surviving the rapture -or- how to ignore the flashing neon lights when all you need is a lightbulb

Failure to Communicate by Gwyn Michael

The 5-21-11 Rapture was a hard sell. Fortunately not a huge number of people bought it, but there are some that have sold all their belongings and given away their money. That sucks.

The past few weeks have been tough for me emotionally. I made a major change in the focus of my work and website by claiming myself as an Environmental Artist, without really knowing what that means. To discover what it could mean, I created a fundraiser for a project that would allow me to research some forms of environmental art. I have never attempted to raise funds before and was not prepared for how hard and emotional it would be. What I was even less prepared for was doing something like this, something uncertain while redefining myself, amidst what I now know as launch season. The fundraiser failed and I’m truly OK with that, but I still felt somehow disgruntled and lacking and judged. It was not my lack of clarity or my failed fundraiser, it was my email.

My in box was flooded daily with promos from what felt like every blogger in the universe that knows exactly what I need to succeed.  I subscribed to these blogs and I know I don’t have to read them, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. The lights were just too damn bright. I allowed myself to get uppity and wrote an opinionated post about it. Perhaps not my finest hour, but something really good came out of it. I got more comments on the post and through email than on any post so far. I got links to others writing on the topic and I learned something important.

I learned I was not alone, and there is more than one way to sell your soul.

Admittedly I am here to sell something. I need to make a living like everyone and I want to do it without compromising myself. I think what really bothered me is I am in a place of needing guidance, but I don’t like being told what to do and more so how to do it. I really don’t like being told again and again. I realized there are many styles of communication/selling but it seems to boil down to two main themes, telling vs. sharing. My inbox contains both but telling is so much louder. On his blog pen vs. paper, Jeffrey writes this.

The internet is a noisy place.

The prevailing notion of ‘How to Use Social Media’ seems to be “the louder the better.”

For example: Position yourself as an expert! Advertise your Exclusive Private Coaching Program of Awesome! Learn these sneaky tricks to ensnare more subscribers! Write more how-to guides and top-10 lists! Find a Niche and a Message and promote, promote, promote! Louder, louder, LOUDER!

Oy. It’s like we’re becoming human infomercials.

Okay, truthfully? The problem isn’t the techniques. The problem is, when everyone’s shouting, it’s all just noise.

I agree! With so much noise and bright lights I feel accosted, confused, and inferior. I feel sad because some of the people pushing my buttons are people I think have good content. I also feel compelled determined to find a better way.

Brigitte at Unfettered Ink had a less than moment over this too. She writes about fear of working for herself allowing her to be distracted by the bright lights. She says:

I’ve been abdicating my responsibility to control how much I take in – and subsequently how much energy I have left to produce.

It’s Marie and Laura’s job to promote the crap out of their program. It’s their job to enlist their friends to promote the crap out of their program.

It’s my job to cut off the stream when it becomes too much.

Marie and Laura provided an opt-out option for their e-mails (which I opted into, by the way). I chose not to use it. And then I chose to bitch about it.

I’m afraid to cut the stream. I’m afraid to miss some amazing opportunity that could change my life.

I’m afraid to unfollow you on Twitter, because OMG you might get offended.

I’m afraid to read fewer blogs, because I won’t be clued in.

I’m afraid of missing out.

And, so I am.

Wow, Is that what I’m doing? Sounds a little too familiar. I totally agree it is my responsibility to cut off the stream if it is holding me back, but I still feel there needs to be a shift in marketing practices. I would like to see something different begin to happen, and I think this launch season is a great catalyst. I want to be confident in my ability and know that I might need some help anyway.

My attention was also drawn to Fabeku Fatunmise, who just did a three-part video series on Ick marketing. He identifies three styles of LOUD marketing that tend to permeate sales, and not just on the internet.

Concussion Grenade Marketing, Swim With Da Fishes Marketing and Dragon Paw Club Marketing

I recommend watching them all whether or not you agree with me. All are excellent food for thought, but the latter – which could also be called “I’ve Got a Secret” marketing – is something I think is implied in all.

This was my response to that post.

I’ve got a secret…there are no secrets.

This launch season has spurred a lot of frenzy from those in support of secrets and those who see the word secret (or other tactics that imply secrets) and feel like they’ve been stabbed in the heart. I would be the latter. My disappointment is mostly in myself for reacting, but I think that the financial climate of our country and the world has something to do with that. 5 years ago I’d have been less sensitive. I digress. I have been writing in my journal as I know this upset has more to do with me that any sleazy IMO marketing techniques. What I came up with is this. I think all the techniques you describe imply secrets even if the word is not used. The message is

“I have a secret you can’t live without and you have to pay me to get it.”
This implies teaching in the form of telling.

