#043 Audience of None, The Best Time, and The Ring
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There seems to be a common trajectory that we go through in our 20s, before figuring out life, where we just show up to stuff because a stranger said “You won’t want to miss it.” Eventually you realize that pretty much all of it sucks and that going to random parties that you weren’t really invited to is not fun.
I was looking back at old iMessages from one of my first couple months in Los Angeles. Two of my friends from college were visiting town and we somehow got on the list for an LCD Soundsystem show at Rhonda.
The doorman sent my two friends home who threw up again while tumbling out of the car, just barely missing his feet. My third friend and I made it into the doors swimming through flashing lights and sweaty shells of humans who were all high out of their minds. I never even ran into the person who got us on the list, and after pretending to be having a good time, I ordered another $30 Lyft after 45 minutes and went home.
Adolescence tells us we’re missing out or that we have to go. With growing confidence and comfortability, you end up choosing to stay at home with a bottle of wine and inviting a friend over for dinner. Oddly enough, I think we have the same type of choice when we’re dealing with how we interact with others online.
A couple weeks ago I was at coffee with a friend who is growing a project called Cowgirl. He shared a little bit about how he’s just having fun thinking of new ideas for his brand and I talked a little bit about navigating through MW.S, PDA and Common Discourse when he asked, “So...how do you even get people to subscribe to an email newsletter when everything feels so socially native? Doesn’t email feel archaic at this point?”
Common Discourse has grown significantly from its start with pretty minimal efforts in asking people to follow along through the leverage of other socials platforms. And not only has it grown, it’s attracted the right kind of people. People who make space to read it or save the links and quotes that I’ve found interesting. Almost every week people respond to the emails which opens up conversation that I never expected to have. There’s a specialness I’ve found through this project that reminds me of a dinner with close friends. Tuesdays just happen to be my turn to talk.
On social feeds we’re at a party with strangers, pressured to stand up on tables and contribute to a large sea of noise with hopes that people see us, or that a love interest will reciprocate energy when we shoot our shot. When you send the flyer out to the first 100 people you can think of, only a fraction of them show up, and even if they do, your interactions are negligible. There’s also less things to share when everyone you know was already there or if the people you’re sharing the experience with have no context.
Through email, we’ve been invited over for dinner by close friends with music in the background, the sharing of recommendations, and stories that bring us close together as people. If you were to invite a few friends over and they say they’re coming, you’d hope they’d show up. And if they do, they’ll probably walk away with more than I did at Rhonda, then go share their experience with others.
The difference is intimacy and ownership.
Humans want to be heard. They want people to lean in when it’s their turn to speak. They also share the things they love with the people they love. When they feel like they own something, they can gift it to people.
At the club we’re fighting for our lives waiting for people to notice us, passing a flyer around that just about anybody can get a hold of. At the dinner table, you’re only there if you’ve been invited, actively listening and speaking when appropriate.
In 2004, Seth Godin wrote a small piece explaining his thoughts between the difference between posting to the web versus sending an email, while the landscape has changed a lot in 18 years, what he’s getting to still rings true:
What’s fascinating is that a Google search at noon today found precisely NONE of them. This wasn’t a web phenomenon. It spread by email.
What’s the difference?
The web is about publishing something, something you can’t own and can’t really pass on. You can pass on the pointer, but not the thing.
The Dean remixes, like many viral things online, was passed from person to person, with no help from Yahoo or Google. When you “own” it (as much as you can own something digital) it makes it more visceral to share it.
A few friends have encouraged me in this project saying that they’re able to read these newsletters in my voice, as if I’m sitting in the room with them. It’s the biggest compliment I could ever receive, and I hope it stays that way.
The older I get, the less interested I am in losing my voice at crowded parties, and more interested in spaces that foster deliberate conversation.
And in the same way online, I’ve become increasingly less interested in doing the “right” stuff on social to break through algorithms.
I’d rather speak when it’s my turn, inside of a space that I’ve been welcomed into.
Ideas from me
I. AUDIENCE OF NONE
It’s important to remember that everybody starts at zero.
In 2016 we decided to make a podcast that had no listeners. In 2018 we created an editorial platform that had no readers. In 2019 we started a creative studio that had no clients.
The through-line in these practices is that we still actively do all of them today, several years later.
If you’ve got something special people will find it. The beauty of zero is that the ceiling is infinite. You only have to master the discipline of showing up.
II. THE BEST TIME
There’s a TED Talk by Derek Sivers on the idea of Social Reality. He says that when we have a goal, we shouldn’t be satisfied until the goal is complete, in theory. But in reality, we often find ourselves excited to talk about our next big idea, or the thing we want to build.
The positive feedback we get on our prospective ideas play a trick on our brain—fulfilling the satisfactory need that we’re looking for. And as a result, it delays our urgency to get into the work.
The best time to share an update on your new idea or project is when it’s done.
III. THE RING
No amount of imagination, intellect or ambition compares than throwing yourself in the ring. It’s the same reason why physically being in Spain can be a more effective way to learn Spanish than being in a classroom.
Some of us will go our entire lives staying put because we’re scared of losing our way and needing to ask a local for directions in a language that is not familiar to us. The rest of us know it’ll be a story worth telling, whether good or bad.
Be willing to get lost.
A quote from somebody else
Silence is the creation of space, a space that memory needs to use . . . an incubator. We’re dealing here with dimensions, stretching inner muscles, pushing aside any interference. We’re dealing with numbers, but not counting. Silence demands the nature of night, even in full day, it demands shadows.
— Etel Adnan, from Shifting the Silence
Links worth sharing
🛍 Comme des Garçons’ digital experience helps you discover a scent that reveals your true artistic self
🎧 Get funky with Groove With Me
🎥 David Foster Wallace discusses the ethos and pitfalls of consumerism.
🧦 I’m blown away by what people are doing in the Web3 space right now. Unisocks are worth over $100,000 a pair right now.
☝️ Perfectly Imperfect and the Growing Currency of the Personal Recommendation, Vanity Fair
🚀 A Missle Silo has been listed on Zillow for $380,000 in Abilene, Kansas
Thanks for another week!
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