CONVOSPARK BLOG

Confessions of a Semi-Intelligent Person and the Power of Awareness, Heuristics and Leadership

Monday, October 1st, 2012

 

Have you ever heard that us human beings only use 10% of our brains?  Well that statement is actually  untrue…it’s an urban myth, and the very existence of the myth points to out our collective mental laziness.  Until a few weeks ago I actually believed the statement was true which might tell you something (yes I have a degree in psychology).  Ok, so now that we know that us humans have the capacity to use much more of our brains then most people believe, why don’t we?

Great question, however maybe I should be speaking for myself when pointing to underutilization of the brain since this is a confession.  So…

I confess…I’m not the smartest.

I am consciously aware that I often shy away from entering great depths of critical thinking since it requires an excruciating amount of energy, when in a discussion with a ridiculously smart person, I often find myself a point or two behind, and you don’t even want to hear about my SAT scores (down with standardized tests!!).

Even after acknowledging the limits of my mental abilities, I will tell you that it does not limit me in my all-around performance.  There are methods and principles that can help people maximize their performance without being cognitively gifted.  Just like the 5’10 former star quarterback Doug Flutie did (average height for a QB is the NFL is 6’3), we can create leverage to make our shortcomings advantages.

Here are a few ways I have overcome an intelligence deficient:

Awareness

I have found awareness to be far more important that intelligence in almost all circumstances.  Awareness to me is the balance between head and heart.  It means growing yourself beyond the knowledge you obtain, and cultivating a strong spiritual core.  It requires one to live with a healthy dose of skepticism while maintaining love and empathy.

The benefits of being an “aware” human being are infinite.  The primary benefit however is that aware people live a higher quality of life than others.  They have a better understanding of self and therefore are more happy and effective.  They have a better ability to connect authentically with people and situations.

Grow your awareness by slowing down, meditating, testing assumptions you have about life, and by spending time with incredible individuals.

Aware people are magnetic, they attract the people and situations to produce the best results.

Heuristics and Hacks

You don’t have to be exceptionally smart to create leverage, you simply have to be clever (or follow the practices of someone clever).  Creating systematic shortcuts when it comes to personal development, skill learning or work can help you maximize results while positioning yourself for sustainable input.

Personally, I use simple hacks to help myself make more quality decisions faster, and keep myself accountable.  For example, I have developed a list of core values that govern my thoughts (I wish all of them), actions, and long term goals.  Qualifying opportunities is turnkey when you have developed a strong set of governing values.  Anything that does not fall in-line with my values either gets dismissed or is not prioritized.

Another great practice is to create routine in areas you typically would not structure.  For example, when it came to diet, I generally would get hungry, acknowledge  my hunger, think about what type of food I feel like and what’s convenient at the moment, and after some intrapersonal deliberation I would go to a restaurant to eat (9 times out of 10 Mexican food).  Now, thanks to my wonderful girlfriend, it’s a much different story.  Our meals are prepared at the beginning of week, with a daily schedule posted.  This has led to: less mental strain allowing me to save decision making for more important issues, less time waited, and most importantly, an extremely healthy diet.

For more clever and practical methods for developing a personal operating  system, take a look at this Tim Ferriss interview where he discusses some interesting hacks for producing results.

Humble Leadership (soft skills)

I have a firm belief that leadership is the foundation that your effectiveness depends on.  Your ability to hold yourself accountable to your own results while empowering others to do the same  lays the ground work for being effective.

The great thing about leadership is that it’s not reserved for the brilliant; anybody can be a leader at any given moment.  Once again, it starts with developing a set of core values and having your actions align with those values.  This is integrity, not just doing what you say, but also doing what you believe in.  Leaders need to have the highest level of integrity.

Why does leadership make a person effective, and often more effective than one dimensional intellectuals?  Because good leaders move people.  They lead with passion and intent which drives people to do the same.  Intelligence often lives in a vacuum while leadership is scalable.

