I find myself struggling to churn out blog posts at the clip I used to. Ideas don’t appear in my brain the way they used to like a suddenly re-spawned Halo character. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on why this is until I sat here once again on a Monday night groping for an idea – any idea – to keep up with my self-imposed schedule of posting at least twice a week, which is enough to keep you sharp, but not so much to turn your hobby into a grind.
And I realized I’m having a hard time taking what’s inside me and getting it out because at a fundamental level, I’m less interested in what’s inside me than I am what’s inside someone else. Put another way, I want to do less talking and more listening.
I suppose the most obvious reason for this is because my latest creative endeavor is the Jon of All Trades Podcast. Whatever’s newest is always going to strike your fancy and redirect your energies in whatever direction they’re needed because frequently novelty dictates action. I try to make compelling shows, and when you approach interviews the way I do (a subject for another time), the most important thing you can do is listen.
I want my show to be about my guests, not me. I’m merely there as a conduit to facilitate my guest’s story, and a guide to serve up what I hope are interesting prompts for interesting people to react to. Sometimes I just provide the medium and get the fuck out of the way. Every guest is different, and I’ll never learn anything from them if I don’t listen and adjust accordingly to each one.
Blog writing requires the opposite muscles. This is my page to tell my story uninhibited. I have no editor, no filter, and no limitations on what I can and cannot say. When I wrote Cru Jones Society, http://crujonessociety.com I literally could not wait to write each new post. Articles, posts, and scorching hot takes about the world around us cascaded out of me, and as soon as I finished one, I’d eagerly start up a new one. My average word count for each article was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000, which now strikes me as insane.
Writing is an ego stroke. And the mere act of writing down your thoughts and posting them on the internet implies a confidence (narcissism?) that you find yourself interesting enough that others will too. While that’s not the only reason to write, it’s certainly a contributing and motivating factor.
But after wringing myself dry talking about weight loss, depression, and infertility, I have less that aches to get out of me than I used to. Writing is cathartic, but that’s the weird hangover of catharsis – now that I’ve exorcised much of these feelings, where do I go from here?
And that’s part of the reason why I’ve taken such a liking to helping others tell their own stories.
It’s no great secret that I’m not terribly satisfied with my job right now. But the one thing that really keeps me going are the internal trainings I lead. I’ve now led more than 20 trainings over the last 12 months, and they’re a combination of basic literacy about our business combined with fundamental communications training and civics. I’ve now personally trained nearly 300 people in this company.
I have gotten to interact with all of these people who all come at the material from a slightly (or vastly) different angle. It’s not my goal to re-program them or squeeze them into some company-approved cookie cutter mold; I seek to help each person be the best version of themselves and feel emboldened to talk about what they do, who their company is, and what this business is all about confidently and assertively. In order to do that, I have to listen to each of them and adjust appropriately.
I hung out with my friend Conor this weekend, who I haven’t sat down and talked with in a great many years. It was as if we’d seen each other last week. We weren’t even talking about this issue when he said to me, “You have an arrogance that is both endearing and equally frustrating.” That description of me is at once spot-on, and sort of tough to hear. I adored it so much, I tweeted it.
He’s not wrong in the sense that while we were able to pick up where we left off all those years ago and that’s pretty much exactly who I was, I think I’ve changed in the intervening stretch.
And part of that is why I’ve been having a hard time generating blog content lately. Whereas before I couldn’t wait to bestow upon the world my latest brilliant thoughts about whatever, I’m now more interested in everyone else.
And it’s for no other reason than if you sit down, shut the hell up for a minute, and just listen… you’ll be amazed at what you hear. I listen to my friends. I listen to my guests. I listen to my colleagues at work.
And most of all, I can’t wait to hear it from my daughter. I’ll be listening. And I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.