Honestly, there’s nothing I hate more than a 21st century snake oil salesman. You know the type. Most of them are at SXSW right now.
Okay, maybe that’s mean. I’m sure there are some perfectly lovely people there, too.
A few years ago, they were all talking about Search Engine Optimization and trying to sell you on Wordpress. Now they’re all talking about blockchains and managing your personal brand, and trying to make yourself into an Influencer.
God, I hate that word. Influencer. It’s a plague on your culture. It reduces your value to a blue checkmark by your name on a social media platform. Either you’re an Influencer, changing the world, or you’re an Influencee, who’s being sold on their shit, being asked to buy their shit.
You’re either a product, or you’re being asked to buy a product in the form of a person. What a toxic dichotomy. It leaves no room for just being a person, with shit to say and stories to tell.
There’s something about reading articles by these folks that feel like they’re being written through a layer of slime. Anything to obscure their own light. They wrap themselves up so close in their product endorsements and their brand deals that you can’t trust a damn thing they’re saying.
Not that these things are bad — or that making money is bad — but there has to come a point where the manufactured product ends and the person begins.
If you’ve been living under a rock for 50 years, you can sit and have a conversation with Stephen King without realizing that he’s a best-selling author. Some of these Influencers, on the other hand, can’t hold a normal conversation without trying to sell themselves.
You can see it in their web presence. You can see it in their conversations. You can see it in the stuff that they write.
And, maybe they are successful, who knows? Maybe they do have $13,000,000 in web sales and a million followers on social media platforms. But, God, at what cost?
People can see through bullshit. People can see through phony. I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. It might seem more like faith than a statement of hard fact. I mean, the Kardashians are a thing, for some reason.
All I know is that when I think about the people whose success I want to emulate, they sound like human beings. People who are more focused on what they are trying to say than how much money they can milk out of their words.
And it’s not like you have to choose between being human and being popular — Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Anne Lamott are doing just fine being themselves. There’s a value in being a person. And there’s value in seeing other people people, not just as dollars and cents.
I don’t know. Having money is nice, I guess. But my authenticity feels like it’s worth something more. I don’t have to put on airs. I don’t have to put energy into bullshitting you.
I can swear, I can ramble, I can pull out a goddamn ukulele and sing my advice to you.
I’m not an image. I’m not a brand, and neither are you. So don’t worry about developing your brand. Don’t worry about refining your image.
Put your cards down on the table. Do the work of taking down your walls, and let the people see the real you, no matter how fucked up you are. It’s difficult, and sometimes it might seem like your weirdness is scaring people away.
But if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s just the opposite. Looking at somebody and realizing “hey, they’re the same kind of weird as me!” is the most precious thing in the world.
And it’s probably a lot better for your spiritual and mental health than whatever the Kardashians have going on.
So try it.
Hi, my name is X, and this is what I have to say. This is what I like to do. Here’s how I can help you, and here’s how you can help me.
It’ll make our journey together on this rock a lot more bearable.