After the seemingly endless and challenging year, that is 2020; the New Year is here. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen present their predictions for 2021 and what they see in their own paths ahead. They talk about the digital complications this year may pose, particularly in addressing screen fatigue and prolonging attention spans. They also talk about the dangers of getting validation from comments and reactions on social media. Jason and Whitney further discuss how communities may be forever changed by the pandemic, particularly when gathering face-to-face.
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Predictions For 2021 And Defining What The New Year Will Look Like
Attention, Screen Fatigue
This is our first solo episode of the New Year. We had one other episode on New Year’s Day with a guest. This is our first one between the two of us. There are a couple of things that I thought were interesting and relevant in terms of the transition between 2020, which has been an intense year and 2021, which is a year full of unknowns. If you’re reading in 2021, there’s still so much of the year left for you unless you happen to be reading to a full year after this. I received two emails that I thought were interesting on this subject matter.
The first one included some predictions for 2021. I always find that interesting because first of all, some of these things are based on trends and they can be accurate, but we don’t have the ability to predict anything, so who knows? Secondly, they can be fascinating in terms of things to observe within ourselves, whether they turn out to be accurate or not. In this one email, it was predictions for content marketing in 2021 and the author, Christopher Penn, who writes a nice email if you’re into marketing and it’s worth subscribing to, says, “I have no idea what to predict for 2021 and neither does anyone else if we’re honest. So little about the world is predictable now beyond the basics,” which I thought was a wonderful way to phrase that.
He then got into challenges that people are facing and challenges that he sees people going into 2021 with. I thought that was a great way to pivot this beyond trying to predict, to be right and to be accurate about what’s coming for us. Instead, what if we focus on what is challenging for us? There are a lot of challenging things. He surveyed his email audience and found that the top challenge was screen fatigue. This was interesting to me, especially as a content creator, both me and Jason, because he said, “People don’t want more podcasts, more videos, more live streams or more time on their devices.” I read that line and I thought, “Shit.”
First of all, he’s probably right. Jason and I have talked about screen fatigue and fatigue in general, from social media. We talked about this on an episode with Corbett Barr, which I recommend reading if you have not yet. Anyway, I am reading this thinking, “That’s great.” Jason and I are invested in people’s well-being, but it’s challenging to figure out how to support people when so much of our ways of supporting people have been online and it’s through a device, whether that’s a computer, a phone, a tablet, or a television. Those are becoming smarter and smarter. It’s also interesting because Christopher S. Penn is writing to me through his screen to my screen. He’s not saying not to create online content. It’s simply making a little bit of a pivot.
One of the things that he recommended was that people want to get things faster. This also triggered me, especially with our show, Jason. Being on average 60 to 90 minutes long, it’s certainly not fast. Although, a little tip for you. You can listen to podcasts at faster speeds. Some people enjoy doing this. Depending on the podcast platform you’re using, set 1.5 speed or even two times the speed If you can handle that. I do this with audiobooks. I like to listen to audiobooks at 1.25 speed. It still sounds natural, but it saves a little bit of time. I don’t even notice it anymore because I’m so used to it.
Another thing that Christopher recommended was reading transcripts. I was relieved because in the show notes section that we mentioned on our website, there’s a transcript for every single episode. He said that people can read up to 400 words per minute and we speak at roughly 150 words per minute. It’s over two times faster to read our episodes. People can consume our episodes over 2.5 times faster with those transcripts, which is neat. He also talks about cutting out the fat and making things faster and shorter. How can we make our content as fast as possible?
It is because many people’s attention is scarce. It’s a premium to have people’s attention. I think that this is going to be a growing thing, but it’s a little frightening to me, Jason. I know you’re going to have a lot to say about this too because I’m trying to get away from this mentality of trying to get people’s attention all the time. All these tactics and ways to optimize, like, “Look at me.” That is unsettling for me. That’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to do that, but I also don’t want to fully lose people’s attention because I find supporting others very rewarding and that’s clearly part of our careers.
Knowing that people need support from one another, that’s how we work collectively as human beings. How do we move forward in this world that’s constantly trying to grab people’s attention? Jason, I’m curious, where you’re at with that mentally? I know that you’ve been reflecting on how you want to operate in 2021. With all of this said, what is this making you feel? Are you getting triggered by this? Are you feeling scared? Are you feeling relaxed about it?
I’m in a state of, “I don’t know.” I was going to say confusion, but it’s not. It’s, “I don’t know,” because on the one hand, I know that for myself. We have talked about this extensively with our dear friend, Adam Yasmin, who also has a great previous episode of this show. I’m having a lot of conversations with close friends and also seeing things pop up about how much people miss live in-person events and activations, whether that’s doing therapy one-on-one or music lessons one-on-one. I’m seeing a pretty broad consensus that people are really, and for good reason, missing that deeper energetic transmission.When people feel like there's care and it's customized, their attention is much longer. Click To Tweet
I was speaking with someone at my physical therapist’s office. When the pandemic started, I was doing almost every day for the first month of the pandemic an Alive at Five. I was going on every single day on Instagram live and doing skits and playing music. With something like events that you and I have thrown. I don’t know if the readers know this, but Whitney is a fantastic organizer and event planner. We’ve personally not only spoken at different events, but Whitney has produced. We’ve co-hosted many events in the past. It’s one of our favorite things to do, but when it comes to something like music, gatherings or trade shows, the online experience isn’t the same. It’s a decent substitute, but it’s not the same because there’s something about being in the room, physically with other people where there’s a transmission between the speaker, the entertainer, the presenter and the audience. There’s that real-time feedback.
