Your peers are not your customers.
I’ve posted this statement on the wall in front of me. On notes beside my computer. On my computer screen wallpaper.
I repeat it to myself all the time. Like a chant. A mantra.
And still I forget.
I’m surrounded by brilliant people
My email and Twitter stream and RSS feed are bursting with expertise on small business management and marketing, social media, blogging, writing, consulting, coaching and personal development.
I follow people who are making things happen. People who have published books, built booming businesses (online and off), speak at conferences…and a few rising stars that are heading in that direction. Quickly.
In my online world, everyone blogs. Everyone is on Facebook and Twitter. Everyone is an expert.
I made up a world where everyone is smarter than me
With each subscribe and follow…I’ve chosen to create a world where everyone is “ahead of me/smarter than me/more experienced than me.”
A world comprised of teachers, mentors, role models.
And because I also choose to follow people who write with personality and from the heart…I feel like I know them. They’re not nameless, faceless experts. They’re friends. Peers. Real people.
It feels like we have a relationship (even though most of them have no idea I exist.)
sometimes they intimidate the hell out of me.
I’m self-reflective. I evaluate by nature. I’m always contrasting where I’m at with where others are at. (Comparing my insides to their outsides.) It’s part of how I’m built.
Most days I’m conscious of what I’m doing, and I think I can rationalize/minimize the impact. Yet, no matter how much I *notice* that this is going on…it happens.
I look at them. I look at me. And I come up short.
I feel like I have nothing to offer. That I’m moving too slowly. That I have no business teaching the things I teach.
I’ve cherry-picked the very best people in the world to follow. The smartest. The funniest. The most successful. (The ones I want to grow up to be like.)
And when I spend too much time in their world…I lose perspective. I start to think that *everybody* is just as accomplished as they are. I discount my own knowledge and experience.
I hold back on my business ideas and plans…and instead focus on running as fast as I can to learn and try to catch up…trapped on the gerbil wheel of “I don’t know enough yet. I’m not good enough yet.”
Welcome to not-so-artificial reality.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been intensely productive.
Not surprisingly, this has coincided with an absence from my digital neighbourhood. I’ve gone quiet on Twitter, on Facebook…and here on the blog.
Instead, I’ve been hanging out in my offline world.
The world I have limited ability to construct. (There’s no button to “unfollow” or “unsubscribe” people who show up at an event or belong to the same group. ;))
And this has given me much needed perspective.
Amazingly enough, most (damned near all) of the people I meet offline do NOT have the same obsession I have with business, marketing and social media.
(“Twitter? What’s that? You’re a logger?”)
Seth Godin who? How do you spell that?
They haven’t heard of the gurus I follow. They haven’t read the same books. They haven’t attended the same workshops and conferences.
Even some people who are *working* in these areas.
I’m often surprised when I hear presentations and I realize that I know more (sometimes a LOT more) than the “expert” on stage.
And as I look around the room, I see note-taking and question-asking and interest. Because the folks in the room know less than the speaker.
Which is exactly as it should be
I have no problem at all advising my clients and my readers that: Yes. You are an expert.
Yet I’ve been resisting that advice myself.
Lately, I’ve been getting clear about my place on the ladder. A few rungs ahead of me are the experts I follow online.
A few rungs behind me are people who don’t have the knowledge and experience that I do.
I’m not helping anyone by waiting until I know everything. (Which, insane as that sounds, is pretty much how I was looking at things.)
Avoiding becoming a “professional student”
I’m a big fan of growing, learning and having role models.
I’m also noticing that it’s dangerous to spend too much time in that world.
It can undermine your confidence.
Or leave you feeling like you’re not ready yet. (Professional student syndrome, anyone?)
Balancing continued growth and development with readiness
Here’s what I’m doing to maintain perspective.
Working on my business projects first. Before reading anything online.
Spending more time in the world of customers and clients. For me, this means offline.
Reminding myself before I enter my online world that I’m about to step into the teacher’s lounge. I’m here to learn, not compare.
Taking a more balanced view of myself. Acknowledging my expertise, my experience and my successes. (Rather than always concentrating on areas where I can grow.)
And I also remind myself of something a (very smart) friend once said to me:
Only the competent doubt their competence.