——

From the very beginning of our lives, we are conditional to believe that intelligence is the end all be all.  That belief is as shallow as intelligence often is.  Human beings, consume a level depth that no other living being that we know of do.  To be the best people we can be, we must dive as deep into ourselves as possible and make all the “goodness” rise to the top.

Never adopt the fallacious notion that you are not good enough, as that could not be further than the truth.

As Einstein once stated: “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

 

 

The Mastermind Retreat (A Few Days Like Thoreau)

Thursday, January 12th, 2012
I have some incredible friends… Truly incredible, inspiring, change the world type friends. Last Thursday three of these friends and I traveled up to the remote woods of Napa to get away from the fast paced life of the valley and SF for a few days.  However, it was less about pressing the “reset button” and more about charging up the console for 2012. We called our four day retreat a “Mastermind Retreat”.  The purpose: to create a platform for shared wisdom, knowledge and to have us all come out in planned action mode, working to accomplish our goals and mission for the year.  Sounds valuable and virtuous right?  Well…with a group of guys in their mid-twenties and no sight of anyone else for a few days you get some behavior that is far from valuable and virtuous.  No need to elaborate.  Still, the actions and results are worth elaborating on…

Thursday Night

A large cardboard box that has been converted into a bookshelf dumps out about 20 books that are cornerstones of business, self-development, spirituality and more.  As a group that has been firmly dedicated to self growth for a long time, we dive right in to accessing the titles, reading the intros and smelling the pages (don’t act like you never did that before your Kindle).

We relax around the cabin coffee table and openly discuss what we’re looking to get out of the weekend.  One thing is consistent, we all stated in some form that we are looking to create unprecedented results in our lives and a solid framework that will lead us to those results. Kyle passes out a work book that was created by Seth Godin and Zig Ziglar  that’s called “Pick Four“.  This will be our tool book for creating results in our work over the next three months. Soon after it’s off to bed…

Friday

In the Napa woods…it’s hard not to wake up early.  I get up, walk around the property to take in the views and take deep breaths of pine soaked air. After a little reading and solo time we get together at the dining room table at the cabin to start brainstorming our goals for this year.  Recently I have been a bit resistant to setting hard goals for a few reasons.  First off, much of the time they’re too linear, they don’t allow room to discover new possibilities or to iterate.  Second, if you work top down off a big dream, it’s often too hard to create small incremental progress.  If you can’t break a large dream into little goals, you set your self up for failure and to be disempowered.  However, this time I was dedicated to discussing what I felt works and doesn’t…and even more open to adopting a new system for track results. With that all aired out…we listed out all our high level goals…dreams.  I surprised myself as I found I wasn’t dreaming big enough…point taken.  From there our job was to filter those goals based on the feasibility of getting it done in 3 months and the importance to you and your overall mission.  And the there were 11.  Next step, write down “why” you chose that goal.  The impact achieving the goal can have on you and others (a super super important part of the exercise).  Lastly…break the list down to the top 4 and make each goal super specific and results oriented.  Before fully commiting to those 4 we all decided to sleep on it…but it was only 2pm at that point so we went down “into town” at that point. While in town: the most freakishly astounding display of synchronized flying by over a thousand black birds–no joke (D-Man…get the video up!). We went back up the hill and had an awesome dinner with the guys, my dad and step mom.  We switched out the wine for coffee and decided to pull and all night “hack sesh”.  Kyle was writing a new book he’s working on, Derek got strategic with ConvoSpark, Cam when off to bed early and I started working on some Be Social Change work that I have been wanting to work on for the past few weeks. An “all nighter” ended up being a strong session until 2am (I swear Napa is in a different timezone).