There’s being able to hug someone, look them in the eye, and talk about their challenges, issues, and heartbreaks. We’re not getting that deeper level of interactive, energetic exchange when we’re doing digital media. You talk about, “Am I afraid?” I’m afraid that the fear from the pandemic is going to be so etched in people’s consciousness, that they’re going to be afraid to do these in-person events. I hope not. I hope that we get to a point where the concerts, the gatherings and the things that we will do will shift to more in person. That’s my hope. In 2021, we’ll do a lot more events. We’ll do a lot more in-person real-time gatherings and exchanges with people, but the other side of that, Whitney, is I personally would love to find a way to spend less time on screens.
I’m burnt out on it. I’m sick of spending hours a day on Zoom calls, social media promotions, and writing emails, but the question is, if you and I are intending on having more in-person interactions with events and maybe coaching and things like that, how do we spread the word about that? We have our newsletters. We have social media. There are new ones popping up that I haven’t explored, like Telegram that a lot of people are talking about. It’s going to be a challenge for you and I to want to spend less screen time, to want to not be as burnt out on social media and online marketing, but then how do we physically spread the word about what we’re doing? I don’t have an answer to that yet. As I wrap up this longer diatribe, what I’ve been noticing is how many creators that are involved specifically who is interesting who are sex workers, who promote cannabis and psychedelic drugs are being cracked down by the new terms of service, the TOS, that Instagram and other platforms are rolling out. It’s shadow banning or automatically deleting content from creator’s feeds that are deemed sexually explicit or promoting federal illegal substances, even though they’re legal in their state.
It’s becoming harder for content creators in general to get their work seen because these terms and conditions keep changing on these platforms. I know that’s a long answer to your question, but it’s going to be more challenging for us to spread the word about our content and our offerings for the reasons that the terms and conditions to keep changing on these platforms. There’s so much fucking information being bombarded at people all the time. It’s no wonder people are fatigued. They’re getting blitzed and bombarded by posts, videos, stories and ads. I don’t know how we are going to handle 2021 in terms of our business, our marketing. I know that was a lot of intellectual vomit I just threw at you, but how are you feeling about it? What do you think we can do to change things up?
As you were talking, I remembered another newsletter that I received from Corbett. It’s interesting because he also mentioned references in this email, two of our other guests, Chris Guillebeau and Paul Jarvis. This article is about 10 Trends for Creators that he’s watching in 2021. I love Corbett. That episode we did with him is one of our all-time favorites. Seeing what he’s doing has been helpful for me. I’ll go through this in live time because I had scanned it before. The word trend or predictions, we can use lightly. It’s opinions. He has an article on this on his website in addition to this newsletter, so you can easily read it.
Number one, this is interesting and probably is something worth looking at for us, Jason. It is something called Videobooks. It’s funny because this first trend that he wrote here, he starts off by saying, “As our attention spans get shorter and shorter, longer-form content can be harder to fit into our days.” He’s reiterating the same thing. We have two people pointing these out. Clearly, this is going to be something that we’re going to deal with in 2021 and beyond. We know this is not new information, but a lot of reputable people are predicting this. Sadly, Corbett also points out he read fewer books in 2020. I personally enjoy longer-form content. I probably read more books in 2020 than in the last few years. I read audiobooks. They can take eight-plus hours to listen to, but I’m usually not in a rush. We have to keep remembering that the aim here is not to please everyone. The aim here is not to go into life and following a trend for the sake of the trend.
I know that I enjoy longer-form content in terms of books, audiobooks and podcasts so I feel good about us continuing doing this. It doesn’t feel authentic to us to do shorter form content because that’s the trend. There are still plenty of people that have that patience and patience is also a big part of well-being. This whole fear of something being too long is maybe not the best for a mental state. In fact, I think we benefit from having longer attention spans. We can practice this through meditation, for example and this trend of our attention span is getting so short, I don’t think it’s the best direction for us to go.
Even though it is happening, I think that we can be aware and conscious of it and resist it. On the other hand, I love platforms like TikTok. I’m creating content on there. I think about TikTok. I watch a lot of videos. I see my attention span as short on that platform, but I also see it longer on others. I think both could happen at the same time. I mentioned videobooks and I guess there’s a new company that partners with authors to bring books to life in under two hours and maybe it’s through a video. I haven’t even checked this out yet. That’s something to explore. There’s new technology being developed to help with these challenges.
Another thing that I have seen as a trend is paid newsletters. This is something I’ve been thinking about for Wellevatr. We have a newsletter that we send out once a week, sometimes more often, depending on what we’re working on. There’s this great platform called Substack that’s growing in popularity. It’s possible that we may pivot to a paid newsletter. I don’t know if that solves the screen fatigue challenge though. Section number six on Corbett’s list was a digital reboot. This is what he talked about in his episode with us. This is also where he addresses Paul Jarvis and Chris Guillebeau. I didn’t know this Jason, but apparently, Chris tweeted that he’s thinking about starting over in 2021 with his blog, his podcast and his next book. He is archiving everything and starting it all over from a blank slate. He didn’t confirm this. He’s saying that he’s thinking about it, but this could be a big trend and that is interesting to me. What does happen if we all start over? That’s something that you’ve been thinking a lot about, Jason. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people start doing digital reboots.
