Today is the four year anniversary of the day I started unofficially blogging. (I didn’t launchOwningPink.com until April 2009, but I started my own Blogpost blog half a year earlier. I think I had three readers – all of them family!)
As I reflect back over four years of blogging, I have to smile. When my literary agent (who I lovingly call Monkey Barbara because she said she’d get in a monkey knife fight to represent my book) told me I had to start blogging after dozens of publishers had rejected my book, I dug my heels in. Wasn’t it enough that I was a doctor/ artist/ writer/ mother? Did I really have to add “blogger” to that? I was admittedly ticked off.
I also didn’t have a clue what it meant to be a blogger. What was I supposed to write about? Why would anybody care what I wrote about? How was it different from keeping a journal?
I barely even checked email, much less read other people’s blogs. And I’m the most un-tech-savvy human on the planet. Literally, things like iPhones scare me. The whole concept left me more than a little befuddled.
Yet here I am, four years later, after blogging radically transformed my life. Looking back at the woman I was when I wrote my first blog post (it’s no longer online but it was called “Getting Unblogged), I find myself smiling like a mother who gazes at her sleeping child. Beginning to blog was one of the first brave things I did after living a fearful, guarded life. My first blog was a baby step towards a life I couldn’t have even dreamed of back then. I’ll be forever grateful to Monkey Barbara for ordering me to blog. I’m also grateful to all those publishers who thumbed their noses at my first book because I didn’t have a “platform.” Had any one of them said yes, I never would have started blogging, and my life might have been radically different.
During this process, I’ve learned some life lessons I might never have learned, had I not started telling my story on the internet. To mark the four year anniversary of my first blog, I want to share them with you here.
Lesson #1 To teach effectively, you must be a perpetual student.
Nobody expects you to have it all figured out. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be an “expert.” Teaching as the student can be the most effective way to help other people transform their lives. If you teach from a pedestal, talking down to the people you hope will listen, you’ll lose them. Nobody wants to be talked down to, and people don’t trust you to teach them anything unless you reveal to them how you learned what you’re teaching. Be honest with people about where you are in your process, and even if you’re only one step ahead of them, you can help them take that one step.
Lesson #2 Nothing is personal.
The good stuff people say when they love what you do – it’s not personal. The mean stuff they spew – it’s not personal either. What people respond to is what they see of themselves in the mirror you hold up. If you make them feel good about themselves – you make them feel inspired or brave or loving or loved – they gush about you. If you make them feel bad about themselves – they feel jealous or inferior or judgmental or mean – they’ll post nasty comments all over the internet about you or badmouth you at the water cooler. Either way, it’s not about you.
You don’t get to claim any of it – which is good. Because if you believe the good stuff, you’ll get all high-and-mighty diva on the world, eating only green M&Ms. If you believe the bad stuff, you’ll let one piece of criticism crush you. Instead, you have to seek approval, acceptance, and worthiness from within. You also have to strive to self-improve, not in a beat-yourself-up sort of way, but in a gentle “I’m a work in process” fashion. Go ahead and seek counsel from a few select people whose opinions you value, those who have done enough of their personal work to give you feedback free of projection. Don’t pay much attention to everybody else.
Lesson #3 Vulnerability is the glue of connection.
When I started blogging, I had no idea whether they would come if I built it. Pressing “Publish” on my first blog felt like inviting people to a birthday party, when I was pretty sure nobody would show up. What I discovered is that, if you’re willing to push the edge of your comfort zone, let go of perfectionism, and reveal the truth about your struggles, your triumphs, your insecurities, your imperfections, and the raw edges of your cracked-wide-open heart, people feel close to you – and they feel closer to themselves. As Brené Brown teaches in her beautiful new book Daring Greatly, such vulnerability breeds intimacy, belonging, and connection.
Lesson #4 There’s no such thing as too much love.
From the beginning, I started responding to people in the comments of my blog using terms of endearment like “sweetie,” “love,” and “darling.” My assistant started doing the same. Then one day, she asked me to preview an email she was about to send out. “Is this too much love? Have I gone too far?” I said no, that there would be no such thing as going too far in how much love we flowed out into the world. So she sent it. People are starving for love, and most of us withhold it, even when we want nothing more than to love and be loving. So hold someone’s hand. Give free hugs. Say “I love you.” Call someone “honey.” The only ones who won’t appreciate it are the ones who struggle with their own worthiness and feel they don’t deserve such free-flowing affection. For everyone else, you’ll make their day.
Lesson #5 If you have the discipline to do something every day, you get really freakin’ good at it.
I was a creative writing major in college, but I didn’t do a whole lot of actual writing. I wrote when the muse showed up, which wasn’t very often. But once I started blogging, I had a schedule, and I had to figure out how to write, even when I didn’t feel inspired. After four years of writing almost every day, I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and mastered my craft. You can do the same. Just find what you love, get your ass in the chair, and practice, practice, practice.
Lesson #6 There’s a life lesson in everything.
When I became a professional artist, I started looking at the visual world with fresh eyes. A lemon-lime patch of new growth in a green redwood forest becomes inspiration for a painting. The pattern a wet palm frond leaves on the pool deck becomes a sculpture. You see the world with new eyes when you’re on the look out for inspiration. The same is true for blogging.
When you know you have to write something others will care about several times per week, you’re always on the lookout for inspiration. Suddenly, a kayaking trip becomes a lesson in going with the flow of the current, rather than struggling upstream. A swim in shark-infested waters became an opportunity to overcome fear. A watsu massage becomes a spiritual awakening. The lessons are everywhere, not just for me, but for you. Open your fresh eyes. See your life metaphorically. Then lie back and watch the magic unfold.
Are You A Blogger? Or A Blog Reader?
What life lessons have you learned from blogging or reading blogs? Share your wisdom in the comments below.
Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.