Almost two weeks ago I did something risky, and I’m still reeling from the impact of that decision. I read a web page and watched a video, both created by someone I’d never met, and then committed to follow their instructions for a week. I can’t say it’s changed my life (2wks/55 years), but it’s definitely gotten 2015 off to an amazing start.
The risky decision was to participate in the #YourTurnChallenge, launched by Winnie Kao, special projects lead for Seth Godin, an influential author and blogger. The challenge is a marketing and social experiment inspired by Seth’s latest book, “What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn).” I’d never read the book, but I’d enjoyed another, “Poke the box”, and I’d followed Godin’s blog for a year or two. I’ve been impressed by his approach to life and his ability to consistently write content that was of value or interest to me. The risk was that I might fail to meet my commitment, but the decision wasn’t as risky as it might seem on the surface, because Seth’s gained a measure of my trust. I’d never heard of Winnie, but if she worked with Seth she must be cut from the same cloth. If they thought it was worth doing, it might be worth my time. And Winnie set the hook by pitching the challenge as part of a confession: she’d promised to blog every day for a month, and failed on the 30th day. I inherently trust someone who is willing to share their failures. We all fail.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I’ve been told several times that I’m good at it. I’m not sure that I’ll ever write a novel anyone will want to read, but I do have an innate urge to explain, and writing is my preferred communication style. But the self discipline that writing requires is a challenge for me, and I wonder sometimes if I want to be a writer more than I want to write.
So I thought, “sure, I’ll write everyday for a week. I’m starting up a second career as a glass artist and jewelry maker, and I would like to build my online profile and my connections within those communities, so I’ll write about that. But I should be working in the studio: the holiday sales thinned out my stock, and Valentines is coming up. I know, I’ll write about what I do in the studio, and I’ll also commit to working in the studio everyday. It will be a double challenge! Yeah, this will be great!”
And it was great, in ways I could not have imagined. I made many glass pieces I am happy with, and I wrote every day for seven days (and beyond, this is my 12th daily post). I set a goal, and I met it.
What blew me away were the people I connected with. I don’t know exactly how many people signed up for the challenge, but by the end of the week there were over 4500 posts to the challenge blog. I started reading some of the other posts on the first day, and I was really impressed with the quality and variety, but also with our similarities. We live in different parts of the world, have different social and professional backgrounds, but we’re all interested in making a difference, in expressing ourselves and sharing that with the world. And having engaged through the challenge, we now had another thing in common: we were struggling to meet the commitment and “ship” something every day. We became a team, with a common goal.
After a day or so there was a facebook group, and we started posting links to our updates. The volume of activity was staggering, and it was hard to focus on our own writing when there were so many good posts to read. We started encouraging and congratulating each other, and getting feedback on our own work, and we began to appreciate individuals within the challenge. We found people whose writing or interests really resonated with us, and pursued closer connections with them. Some liked the facebook group, others preferred twitter, and some were new to all of this and just getting started. Others broadened the group by inviting friends to take the challenge. We started sharing other aspects of our lives, and exploring each others worlds. We were sharing an experience, and that brought us together.
Now the challenge that brought us together is over, other responsibilities are clamoring for our attention, and it’s inevitable that some will slip away. Whether we continue to ship every day or not, whether we continue to keep in touch with each other, we’ve all gone through an intense experience of self discovery, and shared that experience with others who understood us and supported us. It’s been an enriching and rewarding experience.
I was lucky enough to be able to retire last year and focus on activities that interest me. A side affect of that fortunate change is that I’m no longer managing a team and interacting daily with dozens of people, instead I’m home alone, with two dogs and a cat for company. (I never win any arguments around here…) I’m happy with my life, but a significant benefit to me has been the ability to connect with others outside my previous social scope.
I have two blogs, this one for my personal writing, and one at steveghilliard.com for my studio glass work, and I’m going to do my absolute best to post in one or the other every day. I’m doing it for myself, because I have experiences and opinions to share, but I’m also doing it for my teammates, in the off chance that they’re interested in following my journey. I know that I’ll be looking for updates from them, so let’s not disappoint each other. And even if you didn’t take the challenge, I appreciate you reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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