Lastly, on his list, Corbett talks about the Creator Economy. This is also something that we’re going to see more, especially as we’re in the New Year. We see platforms like Patreon, Substack, TikTok and we have OnlyFans, which we’ve talked about here and there. Etsy has been growing. Something that I notice a lot on TikTok, which is a great place to study trends because it’s about up and coming things. I don’t know why more than other platforms, I get breaking news and trends on TikTok before I see them anywhere else. I don’t know how it happens.
I never see that happening on Instagram. Usually, Instagram feels behind. In fact, Jason, we have experienced this where you’ll send me a video that you think is funny and I’m like, “I saw that weeks ago on TikTok. It’s kind of old news to me.” This happens on Twitter and I’m sure the other platforms as well, but it’s the delivery mechanism of TikTok, it’s like, “This is happening now or this is about to happen.” You see trends developing because somebody will jump on board for something and it gets all this momentum.
I’m seeing that happen with OnlyFans and Etsy. It’s interesting with Etsy as an example, because a lot of younger people, teenagers and early twenties, are starting their own businesses on Etsy. They’re creating things like stickers, resin art, 3D printing and starting to make their own living from there. I think it’s neat. This is also going to be a big result of 2020. People were spending more time at home and are looking for new ways to make money. That’s where OnlyFans and Etsy have started to gain a lot of traction. I think 2020 in a way has shaped so much of these trends that are starting to happen in the New Year.
It’s going to require a lot of pivots in the sense that people who have been making money a certain way, those income streams are not necessarily available or maybe not as plentiful. To echo what you said, Whitney, I’m very much in the same boat if I want to open my mind and my consciousness to new ways of leveraging my creativity to make money. I don’t necessarily have physical items to sell other than maybe my books and my DVDs, but I’ve been meditating. I wonder if there’s a physical thing I can create and sell to people. We did talk about this many episodes ago in a book that I am almost done reading called Lost Connections. In Lost Connections, there’s a section that talks about how there’s a certain lack of creative fulfillment when you are releasing digital content, whether that’s photos, YouTube videos, eBooks, or online courses.
I resonated with that in the sense that I feel a deeper level of creative satisfaction when I release something like a DVD, my actual physical book, or some tangible physical item that is tactile and real. I don’t get as much satisfaction when we have released our eBooks, which are great. Take Charge and You Are Enough are amazing. We’ve got some cool eBooks in our Free Resources section as an aside at our website. It’s hard to describe that feeling. I’m wondering, when your book came out and you’ve done some great t-shirts in the past, you’ve done some great Eco-Vegan Gal schwag in the past, Whitney. I remember you had those great backpacks. I’m wondering if you feel the same because I feel like I want to create more physical items moving forward. I don’t know what that is yet, but I feel in my heart, I want that deeper level of creative satisfaction and share physical, tactile items with people.
I agree. I have experimented a lot with physical items. I did t-shirts and books, but I was also doing my backpacks. We’ve been approached by Wellevatr to partner with some of these merchandise companies. It’s something that we’ve thought about doing, maybe making organic tote bags, coffee mugs or something like that, which is interesting. That also feels very concentrated. I don’t know if the time investment is worth the return on investment. We’d have to see it. It’s a big experiment and it’s a lot of work to launch anything. It is different than it used to be, at least for me. When I launched my t-shirts, there weren’t a lot of people with t-shirts back then.
I think because it was less crowded, it was easier to stand out. Social media was so different back in 2013, 2014. My first line of t-shirts came out at the very beginning of 2012. I had a dedicated community of people that were into it. I started doing surprise boxes, I would package up products and send them out to people. I had done a few different iterations of that one. I would send people a random box of things. I did another version of it where I asked people what they wanted. If I had it in stock, I would fill the boxes with what they asked and they could pick out what they wanted. My newer version, which I still do, I’ve been passive with it, but you can technically still order it from me.If you just set your intentions, you can manifest them. If you visualize them, they will happen. Click To Tweet
You can go on and see what’s in a box. I would put the boxes together of products and these were always products that maybe I was sent from a company and had extra of and I wanted to give to people and I would charge them a small amount of money. It wasn’t there to be a profit. It was mainly a way for me to send people items. Long story short, Jason, it did feel very fulfilling. I was surprised at the number of people that signed up for those things, wasn’t like a game-changer in terms of income, because it wasn’t designed to be, but it did feel like a neat way for me to send somebody something.
If I had the extra money in my business, I’d love to send people things entirely for free and that would be a lovely place to get to. Lastly, my current experience has been working well. A lot of these things I mentioned will eventually tie into is my community Beyond Measure. I think that has started to form and take shape after months and months of experimenting. If you haven’t heard me talk about this before I started coming up with this idea for Beyond Measure towards the beginning of 2020. I think it had been in my head for a lot longer than that, but I didn’t know how to express it and how to put it into words.
I’ve experimented with online communities before. We have a Patreon, which we haven’t found a lot of success with. If you want to support us on Patreon, you’re more than welcome to, but the effort that it was taking for us to put into the Patreon community was not worthwhile because not a lot of people were interested in supporting us there. That’s fine. I’ve experimented with Patreon through Wellevatr and through Eco-Vegan Gal. I had also started a community years ago called Eco-Vegan Pal. It was a virtual pen pal, a virtual community here. It didn’t catch on. That was fine, but my interest in having a membership community has always lingered.
