On keeping moments for yourself and putting your digital social life in perspective

Photo by Gilles Lambert

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my daughter after she got off school. Naturally, she did something astoundingly cute, so I unconsciously surrendered to the automatic reaction of reaching into my pocket and pulling out my phone to take a photo.

I took the picture. Opened Instagram. And then I hesitated.

See, I’ve written about this kind of thing before, but have lately fallen back into old habits. I’ve long used social media as a personal scrapbook. Photos of family, scenery, and special moments filled my feeds. But this year, I’m taking my life back from social media (well, at least some of it).

I want to keep more moments for myself.

I mean, seriously — why do we do this?…

Why do we put out our most sacred personal moments on social media to be judged, criticized, and scrutinized by other people?

Why should that fleeting moment with my daughter — a moment I’ll never get back — be a source of stress as I mentally churn over what filter, hashtags, and caption to use?

How could I subject the significance of that sacred moment (and countless others) to the preferences of others — many of whom I either don’t know, will never know, or would prefer not to know?

It’s amazing what we’ll do for a brief dopamine fix.

Now, we need to be gentle with ourselves when it comes to this. Yes, social media is inherently an egoic activity. We do it for attention, status, and confirmation (no matter how ‘authentic’ and ‘raw’ we say we’re being on there). It’s easy to virtue signal against it all day.

But the ego is an integral part of the human experience. We just need to be aware of what’s going on and own it.

I’m going to give you a quick look at how I’m going to try to handle social media this year. But I’m trying not to be too dogmatic about it. If I slip up and post a photo of my daughter holding a puppy or a selfie with a Chicago hot dog (yes, after almost two years of living here, I’m still a tourist), I have to chalk it up to being human.

  • First of all, I’m trying to pound into my own brain that I am the product on social media. Whenever I go online, it’s largely a business transaction. So I may as well use it to further my work as a freelance creator (or whatever you call what I’m doing here with this blog and whatnot). I mean, the .com should tell us something. It stands for ‘commercial’. It’s a commercial medium, not a scrapbook. I don’t fault people trying to sell things in an ‘authentic’ (whatever that means) way online. I follow several coffee shops, tiny home builders, authors, artists, musicians, etc. (and love the ads on Instagram — seriously, they’re so good).
  • Any family photos and videos that I take, I put into an iPhoto folder that I only share with close family and friends. These people don’t care about my blog or the work I do in the world. All they care about is my cute kid, my gorgeous wife, and my scruffy-yet-adorable dog (if I do say so myself).
  • As I said, I still slip. There are some personal/family moments that I can’t resist sharing on social. But I keep them on Facebook and Instagram stories (separate from my Instagram static feed, which I want to keep focused on blog/Patreon stuff).
  • I turned my Facebook page private and keep it as a curated personal scrapbook of sorts. I actually like how they provide a space to do this. Plus, Facebook is very much pay-to-play for business purposes and I don’t have the time or money to do that at this moment.
  • Twitter is a tricky one. I went through and deleted all of my old tweets (there are a plethora of apps with which to do this, just search for them). Twitter is so political, it’s toxic. I’ve also unfollowed everyone who triggers that primal urge to hate (you might know what I’m talking about). I don’t know if I’ll ever tweet much — I may even delete my account altogether. The jury’s out.

I hope this helps provide a new perspective on your digital social life. Claim those sacred moments back and share intentionally. If you understand the internal and external dynamics of what’s going on, you can hopefully get the most out of it. Social media doesn’t have to be a horrible, toxic thing — well, maybe just enough to enjoy:)

Enjoy that? To keep this blog going, take a second to support my work on Patreon (while enjoying some spiffy perks along the way)…


The power of prudence and how to start getting your life back from social media

Photo by Foroozan Faraji on Unsplash

First of all, a huge disclaimer… I’m writing to myself just as much as I am to you here. I’m an active social media user (especially Instagram — ugh). I post photos of my kid more than I should as well as other random stuff that serves no point other than to get others to ‘look at me’. I’m well aware. Okay, let’s get into it here…

We live in a culture where we can instantaneously express ourselves. Share a photo. Book a face. Twitter a tweet. Snap a chat.

