Looking backwards and forwards all at once

It’s here! Reverb10...a good time for me to break my blog silence and say...hello! And how are you? And has anything exciting happened while I had my head buried in my work? How’s your family? Oh, how rude of me! You and Reverb10 have not yet been properly introduced. Reverb10, this is my Brilliant Friend. They need no other introduction. Brilliant Friend, this is Reverb10, a series of reflective writing prompts that will be carried on through the month of December and properly coddled. Read more and get involved here.

This year, I’m participating by writing and reflecting every day. Not necessarily publishing every day – the outcome of that would probably be a whole lot of drivel and me running away and hiding at the end of the month. Which would be bad. But actually writing. I’m experimenting with what study hacker Cal Newport calls the GCTD method of blocking out creative time and focusing on the process rather than the product. I love experimenting – I’ll let you know how it goes. Now, on with today’s prompt!

December 1 One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

2010: Growth

This was an easy one. Because:

  1. I’m growing. Literally. My stomach is turning into a giant pumpkin, and I’m feeling the little baby kicks turn into giant karate chops. Did I mention that it’s a girl? Her name is Charlotte Rose. We will call her Rosie until she is old enough to demand that we stop.
  2. Not only am I a mama again, I’m also a boss for the first time. This is thrilling, and also scary. It’s harder than I thought it would be. But thankfully, I have the best employees that God ever made.
  3. I grew into a balanced stage of life, seemingly overnight. I know people say “there’s no such thing as balance,” but there is such a thing as driving yourself through a wall for things that won’t matter when you’re dead. Guilty. I used to get so irritated at people who proclaimed working for yourself was like not working. They never tell you that to get to that stage requires MORE than working. It involves the highest levels of motivation and determination that human nature can possibly muster. Honesty, people. Embrace it.

2011: Delight

Yesterday, I got to watch Frank Chimero speak for the first time. He has long been one of my designer-heroes, and now that I’ve seen him in the flesh (sort of), I am even more in awe. At the Cusp conference this past year, he spoke about perception. All of us perceive things in various ways, but a designer’s goal is to make people perceive in a certain way. Usually it’s to motivate them to take some kind of action, whether it’s to do something, buy something, talk about something, or stop doing something.

But what if our goal in creation was simply to delight people without any other ulterior motive? Would we accomplish our other goals along the way? Listen to Frank say it much better starting at 10:45. Or give yourself a treat and watch the whole thing – I especially dig the George Eliot quote he has posted on his wall.

This year, my work’s focus has been on sheer perfection. It’s led to so much frustration and hair-tearing-out that I’m simply tired of working that way. I want my clients to know this – I am not perfect. I am too full of ideas to be perfect. (Hat tip to Brene Brown for her amazing post on protesting perfection.)

So for 2011, I am trying an experiment. I am focusing on delight instead of best practices. I’m not saying there are no rules, but we learn the rules so that we can confidently break them. I’m interested in breaking as many as possible next year.

I am a love machine

Really, I am. I thrive on love in all forms. Online love. Offline love. Love for my work, love for other people's work. Love is my favorite. I think we're all little walking love machines. It would be cool if we had glowy hearts on our chests that we could push to disseminate and receive the love we need. When we're feeling low, our glowy heart would be dim. And then everyone would fill us up until we were day-glow bright again.

Gwen Bell posted this video a few weeks ago, and it's one of those that I'm finding myself going back to over and over.

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, pay attention to 9:22 to 14:45. It talks about how technology has moved our society to a place where we're seeking trust, meaning, and quality of life over our previously-held values of privacy, constant availability, and ease of use. Our use of technology has made us feel isolated and alone (our glowy hearts are dim!), and now we're using it to foster meaningful connection.

So what does that mean for us?

I've been a pioneer in content-driven websites. Now that people are starting to get that, I'm paying attention to new practices that are solving some of the challenges we face with the content-driven model. It's not good enough to be a pioneer. You have to know where things are going.

I like to watch people who have been online for a good while to sense the direction of where things are headed. When we're new to working online, we tend to over-indulge in all of the candy. (But the candy! It might disappear! Must. eat.) But the more seasoned folks among us have over-indulged, under-indulged, and eventually come to a point of investing their time in the things that have longevity. Things I'm noticing now:

  • A general repulsion for the exploitation of relationships. We're funny and real and so transparent. We've gotten rid of the corporate lingo and have become comfortable being ourselves. Which is great. But if that becomes another marketing gimmick, we are sickened beyond belief. Which makes sense, given our society's deepest needs are for trust, security, and meaning. Bad things happen when our deepest needs are exploited.
  • Stepping up what we publish. Sick of excessive information and searching for real meaning, we are starting to take our content more seriously. Makes complete sense, and I'm glad it's happening. Sometimes first drafts are okay to publish, but what would happen if we treated our work as art? What would happen if we polished and shimmied and shined everything we put out there, even to the detriment of frequency?
  • Respecting when people disconnect. Our technology-free days are becoming intentional. We do not lose credibility when we disappear to work on our art. Rest is beginning to be respected.
  • Instantly recognizing marketing cliches. Remember your favorite English teacher's definition of cliche? Anything you've heard once. And it's becoming even truer in online marketing. It is now so important to put on our horse-blinders and create strategy that is just ours.
  • Having launch fatigue. Marissa Bracke wrote an extremely timely article on this last week. When our relationships with people online become 85% about what we're launching or what other people are launching, we're bound to get tired of all of the launching. It's starting to happen, folks. Which is another reason to put on those blinders and do something no one else is doing. Including launching like no one else is launching.
  • Appreciating the chopping block. We are tired of sifting through information. We want carefully edited direction. Instead of googling, we ask people on Twitter for their recommendations. When we visit a website, we don't want everything in the sidebars -- just a selection of what's most important and useful. Instead of an exhaustive list of books on marketing, we would rather have Ted's top five. It's not enough to be simple. We want hand-picked. If you build a reputation of hand-picking the best stuff and chopping off the rest, people will come to you as a trusted resource.
  • Going back to professionalism (a little). When we tossed out corporate crap, we tossed out a lot of...crap. But there was also a lot of good stuff that went out with the trash. Like quality. Just because it's personal, doesn't mean that we can shill crap (read Amy Hoy's excellent article on this...and don't worry. She informs me that it's Nutella.). We need quality photography. Quality writing. Quality packaging. Quality products. If we're going to continue to flourish in the online space, we can't become known for over-priced, over-hyped crap.

So that's what I've been thinking about while I've been being quiet. Love, crap, and sandwiches. Also, that LiteSites are back from vacay. And I've hired two people who I love and who you will meet very soon. And also that I need to hire a third, but I'm not a fan of being too big for my britches.

Love. To you.