Long story short, I started slowly working on Beyond Measure at the beginning of 2020, I saw a big need for it. Here’s the reason why. When I did personal outreach to people, they respond completely differently than when I do a broad outreach, like a general newsletter or social media posts. When I’ve reached out to people individually or if I have done something a little bit more broad in general, but felt like it had a personal touch to it. For example, in March, 2020, once the pandemic started to become serious, I wrote an email asking, “How are you doing?” It was sent out to my entire newsletter list, but I got tons of responses from people. Simply that question of asking people, “How they were doing,” caused them to respond.
That was such a big thing for me because it was my aim from the very beginning, with Beyond Measure to be truly supportive. As I said, I want to support people and that’s fulfilling to me that I feel like as part of my reason for being. As Beyond Measure started to take shape, I started inviting people in one by one, personal invitations to them. Some of the readers are either in Beyond Measure or have been invited to Beyond Measure. It depends if I have a relationship with somebody that’s developed through email or through Instagram or wherever else, these are people that I’ve started to get to know, and I felt like they could be a good fit.
I’m hand-selecting people. It has been remarkable. Jason, even though it’s a digital community, it feels vastly different than social media because people know that I care. They know that I care because I invited them in. They know that I care because we touched base with each other through video chat and it’s a private group. They know that I care because I respond to their messages and we’re having conversations on this platform and it’s not on social media, so it’s not distracting. I think going back to Corbett’s predictions for 2020, it is a more intimate community.
That’s a huge part of this whole conversation and also referencing Christopher Penn’s observation is a better word for him. People’s attention is getting shorter. In some cases, they’re getting shorter in terms of consuming content, but when people feel like something’s designed for them, when people feel like there’s the care and it’s customized, their attentions are much longer. I think that’s part of the reason, Jason, that we can hold people’s attention with this show. Maybe not everybody, but people are reading because they know that we care about them. We truly do.
Hopefully, you know that we do care, that we’re not doing this for money. We’re not doing this for fame. We’re doing this because we care and we want to have conversations and we get feedback. We’re here to open up, share our hearts and show you that there’s something of substance here. I think that resonates with a lot of people. They’re reading these conversations. They don’t feel so contrived. Our episodes are not necessarily meant to teach somebody something. They’re meant to explore something. That makes it very different. It’s a long-winded answer to say, “It doesn’t have to be a physical product to make a difference.” People want to be cared for, in my opinion.
As a related comment, in the past year and a half or so, I’ve had some interesting conversations, Whitney with fellow content, creators/coaches who have been involved in different communities, or coaching programs who have had disappointing experiences. I was talking with a mutual friend of ours who is a psychotherapist. She has a practice where she’s thriving with her clients, but she wants to expand her online presence, her offerings online and brand herself in a way that reflects who she is that feels like her. She joined a tribe and that word gets thrown around way too much, “Come join the tribe. Come join the clan, come join whatever.” I’m saying all this because she had a disappointing experience in the sense that sounds familiar.
They promised her all of this stuff. They promised her all of this support, this community interaction, a higher level of attention. She paid five figures for this coaching program. She was relaying to me how just furious and disappointed she was that they promised her all these things of, “We’ve got a thriving community that’s super supportive. The tribe is strong here. You’ll feel taken care of. You’ll feel loved.” I’m bringing this up because there are a lot of these programs that are over-promising and under-delivering. They’re positioning things for people that are lonely and lost and don’t know what they’re doing and they say, “We’ve got a community of like-minded people just like you who will support you in this is the deeper level of intimate interaction you’re going to get. We’re going to assign a specific coach to you.” It goes on and on, but it’s interesting to take note of what you’re talking about, how people want to feel taken care of.
They want to feel heard. They want to feel included. They want to feel seen. A lot of online marketers, online coaches and entrepreneurs are positioning their programs in that way, but they’re not delivering on what they’re saying. To me, that’s even more damaging because you’re wanting people to feel included, taken care of, loved, seen, heard and as part of a larger community, but then when you’re not delivering what you promise, you’re not only infuriating people. The energy you’re creating by promising one thing and delivering the opposite is potentially very damaging. In this case, Whitney, they are refusing to refund her money, which I don’t agree with that tactic. I see that a lot too with online coaches and entrepreneurs where they’re like, “No refunds.”
If you promise something and you don’t deliver, it would be integrity in my opinion, to give someone a refund. I know that that might be tangential, but when you’re talking about you’re craving this connection, I don’t know that these programs are intentionally taking advantage of people. I’d like to believe they’re not. I think that there’s a lot of lack of integrity, as we’ve talked about, with online marketing, with over-promising, with the language people are using. We certainly endeavor not to ever do that because we’ve been on the receiving end of something similar. I see it happening more and more, Whitney. If we’re going to talk about community and connection, we need to create structures and frameworks to deliver that for people.
Coming back to this point about delivering on what you promise, what you guarantee and setting the right expectations. It’s been interesting as we have relaunched our two courses, Wellness Warrior Training and The Consistency Code because there’s been a lot of customer service things that have come up. It is incredibly important to address things with integrity. It is a little bit tricky, as you were talking about giving somebody a refund. In the cases of our program, sometimes we can’t. When we’re doing a bundle, for example, we’re not receiving the money, so we’re not in a place to give the refund. It’s through a joint program. That came up a few times through the bundle sales that we’ve done. It only came up once that somebody asked for a refund and my response was, “I’m sure you can get a refund through the bundle.”