Saturday

Never felt so fresh after 5.5 hours of sleep. After pacing around the property for a while I decided to post up at the bottom of the hill to meditate.  Since I had set a goal to meditate consistently, there was no better place or time to dive deeper into myself.  For a moment my mind was still, I felt the profound power of silence and when I finished the session I felt more alive than I have in some time…like woah. On the theme of “wholeness”, you know…mind, body spirit, it was time to give the body a little love.  Well…maybe love isn’t the right word.  Trainer Derek put Kyle and I through an intense MMA inspired work out.  We were not fully functional after. After regrouping a bit, it was time to fully commit to our detailed goals.  We gathered around the table…took out our notes books, and on the signature page, put the pen to the paper (Kyle wanted to do the good old fashion way, mark it in blood).  Here’s what I committed to:

  1. 275 drop-ins on JoynIn by April 1st
  2. Release the Be Social Change MVP
  3. 100 sales (more details on that later :) )
  4. Meditate 60 out of the 90 days.

After the signing, we ended up reading some more, having breakout discussions, then went into town.  It was time to enter back into the world of beer, YouTube and unproductive chatter (you know…the norm).  We ended up going to an awesome South American restaurant, drank a few beers and watch Drew Brees be a bad bad man to the Lions secondary.

Back up at the cabin we took a detour from our work and watched 10 too many Chael Sonnen (best of Chael) and Fula videos (best of Flula).  We then moved to a semi productive mode by playing a game of Apples to Apples with a “pitch your card” twist…people got buzzed, it got heated, we all became better sales people. …ya I know what you’re thinking…”this is not how Thoreau lived at Walden Pond”…ya we know.

Sunday

Last day…woke up (a bit later)…meditated…connected with the guys. Sunday was all about being pragmatic and action oriented.  We went one by one discussing an individuals needs, roadblocks and ideas when it came to there four goals.  We pulled from out wide range of skilled and experiences to help fortify each other’s plans.  We know from experience than when a simple yet actionable plan is not laid out…it’s easy to stray away from that goal due to inertia alone.  We spent a good four hours diving deep into each goal, highlighting weaknesses, discussing strategies and ultimately making each goal a living entity. It was then time to say goodbye to our very own Walden Pond.  We all took time to reflect on our short yet transformative time in the Napa Woods by walking, reading and finding other ways to go deeper into the present moment.

What I Took Home With Me

You know that post vacation feeling?  You come back home bronzed and relaxed to a world polar opposite of the one you came from.  This trip was not like that…it was not a vacation…it was a retreat.  It helped us dive back into our world of chaos more powerfully than before.   To take the chaos…look at it as art, yet approach it scientifically. I came back to my new apartment that I share with my girlfriend excited for new possibilities.  I came back with map that will help guide me towards my destination…everyday I take out my machete and start blazing the trail that is beginning to look clearer and clearer. It’s important to regroup, refresh and reestablish yourself.  I would suggest everyone finds there own way to create their own retreat.  A time and place where you can work off an clean canvas and organize your palette.

Intentionally Foul: How Jake Sasseville Changed How I Create My Reality

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

About three months back I got a Facebook message from a guy named Jake Sasseville that read:

hey — zach hurst tells me i need to know you? true?

I wrote back:

“Need”…tough to say :). But I’m sure it would be great if we knew eachother!

Heard you’re going to be in SF. Feel free to shoot me a call before you come here or while you’re here. I’m in the social media/ startup space which Zach told me you’re interested in.

Hope to meet soon.

At that point all I knew about Jake was the little that a mutual contact of ours (Zach Hurst) told me about him.  If I remember correctly, Zach felt that Jake was a guy that I needed to meet and he was moving to San Francisco.  Sounded like all other San Francisco transplants to me.  Even with that tiny bit of cynicism I am always about meeting new and interesting people and Zach is a guy I inherently trust, respect and he’s always helping me out!

Diving a little deeper into Jake’s Facebook profile the first thing that stuck out, naturally, was his outrageously fluffy hair.  Second was that he is the host a late night series called “Late Night Republic“.  Intrigued by the hair, his show and his seemingly innate audacity that came through his Facebook message we set a time to meet and that was that!