It’s so gratifying to the ego to project its ideal to everyone it can. To put it out there and see how much juicy social approval we can gain.

That being said, I challenge you (and myself) to try something…

The next time you want to take that photograph of your kid or that selfie of you and your honey on a boat and share it on social, stop. Hang on to that thing. Keep it private.

Then, notice the inner rumblings of the ego wanting that sweet hit of immediate social approval. Can you feel it grinding? Yeah…

That’s no good, friends. No good at all. It’s called addiction. Straight up.

This is where prudence comes in — a quality a lot of us modern westerners have lost touch with. Exercising this kind of restraint is really hard when the share button is just a few touches away.

However, I’ve found, the more of your life you hold sacred to yourself, the more you build up a sort of internal (spiritual?) bank account.

Think of that ‘share’ button as an inner-bank withdrawal that takes a little bit of your life away from you and spends it in the social sphere. And think of the moments you keep to yourself as savings.

I’m not fully against social media (though, as I get older, I’m becoming more and more so). I love being able to keep up with family and friends from across the planet and follow my favorite authors, creatives, etc.

But I’d argue that there are so many sacred moments that get ruined just for the sake of portraying an ego ideal to the world. As we spend the moments of our lives on the social marketplace like good little American consumers (because yes, we are the products on the shelf of social media and our attention is the currency), we lose something.

I’d say, the more epic the moment, the more money it’s like putting in that inner-bank account. The more you yearn to share it, the more it’ll be worth to your humanity if you keep it to yourself.

I don’t know about you, but I spent way too much of my inner-bank savings these last couple weeks.

Restraint and prudence are how we start reclaiming our lives from this social world we’ve found ourselves in.


On creating more space between your life and your social media feed

Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash

Earlier this year, I took a short break from social media — mainly Instagram (Facebook, I’d already been broken up with for months).

I wanted to enjoy my moments more. I wanted less brain space taken up with concerns about social approval. I wanted to stop posting photos of my daughter so much (it’s getting to the point where she’s a little person and I felt I was taking advantage — plus, internet weirdos are a thing, or so I heard).

It was so difficult at first. So difficult.

And then, it was awesome. I had all this new space in my psyche to read books or write more or just… Be bored (this was huge — more on this soon).

But then, I was ready to get back. I didn’t miss Facebook at all, but I missed Instagram. When I scroll through Instagram, I’m good. It’s not nearly as toxic as Facebook. However, I wanted to do Insta in a more mindful fashion this time around. Yes, I wanted to play in the sandbox again. But I didn’t want the sandbox consuming my mind.

So, here’s the rule I instituted for myself…

Take the photo now. But don’t post until tomorrow.

It’s the age-old wisdom of writing the angry letter now but not sending it until our heads cool off. (Usually, what happens is that the letter ends up in the trash.)

Even though what you’re about to post might not be an angry letter, I’m guessing it’s coming from an unconscious place. Maybe it’s a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe it’s a subconscious one-upping of someone you saw earlier. Maybe it’s a blatant promotion that’s rushed to get clients in the door. Or maybe it’s just a way to kill some time.

See, for me, the scenario was often this:

I’d be out somewhere with my family and the perfect Instagrammable moment would arise. Suddenly, my mind would shift into how I could frame said moment in the best way for my friends on social media. I’d take the photo. Then, I’d ponder what caption and clever hashtags I could use for several minutes. All the while, I’d be missing the moment. I’d consciously be absent from my life until I hit that ‘publish’ button.

Not now. Now, I just snap the photo (takes 5 seconds) and put the phone back in my pocket. Then I go back to enjoying my day.

The next day, if the thing is still novel, it’s post-worthy. If not (and typically, it’s not), I either delete it or leave it for my family/personal scrapbook.

Create more space between your life and your social media feed.

You deserve — and your friends and loved ones deserve — your full presence in your life. Be there.

Live first. Post second (if at all).

P.S. After I wrote this, I did some searching and noticed that the NY Times has a fantastic article on this point titled, The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter. Check it out here, if you’re interested.


Here’s looking at you, 2018

Some stuff about me and my work for the year ahead

Photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash

Ahhh, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we slowly come out of our holiday hibernation to violently rip up last year’s calendar and open up that new one with exuberance.