That’s part of the integrity of the bundles is they’re not saying like, “Spend your money and you’re never getting it back.” There are conditions usually and setting those clearly up front has been an ongoing learning lesson. In fact, I know you, Jason, in your private coaching have learned the lesson of something not going as planned and making sure that it’s clear, like, “What is your refund policy? What is your partial refund policy? What does somebody need to do in order to get a refund? How much time would need to go by before that refund opportunity expires?” All of that transparency is incredibly important. On one hand, I fully agree with you, Jason, it does feel shady if somebody promises you something or sets up your expectations and doesn’t deliver. That has happened to us as well.
I also know as a coach that just because somebody says they can do something for me, it’s technically not a promise because I have to put the work in. We have in our return policies for our courses. If you show us that you’re doing the work and you’re not getting the results, we’re happy to give you a refund within a certain period of time. Usually, it’s 30 days, but we’re asking people to show us that they’re putting in the work because you got to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. Sadly, that happens. People buy something, they download it and then they want a refund for it. I know our aim as coaches. I think with many coaches, Jason, is to get somebody results by seeing them put in the work.
If someone’s not willing to put in the work and they’re claiming that they don’t get what you promised them, that’s not fully fair. It’s incredibly conditional. There’s also no one size fits all rule when it comes to these things because everybody’s circumstances are different. Everybody’s work ethic, time, energy, and expectations are different. I was thinking about this how customer service can be hard and it sometimes feels impossible to please people.
When we’ve had this increase of new students enrolling in our courses, it’s been wonderful, but that also increases the emails that we get from people saying that they don’t like things. I think we talked about in an episode how one person decided they didn’t want our program because it included meditation. We’re not going to take meditation out of our courses because that’s at the core of our belief system in terms of taking care of your well-being, but it did give me an opportunity to reframe things, to ask some questions, to get some feedback and to adjust it.2020 showed everyone that we could have the best of intentions, but they may not work out. Click To Tweet
Ultimately, if we come from a place of wanting to take care of people and wanting to support them, as I was saying, that’s what’s important. I think probably your point, Jason, is that sadly, a lot of coaches, whether it be business or personal life or health, whatever it is, not all of them are coming from a place of integrity. Some of them are trying to get as many people to sign up as possible. I was so grateful when we had our conversation with Jason and Caroline Zook, who are coaches that I’ve worked with. When they talked about how they approach coaching and how they do everything in their power to take care of their students, no matter how many there are.
There are hundreds of people that have signed up for their programs, but I’m one of those hundreds of people and I still feel taken care of. That to me is the big key. I trust the two of them. They go above and beyond. They did so by coming on our show, which I think was one of my favorite episodes along with Corbett’s. Hearing people approach it, they do from this place of genuine authenticity. It’s not about the money, but it is still a business. I think finding that balance of business and authenticity is key. That does come back around to where this conversation started around about attention spans. One of our ways of supporting people is to be genuine. If our content is genuinely running longer, that is a better fit for us, and it wouldn’t be fully genuine of us to make things super short.
The only reason we’d be making something short is to try to maximize the number of eyeballs or ears, it’s not really about what we stand for. That is an incredibly important thing. I think another trend coming back around to something that reminds me of what Corbett was saying is that this idea of a digital reboot. Part of the benefit of that is stepping away and re-examining how you’re doing things. I think that process involves asking yourself, does this feel right? Does this suit me? Am I doing this because I think I “should?” As you were saying, Jason, which is another episode reference of ours with Tricia talking about like, “Are you doing something because you feel like you should be doing it? Does that feel good to you?” I’ve noticed that so much of marketing and social media these days is me doing something because I feel like I should, not because I want to or it aligns with me. That’s a red flag. That’s an opportunity for me to step back and say, “I’m not doing this for the right reasons.”
I think that one thing that comes to my mind, Whitney, is how many people I see, especially in the food space, that there’s almost a national day for every type of food. There’s National Cinnamon Roll Day, National Sushi Day and National Green Bean Casserole Day. There’s the stuff that will come up on the social feeds that I’m like, “There’s a day for that? National Crème Brulee Day.” I’ll see certain content creators every time. There’s one of these national days that are like, “I’ve got a recipe for green bean casserole and crème brulee.” I don’t know if they’re doing it out of joy or excitement, but it seems to me that this idea of should and this idea of not listening to ourselves and just doing what we think we ought to do is a mental virus that people latch on and they see everyone else doing the thing.
I’ve had this thought in the past. I remember it was National Donut Day. I was in Las Vegas on a business trip. I was promoting my book Eaternity. I didn’t know it was National Donut Day. I saw it popping up and I remember looking through the archives on my phone thinking, “Fuck, I need to post a picture of a donut.” Here I am looking back at the anxiety I felt trying to find an appropriate donut picture and caption to post on National Donut Day because I felt I had to.
I’m using this as an example to back up what you’re saying, Whitney, of how often content creators, artists, business owners, humans in general, doesn’t matter your endeavor, do things out of a sense of obligation, compulsion, and fear that we may be excluded. To your point, moving forward, I certainly endeavor not just with our business and our show, but my life in general, to look at what is the thing that is compelling me to do this action? If it’s a sense of obligation or should or ought to or a fear of being excluded, I don’t want to operate from that place anymore. I’m at least going to practice as a madman not to.