A week or so later we were all set up to get some coffee at one of my favorite places of earth and my frequent remote work office Philz Coffee by the ballpark in San Francisco.  Jake was late…but telling from the text messages he was shooting off as he was running from the Bart to the coffee shop it wasn’t typical for him to be late (he basically shot me off a play by play of his sidewalk trot as he was approaching Philz).  When he finally got there he was sweaty, apologetic and full of life.  We greeted each other with hugs and Jake greeted me some interesting speech patterns that I quickly got used to.  He was like not one I ever met: he looked crazy and composed at the same time, he had the energy of a 5 year old, and most importantly he cut through all the bullshit.  I could tell he was a very REAL person in the first minute of getting to know him.

Quickly diving into discussions about spirituality, entrepreneurship, friends and his TV show (which I thought was only a web serise before I met him…it actually airs on over 50 million households across America) I felt like I knew Jake for years.  Our meeting made me realize two simple things about Jake:

1. He was going to be a good friend.

2. He knew how to make S#!t happen!

The friendship would flow naturally I knew that; but I knew I would have to dig a bit deeper if I was going to figure out how he accomplished so much at such a young age.  His stories were those of a vagabond, movie star and slightly manic person mixed into one.  The stories were incredible…but even more incredible was that I could see that he was living that life right then and there…NOW.

The second time we met up after a meeting I had in San Francisco.  This time we shared our philosophies and methods in greater depth.  Then we honed in on one specific topic.  In essence the conversation was about how we created our reality.  I shared my thoughts on how our realities our often limited by the identity we create for ourseves.  That those identities (who we are to the world) govern what we create and how far we can go.  Jake then took it to a whole new level…he started to talk about how he can create anything…literally ANYTHING.

He began to talk about the power of intention.  How he used to set goals but found them to be counter productive.  ”You set a goal you loose track of peripheral opportunities…you don’t hit your goal your’re discouraged.”

I agreed emphatically.

He said he instead creates intentions.

Go on…

Before he takes on a task or objective he thinks about what his intention is behind it.  Why does he want to obtain what he is looking to obtain?  He works to feel this on the level of the soul.  He then imagines what it would feel like to have it.  Really feel the joy, abundance and creativity that emboides that possibility.

So if Jake wanted to buy a private island he would create the experience for himself before he even owned it.  He would envision the process of negotiating on the deal.  He would create the experience of walking through the island for the first time and roughing it in a hammock made of bamboo.  He would feel the emotions of owning and island and sharing it with others.  He would own that experience already…now it would just be up to him to execute it in the real world.

This concept stuck with me…

I needed to create my intentions and be extremely intentional about it!  I have started to know exactly what I want out of every situation and just simply take the steps to get there.  I now work on feeling what it will be like to fulfill on those intentions and the impact it can have on the world.

We can create our custom realities.  Work off a blank canvas…understand your intention behind what you will create…and start to paint!!

Don’t Know Where To Start? Just Start

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Over the past couple months I have been keeping close tabs on my actions and the actions of others.  Since I am committed to creating incredible results in all I do, I thought investigating these actions would be a great place to start.

To create results, action is required.  Simple, yes, but there is an important distinction to make of this.  Without any marketing research you can conclude that about 99% of people want great results in their lives.  However many people don’t do what it takes to get those results.  The natural question to raise is “what stops people from getting the results they desire?”.

The responses you will get from people and the true answer to that question are typically two different answers entirely.

The response you will typically get is: “I don’t know where to start” or “I simply don’t know what it takes to get the results I want”.


However, the “true” answer to the question of “what stops them?” is lack of action
.

The fact of the matter is no one knows where to start, no one starts out with adequate knowledge on how to get the results they desire.  Even funnier is that too much knowledge often stagnates people (ask an academicJ).

Saying we lack enough knowledge to produce results is a cop out the vast majority of the times (future doctors please stop reading).  We all do it…some more often than others.  When we do this we fail to recognize how overrated preparedness can be and how underrated constant action is.

