The white canvas

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT DEL” comes out in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

We all have the same opportunities. We all have the same channels. We all have access to the same people. It’s what we do with them that matters most.

Like an artist, all of our collective canvases start off as a white, blank space. It can be the blank screen of your blog writing platform, it can be an empty Twitter box waiting for you to answer the question, “What’s happening?”, it can be a hot microphone just waiting for you to rant and publish a podcast with, or it can be the moment before you flip on your Flip video cam. How you fill your space is going to determine your level of success (and whatever “success” means to you).

It’s not easy.

Yes, anyone can publish their thoughts in text, images, audio and/or video almost instantly (and for free) to the world, but it doesn’t mean that everybody is going to be great (or memorable) at it. Some take their time and labour over every single thought, while others seem to be able to constantly (and consistently) publish something of quality with very little preparation as it rolls off their tongues. The talented ones really do have something special going on. The talented ones have the ability to be interesting.

Be interesting.

A lot of the online conversation is about how much one should talk about themselves versus providing valuable content to the community they are trying to build. Some people think there is some kind of mathematical formula to how many times you can talk about yourself versus simply publishing something that adds value to someone else’s life. None of that matters. All you have to do is be interesting.

It’s not easy to do.

Saying, “it’s not easy to be interesting” is actually a very complex thought. After all, if the real power of social media — and all of these publishing platforms — is to share who you really are and then no one connects with what you’re doing, does that mean you’re not interesting? Alternatively, if you have to really think about it and be calculated in what you’re publishing to try to be interesting, what’s the point?

People who are interesting often don’t think too much about it. They just are.

That’s the real secret: not everyone is interesting (sorry). Some people are more interesting than others (it’s true). Some people are super-successful, while other people will struggle their whole lives (sadly). It’s what makes us individuals, and it’s what makes us the society we are (for better or for worse). But in the end, we all do have this amazing new, white, blank canvas to explore and discover. It’s something we’ve never had before, and it’s something we should celebrate.

Don’t worry about monetization. Don’t worry about community. Don’t worry about your traffic. Focus on being interesting. Focus on bringing that white canvas to life.

About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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