Since we’re all doing this (at least metaphorically), I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what to expect in the year ahead when it comes to my work and this publication.

More purpose in 2018

So, first of all, after writing here for so long and interacting with my readers along the way, I’ve learned who I’m here to serve. This time off has given me space to really appreciate this. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?…

Finding your tribe and serving them in a bold way is what makes writing online worthwhile, meaningful, and purposeful.

I’ve found that my tribe is composed of creatives, freelancers, and solo/entrepreneurs who are into making a living doing the thing they love and who want to not only do great work but enjoy life while they’re at it.

These are my people. This is my ‘ministry’ if you will. Not that other people can’t read my work. They can, and do. Plenty of my beloved readers aren’t specifically in this category but find that I speak to a certain part of them, and that’s fantastic.

I guess these people are my people because who I just described is… Me. (Weird how that works, right?)

And so, in 2018, I look forward to writing more about my craft (copywriting and online messaging), but also telling more stories, exploring the absurd, cracking more jokes, creating more things, spouting more anecdotes, and connecting on an ever more grounded level (while keeping it woo-woo when necessary, of course).

Now, here’s the thing that’s important to you, the reader (if you enjoy following my work)…

Why I’m taking my love to my email list

I’m trying something new in 2018. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much over social media. I’m opposed to the idea that it’s the holy grail to anything, business or personal.

This isn’t the place to go into the philosophy why (stay tuned), but I’ll just say that I’m taking things to a more intimate level (no, not in a creepy way) in 2018.

What this means is that my daily words will all be published to my daily email list, but only some to Medium.

To give you more of a rundown, here’s why you should jump on my daily email list in 2018…

  • My daily posts will first go out via email to subscribers (while being posted on my main site, JonasEllison.com/blog). Only certain posts will be published here on Medium at Higher Thoughts.
  • I’ll be guest posting on other publications more (in fact, check out my most recent post on Thought Catalog here). Whenever I do, a link will be sent to email subscribers so you can catch it right away.
  • I’ll be offering some spiffy stuff in 2018 (you know — bespoke products and services based around writing, creativity, personal development, and whatnot) and email subscribers will be the first to find out (and thusly be able to capitalize on early bird offers, etc.).

Aaaaand that’s about it, friends. I look forward to seeing you around the internet soon. Please know that serving you has been one of the biggest honors of my life (sorry, I’m getting all sappy again). Thanks so much for reading and supporting me and my work.

I don’t know about you, but I’m beyond pumped for 2018. Here’s to a year filled with more purpose, intention, and meaning (and less stress, hustle, approval-seeking, and anxiety). May this find you tossing out that 2017 calendar with gusto and embracing the 1–8!

As Ever,
Jonas Ellison

P.S. (Again, you can get on that daily list — but only if you reeeally want to — by clicking right here.)

What if it were your last words?

Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

Many of us have a love/hate thing with social media. 
Is it connecting us? Or ripping the fabric of society apart? 
Both at the same time, maybe?

I’m no social psychologist, so I don’t have the answer.

All I know is that — especially on Facebook — people can tend to easily dip down and express their lowest selves. They turn from nice, warm, reasonable people into complete buffoons.

There’s this guy who’s a Facebook friend of my wife… He’s constantly posting the most obnoxious comments and posts — the ones that make you think we’re living in the 2006 dystopian comedy, Idiocracy. Anyhow, I found out he was going to be at an event we were going to and was terrified. But at the event, I met him and thought, Hmmm… THIS is the guy? Seems nice enough. Reasonable. He’s putting together good sentences, is super friendly, and seems to have a level head. What the…?

Here’s the effect that social media (keeping our focus today on Facebook since it’s the funnest to pick on) has on people. It makes them think they have a sort of digital bullhorn to shout through, but they’re physically removed from the crowd, so no one can tackle them mid-sentence and wrestle the device from their hands before showing them the door.

You get it. 
I’m preaching to the choir here.

But here’s my word of advice — because most of us are guilty of this in one degree or another.

When you share on social media, tell yourself that it might be the last thing you ever say.

No kidding. You’re not lying to yourself because it could be true. The next minute in this body is not guaranteed. (Although, chances are, you’re going to be fine.)

Not to get too dark here, but it brings things into perspective (as is common for most life principles, this is widely applied outside of Facebook, of course).

Before you post, ponder…

Am I okay with these being my last words?

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’ve said fart jokes that I’m totally fine with being my last words (they were really funny, if I do say so myself). So I’m not saying everything you write has to be super deep, thoughtful, profound, etc.

But does it hurt just to hurt? Does it hate just to hate? Does it get laughs from the expense of someone’s character? Does it separate and divide out of pettiness? Is it passive-aggressive or overtly manipulative?

Some things need to be said. Some jokes need to be cracked. Some people need to be called out. Sometimes, even the mundane is beautiful.

Please don’t see this as a behavior manual. I’m not the moral God of the internet (although that would make for a great byline).

See this more as a helpful tip for self inquiry and living in integrity with yourself.

If it helps, great. 
If not, go forward on Facebook and spew away.

P.S. This is why I pretty much only share deeper stuff on Medium. It’s designed for thoughtful messaging and to keep trolls silent (a least 95% of them). If you really have something meaningful to say, the venue matters.


What if they knew they were loved?

My ode to the youth of today (but especially teenage girls)

My wife works with teenagers. Her business helps students from all over the US get to know themselves and sets them on a path to college that fits them — not the other way around like many other college admissions counselors do.

Her business takes a lighthearted approach to the historically stuffy and rigid process of college planning. In turn, her students open up to her and her counselors much more than they do with many other people in their lives. It’s a fascinating thing to witness.

We often talk about the younger generation — ‘Gen Z’ as they’re called . On my ministerial pathway, I see them as the ones I’ll be serving throughout a large part of my life (just as my wife is).

They’re absolutely fascinating, inspiring individuals with huge hearts and a zest for life. I get to hang out with them when I teach college essay writing workshops (this is as far as my expertise reaches as I barely graduated high school myself).

In a spiritual sense, what’s really interesting is, many of them grew up with zero to little religious dialogue in the household. In a way, I see this as a great thing, but I also feel there’s something missing — something they’re yearning for — spirituality speaking.

Today, I want to talk about present-day teenage girls. Not to leave out the dudes, as I’m sure many of them are in the same boat, but I want to keep it specific today, not general. Plus, I have a daughter, so I like girls better:)

Many teenage girls see no separation between them and their social media feeds.

Now, before you think this is an anti-tech rant by an older dude (I’m not that old, but when I’m hanging out with them, I definitely feel it), you’re mistaken. Social media has brought us closer together in a lot of ways. My relatives from the other side of the country get to see Rory grow up. I can write this to you. I can send my wife an inappropriate text message whenever I want. It’s awesome.

But a lot of these girls (and guys too, but again, we’re talking about the gals here) have their entire self-worth tied up in their social media interactions. Some of them make a slip or two. Some let their hormones get the best of them (as we do when we’re young). Others are driven by things much deeper and darker. And others have been shamed against their will.

However it happens, suddenly, a certain story of them is permanently embedded in the social stratosphere of their life. A story that may not reflect their true, beautiful, wise, authentic selves. One that is really hard to get away from once they’ve gotten into it.

Soon, they’ve lost themselves in the digital social whirlpool of their youth. So vulnerable. So exposed to this sort of thing at such a compromising age.

This breaks my heart.

And so let’s rewind to spirituality and the lack of it in many of younger people’s lives...

Would it be better if they had an iron-fisted fundamentalist religion? Would they be better served if they were made to believe in an angry male anthropomorphic deity in the clouds that shamed their bodies, shamed their hormonal pulls, and shamed their ‘off-color’ thoughts?

I say hells no (you can quote me on that). I understand the human spirit — I have one myself — and I know that certain things cannot be suppressed for very long without adverse effects down the road. We know that as a culture now.

What these kids are searching for is a sense of belonging and approval. The problem is when they look to their social circle to provide it. And when your social circle consists of people as emotionally unstable as you (I say this in the most non-judging, matter-of-fact tone), you’re in trouble.

Which brings us to the role of spirituality/religion. Since I’m headed toward this type of work, I always wonder about the utility of spirituality, especially for younger people. Is it relevant to them? Is it useful?