Actions generate possibilities.  When we send an email, “like” a Facebook status, make a cold phone call we are generating an infinite amount of possibilities, most of which we are unaware of.  We may not understand the “best course” of action in these cases most likely because there isn’t one.  Sending out that email can ignite a spark of inspiration in the person who reads it and thus creates a new chain of possibilities and further actions.  We can all think of at least one time where some nearly unconscious action led to a new job, a date, the apartment in the perfect neighborhood.  We often fail to give credit to the series of actions that got us there; instead we just believe it just happened by chance.  These cases are not by chance or serendipity…they are created by an accumulation of actions.

So when it’s all said and done, there are two people in this world:

…those who don’t act and those who do…

I don’t buy into our societies need to separate, decouple and create opposites.  However in this case it’s hard to argue against.

You may waiver between sides…but during every single moment you are either one or the other.  Most likely 80% of the time you are hovering on one side of the equation.

The good thing is that we are not fixed as one way or another.  We can change instantly.  I have been a person who does and have been a person that doesn’t…so I know from experience.

I have observed that the people that “do”, do two things exceptionally well:

They act in spite of fear and they constantly indulge in curiosity.  They are constantly in action; they gain momentum on top of momentum.  And when the momentum appears to stop, they find a way to build it up again.

They are the ones that post about 5 Facebook updates in one day sharing their experiences with the world, then won’t post for an entire week because they are writing an ebook while traveling on top of elephants in Thailand.  They are the ones that send audacious emails to VC’s despite not having an “in” at the firm.  They are the ones that have a deep interest for people, their work and their play.  Their curiosity leads them to learn and experience more than ordinary people (and post it to Facebook).

These are the people that get results by constantly being in motion and allowing their awareness and instincts to guide them.

In conclusion…ACT!  Simple as that!  If you don’t know how to start, don’t worry, no one does.  Be aware of how powerful one action can be, and the momentum that can build from it.  Don’t fear not knowing, that is always going to exist.  Instead act in the face of fear and see yourself develop a natural curiosity for what you do!

Advice for Success: Burn Your Ships!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

After searching the term “Burn Ships” in Google I can see I am not the only one to touch on this  familiar ”how to be successful” anecdote.  But hey…just because it’s played often does not mean it’s played out (I mean how many times have you listened to “Regulators”?…timeless)

The “burning of the ships” came about in a discussion I had with my best friend Daniel Gibson.  We chatted about a whole bunch of things…including my poor grammar and spelling  (sorry guys).  The final points we touched on were success, passion and complacency. Daniel felt that in pursuit of living a life you love…you need to rid yourself of any options to live any other type of life (if that make sense). Meaning, that we have a choice in the matter…a choice to not leave complacency or apathy as an option. A choice to live your version of success at all cost.

The “burning of the ships” comes to play in a relatable story that I heard a few years back. A historic event that I actually despise (Spanish imperialism in South America)…but nonetheless it happened and paints a very strong picture when it comes to firming you commitment to success.

Side Note: Not sure how accurate my portrayal of the story is:

Hernán Cortés led the conquistadors over to South America with the goal of finding and claiming the “New World”. He understood that the task would be looked at as insurmountable by most. He understood that to pull this off…he would need to kill off all excuses, plan B’s and reasons for failure. So he did just that. He sunk his own ships. He ordered his commanders (or whatever) to sink the ships so there was not conceivable way they can cross the ocean and go back to Spain. That stimulated a simple but extremely powerful mindset shift…that shift was that there are no other options. We win or we die. Defeat, failure, passivity were not options if they wanted to survive.

When it comes to our case we’re not taking about survival. We’re living in a space of abundance where there are unlimited possibilities. However the primary message still applies to our lives. What are our ships? Is it saying: “I can do that someday” or is it saying: “it doesn’t matter”…or is it just being mediocre. Living in a world of abundance haunts us with the “privilege” of building many ships. On the flip, our world also enables us to create anything we want.

