So something has happened. I was approached by an indie publisher about writing a book on nation-building, and I'm going to do it. I am saying yes. That's not even the most profound thing to come from that experience. The profound thing was that I saw myself and my work through different eyes...through those of someone who saw me on the crest of my greatest work. Suddenly, I knew what I needed to do. All it took was one step; I was thisclose, and I didn't realize it.
Since that moment, clarity has come from every side, and I've taken advantage of it. (That's one thing I've learned...when clarity comes, you respond immediately. Don't wait.) I knew the next steps for A Small Nation, so I built them. The brand evolution became clear, so I implemented that (here's the new website: http://asmallnation.com). My business structures became clear; the way I continue to build nations became clear. The cohesiveness of all my writing and communication became clear. It was a miracle. And all because of two things I discovered to be true.
Respecting your nation's identity
The first discovery (thank you Ben Arment), is that when you have a deep respect for your nation's identity, that respect prevents your nation from fluctuating with your highs and lows...your moments of great strength and pure weakness. That's easier to do when the nation's identity is something you see as separate from yourself -- something you hold in your hands, but that is not a part of you.
When Ben said this to me, I knew it for the mirror it was. I believe you can have a powerful nation built on a personal brand if you have an unrelenting capacity to respect it and its needs (i.e. you and your needs). That's something us arteests tend to struggle with. I also don't believe that is a call for every tortured soul to stop using their own name as the identity of their nation. But it is something to think about. What do you need to be able to treat your nation's identity with respect?
Showing up in service and solidarity
The second is that sharing the work I've put so much thought, care, and hope into is truly a service and an act of solidarity...that withholding it in a defensive posture against guru-ism is the opposite. I know people talk about how "your work is a service to the world" and all of that, but sometimes I think we're just trying to convince ourselves. Deep inside, most of us feel like hacks at least half the time.
To counter that feeling, I used to subconsciously believe that subtracting anything false or agenda-driven in my communication meant sharing more cat-related wit and instagrammed breakfasts and less about the work of my life. Though I'm a big fan of both cat humor and breakfast, I know suddenly that this isn't true. No matter what we're sharing, there is some sort of agenda...something you're trying to accomplish by communicating. The reason a lot of business communication (even "authentic" business communication) rings false is because agenda runs under the surface, and people are pretty good at detecting someone's agenda without even knowing they're doing it.
That's why the answer is not "be compelling". Who knows what's compelling anymore, when the shock of the social web has worn off? Just tell your truth in a way that elevates the skills, behavior, and experience of the people around you. (And listen to Kathy Sierra talk about the business implications of doing this...her talk is brilliant, and her work has raised mine to a higher level). Be aware of your agenda if it's anything other than service, knowing that sometimes making me belly-laugh on a horrible Wednesday is the best service of all. Service is a many-feathered thing, and is not automatically serious and deep.
That's it, I think. I appreciate your support more than I know how to say; it occurs to me that the most accurate description of what you've been is the wind beneath my wings, and that gives me the greatest, biggest belly laugh on this terrific Wednesday.
In service and solidarity, Sarah J. Bray
Updates and new arrivals: I put together a free foundational mini-course on nation-building here (no login needed). I'm hosting Nation-Building Tuesdays every...Tuesday. I've already had someone I don't know call me an idiot on Facebook in response to the first directive, so I take that as a good sign. If you didn't get it in your email, sign up here. The next Tour de Bliss excursion is getting closer; if you've been waiting, your patience will soon be rewarded.