What I might like to see is this.

“I have experience that may t be useful to you. Would you like to pay me to explore your possibilities and options?”
This implies teaching through interaction, through sharing.

This is what I want to do. Whether I am selling art or something not yet known I want to share, communicate, and interact. While I am learning how to do that I need someone that can help me have a few light bulb moments, not blind me with neon dollar signs, and when I do get it sorted out I want to share not tell.

In yet another related post Bridget Pilloud says this:

Provide Good Content. Don’t Be Manipulative. Don’t Cold Frog your Customers. Create Relationships. Show that You’re Competent.

People will buy from you.

Lastly, my original blog mentor and one of my favorite people, Patti Digh, says this in response to Fabeku’s posts:

“Make strong offers. Offers that are healthy, that presuppose the health and beauty and wisdom of your audience, that are wise and grounded and quiet.”

Whew, that is a lot to chew on. I hope I’ve inspired a conversation here. I believe there will always be a place for the hard sell, but I want to hear some new ideas.

What resonates with you when you are shopping for stuff or information?

What makes your eyes glaze over, and what makes you run for the Ben & Jerry’s to zone out?

22 thoughts on “surviving the rapture -or- how to ignore the flashing neon lights when all you need is a lightbulb

  1. Three words for this post: Won.Der.Ful. I really appreciate the honesty here, and have had some of the same thoughts myself on many days.

    I can relate with not liking to be told – I can be self-defeatingly willfull that way – as well as sometimes feeling shell-shocked from all the g*dd*mned noise.

    I am however, as I suspect many are, totally schizophrenic about it all. I have Luddite moments where I think ‘I’m not even going to boot up my computer today, the sun is shining and my garden is calling’ and there are other days where I feel the solution to all the world’s ills is Tweet Deck. Oy indeed.

    My conclusion is that all this stuff is still so new, and we are all still trying to adapt. It’s overwhelming, exciting, frustrating, dehumanizing, incredible and democratizing all at the same time… that’s a lot.

    Thanks for sharing, it’s nice to know we’re all wrestling with this!

  2. What a beautiful response Eleanor. Yes, it is most comforting to know I am not alone in these feelings, struggles, episodes of schizophrenia. You are right about the newness and all the confusion it brings. I was born in the era of B&W TV and 3 channels. This is indeed A LOT to absorb.

    I do the same back and forth with the garden and Tweet Deck LOL Some days I want to throw in the towel and go full on homesteader, and then I get a notion to change the world with twitter. I am used to that.

    I also know that for myself the money piece of it really gets me hung up. That is the bigger piece than all the noise. The message that I can and should want to get rich!

    I know so many are without jobs, and truly struggling, and not everyone can be a coach, entrepreneur, or artist so who do I think I am? OY that is a big one!

    I know Tara is working on some money/comfort stuff. Can’t wait to see what she does.

  3. I think of it, in my head, as the new marketing. Women (and men I’m sure) rising up and creating something new, authentic and beautiful. I’m happy to be exploring it with amazing women such as yourself.

    1. Hannah that is one way to look at it, but I’d suggest you may be confusing marketing with new products or content. The marketing tactics I struggle with are tried and true, they just have a different impact on the internet and become somehow harder to avoid or ignore.

      That there are men and women rising up to create new and wonderful things is all good. I am questioning how we do it. Keep exploring!

  4. This is rare but I have very little to say…other than I have felt every piece of this post within myself over the past week or so.

    And…

    That photograph is fantastic.

    1. LOL I rendered someone speechless. My favorite part of writing on these difficult topics is creating the pictures to accompany them :-)

  5. Great post. I totally understand being bombarded with lots of competing messages, and I often get stuck at trying to decide the right strategy I should take. In the meantime nothing happens at all.

    Your art is lovely. I remember reading your Kickstarter page a couple of weeks ago, and had some thoughts about it at the time – which are the same thoughts I have when I look at it again now. I’m wondering – would you like and/or mind my feedback on it? I’m not an expert on this stuff, and I’m not a marketing expert who’s trying to sell you on something – I’m just a fellow artist who reads quite a few Kickstarter projects. Thought I’d ask before I go spouting off, because I’m getting from your posts that you’re tired of unsolicited advice, or people suggesting they’ve got the solution. I don’t have the solution, just my thoughts – and you may have heard similar ones from others already…

  6. Tracy I am always happy to receive feedback on my work or posts. Even the stuff I complain about is not unsolicited as I opt into the email list. I am trying to make observations more than complain, and I am here to start conversations.