This reminds me of something else I wanted to bring up. We talked about her in a previous episode and she’s someone I’ve said I’d love to have on the show. One thing I plan to do in 2021 is to invite Kathleen Smith to this show. Hopefully, she will say yes, but regardless I love reading her newsletters, and one of her newsletters, which came out on December 18th, 2020 was 20 Ways you had an Incredibly Anxious 2020 and How This Can Help You Think About 2021. She’s so articulate. She specializes in anxiety and it’s always such great food for thought. Number one on her list was that you borrowed standards of success from the world around you. I don’t recall if this was in one of her other lists that we’ve referenced, Jason, but does that hit me?
It ties into this conversation of trends, shoulds and trying to fit in because you’ve set your standards of success based on what other people are doing and what’s working for them. I know that that’s caused me great anxiety. I’ve tried to force myself into a shape that wasn’t my own. Whether that was literal, trying to be a physical shape of a certain size, a certain weight to a certain appearance that never feels good. That always gives me anxiety, forcing myself to fit into those standards, which I’ve done so much in my life. I’ve also done this with my career. I’ve done this maybe in my relationships that help to examine that a little bit more. Certainly, we’ve thought about doing that with our show or social media. I’m sure that resonates with you too, Jason.
If I’m being honest about it, I have done what you’re describing to a larger degree than I would have liked to admit in the past of listening to what other people told me was the right next step or what I should do with my brand, or this is the next thing you need to focus on. When I was in the heart of doing my TV show and being groomed in this mold of a celebrity chef, there’s a formula that they will process people through. I feel like this idea of this formula is something we’ve talked about in terms of frameworks of, “The twelve steps to feel better right now.” In terms of branding and turning people into commodities, this idea of a personal brand where the person is the brand, whether that’s being our name or our brand, there’s so much emphasis from society, managers, PR people, agents, well-meaning, family members, acquaintances, people in our industry that are like, “This is the thing you need to do. Trust me, I’ve done it,” or like, “We’re going to maximize your exposure by doing this interview with this magazine article.”
There are so many examples I could give. I have walked that path a lot more, like I said, than I would’ve previously admitted in years past that I’ve done this, like, “What’s the next box I need to check?” I think that if I keep checking the boxes in this order, in this way, working with this person, doing this thing, it will result in this thing that they are intending it will result in, “You’ll have this money, fame, and influence.” I’ve done it a lot in my life. I think part of what I’m going through now is the shedding of all that and wondering where my career, my identity, my ego or what I’m going to create. As we start this New Year, in the process of I don’t know, but I know that I’m shedding and letting go of a lot of ways of being that no longer serve me. This is one of them. This is a huge one.
It also sounds like something else from this list, which is that you may have borrowed solutions from others without using your own thinking. I’ve talked about this in previous episodes. This comes down to self-trust. In fact, in that episode we did about the pseudo-self and pseudo-maturity, which also came from Kathleen Smith. I want to work on self-trust and this is something that I’ve been working on for the last years. I remember noticing this at the end of 2016 recognizing that I was having trouble making decisions.
I think that is stemming and has stemmed from challenges with self-trust. In 2020, I’ve noticed myself asking other people for their solutions before or instead of using my own solutions, my own thinking. Another thing on this list that ties into something you’ve talked about, Jason, I don’t recall how much you shared about this on the show, but we’ve dabbled in it on this list of ways that you might’ve had an anxious 2020. This is going to resonate with a lot of people. You rigidly defined what a successful year would look like.
It’s getting into the end of each year and going, “This is how much I’m going to make in revenue. This is how much I’m going to generate each month. This is the metrics I’m going to scale my social media and my newsletter to. This is where I’m going to go on vacation when I make all that money and have all that attention and all that revenue coming in.” For the first time, as I mentioned in previous episodes, I destroyed my vision boards and my intention lists, I’m going to write an intention list, and then I’m going to burn it. This hard, fast, “This is what success means because I’m making $30,000 a month and I’m doing this. I’m hanging out with so-and-so.” Fuck all that is where I’m at right now.
Jason, I am glad that you shared that and have been sharing that with me in our personal conversations. I think I’m a lot like you. We’ve been conditioned culturally and certainly influenced by the wellness world. Many people that are there to support and coach online have this mentality of like, “It’s this formulaic thing. If you set your intentions, you can manifest them. If you visualize it, it’ll happen.” I’m not against that line of thinking, but it hasn’t fully worked for me in the ways that I would like to.
I will say that visualization boards, we’ve talked about this in past episodes. Visualization boards have worked for me. I have put them on my computer and things have happened in the order in which I laid them out. This reminds me of something that I heard Oprah talking about. She’s passionate about manifestation. She said in a clip that manifestation is not about forcing. You have to allow it, step back, and release a lot of your attachment and expectations.
I think that’s the difference here is there’s this idea and coming back to what Kathleen was saying about this rigid definition of success, what if instead, we had a looser definition of success? 2020 has encouraged this. Many of us started off 2020 thinking it was going to go a certain way and it certainly did not in ways that we’ve never experienced before. Many of us have experienced disappointment. Many of us have started off with New Year’s resolutions and tried to get into good habits. This is one of the reasons that we created The Consistency Code program in 2019 is supporting people through that transition from one year into another. It’s a challenging time for any of us, regardless of a pandemic, but 2020 showed us you can have the best of intentions, but they may not work out.Hard numbers and analytics metrics optimization does not guarantee success. Click To Tweet
That was a helpful lesson. It’s not about necessarily burning, shredding, or go being anti your resolutions and anti tensions and all of that. I’m curious, Jason, as we discuss this, if you have any desire to be a little bit more balanced and fluid with it, or if it does feel good for you to truly burn something up because it’s swinging in the opposite direction that you’ve been in before. Part of what I was starting to say was how I think the wellness world is the world of success. Any of these coaches, courses, books, and stuff are so much about manifestation. If you want it, it’ll happen, you just have to do this and that. I’m reading Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass, her new book on habits. There are a lot of things that I truly agree with her on and there are some things that feel a little too, like, “If you just do this, they’ll happen.”
