Friday, December 23, 2011

Looking back on 2011

I was checking recently and realized I hadn't written a post here in over a year! I couldn't bear to let all of 2011 go by without even a single new post at The Viral Garden, so here we are.

I've been doing a lot of planning ahead for 2012 recently. And obviously that planning is influenced in great part by what's happened in 2011. This was an interesting year for me; my consulting business actually shrank this year, compared to last. But that was mostly due to hosting 7 Live #Blogchats throughout the year. The income from those events allowed me to focus my business more on training and consulting projects, and less on project execution work. Looking forward, there are many opportunities to expand the #Blogchat brand, and it looks like that will be an even bigger portion of my business in 2012.

But in reviewing 2011, I wanted to share some of the lessons I've learned from this year:

1 - Failure is your friend. There's too much potential in this space to have a fear of failure. In January, I had a heart-to-heart with my checkbook and realized that I wasn't going to be able to go to South By Southwest this year. I just couldn't rationalize spending $2,500 to go to the event. I was about to throw in the towel, when I had an idea: What if I tried to find sponsors for a Live #Blogchat event at SXSW? What if it didn't work? I figured I had nothing to lose, if I failed, that just meant I wouldn't go to SXSW, and hell I wasn't going anyway, so why not? I wrote up a post saying I wanted sponsors, and waited to see what happened. Within an hour of writing the post, I had a deal in place for the main sponsorship, and I was off to SXSW.

I've watched others in this space, and I've noticed the same thing: They are trying things even though they know they might fail. The thing about failure is this: If you DO fail, then you can LEARN from that failure, and improve your efforts the next time you try. This might be the biggest lesson I learned from this year. And BTW, it's not a coincidence that the loudest hecklers are usually the ones that never fail because they never risk anything.

2 - The line between the 'online' and 'offline' world is rapidly disappearing. This actually became a bit of a problem for me this year. Most people only know me from online interactions, and as such, assume I am an extrovert. But my close friends know that I am actually very introverted. Social Media is a wonderful outlet for me, because it's a way for me to very comfortably connect with complete strangers. But in an offline setting, I am still very uncomfortable connecting with strangers. I really noticed this at Blog World, I went to a few 'parties' at night after the day's sessions, or even in the hotel bar at night, and I was very slow to engage others. Which can create a misconception if someone only knows me from online, and they assume I am very outgoing in person. Then they see me at an event, and I am quiet and reserved. It can give them the false impression that I just didn't like them, or was 'stuck up'. This is something I am trying to work on, and will continue to do so in 2012.

3 - If you want to find out who your real friends are, ask for help. Thankfully, I haven't had to ask for a lot of help this year, but I've known friends that had real personal and business issues that forced them to call on their networks for help. Every time, they told me the same thing: A few people that they didn't think they had a close connection with, went out of their way to help them, while a few people that they thought were their close friends, couldn't be bothered to help in the slightest.

4 - There are two types of content creators: Those that want to draw attention to themselves, and those that want to draw attention to their ideas. I've also learned this year that I am definitely in the latter group ;) Neither group is better than the other, per se, it's about understanding who you are, and where your comfort zone lies.

So those are some quick thoughts on the year that was. And I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I promise it won't be another year before we talk again ;)