I have to post today, I thought to myself, about my project Out of the Clouds.
Why do I? Asked a second voice internally? Is everyone waiting expectantly to see what your next post is?
Ahem, the answer would be a resounding no.
So you see, do you really need to post now?
Why yes! Because the algorithm likes it when you post something every day. And then you get more visibility, and then, you get more interactions, and then maybe more followers.
Because growth is good!
Because it’s what we do here. Either you go private and you don’t care if anyone sees you, or you are public and you do what is the norm. Just do it, follow the rules of the game.
I don’t want to, you’re boring me, this whole thing is boring, I’m going to bed and dream myself to sleep with images of faraway exotic holidays.
That was the internal monologue in my mind the other night, at 11.30pm, while tucked in my fluffy bed. I was so ready for a good night’s sleep after a really satisfying yet long day at my desk. And then that concern popped up, an unwanted guest and a distraction in what was feeling like a restful moment, a respite out of our busy online lives.
So what was the real reason this question came to disturb me while I was winding down? I hadn’t posted that day.
DOING FOR THE SAKE OF DOING
It’s not that I was missing ideas, that I didn’t have a plan outlined already. No, I’ve got those; I simply wasn’t ready. My thinking was shallow, I had a thread but I needed to let things sit for a while.
Are you laughing at me? You can, all that about a short caption accompanying a picture… Yet I’d rather feel like I know what I am saying. I didn’t want to ‘do it for the sake of doing it’.
I sometimes feel like a broken record when I advise people around me to connect back to their intention. The deep intention. Not the surface stuff. To do that is really tough when we find ourselves really annoyed, stressed, anxious or in the grips of whatever stressors have come down on us. That’s when we need to pause. Fuelling the internal fire of strong negative emotions doesn't serve our best selves.
Let me be clear: as with many other practices, pausing is certainly not the most natural thing for us to do. Think about it: stress (even spurted by thoughts on social media messaging) acts on our physiology the same way a gazelle feels when it’s chased by a lion. Like the gazelle in the pampa, our minds don’t think to hit the pause button, rather they seek frantically for a solution, running all over until exhaustion.
While the intensity levels vary, the low-volume version of this is often referred to as the ruminating mind. When we go over things over and over, and over again.
Why pause? To let ourselves examine the situation as it is. When calm, it’s easier to understand the options in front of us, not so much when our minds are running ragged. Like everything else, pausing can become second nature over time.
So I did pause. I admitted to myself that I didn’t feel like doing this thing, that I would wait until such time that my thoughts, or rather words, were ready to be formed on the page. Of course, it does help that I have a practice of mindfulness. Though outside of the formal practice of meditation, I am like everyone else most days - reactive rather than responsive. A work in progress.
Do you know who paused and came back with a bang? Daniel Lee of Bottega Veneta. Impressively so. I mentioned the other day that it is one of the only luxury brands with over a billion dollars in revenue to walk away from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, whilst at the top of its game. The collections are phenomenal, 100% worth the hype, at least in my biased view.
So Daniel Lee walked away in January and last week, instead of re-entering the social game, he came out with a 133-page digital magazine, a quarterly named ‘Issued by Bottega’ which I delightfully discovered in my inbox.
As August Man puts it: ‘The move goes beyond a gimmick. “This wasn’t about a room full of executives talking about marketing strategy. Social media represents the homogenisation of culture,” said Lee. “Everyone sees the same stream of content. A huge amount of thought goes into what I do, and social media oversimplifies it.”
And as reported by the Guardian: ‘The contrast with Instagram, is intentional. “There is a mood of playground bullying on social media which I don’t really like,” says Lee. “I wanted to do something joyful instead. We are not just a brand, we are a team of people who work together, and I don’t want to collude in an atmosphere that feels negative.”
These words felt soothing, music to my ears: owning the brand narrative, and choosing not to go for shallow and oversimplified. Everyone is talking about it. At least, everyone in my industry circles. I think I know why: it’s really good and it is noteworthy or as Seth Godin would say, remarkable. I think Daniel Lee and his team (and the large group of collaborators he pulled in) hit the mark.
Pausing, reconnecting to intention, shows there is an opportunity when we are purposeful, creating work with more potential of resonance.
