“The biggest challenge is to stay focused. It’s to have the discipline when there are so many competing things.”

Alexa Hirschfeld

Since starting my blog back in 2008 until “closing” it at the start of this year to switch to a personal weekly note, it went through many iterations, both in the style of presentation, and the theme of the content within.

It went from having about a dozen or so categories, to only having one (which was the bigger picture of this thing called life and where we sit in it, personally and professionally).

It went from having multiple sidebars to zero; from having affiliate ads and posts trying to sell something to zero ads and zero selling (at least, not the hard sell).

And it went from using a socially-driven comment system like Livefyre to a more personal and thoughtful comment solution like Postmatic (still my favourite blog commenting solution).

The reason for all of these changes was simple – to meet the goals I had, the focus had to be on the paths to get there.

My goal was to make my blog a destination for folks that prefer pure blogging, where a more personal experience was enjoyed, and the content wasn’t driven by the desire for social proof and vacuous clicks (hence my decision to remove social sharing buttons from my blog).

To do that meant the content had to be focused. Hence the stripped down look and feel of the blog, where the only thing in front of you were the words.

It was a little worrying, if I’m honest – because now the content truly did have to stand on its own, as opposed to being supported by a nice flashy sidebar with a colourful sticker or two.

But it was also a good exercise, as it made you more aware of the words you were putting down and the message you wanted to create.

It’s not too different from life, really, if you think about it.

Pulling Back the Covers on a Life Lived in Shadows

Oftentimes in life, when asked by people what others might think of us, we reply with something like,

I’m an open book. If you want to know me, just look at me or be around me for an hour or two.

While that’s an admirable – and mostly honest – statement, it’s not quite a true one. Think about it.

  • When you share something on Facebook, is it a picture/update of how awesome your kids/husband/wife are, or is it “Shouted at the kids, felt like a shitty parent for doing so, and don’t get me started on what my other half did yesterday!”?
  • When you upload a picture to Instagram, is it the first one you take or is it the 40th attempt at getting a smile just right, a background just so, a pet just in the right contortion to be cute?
  • When you leave a comment on a blog, do you really say what you want to say, or is it a sanitized version of what you believe, because you don’t know the make-up of the other commenters?

These are just online examples. Offline, it’s the same.

  • How we present ourselves to our colleagues.
  • How we approach a social setting.
  • How we act in the privacy of our own homes versus how we behave under the gaze of the public.

We might think that’s a natural defence mechanism, but the truth of the matter is it’s anything but natural.

Instead of being the open book we say we are, we’re an edited version of the story we want to tell.

We do this because we tell ourselves this is how people will like us. This is how people will gravitate towards us. Thisis how people will become our friends.

And they might – for a while. Until the covers are pulled back, and the shadows of your real life are on display for everyone to see.

Some may stick around. Others may not. But the choice is no longer yours to make. Now the story decides which characters are left to take part.

The irony is, if we don’t live in the shadows to begin with, we’ll attract the people we truly deserve. The people who’ll be there when we need them.

The people we can truly call friends.

It’s not easy. You have to be focused, and brave, and ready to throw the covers back, even when it’s cold and dark outside.

But the reward and validation are worth it.

Try it sometime. You might just pleasantly surprise yourself.

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