In Pursuit Of The Bag: focusing on results vs. assigning blame

 Photo by  Tolu Bamwo

Photo by Tolu Bamwo

I’ve had my fair share of interviews. I’m appreciative of every single opportunity. I enjoy sharing my story. I hope that my perspective can help others. I appreciate questions that make me reflect on my journey, my goals, and my destination.

A common question that I deal with in different forms: “what’s a typical workday like for you?”

My immediate response: “there is no typical day.”

I’ve been living life outside of the constraints of a day job for just under two years, and I have yet to find a daily sequence of events consistent enough to be deemed “typical.” The past couple of years have been the wildest, most fulfilling, scariest times of my life. I’ve failed more times than I can recall. I’ve switched gears more often than anticipated. I’ve learned to be more fluid with my methods while remaining dedicated to my goals.

I’ve been doing whatever it takes to become my best self.

Letting go of your safety net humbles you.

All the consequences of your actions are amplified, and any false beliefs you held about your level of expertise are swiftly erased by the relentless pace of reality. You quickly realize much you do not know. You lose touch with people who can’t empathize with your situation.

Ultimately, you find yourself presented with a choice: do whatever it takes, or change course.

I chose the former.

When I first let go of my day job, I had a huge chip on my shoulder. I was focused on assigning blame and proving people wrong. As I matured and took time to reflect along the way, I was able to redirect my thoughts. I realized that it was more important to focus on results than to dwell on the negative elements of my story that used to motivate me.

I would not have made it to where I am today without choosing to change my thought process. I had to equip myself to deal with the side effects of the field that I had chosen for myself.

As someone who earns coin through social media, I’m subject to the opinions and judgement of my audience. It’s inevitable. I wouldn’t avoid it if I could, because accountability is important. I’m passionate about my work, but I’m aware that prospective paying clients evaluate my worth by looking at statistics. I’m incentivized to consistently provide value that will expand my social media audience. That’s no secret.

In many instances, perceived popularity is prioritized over more tangible skill sets. Popular “public figures” get opportunities that are above their skill set, and more qualified candidates are left to watch what unfolds from the sidelines. Audience building is a valuable skill, but it doesn’t supersede other technical skills necessary to get a job done.

“Popular” people who receive roles that they’re under-qualified for should be given the side eye. Individuals who sacrifice their integrity and sense of purpose to chase popularity by any means should be regarded with skepticism. Folks who tout their “influence” like it’s an indicator of their superiority as a human being should never have the slightest change of meeting Beyoncé. Follower count isn’t the end-all, be-all.

Self-belief is essential if you’re going to put yourself in position to create content that will be digested and subsequently evaluated by hundreds or thousands of people. You can’t please everybody. How will you handle it when people dehumanize you?

When you gain a degree of notoriety, you become a target. People who don’t know you, but know of you, may see fit to project their insecurities or limitations onto you, because they see bits and pieces of your highlight reel but have no personal connection to you. Is it fair? Nope. Is it avoidable? Nope. It’s a dream come true to work with some of my favorite brands and tell my own story for a living. I’ve learned to accept the side effects of this career path. Thick skin is a necessity.

I don’t believe that influencer marketing should be anybody’s final destination. Every single social media network is a privately owned entity subject to the whims of its stockholders and owners. You can’t build a permanent residence on rented land. That being said, leveraging social media influence the right way can be a gateway to opportunities that might not otherwise come your way.

On a personal note, I’m still in disbelief that my first print book, Keep It 100, will be backed by a publishing house called 13th and Joan. A Black woman-owned, Chicago-based publishing house, at that. I started writing the book about two years ago, and managed to attract a publisher based on the nature of what I wrote about in my Instagram captions. I’m serious. This really happened. I still can’t believe it some days, but it’s true.

I’ll tell that story another day. Suffice it to say that God is good, and the power of attraction is real. In the meantime, get ready for #BookSeason. 

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