Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year's Resolution That Helps You Personally AND Professionally

The following is based on a blog post I wrote a year ago, but it seems worth revisiting on New Year's Day. I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions--after all, why not work to improve yourself every day of the year rather than just on January 1?--but I'd like to propose a resolution that can improve your 2013 both personally and professionally: Write. Religiously. Every week. Start now.

You can launch a blog today. It is easy to do on Wordpress or Blogger. Beware, because the few minutes you take to launch a blog will commit you to dozens or hundreds of hours in 2013 to develop content and engage with others, but that's the whole idea, isn't it? (If, for now, you lack the confidence to share your ideas and observations with the world, start by writing for yourself.)  

For me, writing was not an easy habit at first, but now it has become so essential that when I have trouble finding time to write, I become uneasy. The ideas start piling up. I can actually begin to lose sleep because I lay in bed composing in my mind the blog posts I am not producing for my blog. It is not rare for me to wake up with a developed line of thought, head directly to my PC and furiously type before I lose the idea and perspective. Sometimes those ideas stand up but other times they melt in the morning light.

Do I sound like an addict? Perhaps, but there are worse things than being addicted to a habit that leaves one empowered, educated and improved. I have experienced strong and demonstrable benefits because of my work on Experience: The Blog. Here are the ways you might also benefit by making a commitment to write regularly:
  • Reaffirm and strengthen the ideas you bring into the world: The process of blogging forces me to take an idea that I am confident is sound and discover the holes--and trust me, some of your strongest beliefs can begin to look awfully shaky as you convert a string of ideas into a cohesive and persuasive argument. As I compose a blog post to convince others of my perspective, I must first convince myself. I do this by filling in the blanks, taking time to analyze and study, and finding third-party data and information that substantiate my arguments. Once the blog post is fully baked, it not only becomes a piece of content for my readers but also a viewpoint I can call upon in meetings, when I am presenting or as I develop strategies on the job.
  • Develop a point of view: We recognize that brands are strengthened not when they are all things to all people but when they focus on one meaningful perspective for one meaningful audience. In the same way, writing can help you to focus your thinking in a way that develops your personal brand. When you blog for others, you begin to think about who it is you want to read your content and what you want them to think and do. My blog and my audience force a discipline in the things I read, research and think, and this has paid dividends by sharpening my reputation, skills and point of view.
  • Improve your writing: This benefit is obvious: the more you write, the better you become. I hesitate to say this because you may be thinking, "But Augie, you suffer from run-on sentences, passive voice and just misused the colon in the last sentence." All may be true, but do not let your fear of grammar prevent you from improving your grammar. Today, I can look back at my early blog posts and easily recognize that my writing and proofreading have improved. Any embarrassment I may feel about the lesser quality of my writing four years ago is more than compensated by the realization I would still be stuck at that level had I not started and committed to my blog. If you lack confidence in your composition or proofreading skills, ask a friend or peer to review your blog posts before you publish.
  • Build a network around ideas: The world is full of curators; millions of Twitterers share links to interesting articles and blog posts. Curating is valuable service, to be sure, but without creators, there would be nothing for curators to curate. At this stage in social media development, it is no longer easy to develop a following merely by curating--too many people share too many of the same links--but the world always needs more creators. Creators are the people who stop (or decrease) social media from merely being an echo chamber, and creators also earn the most attention. There is no more powerful way to be recognized and build an engaged network than by giving others content and ideas they may consider and share.
  • Create your own database of news and statistics: Ever have the experience of vaguely recalling an interesting bit of data or news but being unable to locate the content when you need it? Blogging is a great way to create your own personal database of the information you want to find again in the future. When I find interesting data or a pertinent case study, I write about and link to it, and that means I can always find this information by returning to my own blog. Take my last blog post, "Where Social Media Will Grow in 2013 (and Where it Won't)"; that one blog post contains more than 40 links; as a result, I will never have to waste time searching for the American Express study that found people tell 15 friends and family about positive brand experiences but 24 people about negative ones 

So now you know my secret--I write as much for myself as I do for you. This blog has improved my knowledge and skills, gained me new friends and professional contacts and helped me to land jobs. I wish the same benefits for you. 

I hope all of my blog posts change minds, at least a little, but nothing would make me happier than to have someone thank me a year from now for encouraging them to write, share and connect in 2013. You may not get thousands of readers right off the bat, but there are people who are waiting to hear your voice. Do not disappoint them--or you.


Chris Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Bailey said...

Augie, it's your first point that caught my attention: that desire to strengthen my ideas, to give them more defined shape and substance. It takes some courage because we might just find - as you note - that we're not nearly as sure about our thinking.

Thanks so much for the reminder of why I started blogging way back in 2004...and why I'm committed to reinvigorate my writing in 2013.

Anonymous said...

Great advice. As always, analysis is spot on. Good timing for me to be reading this as well. Thanks Augie.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Chris. I used to be embarrassed that the process of writing proved some of my own ideas were weak (or at least not thoroughly considered.) Now, I realize there's nothing to be embarrassed of! Better I find this out myself while slaving over a frustrating blog post than I find out while presenting something to peers! I'm glad you found the blog post encouraging, and I hope others take up the challenge.


Augie Ray said...


Thanks for the comment. Much appreciated, and I hope we connect again the next time your in NYC.