It feels a little too formulaic, but I’m not done with the book yet. I’m open-minded, but there are moments where I get triggered because I’m like, “She’s buying this and perpetuating this idea of if you speak these affirmations out loud, they will happen.” Sometimes they do happen, but coming back to one of our big points in this episode is because you want something badly enough and follow all the steps doesn’t mean that they will happen. That to me is part of that rigid definition. It’s like, “I’m going to do something every single day because somebody told me it’s going to work.” If it doesn’t work, that can give you anxiety. Sometimes even the process of the following something rigidly gives you anxiety that you don’t even care if it works or not. You want to stop doing it.
Hindsight also is always 2020. There’s a predisposition for people to have a certain level of whatever their success metric is and on the other side of that success, you go, “I can teach other people how to do this too.” As we’ve talked about it, there are many variables that are different from person to person. Our cosmology is different. Our astrology is different. Our family lineage is different. Our level of trauma is different. Our ethnicity, sex, race, and religion. I’m not saying this to limit. I’m not about setting limits. What I am about is not depending on someone telling you that their path, formula, structure and blueprint will automatically work for you, but you can understand why people would want to do it, like, “This thing I did work. Do you know how else I can make money? Teaching people how to do what I just did.”
It makes sense and I’m not slagging people for it. I think that I want to encourage people to be mindful when they are investigating a program, a structure, a community, or a system, any of these things of the language and the positioning that’s being used in the promises that are being made. Buyer beware is what I’m encouraging the readers to do. Check with your gut, do your research, maybe talk to friends or acquaintances who have also enrolled in the program prior to it. We all need to do a better job of vetting people.
That ties into the last point from Kathleen’s list of the 20 Ways You Had An Incredibly Anxious 2020. The last one I’ll bring up is that you relied on other’s reactions to evaluate yourself. Have I done that? I think reactions can be conversations you have personally, but they can be how many likes you get on a post? How many comments did you get? How many people buy your course? How are people reacting to you? This is a huge issue and I don’t think it’s going to get better yet. I think we’re going to go through a long period of being super hyper-focused on other people’s reactions to us in order to figure out if what we’re doing is good. If it’s successful because it’s an evaluation. I feel stressed when I think about being evaluated. Does that remind me of school or being parented? Probably, but I am constantly trying to shift myself or define my performance based on how people are reacting to me. That’s something that I want to do a lot less of because that does bring me anxiety.
It requires a substitution than though because I find it’s not that I can automatically turn off my pattern of looking to others for approval. My pattern of looking to others for feeling significant. My pattern of looking to others to validate me because I still do those things. I’m still working on independent of other people’s opinions or judgments or viewpoint of me, how do I create metrics my own internal standards of success? I’m glad you’re bringing this up because that’s something I want to do in this New Year.
I want to disentangle myself from, “What other people think if I buy this specific car, this house, have this online presence, make a certain amount of money, or look a certain way, then people will say, ‘Jason’s “made it.” He must be doing well.’” If I keep practicing shedding, trying to get that from people, what do we replace it with? One of the big challenges for me is defining my own standards and metrics of success. I haven’t done that yet. I want to make sure we cover more of these steps, but where are you at? Do you have any metrics you’ve created for yourself or maybe separated from these independent observations from others?
It’s hard to say because it is a hard thing to separate from. That’s so much of how we’re conditioned as content creators and influencers. That world is being dependent on being evaluated constantly and noticing how people react to us. As I said, it’s not going away anytime soon from what I’m noticing, Hopefully, it will though and that leads me into some of Kathleen’s ideas for growing up in 2021. She says, “Number one is that you take the time to define what you value.” That’s exactly what this conversation is about. It’s like, “What do you want? What is important to you? What feels valuable?” Number two in this list is you share your thinking without trying to manage the reaction and to answer your question, Jason, that’s something that I could benefit from. A lot of times, I will try to say the right thing because I want the right reaction from somebody.
I’ll try to do the right thing and it becomes incredibly confusing over time because the right thing is not a permanent and stable thing. It’s constantly shifting based on the people that you’re talking to, addressing and the culture like, “What’s going on in the world?” This idea of right or wrong, we could separate a lot from because we have to come down to defining ourselves and what’s important to us, not important to other people. That’s constantly shifting. That is taking me years of work to do on myself because I grew up trying to manage other people’s reactions so much and then found myself in this industry, whether it was a coincidence or not. This industry feeling like my entire sense of self was shaped by how other people were perceiving me and are perceiving me.
It’s a difficult thing. I’m in a space of wondering how do we even create these metrics. I’m at a loss as we’re discussing it in the sense of, I suppose the word that keeps coming up is two words, joy and contentment. I’ve heard people say, “You can’t pay the bills with happiness. You can’t pay the bills with love.” I’m not negating my dependence on money in our shape and form of society, but I think chasing approval, money, significance, we’ve talked about this with affordable basic urges in the show before is like, “Why are we doing this?” For me, if I don’t feel a sense of joy, contentment or service, then I want to start saying no to a lot more things.
