I was recently discussing strategies with my indie filmmaking collaborators and the idea of this post came from that discussion.
It really doesn’t matter what your endeavor is — if you have things you must accomplish in your life, you’ll maximize your chance by surrounding yourself with people who root for you. In fact, your chance of success is directly related to the number of people who are rooting for you. There is very little one can do in life alone, and the bigger your ambitions are, the truer the above statement is. You need to make yourself someone other people will to get behind and cheer on. Obviously, gaining fans isn’t and shouldn’t be your end goal — but there are a few concepts you ought to be aware of, so that you can go about your pursuit in a way that you are building a community of support while you’re going at it.
Now, that’s not to say that you have to come up with hooky marketing campaign or employ special winking technique to make others fall in love with you. Rather, it’s about discovering, and then presenting, the very most Authentic You to the people you encounter, so that you can surround yourself with like-minded people and get the support needed to help carry you forward.
I’m not saying it’s easy or quick, but below let me outline the keys to make yourself a “rootable” presence.
1. Define an Authentic and Sustainable Objective (Aim for Impact, Not Gain)
This topic can fill several books so I won’t go into details, but people respond to authenticity and consistency. You’ll need to discover a worthy goal that is true to your heart, one you can see yourself pursuing for a long time, through thick and thin.
One criteria to keep in mind is to aim for impact, not gain. By that, what I mean is to aim your objective on accomplishing something, not on acquiring status/reward/money. All goals are, ultimately, about seeking fulfillment of one’s desires, even when they are about making a difference in other people’s lives. But I firmly believe that if you dig deeply enough, sooner or later you realize that a truly profound sense of fulfillment comes from making an impact rather than personal gain.
To use myself as an example, my personal ambition is to make music. And while this may sound corny and trite, I can’t say it any other way — I love music because it means a great deal to me, and I make music with the hope that it touches other people’s lives. I want to make money with it, mainly to make that activity sustainable, and to use the resources money brings in to make better music. But money is simply a tool for that purpose — not an end goal.
2. Give the Pursuit Everything You Got
You can’t expect others to support you if you’re not giving your pursuit everything you got yourself. You have to think hard, get creative, and keep pursuing your aspiration through thick and thin. In particular, pay attention to things that other people shy away from, because of hard work, difficulty, endurance, and nerve it takes. Those are the places you need to go. We won’t call it an accomplishment if it was easy, right? All worthy goals are worthy because of the challenges they pose. Don’t play small — embrace a dream that’s bigger than you, and throw everything you have at it. Believe that you can rise to the occasion and grow big enough to match your goal.
3. Don’t Leave Your Conscience
While you’re pursuing your ambition, though, you still have to make ends meet with your conscience and ethics. A pursuit is so absorbing, sometimes, that it’s easy to put other values on the shelf.
For example, if you find out that if an organization like Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders turn out to be a major polluter of environment, how would you feel about them? They may say, “well, it’s not our mission to care for our environment. People come first. We focus solely on our mission and achieve them anyway necessary, even if that means we leave pollutants in the environment where we engage in an urgent operation.”
Hmmm, I don’t know about you, but my enthusiasm for supporting such an organization goes down a few notches.
The same thing applies to people. The people I root for, I have to be able to see that they have conscience and integrity. Environment, for example, may not be their mission. But it can’t be totally out of the picture either, because that shows shortsightedness and lack of integrity.
4. Broadcast Your Pursuit
And here’s a big one — in order for you to build support behind you, you have to let people know about your pursuit. And it can’t be a cursory “by the way, I’m want to be a painter” — a one-time, Twitter-sized statement. You need to constantly broadcast it. Not to the extent that it comes across as obnoxious or attention-seeking, but you have to make it an integral part of your personal branding, perhaps even like a trademark — so that people know you as The Pursuer of Your Dreams. Jack is a singer, Sarah writes novels, and so on. Blogging regularly about your pursuit is perhaps one of the ideal ways to broadcast it.
Generally speaking, more authentic and transparent you are in your broadcasts, the better. Don’t inflate yourself up to be more than what you are, nor diminish yourself or your dream to be smaller than they are. Tell it mostly like it is, including your vulnerabilities and fears — to an extent. If you feel like you’re constantly sharing fears and defeatist thoughts, draw a line — such sharing is important once in a while, but it can quickly degrade into attention-seeking, self-defeating pleas. If you are constantly saying “I can’t do it. It’s too hard” — outside of some mentor/coach figures, most people cannot get behind you. Focus on progress and small victories. And sharing your lessons with those who are not quite as far along as you are. Celebrate each tiny baby steps you take, or even just some time put into your pursuit. Show that you are giving your all, and that you are diligent and creative. Don’t lie or boast, but even if you feel insecure (and you will, if your pursuit is really worthy and challenging), find a piece of confidence inside and focus on that. You don’t have to be perfect, and yes, once in a while you should let down your guard and share setbacks, discouragements and vulnerabilities. That shows that you are being real. Perhaps you can think of it as a 90/10 ratio of positive/negative broadcasts. If you are 100% positive it seems a bit inauthentic, but if half of your messages are taken up by insecurities, that really doesn’t inspire confidence.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I need people to root for me in my pursuit of dreams. We all do, perhaps more desperately than we realize.
And we should get that support, we deserve to. A worthy pursuit is challenging by definition.
Keep in mind, that there are best practices for building that support network. Not a surface-level set of tricks and gimmicks. By distilling your pursuit to its most essential and then allowing yourself to be seen authentically, you are inviting others to get behind you.
We all have dreams and we are all for people achieving them. The more people realize their dreams, the better place the world will be.
So go for it! Let everyone know what you’re doing. Perhaps help will come from places that you didn’t expect. It’s always good to have people who are rooting for you.