Brandon Sutton is our Fifth Big Dog and he gets us back to the “getting naked on your website” theme I started on Day One. Big Dogs just be who they are. That is all.
Authenticity Unleashes Our True Potential
When Judi asked me if I would contribute to this series, I was honored and excited all at once. I felt strongly that I could provide value to the community by speaking with my true voice and sharing some of my life experiences, some of which are blog related and some not.
Unleashing your true potential can be very personal, and each person has his or her own version of what potential is untapped. What is universal, however, is the concept that unleashing your potential requires you to be your authentic self.
Not formulated or emulated. Just you, blemishes and all.
Not long ago, I was unsure if I could truly be myself and be accepted by others, especially my clients. What I found is that once I got clear on who I am and began to share openly and honestly, the world began to unfold in ways I could never have imagined.
Here’s the thing: only you can determine what your true self is and who you want to be as a person. You get to decide. And this is going to require you to make some choices, some of which will be difficult. Some people jump in headfirst into a new way of living, while others dip their toes in and slowly ease into the way of living and sharing that feels right to them.
You get to decide.
There are no prescriptive paths to follow, so there’s no reason to feel that you have to live up to anyone’s way of doing things. The only prescription is that you must, no matter what, be true to yourself and your convictions. To do any less is setting yourself up for failure.
I was always somewhat of a rebel, and didn’t really fit in to any particular group or clique during my formative years. I thought of myself as a chameleon that could blend in with almost any crowd. This was partially a survival skill I learned at a young age growing up in suburban (borderline rural) Georgia. I learned not to say too much in certain situations so that I wouldn’t be singled out or picked on.
Somewhere along the way, I was no longer willing to play that game. I still have my chameleon skills and can get along with just about anyone if I’m forced into a situation that requires it. But over the course of many years, I found myself caring less and less what people thought about me and more and more about how I felt about myself.
A little over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to follow my heart and abandon the idea of going to work for a big agency and somehow creating this utopian position that would allow me to do the work I was called to do within the confines of a company that had set expectations from its clients. I began to work with who I wanted to work with, and I could see an immediate shift. The work was more rewarding, and clients began to emerge that I would not have known about before.
Still, I wasn’t expressing myself fully. I would test the waters with my writing, touching on ‘woo woo’ type subjects from time to time. Then, something happened. I found my true voice through a series of poignant experiences in the Spring and Summer of 2010.
For me, the BP oil spill was a major catalyst. I was so deeply affected by the spill that I had to do something to make an impact. I organized an all-volunteer documentary expedition and went down to the coast to hear from the people in local communities and learn about what was going on from their perspective. Out of this experience came a film, a photo exhibit, lots of blog entries, and a public exhibition at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. It was through this work that my calling became clear to me.
I realized that I had the ability to lead others and make a positive impact on the world by sharing from the heart.
It didn’t come from following anyone’s advice on how to live, or emulating a specific person’s path. Instead, I followed what my heart was telling me, and I remained open to possibilities that unfolded along the way.
The interesting thing throughout this process is that people I have known for years have responded with the kindest feedback I could ever imagine. I put my thoughts out there for the world on my blog each week. I don’t write for anyone specifically. Instead, I write what I feel. Sometimes it resonates with others and sometimes I’m not so sure.
What I learned is that engagement on my blog is difficult to determine based on direct feedback. I used to think that the number of comments was the measure of success in blogging. I admit, I still long for more engagement in post comments, mainly because I enjoy connecting with other people and hearing their perspective. But over time, I realized that my posts were reaching much further than what I thought, whether comment counts were high or not.
Often times, I’ll be in conversation with a friend or family member who will reference something I’ve written in the past, but they never made a comment on. Lately, I’ve been looking at the number of Facebook shares and Tweets as a much better indicator of how much the message is resonating. I haven’t really found a pattern between shares and comments, and admittedly I’m not one to over-analyze things.
One measure that I pay particular attention to is the bounce rate in Google Analytics. The bounce rate shows you the percentage of visitors that come to your site and close out without navigating further into the site. A few months ago when I first started really paying attention to it, it was around 19%, which I thought was pretty low. As I write this post, the bounce rate is 3.3%. This is incredibly low. This means that only 3.3% of the visitors to my site view one page and then leave. So, people are digging around and learning more.
The reason I bring up the above is not to brag. I bring it up because I believe it illustrates the power of speaking with authenticity and letting your true self shine through. Over the past few months, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and written about exactly what’s in my heart. I’m going for it all the way, so to speak, and clearly it’s resonating.
I long to connect with others and share thoughts and feelings. Although I don’t write for a particular audience, I always invite participation on my blog and in the various channels I use to promote it. I don’t have all the answers, and love learning from others who show up and speak up.
Blogs can be the source of togetherness and promote the sharing of ideas with people around the world. Consistently inviting visitors to participate is a great way of maintaining a healthy blog.
Unleashing your blog’s potential, or even your own inner potential can be greatly enhanced by showing up with your authentic self, speaking with your true voice, and being open to what you hear in return.
Thank you for showing up here and being a part of this community that Judi has brought together. I hope something you read will be helpful.
What do you think? Does this resonate? What are some examples you can share where speaking with authenticity has expanded your own potential?
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Photo: Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico