A Non-Perfect First Blog Post | And That’s OK
As a child growing up in the midwest, I had the privilege of attending a magnet elementary school that was focused on science and math. It was a really cool program for which parents camped out in a line in the frigid Wisconsin winters for days just to have a chance to enroll their kids. I remember visiting my mom with hot cocoa to sustain her as she held up in a nylon tent during one of the snowiest winters of my childhood to get my younger sister enrolled.
Ok, that picture is probably a bit of an exaggeration from what I remember but you get the idea.
The next step that most of my friends took after the elementary program was to go to the sister, magnet middle school. But that required an application with a one-paragraph essay on “why you deserve to attend the school.” This requirement is burned in my memory.
It was one of the first times that I had to rely on myself to accomplish a goal.
It wasn’t my parents waiting in the line to help me out — I had to sit down and write out why I was special and why I would fit in with the school.
Now a paragraph is not a lot. And honestly most parents probably just wrote it for their kids but my parents must have wisely seen a lesson in there for me to take on that responsibility myself.
I sat for hours staring at the four blank lines that the school provided to answer the simple question. I tried a few versions of the first sentence and felt the full weight of the pressure for perfection that I demanded of myself from a young age.
As word after word came out insufficient to my standards, fifth-grade me couldn’t bare the risk of failing at the task and not being accepted into the school. And I told my first significant lie to my mother that day; that I had decided I would rather go to my neighborhood school for some mundane reason that I made up to cover my tracks.
This decision turned out to be chock full of more learning experiences, as I spent the next year and a half being bullied by a group of peers I had thought were friends. It took 18 months of those life lessons to finally get the courage to write that simple paragraph and I transferred seamlessly into the magnet school in the middle of my seventh-grade year.
Overcoming The Fear of Mistakes
I’ve learned to keep my perfectionist tendencies in check in my adult years but I’ve come across so many instances where my fellow marketers and I hesitate to push through on something because of a similar aversion to failure.
But failure is a necessary and useful part of marketing. Failing is how we learn and grow!
Now I’m not saying that the solution is to get careless with social media censorship or to cut down on editing your content (eek!). But I’m guessing that you have a little more wiggle room for taking risks.
Entrepreneurs are really good at risks. An “act now, check later” mentality is often one of the defining features which sets the unicorns apart from everyone else.
We digital marketers, on the other hand, can be pretty tied to our data. We rely on it for every decision from color theory to headline optimization. But maybe that’s not always the best way.
Trusting Your Gut
Risk is something that I work on for personal growth, along with that pesky perfectionism. I find little ways to take risks every day. One little secret is to take the opportunity to “trust your gut” from time to time.
As a digital marketer who lives to make decisions on data, this can be a stretch. Having come from a traditional marketing background, the wealth of data available online was one of the first things that stole my heart about digital marketing.
Talk about cutting down risk! Big data makes it possible for calculated decisions based on empirical evidence and fact – what more could my rational, perfection-seeking nature ask for!
But that rational part of the brain, called the neocortex, is actually newer for humans evolutionary-wise. The limbic, or gut-instinct part, is the one that our ancestors used to survive millions of years ago. This mysterious inner-portion collects all of the information we’ve amassed in our lives and, like a magic computer algorithm, shoots out a solution faster than our rational brain can work through itself.
Need some evidence? (You’re a marketer, of course you do.) A gambling study was done a while ago by a group of psychologists with a set goal of individuals winning the most money. The cards, however, were in fact rigged with one deck set with big wins followed by big losses, and a second deck set with small gains and few losses.
After about 80 cards most individuals were able to rationalize which deck was the safer bet. But only about 10 cards in, the sweat glands would kick in on the palms of people reaching for the “riskier” deck. And it took the same number of cards for them to start to lean toward choices from the second deck, without a conscious understand as to why.
These results show the power of the unconscious brain to process the information at hand faster than our newer, rational brain.
So when you have a “feeling” that a particular headline would do better, it is often the result of your limbic brain collecting a bunch of evidence from what you already know about marketing and elevating a best-case answer.
So try it! Test it! See what happens. You may be surprised how relying a little more on your instincts can push you to try new things, take some (cautious) risks, and become a better marketer.
Just the Beginning
Data is not the only thing that I appreciate about digital marketing. I also love the fact that there is something new to learn every day. There are hundreds if not thousands of websites, blogs, and forums available where industry leaders are posting the latest research and best practices so that we can all grow together.
I have enjoyed contributing to many of these places myself over the years and for the first time I am starting something of my own. It’s both exciting and a little unnerving to remove the cloak of someone else’s blog. But I look forward to the challenge of having a space to share unabridged thoughts about digital marketing and SaaS strategy.
This post is far from perfect. There are no keywords and I didn’t write 25 versions of the headline. And let me tell you, the pressure of the first post took me right back to fifth grade. But I finished it and it is live on my own site! Watch out for plenty more improvements and (calculated) risks to come!