An Article of Self Reflection and Finding Quiet Amidst the Noise of Social Media.
How many of you remember your favorite storyteller? You know the one… the person you could sit and listen to for hours because they made your imagination light up, gave you peace, or filled your heart with laughter.
I certainly remember mine. It was my grandfather, Aloys Charles “Buster” Schlekeway. I remember being captivated by his ability to make simple tales expand and magnify through my imagination. With a nod of his head, a wink of the eye, inflections of tone, and hand gestures for days, Buster had that uncanny ability to make a story come to life. The son of immigrants from Austria and Germany, a former Marine, a farmer, a builder, a fighter, a father, and a grandfather, he always seemed to know just how to say what needed to be said.
There are few things more impactful than the power of story, which is the creative expression of the spoken or written word. As humans, from time immemorial, we have been motivated, enthralled, astonished, and terrified by stories. Deeds become stories, which become legends, which are passed across borders and across generations. They become our Legacy. They move us to take action, keep us frozen in place from inaction, and show us what it means to love. Have you ever stopped to think what is MY story?
Social media is fueled by the power of story – the power of community and the obsessive human need to be heard above the noise. In our world, the power of story has been used to influence and to control, often to negative consequences. We live in a constant state of FOMO (I had to look it up the other day – Fear of Missing Out) and of watching other people’s stories as they flash across our screens. Sometimes, to a positive outcome of a laugh or admiration or a good memory; however, all too often the outcome is a feeling of jealousy, regret, or even mistrust. How often have you found yourself saying one of these common phrases to one of your close friends or hearing them yourself even if only in your head: “did you hear…,” “did you see…,” “he said…,” “she did…,” “I wish I had their…,” “I wish I had his…,” “why do they get all of the…?” When you become mindful of how often this happens, it is truly disturbing. I know it was for me.
“Social media is fueled by the power of story – the power of community and the obsessive human need to be heard above the noise.”
I became mindful of this phenomenon in 2018 when one of my close friends had something truly powerful and positive happen in his life. I remember seeing it on social media and instantly feeling the negative sting of jealousy and wanting. It shocked me. This is something for which I should have felt happiness and excitement on behalf of my friend. I became more aware; and through that awareness, I rapidly noticed that it was happening frequently – this subtle and almost imperceptible twinge of negative energy when I would see someone doing something that I wanted to do or saying something that I felt diminished me in some way.
Then it hit me. My insecurities about my own life were showing up as jealousy over social media posts. I was allowing other people’s stories to heavily influence my own thinking, my own mood, and my own story. As it turns out, I was far from alone. The web abounds with research articles and informal publications surrounding the topic of social media and negativity. This article from Forbes makes the following statement: “Social media has become a source of stress, unhappiness, and jealousy, for posters and observers alike.” Millions of people are afflicted by these diseases of negativity, which stalk their every move online. Bottom line is that we all spend way too much time watching the stories of other people and waiting anxiously for them to validate what we have inside us. Want proof of your reliance on their opinion? The next time you post something, see how long it takes you to check who has responded or how many people have given you a “like.” What a tragedy when you consider that the absolute essence of creativity, breakthrough and ingenuity is found through individual expression.
“Social media has become a source of stress, unhappiness, and jealousy, for posters and observers alike.”
You have a voice. It comes from deep inside you, and it is aching to break free into your daily waking mind. This voice already knows what it wants and who it wants to be. This voice is ready to tell a story, your story, to the world. This voice is ready to create, ready to move, and ready to build a legacy. Your heart is waiting for you to listen and believe so that it can create. The problem is that most of us never get quiet enough to hear it. We drown it out with the noise of other people’s stories and their input on how we should live our lives. We keep occupied and busy. We stay inebriated. We do whatever it takes to avoid that voice which is, ironically, our only path to leaving a true legacy of significance. I implore you to stop and to listen. I do as much reading as I possibly can, mostly because I am lazy. I would rather learn lessons the easy way from people who already had to learn them the hard way. Recently, in my reading, I have come across this concept of creating quiet time or thinking time every single day. When I say, “I have come across,” what I really mean is that it has been beating me over the head so consistently that I can no longer ignore the truth in the message:
- In his book, “The Road Less Stupid”, business growth legend Keith J. Cunningham places “Thinking Time” as the keystone of his entire success formula
- The authors of this compelling book about “Category Killers” describe quiet time and thinking time away from the noise as being sacrosanct if you want to create a truly unique product or service
- Finally, in “Silence: In the Age of Noise”, Erling Kagge (famous explorer from Norway) put together an artistic and compelling narrative about why “silence is essential to our sanity and happiness”
Ok, ok, ok. I get it. In order for me to hear my inner voice to consider how I am going to live my story and leave my legacy, I need to get very quiet. These have been great reminders for me as I have reflected back on my passion for backpacking, long drives through the country, thunderstorms, and other quiet spaces. I feel lucky that, in some ways, I have reached for these places of quiet reflection instinctively. Now that my role as an entrepreneur and coach is expanding, these sporadic breaks from the noise are no longer enough. I must have daily busts of solitude to confront the myriad of complex issues which comprise my daily work. For instance, I recently was confronted with the challenge of integrating another real estate brokerage into Amherst Madison via the merger with Front Street Brokers. This presented me with a series of difficult questions: How would we integrate two strong cultures? How will we make sure that their agents feel welcome and are excited about the changes? What is the best way to combine our disparate education offerings to maximize value and minimize churn? Only by setting aside a significant amount of quiet time and after consulting with a couple of mentors and partners, could I begin to come up with meaningful answers to these questions.
“I get it. In order for me to hear my inner voice to consider how I am going to live my story and leave my legacy, I need to get very quiet.”
What about you? When was the last time you got quiet? No cell phone or technology of any kind, no family, no pets, no spouse, just… silence. Creating time in our day for absolute quiet, reflection, and taking a few notes is no longer a luxury or something that we should do when we get the chance. If you want to hear your inner voice and tap into your true potential, you must set aside 15-30 minutes, minimum, every day. I recommend a quiet place where you feel at peace, zero technology to distract you, a pen, and the blank page.
In an age where we are surrounded by the constant din of other’s stories, it is more important than ever to be intentional about who you listen to. Other people’s voices, digital or otherwise, can motivate you, inspire you, guide you, mentor you, or energize you. You don’t need to ignore them; however, they should never be allowed to drag you down, make you jealous, or make you question the truth that comes from deep within you. The stories on your Instagram Feed and the most popular Facebook personality must not ever be allowed to override or drown out your inner fire, which is that source of passion and creativity living in us all. Don’t ever let someone else place judgment on your story. It is not theirs to live or to tell. It is yours. Never allow someone else’s opinion dictate your story and the legacy you write every single day. You are creating your story with everything you think and choose: How you treat people. How you show up at home or at work. The impact you make in the lives of those around you.
Get quiet and think. Get still and create. What will be your legacy? What is your story?