I might sound like a broken record because we have talked about the importance of saying no to things for years. For some reason, I felt like my first maybe bedrock or foundation of defining these success metrics is, do I feel that this will bring me joy and therefore bring other people joy by the act of doing this thing? Do I feel like I’ll feel a deeper sense of contentment? Do I feel like this is creating a sense of service and generosity and upliftment in the world? That’s all I have for now. As you said, this is way deeper conversation and requiring years of unraveling the old way of doing things. One of the gifts that we have is looking at what other people are doing right and saying, “That doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to do it that way.”
There’s a lot of that. As we’ve said before, the newsletters, social media posts, and a lot of content creators, coaches, thought leaders we followed in the past, they don’t resonate anymore. I think that’s a gift because if we’re not paying attention to what they’re doing or trying to emulate or parrot them, then we’re creating the necessity for us to figure it out for ourselves. I think that’s exciting and that’s the place I want to live and try to keep living is that place of excitement and discovery of, “I don’t care what they’re doing. No disrespect. It doesn’t resonate anymore. How do I want to do it?” Maybe we don’t have all the answers now and I feel like I have very few answers and I’m okay with that.
I think being okay with it is one of the big keys here. One other thing worth mentioning for me from Kathleen’s list of ideas for growing up is to treat rejection and disappointment like they are manageable. We can explore that in a whole other episode because I get very triggered when I feel rejected or disappointed. I did share a little bit of this in one episode. I was talking about the physical sensation of disappointment in the body and it’s not like I can snap my fingers and stop feeling a certain way after being rejected or disappointed. It’s something we has to manage every day. We can get a little bit better at it. That is the whole point it’s you are treating it like it’s manageable because it is manageable. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to go away right away, you are managing them.
I like that mentality versus trying to perfect and get rid of something. I certainly hope that as we continue with this show and work on our courses like the Wellness Warrior Training, I want to keep looking at them differently and making sure that those courses are fully aligned with who we are and not who we were when we first created them. It’s been interesting revisiting The Consistency Code and noticing what’s working for people and what’s not, and all this room for improvement. As I said in another episode, we have so much room for improvement, Jason and I constantly examining what we’re doing and making sure that it feels in alignment with not only us, but with you, the readers, with our students, our clients, and all these other amazing people that come into our lives.
We did this with our newsletter, Jason. We were stepping back to evaluate like, “Let’s try some new things. Let’s see if these feel better for people because we want them to be valuable.” This email that I’ve been reading from Kathleen, Corbett, and Christopher, those are valuable to me. I want ours to feel the same way to other people. There’s that fine line of trying to constantly optimize it because we’re hoping that it’ll feel valuable and acceptable, that we’ll get the reaction that we want. That’s where the balance comes in is wanting to support people, but doing it in a way that feels good to us. That’s the big lesson that we have explored in this episode is finding what works for you, even when the world is pointing in different directions. I’m grateful to explore that with you here, Jason.
As we get closer to wrapping this episode, Whitney, I wanted to bring up a short example of how people can be obsessed with metrics, numbers, analytics and constant optimization. I’m a big basketball fan and there’s a basketball team called the Houston Rockets. For years, Daryl Morey no longer with the team, their general manager. He was lauded in the National Basketball Association with crafting teams based on metrics and efficiency of, “We ought to do more three-pointers because that’s a more efficient shot. We ought to run the offense a certain way.” What I realize is they never won a championship. They never had the success they wanted. To you, dear readers, and I’m reminding us Whitney as well, hard numbers, analytics metrics, and optimization do not guarantee success.
With that thought, we will have many more thoughts to come as we do here on the show. If you’ve been with us through this entire episode, go ahead and visit our website, which is Wellevatr.com. As I mentioned, we also have many great free resources, including our eBooks and a couple of our paid programs like Wellness Warrior Training and The Consistency Code. We have so many goodies for you coming in 2021. We’re not exactly sure what specific direction we’re going in. We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to be creating for you. We might take some time off to evaluate that, but we’re going to keep creating because we’re artists. We have it in our heart and our minds to keep creating things and experimenting.
Thank you for being with us. Thank you for supporting us over the time that we’ve been doing our brand and our show and we will have more good stuff, but again, we have no idea what the hell it’s going to be. Here’s to the spirit of experimentation, doing it your way, and trying things you’ve never done before. It’s our definite dedication to continue doing all of those things and encouraging you to do the same. Until the next episode, thanks for getting uncomfortable with us. Thanks for supporting the show. We’ll catch you with another episode soon!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- How to Reinvent Your Online Identity with Corbett Barr – Previous episode
- Connecting with Others Through Parenthood, Tea Ceremonies and Being Offline with Adam Yasmin – Previous episode
- Staring Down Financial Uncertainty in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic with Chris Guillebeau – Previous episode
- Data Privacy, Social Media and Website Minimalism with Paul Jarvis – Previous episode
- Lost Connections
- Take Charge!
- You Are Enough
- Beyond Measure – Pinterest
- Pseudo-Self Boosters: Overcoming Temporary Cures For Self-Confidence And Self-Worth – Previous episode
- Wellness Warrior Training
- The Consistency Code
- You Are a Badass
- Christopher Penn’s Newsletter
- Corbett Barr’s 2021 Creator Trends
- 20 Ways You Had An Incredibly Anxious 2020 – Kathleen Smith’s blog
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