This leads me to more questions (which happens often here on the blog)…

What if these girls believed in an inherent Presence that loved them, unconditionally?

Not when they were baptized. Or confirmed. Or when they were ‘nice’ or said a rosary or fourteen.

What if they could see themselves through the eyes of a ever-loving God? And what if they could look at each other with this same gaze?

What if they understood that the only reason they so desperately seek the approval of their friends was as a way to approve of themselves; and that they didn’t need the former to experience the latter?

This is the potential of spirituality. Not sacrificing your humanity for the approval of some angry asshole in the clouds (much like a lot of their human fathers, unfortunately). But the kinship with an ever-present, ever-accepting atmosphere, closer than their breath. A presence that loves and approves of them from the get-go no matter what.

What if they realized that approval isn’t about ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Would they be trying so hard? Would they give up so easily on something they need not strive for in the first place?

What if they felt a safe ground of being when they were at their lowest of lows aside from that of their parents (which is a nice plus, if you can get it)?

What if they saw God as the thing that meets them, not just when they’re winning, not when their friends are ‘hearting’ their Instagram photos like crazy, but in their darkest moments when they’re feeling like absolute dog shit?

We all have this existential fear of nothingness. This dread that we’re going to die as hopeless, helpless blobs of fleshy wasted space. That our lives will pass on and we’ll not have ‘won’.

I feel a certain sense of it right now, typing this.

This terror is exacerbated by social media (even for us older dudes — I can only imagine what teenage girls are going through).

Our world has ‘perfect’ in our face all day. The hot ones. The ones winning. The virtuous ones. The ones who don’t care what other people think. The consistent ones. The ones who #hustle. The straight-A’s. The ones who take the best #gymselfies.

Therein lies the problem with our Christian institutions of today. They speak of virtue as transactional. That only the ‘perfect’ ones get in. The ones who’ve been saved from that whole ‘sin’ thing. Everyone else is out.

Even though this form of Christianity may not directly be present in the minds of our kids today, this sentiment is. It began long before Jesus and has been passed down through the ages since.

The deep, existential pangs of nothingness hurt when everyone else seems so ‘perfect’. But here’s something to keep in mind…

Jesus didn’t gravitate towards the ‘perfect’ other than to show them how ‘off the mark’ they really were.

Christ wisdom (taught by many others than Jesus, but this happens to be his forte) points to a God who meets us exactly in that moment of nothingness and insecurity when we think we’re miles away from it. He pointed towards the spiritual truth that, in the very moments that we trip and feel shameful and humiliated, this God is there who meets us, cradles us, and sees right past our wounds.

I can think of a few times when this presence has helped me laugh it off after I smashed my skull on the proverbial sidewalk of my life.

Most religion — even progressive spirituality — of today either insinuates or outright states that the only place to experience the divine is in a ‘higher’ place. Whether that be an afterlife up high in the clouds or a higher state of consciousness, this God does not live in the blood, dirt, bone, and suffering of our lowest lows.

A certain persona of righteousness, perfection, happiness, generosity, wealth, etc. is where we touch God’s hands.

Jesus, however, spoke of a God who meets us when all these so-called ‘righteous’ things are gone and tells us assuredly, “You’re ok. You’re loved. You’re a child of the divine.”

How many kids are raised with an undertone of disapproval and shame that creeps into their social media feeds and everyday lives later in life?

Jesus taught that it’s in our brokenness, pain, and strife that we’re met with the divine.

Not when we’re winning. Not when our ego thinks we’ve checked off all the boxes and scored higher on the point system of humanity.

And that’s why the ‘perfect’ of his day crucified him. Jesus came along and showed us of a God that has thrown out their contrived point system.

What if this was the spiritual starting point of the youth of today? What if this was their Gospel wisdom?

Do you think this might help? 
I think it’s worth a shot.

Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.


Describe it to me…

Image: Pigoff PhotographY

Before I start my diatribe here, let me say that photo sharing online has been a beautiful thing. It’s brought us closer together. It’s kept us in touch. And it keeps us from having to print and mail photos to Grandma twice a year.

But how many times, when you’ve been faced with that perfect sunset, that perfect kiss between bride and groom at a wedding, or that perfect smile with that special-someone, have you obliterated the moment by pulling out your phone to share it online?

