This is a doubt we all suffer on a regular basis. Social media is supposed to be freeing and profitable, so we do our best to split the difference. This means we’re forever studying our own public behavior to ensure that we’re being “professional enough” and “personal enough” at the same time.
But what if the real dichotomy isn’t “personal vs. professional”?
What if it’s “personal vs. practical”?
The Truth Is Only Half of the Story
You don’t get far in life without solving problems — first your own, then someone else’s.
The more problems you can solve, the more relevant you are, and therefore the more popular you become.
But not all problems are created equal. Some are a problem of function, and some are a problem of perception.
When I recently tweeted my take on the vicious cycle of how Baltimore’s crime rate drives affluent workers (and their tax revenue) to the suburbs, resulting in budget shortfalls that force the city to cut police jobs, Dave Troy insisted that my view was inaccurate.
But whether or not my view is flawed, that’s only half the story.
The full story is Baltimore’s economic issues + people’s perception of Baltimore’s economic issues.
You can fix one and still have a problem with the other. But you can’t fix both simultaneously.
So which would you choose to fix?
That depends on your personality.
Plumbers vs. Jugglers
Some people are plumbers. They fix tangible problems.
Some people are jugglers. They fix aesthetic problems.
You wouldn’t hire a plumber to entertain you, and you wouldn’t hire a juggler to fix your pipes. One is good at improving function, and one is good at altering perception.
The problem with social media is that we’re led to believe we can do both.
I’m not so sure that’s a wise plan.
Let’s Be Reductive.
What’s the primary reason someone should pay attention to you?
What’s the secondary reason someone should pay attention to you?
Break your work down to an adjective and a noun, and you’ll get your answers.
Are you a “witty instructor”?
A “perverse artist”?
An “opinionated guru”?
The noun is what you do; the adjective is who you are. Combined, they’re what you bring to the table. Make sure they can coexist. (Does anybody buy from an “opinionated salesman,” or hire a “slacker photographer”?)
You can be great at what you do, or you can be great at who you are. Figure out which half of the equation you choose to define yourself by, and proceed accordingly.
You Can’t Be All Things to All People
If Baltimore has economic problems and perceptual problems, they need a plumber and a juggler.
Maybe Dave Troy is a plumber, and he’s focused on fixing Baltimore’s tangible problems.
Maybe someone else is the juggler who can teach people to see Baltimore differently.
But expecting one person to do both is asking too much.
What do you offer that someone needs?
Why should people care about you?
Because that’s what you should do.
And nobody needs a juggling plumber.
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