    I am tired of what you explain here, which is holding my tongue or waiting for the right strategy to the detriment of getting anything done. So, I am speaking candidly about what can be touchy topics. If I hit a nerve here or there great. Tell me about it.

    As for my kickstarter project I would be happy to hear what you have to say. I made a lot of mistakes with it and learned a ton, but have not gotten much feedback. If I try another project in the future I will handle it much differently, beginning with a clearer, smaller in scope goal.

  7. YES. I’ve been grappling with this myself lately…. you’ve nailed how I’ve been feeling about the drive to manipulate rather than connect… to take the “right”, direct way of marketing versus the tiptoeing, being real kind of BEING.

    I, too, while appreciate guidance, don’t like it when someone tells me what to do. I shut down. That is, until I find myself again. It’s kind of like my wacky meditation practice… (which I’m not sure you could really call meditation). Once the cat jumps on me for the third time, and one of the kids “quietly” spies on me from around the corner, and then, of course, the neighbor decides to turn on his leaf blower, my practice is about coming back to me…. what feels good and helpful and joyful in my own heartspace, what direction I know that I must take despite all of the bright and shiny emails telling me otherwise, and how to take up a little space on this planet with integrity and hope.

    Sure, there might be certain ways to reach the millions… there might be certain paths toward success, making a bunch o’ money overnight, and all that jazz…. but after honoring the nudges of those I really look up to, I’d prefer to discover my own way, even if it means that it takes ten years for me to fill up one of my retreats, even it it seems slightly deranged or radical. Now will you remind me of this when I get impatient, or dazzled by the bright lights? :)

  8. LOL Lisa! Perhaps we can remind each other. There are many kinds of people out here and we don’t all have the same vision. Even when we think we do we may not, but I think I am trying to find the people most aligned with my “way” and communicate with them .

    Through conversation comes new ways of thinking!

    Distractions are and will be difficult to ignore, but any form of “meditation” or self reflection is good! I like to remember to breathe a few times a day 😉

  9. While reading your blog, I kept saying to myself “so it’s not just me….” I’m so glad to know that there are people who think and feel like me. I’m also glad to know that there is a launch season because I was feeling so bombarded with information and “invitations” that I just shut down and stopped reading and just hit delete.

    After reading so much of the information out there, I have found that most of it is repetitive, a lot of it is common sense and I feel like I’m on a scavenger hunt looking for the unique and valuable nuggets.

    Gwn, I think you have created a great foundation for your business. Your art is beautiful, your blog commentaries are interesting, insightful and good conversations starters.

    Love the headline and pic.

    1. Thanks Maureen. This was the first I’d heard the term launch season and I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know there have been more than the usual amount of pitches going on this past month.

      “After reading so much of the information out there, I have found that most of it is repetitive, a lot of it is common sense and I feel like I’m on a scavenger hunt looking for the unique and valuable nuggets.”

      Yes! This is exactly how it feels to me too. I am not unwilling to make an investment to help me get my business going, but I am not interested in any Ginsu knives. I find that I am collecting free bits of this and that and bonuses galore, but nothing that really helps or promotes action.

      In the meantime I am posting my thoughts and grateful for the feedback.

  10. Great post and I definitely checked out those marketing videos you pointed to… then I got to thinking, jeepers, here I am falling into the trap of intaking and researching like mad again. One thing leads to another, hey it’s good info no doubt…but I overwhelm myself! I think with all the blaring messages and easy access we have using the Internet…we let ourselves be overtaken by the noise and shiny lights out there. Ultimately, we have to get to what Tara talks a lot about – taking action! That is why I prefer good information that also pushes us to take action in the end. It’s just so easy to spiral into planning and preparing – when really you are stuck in a spiral of no or little action… maybe it’s just me who needs a bit more self-control… 😛

    1. Thanks Linda! I’m sorry I sent you on another seeking mission, but I suppose that drives the point home. YES, I need some assistance, but I need it in the form of action steps. I’ve nailed the research :-)

      Tara is so good at that!

  11. I promise I did not miss the point of your post, but I also don’t think I quite “got” it either. Apparently, I have no idea what a launch season is. So um, what is a launch season and why did it bog down your endeavors?