And then, at a later date, when someone asks you to tell them about it, how often have you responded with something like, “Hang on, I’ll just show you…” as you pull out your phone?

And let me ask you this — as you’re showing them this photo, is it ever as good as you remember it? Does that photo Ever come close to doing that moment justice?

Yes, it’s true. A good picture is worth a thousand words. But unless you’re a photographer, I’m guessing your Instagram photos are as bad as mine (let’s be real here).

But what do we do? We go with it because it’s all we have. We don’t even attempt to describe the moment in beautifully vivid detail because, in that magic moment, we weren’t really there. We were looking through a 5.5 inch screen (or, if you’re lame like me, a 4-inch one)… And then picking the filter… Then the clever caption… The perfect hashtags, etc… All the while, the moment was slipping out the back door.

Are you losing the depth of your life in the name of hearts and social shares?

We’ve been getting a ton of snow here in the Tahoe area. For a winter-lover like myself, I’ve been in heaven. Being a writer, there’s nothing better than sitting down in a warm house while watching the snow falling. I’m absolutely loving it.

Last night, I went out to gather firewood. It was about 10:00 pm. 5 inches of fresh snow had fallen in the previous four or five hours. This was the most snow I’ve seen in the Carson Valley in decades. We’ve been needing this kind of deluge for the longest time, and here it was. Up to my calf.

Well, guess what I did?…

Yep, without even thinking, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and snapped a damn photo of my back yard.

As soon as I did it, this realization — the one I’m writing about to you now — hit me.

Damn it…

I looked at the image on my phone and was so disappointed.

I somehow found the wherewithal to stop myself before sharing it. Instead, I consciously let the depth of the moment seep through my mittens, into my pores, and deep into my soul.

And now, I can describe it to you way better than some lame photo...

I don’t know if you’re familiar with snow, but this was one of those nights where it’s so white and so bright that it’s like daytime in the middle of the night…

When you close your eyes, you feel blanketed in it.

The only sounds you can hear, if you listen really closely, are the muffled taps of huge snowflakes hitting your hood.

As you walk, pillows of snow absorb your weight as the urge to trust-fall back into it arises.

But you keep on walking.

Because it’s cold. And it’s late. And you’re only wearing a sweater. And that would be really uncomfortable. And you have to get firewood to heat up the house.

But right now, standing in it, you feel safely enveloped.

From your backyard…
To the streets in your neighborhood…
To the surrounding pastures…
And increasingly as you rise in elevation…
To the vast, moonlit mountain range peering down on you…
All of it, luminescent.

Sure beats just whipping out my phone and showing you this, right?…

In closing, I’m not fully against sharing on social media.

Please. I’m sure your photos are wonderful. But this isn’t about me or anyone else in your audience. This is about you…

Savor first. Share second.

Before you snap that photo, ask yourself…

Is this worth possibly losing the enjoyment of this moment for a share? Or should I just leave the phone in my pocket and take this in?

When you take it in, if the moment is still ripe, please share it with us.

But if you don’t, we won’t mind 😉

❤️ If my work here is meaningful to you, click here to learn more about supporting Higher Thoughts. ❤️

Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.


What I love about pocket content

Image: Etienne Desclides

Although I am, at heart, a ‘content’ guy (I mean, I write a daily blog for heavens to Betsy), I’m really liking less and less — okay, fine, I CAN’T STAND— content that’s too polished.

I used to, in a way, look up to these extremely polished, airbrushed, edited websites, videos, and big personal/professional brands. But it made me feel like there was no way I’d be able to establish myself or build an audience online.

No disrespect. Not blaming them. It was all me. But as impressive as it was, it was also frustrating and discouraging.

So, in my frustration — having nothing to lose — I threw my cynicism to the wind and just started creating the best I knew how. That’s what I’ve been doing since that day. Doing it daily, has made my process unapologetically unpolished.

These daily blog posts only take me about 25 minutes to write. I do a quick once-over for editing (yes, I’m leaving in my ‘heavens to Betsy’ remark above). And I publish them.

Same thing in my weekly videos. I have no fancy, musical, flashy intro section or ‘branding’. My ‘branding’ is my awkward self in front of a camera stuttering through an unprepared answer to a question from a reader. These take me about 10 minutes to shoot and another 25 or so to upload, lightly trim, and publish.

