their lips) had some kind of lucky break, or some kind of helping hand. And I don't mean advice, or a referral.

I am talking about, nobody surviving was based on their need to freelance. They were not in the poor house when they started up their business. They didn't deal with people who viewed them as unpleasant, cold, mean, or not worth the investment at every turn. They didn't have difficulty making people interested in them. Something within them or something about their situation over which they had no control put them ahead.

Now they don't like to think about it that way, because that means god forbid that perhaps they are not ninjas after all. That their own powers might not have brought the world to its knees before them. That they may not be quite as charming or "epic" as they need to believe they are to get through the day.

No, they may not say it, because they may not believe it on the inside, but they had some form of luck or circumstances to help them along. And for good measure they'll throw in an officially diagnosed eating disorder as the grand Deschapelles Coup of their own magnificence.

It is why I have all but stopped reading the blogs I used to read when I first entered the social media landscape on a regular basis. I was at one time subscribed to about 15 blog feeds or so, each of them it seems packed with advice for the freelance writer, the self improvement minded, the spiritually bent and the artistic. I have since canceled all of these feeds. Not just because they became boring (they did), but because I finally realized that despite the language used, such sites really are rather elitist in nature. They are for the most part not worried about helping you, so much as they are interested in making sure people succeed in the same way that they did. (Or at least the version of the way they did that they entertain in their own heads.)

In short, if you don't think you can do it their way, the advice is, "You have to. That's the world, bub."

And when you try to learn from them by asking them how you can be more like what they are, without changing what you are? When you get any response at all, (which I usually do not, regardless of how humble my approach), you get bitchy emails back that mock they very audacity you have shown in even suggesting that you are coming anywhere near their own level of commitment. Arrogant, bile ridden correspondence which made it clear that after reading the first three questions you asked them, they had no desire to even read the rest of your email until you "grow up and learn the ways of the world".

That's networking, to me, folks. Happens all the time. And the previous example is culled from my actual life, not hyperbole. It really happened in much the way I describe. And this wasn't even one of the gurus. Not yet anyway. This ass was a "friend" of mine. But like so many before her in this social media misadventure of mine, she was high on talk and low on action when it came to helping people. Very much willing to bend over backward to take what I had to offer her, but was too busy making her millions and rubbing elbows with the other internet elite to take a moment to offer me something of which I was in desperate need when I came to her.

Typical one-sided "what have you done for me lately" networking hypocrisy. And all because, as far as I can tell, I couldn't do what she had done. Or he. Or they. Or perhaps you? Because to tell you the truth, I shy away from advice these days. Even when I seek it, it is almost out of reflex. Because there is only so much of that sort of "tough love" a person like me can take. And if people only really want to reach out and help those that can in some way help them, that isn't help. That's bartering services.

Whether it be marketing, social media, freelance writing, contracts, fiction, networking, I can't do what everyone says I must. Why? Because I don't have the resources, the knowledge, or the resources to obtain the knowledge. So I seek to do it my own way. That is the message I have gotten from all the big wigs and self help types, and positive thinkers and creative visualizers, and the friendly extroverts. That I just don't have enough of whatever it takes to become whatever it is they say I need to become. And since there is only one narrow way they can think of that can bring about success, (their own), they just don't bother to reply to my questions in a prompt fashion, as they would for people who do it their way. Or they throw up their hands and say, "Don't know what to tell you. You are on your own." You're damn right I am.

I am not inspired by the success of other people, and I am baffled by those who are. This sharing in the joy song and dance is a front. My life is not improved because someone who started blogging a year after I started is already making 5,000 dollars a month blogging, when I make zero. I am not happy when "friends" become famous, because I know what it is they had to do in order to become so. Deep inside, I can't replicate it. Not because I am afraid. But because I simply am not built that way. I was, am, and shall remain, Too XYZ forthat narrow definition of "going after your dream."

I don't know how to do what all of you do. And I was fine with not knowing. And fine with learning what I could learn, and adapting to the rest. But that gets very lonely, and who wants to do everything alone? And if people can't advise those that are Too XYZ, must they spend their energy criticizing us too? Don't take out your obvious frustrations on not knowing the answers to any of my unique questions by scolding me for asking them in the first place. Stop assuming that my obstacles and handicaps make me less of a person, less deserving of success, simply because I don't have a note from the doctor.

I am trying to start this from nothing people. And I am probably not the only one. Take a minute out of your hardworking, successful, Seth Godin reading, friend cheering, article tweeting, extroverted networking, walking on sunshine sort of lives and remember that. We, the ones in the storm need help too. And if you can't provide it, at least have the decency to get the hell out of the way while we try to outrun the lightening.


Megan said...

Ty - I can't say that I can relate or that I've been there. I'm starting from nothing but I haven't encountered the nasty whiplash of bad help ... yet, at least. I just wanted to say I appreciate your honesty and the vulnerability and anger. I'm glad you put it all out there - with every post you share. Thanks for being one of the few out there that shoot straight from the hip.

Ty Unglebower said...

Thanks, Megan. I appreciate your view. And I certainly hope you do not run into the same sort of things I am talking about. My hope is that you have more of what it takes right up front to get along.

Not that I do not ever get any useful help. But there is this glass ceiling in a way. Beyond a certain level of needs or advice, the number of people willing to invest in what I need drops off quite a bit. And when I do as I am told I should, as in be persistant, I get backlash for that.

Very hard for a polite introvert to navigate such waters sometimes. But such is life being Too XYZ.