So whatever your ships are..sink them. If not for yourself do it for the Aztec people that were killed by the Spaniards and would have loved to have sunk their ships for them :) .

We are the creators of our journey and our results…if we take ownership of that…we can accomplish anything!

Note: This was one of my contributions to the SF Mastermind Group.

How A 10 Year Old Inspired Everyone!

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Photo Credit: Our Covers

My girlfriend Catherine helps run an after school program in San Jose called Alma Verde.  The kids range from 5 to 12 which makes for some interesting dynamics between young and older kids.  One of the products of those dynamics are their strong opinions and inquisitive nature.  This naturally makes from great after work storytelling from Cath…

However last week’s story trumps all.  The Alma team ran a simple activity about the reuse of wasteful packaging…in this case gum was passed out to see if the kids can think of innovative ways to reuse the packaging.  This exercise was taken to a level no one anticipated as a 10 year old boy named Jorge spoke from his heart…about gum.  Yes a simple consumer product like gum fueled a fire under Jorge as he exclaimed his concerns he has for this earth and called everyone to action…check out the second hand synopsis below:

Disclaimer: I did not witness this …first hand, so I appologize in advance to Jorge and the Alma team for not doing the event justice.  From what I can judge, no text can embody the events of that day :)

Group:  Everyone passing around the gum packages.  Jorge abruptly stands in front of the entire group.

Jorge: “Why do we need gum?  Why do we spend our precious resources on producing such a pointless product?  Do we need gum to survive…no?  Why do we create something that does not add value to our lives or the earth?

How can we continue to degrade our earth for our simple pleasures?  Gum goes into the ground and adds to the waste of this earth…don’t get me started about the manufacturing and packaging.  We can’t continue to degrade our earth any longer!  We chew gum for what?  So we chew away and  have fresh breath?  Well mother earth is suffering for it!

We must remember…we are simply members of this earth…we don’t own it.

Thank You…”

Group: Cheeerrrrssss loader than I can imagine!

Jorge: “Lets write the President!”

Group: “Yayyyyhhhhh!!!”

A 10 year old boy has inspired his peers, his care providers, myself and hopefully you!  No constraints in his talk and his actions…there is no doubt he will do what it takes to make the world a better place…while bringing others along with him.

If Jorge is a reflection of the future of this world…I think we might actually be able to create a world that works :)

Thank you Jorge!!!!

The Power of the King…A Tale of Empowerment

Monday, January 17th, 2011

MLK

Few times in history has true good prevailed over all other forces.  Martin Luther King was able to invent a world of true good…free of judgement and prejudice while filling the newly empty space it with love and understanding.  Not everyone would subscribe to this new world, however this new world would change everyone’s world for ever!

We live in a cynical world…where it is easier to get caught up in bad then it is to believe in good.  Scarcity of resources and money play a large part in this which make people have to focus on their own self preservation.  Focusing outside oneself is impractical.  That’s why people tend to compare and contrast themselves with other rather than focusing on the affinity that might be there.  When you look beyond yourself true love for other people can be created.  Martin Luther King inspired people to look beyond themselves and brought people together on a human level.

He casted a dream over the nation.  A dream where good prevailed, where understanding and love was created.  He made people enroll themselves in a vision much larger than any one person, a vision that was beyond whites and blacks, it was a world vision where all people can be united regardless of background or circumstance.  He took action and had other take action with him, showing the world that the dream he described was very much a reality for some.

Dr. King empowered millions of people in the short time he had on this earth.  His legacy lives far beyond his life as today many people live in the world of the King.  His tale is beyond leadership, beyond courage…but of transforming a world.  I am not black, only part white…being mixed raced was most likely not even recognized during the civil rights movements; regardless he is a hero of mine.  Him being a hero to me shows that this his imprint on the world goes far beyond race, ethnicity and pigmentation of one’s skin. He empowers the world to think of what is possible and to think of others first.