  12. Hi Janice,

    Good for you if you are unaffected by “launch season”. I did not coin this tern, but apparently it means a time of year when a large number of e businesses are promoting new products or classes at the same time and in a loud and repetitive fashion.

    I will say again I take full responsibility for what is in my in box and my reaction to it. However I am disappointed in the tactics being used to hook me.

    I am at a place where I need some input on what I’m doing and it feels like there’s a too good to be true solution around every corner. No doubt being an entrepreneur is not a one size fits all venture. I find myself bogged down by shiny tempting offers that I know in my gut are not right for me.

    Sensory overload I guess. What I think I am really asking is how do “we” as online entities keep it real and still get noticed? Is that even possible?

    1. I think Seth Godin has a book about this…yes! “Permission Marketing” It is older, but it talks about advertisers shouting at you and then shouting louder when everyone else starts shouting. It is an older book but might have some good stuff. Also, I think you mentioned being a fan.

      A few months back I applied to one of my forums regarding my blog. I asked for a critique and boy howdy did I get it. Except, it wasn’t what I wanted. It was, in fact, heartbreaking. And then this sweet shining person ( I love you, Carrie) stepped forward and asked how she could help. I guess what I needed was a one-on-one that could start with a conversation about why I was doing things the way I was and what exactly I thought I was accomplishing. So that’s where we started and we ended with a plan. A plan I have to enact.

      Maybe you need the same thing. Select one of those crazy offers in your inbox, and try to start a conversation. If the offering party isn’t interested in listening opt out and move on. Don’t be an online entity – be Gwyn ( I really like the Gwyn I’ve met so far), reaching out to the PERSON at the other end of the internet connection. Tell someone (just one) what kind of attention you want and see if he can lead you to a method or to another someone you can connect with. Then, grow from there.

      Good luck!

      Oh, and maybe your being affected by launch season means you’ve hit some kind of milestone. I’m still really small and new so the overall pulse of business is beyond my scope right now. You however, you must be playing in a bigger league so yea for you!

  13. I opted into a lot of the newsletters also and am now opting out of them because they started off with good info and then turned into a lot of hard selling asking for a lot of money at a time in my life where I’m unemployed and have no money. Yes I need help but I can’t afford to spend anything to get it right now, plus it just gets to be too much. It is like opening my email and seeing 20 people sitting there yelling at me.

    I’ve been in retail and sales and marketing for years and the hard sell is always what my employers have wanted. I’ve never worked that way and they tend to get mad at me for it. I’m shy and quite in real life and I shy away from sales people who are pushy and loud. I prefer someone more like myself when I am shopping so that’s how I sell also. To be honest I can sell to people a lot more effectively than my employers ever could. People don’t like to be bullied or sold they like to be spoken to like a person and informed and allowed to make their own decision. If only I could figure out how to do that same kind of selling online maybe I would be more successful. I just don’t know how to get noticed without doing all the “yelling”.

  14. Do people REALLY get offended when you unfollow them on Twitter? How do they even know? I watch the number of my followers fluctuate – up one day (yay, follow-bots) down the next – but when I lose a follower I rarely know who it was. And I have just over 100 followers. How can somebody with 200, 300, 500 or more followers possibly know which one is no longer following?

    I suppose there’s probably an analytics site somewhere that can tell you – and the fact that I don’t know that probably has a lot to do with why I only have 100 followers. But I like my little crew. None of them are robots, and I didn’t have to kill myself to get any of them to follow me – so they must be following because they like what I do or what I have to say.

    Maybe I should do a fundraiser among my 100 followers so that I can afford one of these “How to Make Your Blog the Best Blog that Your Blog Can Be” e-courses. I could certainly use some help re-vamping my website, but I don’t have any extra Benjamin-bills lying around. I wouldn’t mind the neon lights so much, I think, if any of them were attached to products that I actually need – and can afford.

    1. Lori what you are saying is exactly why I am asking these questions. I do think there is a way to sell online while remaining true to your voice. I don’t know how yet, but I am determined to learn and there are people out there that can help. Tara for instance.

      The flip side of this issue is money. I am writing about that today so, I’ll leave it at that. Check my site later today for the money post if you like.

  15. Stephanie you made me laugh. I don’t know if anyone gets offended when unfollowed on twitter. I don’t pay attention to those numbers myself.

    You may be correct that the bright lights are less offensive if attached to things I need and can afford. So far that hasn’t happened for me.

  16. Hi Gwyn – I’ve been so out of touch, I just now saw you mentioned my post here. Thank you! This is such tough stuff for all of us; I love your thoughtfulness here.

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