And lately, I’m really enjoying Instagram Stories and Snapchat(follow me on Instagram here). I love that they’re on-the-fly and you can’t really make them too fancy. I’m starting to see the humanity in these big personal brands I’ve been following for years. I see the boogers in their noses, hear their heavy breathing, and feel their nervousness.

Here’s the deal… I’m no good! Really. (At least I don’t think so.) I’m driven by passion for my message and don’t really care about how they ‘look’.

Although I have no mega-brand, I’ve built a substantial audience of dedicated, engaged humans doing what I LOVE to do… Building people up through simple, raw messaging. And in looking around at those I look up to, I’m LOVING the fact that they’re totally winning doing the same thing — unpolished (or minimally polished) content.

I call it ‘pocket content’. You know… Stuff you can make on your phone while you’re parked waiting for your Sonic burger to be skated out to you.

Your personal brand is you — not your makeup.

Yes, as usual, there’s an internal message here (you knew it was coming).

Create from the heart and the hip. Not the ego.

Misuse and overuse of thinking is the devil when it comes to creativity.

Spending all your time on HOW YOU LOOK only makes this thought-abuse worse. You focus entirely on your image as opposed to getting your sh*t out there.

Don’t worry about the way it looks. Focus on where in you it’s coming from.

I don’t give a sh*t if my video is a little blurry (maybe because of that grease from the Sonic burger that I got on the lens) or if I misspell a cuple werds (ok, but not too much — this can destroy your credibility, there is a line).

Creating from thought in the moment is the key to content that connects.

Too much thinking (editing, polishing, etc.) on my end might connect with your head, but not your heart. I want in your heart.

Sure,make stuff that looks good. But if all you have is a good-looking piece of content, it’s going to fall flat.

Heart first. Polish second (and don’t obsess over this).

Give it to me from the hip. Show me your flaws while you show me your magic. The real ones, not the ones you edit in ❤️

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Hug your haters (but sometimes, you gotta handle your hecklers)

Image: Daniel Ebersole

When you put your work out there in public, you will run into haters. It’s just the way it goes. As elizabeth tobey so eloquently pointed out in this post, the internet is a breeding ground for sociopathic behavior.

Combine a virtual world where you are divorced from human interactions (voice, facial expressions, body language, the psychological effect of a crowd who is watching and listening to you) and have nearly total anonymity, and you’ll find yourself in a world that is a breeding ground of sociopathic behavior.
-Elizabeth Tobey

That said, most of the time, haters deserve nothing more than to be ignored. They’re pigs just waiting for you to get in the mud with them in your nice, clean clothes. If it’s a one-time hit from a clearly apparent obnoxious troll, block them (or not) and move on with your life. Your time is too valuable.

But then there are times when haters should be hugged (like Jay Baer wrote about in his book — which I can’t totally endorse because I haven’t read it yet, but his track record is such that I’m sure it’s awesome). Occasionally, haters have a good point. If they give you a well-thought out and articulated scathing that makes you see an opening that you want to close, it behooves you to address it, thank the hater, and use their thoughts to improve.

But then there’s the heckler.

The heckler is the super troll that shits in the pool and ruins the experience for everyone.

S/He is usually a repeat-offender. They write long, personal, anger-fueled, non-productive diatribes with the sole purpose of tearing you down. They pay no regard to the destruction they cause.

These lower life-forms deserve a public flogging. I’m no expert in this area, so I’ll take this chance to hand it over to the experts. To further study how to do this, look no further than the world of stand up comedy. Here’s a few to study right off the bat.


I hope you never have to take things this far. It’s ugly. And engaging a heckler at this level takes quite a commitment of mental fortitude, wit, and time. If you have to hop in the mud with one of these pigs, you must finish the job. You can’t just wrestle around with them a bit and hope they stop. You have to hit them with everything you’ve got.

I’m not sure if this is my style. So far, I’ve done fine not negotiating with terrorists. I’ve never been a big conflict guy. I’d rather block ’em and forget ’em.

But there you have it. A few different classifications of haters. Ignore ’em, hug ’em, or handle ’em. Pretty simple.

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