Searching for a Heart of Gold

Friday, December 10th, 2010

neil_young_heart_of_gold

My mom has always been a huge Neil Young fan…beyond HUGE.  We even watched the Super Bowl at his house when my brother and I were kids since our families had mutual friends.  My whole life I just thought he was a semi-aloof artist with an very interesting voice.  Today I listened…truly listened to Heart of Gold for the first time in my life.  I have heard the song hundreds of times with my mom humming along and archaically drumming on the counter tops while she cleaned the kitchen…but never really listened.

What I heard today was a song about the seeking nature of human beings.  The seeking nature to do good with no authentic reason why.  Something I have struggled with for the past couple years.

For the past couple years I have been seeking to embody my mantra of “adding unique value” to this world.  Deciding to make an impact as an entrepreneur I quickly found that I had to look beyond my own self fulfillment and focus on making a positive  impact on the world (as my entrepreneurial efforts had an adverse impact on my bank account and many other personal areas).  However, I have not been able to tap into a genuine state of generosity where what I do is fully for others.  Stuck in my mind I guess…not giving myself enough credit for giving and always needing to give more and focus outside myself…funny enough all these thoughts have been me motoring my own self worth (see the paradox?).

I have been able to find a ton of happiness in becoming a contributor.  By focusing outside myself allows me to be more present…happiness is in the present.  Happiness I am finding is becoming a contributor outside of ego.  I think this is the state of “being” Neil was searching for.

Listen to the song…it’s amazing!!

Soooo Right On

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

*The Holstee Manifesto….

Thanks Ashil!

Be Open and Discover Opportunity

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

openness

This post was written as a feature article for the Brazen Careerist community.

In today’s professional world, our influence extends only as far as our relationships. This is fantastic news for the Hollywood lookalikes and handshaking enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the majority of us lack the jawline and the forearm fortitude to become a master networker and develop a strong personal brand.

Right?

Not even close.

Thanks to social media flattening the world, transparency reigns supreme. This means that the individuals who are authentic, knowledgeable and that can add value to an area of interest can make a name for themselves. This culture of openness has brought incredible opportunities my way, as well as to thousands of other proactive individuals looking to express themselves and make a difference. Here are some keys to success when it comes to opening up and creating opportunity:

Express Yourself

If you keep a keen eye to many of the popular social media channels you will notice that there are more and more interesting people these days. Actually, it’s not that the world is hosting more interesting people; it’s that we now have the platforms that allow anyone to position themselves as interesting. Millions of people watch Mr. Average Joe perform mediocre slapstick comedy on YouTube, while thousands of people on Twitter follow every link, word and character from the new Ruby on Rails Guru. Today anyone can be a celebrity, why not you? Go on TwitterYouTubeFacebookcreate a blog and show the world what you love and start adding value through expression.

Find Your Niche

If you are planning to start a Twitter account to constantly tweet about what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner and expect to amass a huge following that will be interested in what you have to say, you are delusional. Find a niche that excites you and makes you want to share your expertise. If you share great content to the right people you will begin to gain credibility within your niche. Reach out to others in your niche and have real life conversations. You may be able to help each other out and build a strong relationship.

Have a Conversation

Don’t complicate this social media thing. The best personal branders are people leverage social media in order to have conversations with the intent to share and add value to the other person or community. Start reaching out to people you look up to and let them know you admire them, tell them a bit about yourself and express your unique opinion about their work. Becoming their friends is not so farfetched anymore. Also reach out to people in the same niche as you, they can provide you with a wealth of knowledge, partnership opportunities and/or cross promotional channels. Create enough conversations and you may be the next authority that everyone wants to have a conversation with.

The playing field is leveled for those willing to open up and get out there and play. Just remember be authentic, be knowledgeable, add value and opportunities will begin to come your way.

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