The desire to go viral
I want to go viral. I want to get 100 likes on everything I post. I want to get it down to a science, so I can repeatedly go viral every post.
I want to tell you a half-truth and say: there’s just so many useful things I’ve created and I’m launching them all just so I can get them out there into the world.
But this statement is closer to the truth: I put so much of myself into some projects, like months or even years of effort, I feel like they deserve 100 likes the moment I hit publish. And I get angry at you, my friends and fellow indie hackers, for not giving me what I deserve.
And I recognize these feelings for what they are: shallow.
Why don’t I get what I deserve?
I recognize them from being a kid in high school when my crushes didn’t notice me. I recognize them from playing basketball when my father didn’t praise me. And I recognize them from the science fair, when I got 3rd place instead of 1st like I thought I deserved.
But here’s the thing: the world does not care about what you or I or anyone else deserves.. Frustrating, considering we were taught our whole lives — high school through college and beyond — that that’s just what the world rewards: the well-intentioned, the hard-working, and the well-prepared.
It makes me angry and it can make you angry too.
Looking at things differently
But, in the end, that too is an under-developed attitude. Because there’s yet another, better way to approach the world: with curiosity.
- Why doesn’t the world reward those who deserve it?
- Why do I get angry that the world doesn’t care about me?
- Why does it seem like the world doesn’t care?
Deep questions, I’m sure :)
But also useful. Because it turns out the world has no concept of “deserve”. There’s no great karmic balance that I can see — on the material plane at least — that balances the amount of “good” against “evil” and spits out rewards to those with more good.
It’s simpler: if you speak up, people will hear you. If you say “hi” to your high school crush, you might get lucky and start a conversation with them. If you want praise from someone, give 110% effort and make sure they’re someone you’ve heard give praise to anyone before. And, if you want to win 1st place at the science fair, you actually need to consistently be the best — in the quality of your project idea, in the clarity of your presentation, and in public speaking.
And, most importantly, there’s some aspect of luck to all of this. You can catch someone on a good day and they’ll be effusive with warmth and praise. Or you can catch your high school crush in the middle of a stressful day and it might seem like they’re ignoring you.
So, what does this all come down to?
When you’re considering the behavior of the world in reference to yourself, resist the urge to react with the shallow feelings of anger or contempt, and notice.
Notice the people around you. What do they care about? What kind of moods do they go through? What are other people doing to get their attention? If you want attention, are you actually doing the basics, like putting yourself out there and speaking? If you want to be the best, are you just focused on yourself, or are you actually noticing your competition and how good they are?
And, most importantly: are you giving yourself a fair chance by putting yourself out there regularly, and practicing what you want to be good at? While also allowing luck to shift in your favor over time, the more consistently and boldly you approach the stage?
I am terrified of the stage. The idea of presenting in front of other people is scary. Trying to get my thoughts under control, while modulating my voice, and saying exactly the right things — the things I want to say, the things they want to hear — all at the same time.
And all the while, paying attention to the audience’s reactions. Adapting on the fly, millisecond by millisecond, to what other people want from me, so I can give them just that.
Again, an unhealthy, under-developed attitude to a situation that’s quite simple.
You can think of every moment of life, when you’re around other people, as if you’re on a stage. They’re paying attention, judging you, always wondering what you want and who you are and where you motivations come from.
But, if you did this, you’d be scared frozen all the time. You’d find it impossible to move, to be yourself.
And that’s the thing about the person who ended up taking my crush out on a date, the classmate who became really good at basketball and played in college, and the individual who won the science fair: I’m sure they moved without thinking, quite naturally, to the beat of their own drum.
Small things, big things
When you want a big thing — international fame, excellence in sports or science, or the ability to be true to yourself despite a crowd being against you — you need to be focused on a longterm goal that doesn’t waver or shift no matter how much noise or vicissitudes of life you throw at it.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
It’s this solidness of character that’s required to achieve almost anything. You must be willing to set aside temporary injustices against your will, your pride, or your ego. And step forward anyways.
I often find the best way to stay focused on the big things is to think of the next small step: what do I need to do next? If that’s taking a breath, I take a breath. If that’s focusing on the world around me, I do that. Often it’s something simple like this. I need to be patient, focused, slow.
So, why am I launching 31 in 31 days? Why am I putting myself through this — launching all of these projects at once?
Practice, of two types
I want to establish a practice — a habit — of putting myself out there. Of being vulnerable and exposed to criticism. Of being unappreciated and unseen. And I want to press forward despite doubts or criticism or smallness of ego. Because I want to do great things, I really do, and I can’t let the vicissitudes of life get in the way of that vision.
And to practice — doing something repeatedly to get better at it. Practice creating, writing and publishing. Practice knowing how to make complex ideas seem simple. And knowing how to bring people into my little workshop and show them what’s what. And gaining an understanding of when people care about one thing more than another — and why.
But mostly the first type of practice. Because, if I can let go of the whole picture making sense at once and just try to create meaningful things and talk about them, I know I will accomplish my big goal (making money online) by focusing on the small things (making things people care about).