REBEL WITH A CAUSE
Really I think that’s the only way I can position it. I feel like rebelling against the rules which is probably why I enjoyed Lee’s work so much. As I have found out, social constraints and the time crunch of the everyday posting doesn’t suit me. It creates a pressure that I find uncomfortable. I can feel that I am not my best self under these conditions.
Why is that? Well, a rushed job, one that feels like it’s not ready is unlikely to be purposeful - or rather match my higher purpose. When rushing I tend to overlook more creative and interesting options, maybe miss important details. When I rush, I am not mindful of the work I put out. I’ve seen it before. I’ve made the mistake once or twice, feeling like I needed to publish in time, tired of the editing process, frustrated by the time it was taking me.
And guess what? Having not put in the extra time, and not done the extra 10 or 30 min or however much, the result was not at the levels of my normal expectations. Nothing dramatic, but to me, certainly noticeable. And on a couple of occasions I can think of, the other party involved was aware of too.
I should know better. I am not just a consultant, I am also (as you now know) a storyteller and a meditation teacher. There is now plenty of evidence-based research that proves that stressful conditions narrow our vision, narrow our attention, and limit the possibilities we see in a given moment. That includes our creative brain.
This has really stuck in my mind. Of course, my field of studies outside my work has cultivated my propensity for self-exploration. I’ve learned to pay attention to the cues: the narrowing of my own attention often becomes a tightening, cramping in the belly area, sometimes my shoulders will hunch as well, a movement barely perceptible from the outside. I’m tightening up. I am gripping at whatever is going on.
In French, the word that comes to me is ‘repliement’, or folding in on oneself. It makes me think of certain creatures rolling into themselves to protect their soft centre, coiling up to save themselves from the perceived external threat. That’s how I behave when I become frustrated or anxious. And as it stands, the simple pressure of time can do that.
Isn’t it crazy? Well, it’s really not because I know that even the most zen-like out there are similar to me, though all of our bodies have their own cues, their own particular ways of signalling stress. It’s worth paying attention to it.
So what to do? How to get the job done?
Last week I invited us to explore the why. Why the message, why the sale, why the podcast or the social post. Is it really worth it - is it generous? And does it match our best intention? Also, does it go beyond ‘I want to make some money’? As established before, this isn’t a completely dull idea, but it falls short of being compelling, so it rarely drives results home for a large clientele.
So now, let’s tackle the how:
THE CASE FOR THE SLOW
There is way more creativity in business than most people realise. And our always-on, low-level constant stress, having narrowed the aperture of our minds, can result in shutting others down.
How collaborative and open we are to other people’s ideas, how open we are, is greatly brought about by how we feel about ourselves. Shallow, clamped, tight around our own views, pressured to perform or conform, the likelihood that we will be empathetic and listen to external perspectives that don’t match our own is very slim.
We cannot completely wave off external pressure, neither do I suggest eliminating social media because I believe there is much good that also comes out of these platforms. So what to do?
Maybe take a leaf from Cal Newport’s new book ‘Digital Minimalism’ and consider in which ways you can create a container for yourself, for your life, for your company, that offers more space for pausing, creative thinking and collaboration.
LET’S BE REMARKABLE
“[...] Working creatively can be so unpredictable that some people elect not to plan at all. But whether you’re improvising or working to an outline, there’s one thing you always need to establish before you start work: your purpose. [...] Well, intentions are high-stakes. Setting an intention can set you up for failure: a work that doesn’t fulfill its intention is a flop. But work made without intention can never succeed. To create professionally, your work must be underpinned with intention.”
Creative souls at all levels up and down the ladder, please heed these words. Connect to intention. Then as my friend Sri Ganesh Santhiram said in our podcast interview, ‘Be bold!’ Let’s be leaders, not followers. Let’s not give in to the social pressure of feeding the machines. Let’s forge a new path.
So what happens now with my social posting? I’m not sure, I’ll follow my instinct I think. For now, I’m not quitting IG altogether, but highly inspired by this Ted Talk by Srikumar Rao that I rewatched the other day, I will do my best to remember that I need to find joy in the process. And if I don’t, I’ll find my own way.