“They can’t have it both ways,” “so many of them are having a hard time letting go,” and “it’s like their security blanket.” These are the recently revealed words of former US President Bill Clinton to Tony Blair discussing the psyche of Sinn Fein members during the Northern Ireland peace process. Not only did Irish Republicans want a guarantee for their security and safety, but they also needed a meaning to their lives in the new Ireland. In other words, it’s all very well telling a new story, but where do you begin? It’s the toughest part of a new thing: the beginning.
My hero, Brian McLaren puts it another way. In the Huffington Post talking exclusively about his book, We Make The Road by Walking, he writes: “many of us have walked the road of our tradition to where it currently ends, and we’ve come to believe that the road isn’t finished yet. We seek neither a denial of the past nor an enslavement to the past. Instead, we seek to faithfully extend the road of Christian tradition from the past, through the present, and into the future. So we make the road by walking … and our quest continues.”
To make that first step on any new path, you need a start. As Clinton also commented, “you are asking them (the Sinn Fein audience) to put a little white bread sandwich in a lunchbox and go off to work in the factory. It’ll be hard for them.” But making the sandwich must be done. Although a prawn and mayonnaise one scattered with dill and served in a crisp granary loaf might sound marginally more attractive. Do you get my point?
In my new world of writing and protesting about debt and economic injustice, the starting point has been the creation of both a personal mission statement and a set of 1-sentence bios. It’s not incongruous to have both. One sets out your principal aims and objectives while the other makes for a useful soundbite so that an audience can decide whether you’re worth listening to or not.
In my case, the personal statement is: “my mission is to order, teach & inspire to see liberty, providence, and fortitude for debtors, discontented and distressed.”
But this is expressed differently on my Facebook bio as something far less obnoxious and boringly earnest:
“Inspirer, writer, liberator; Jonah & the Whale is my story; knows some of the best chefs in the UK.”
or, indeed even my Twitter profile as:
“Freelancer | Writer & Storyteller | Inspiring decency, forthrightness & honesty | Insupportable Debt | Dog-walker, Leeds fan, know some of the best chefs in the UK.”
There’s no sense waffling, nor bragging in your bio. Your audience will pay no attention. But engage your audience with a free hand: assured; talented; and encouraged. Your one-liner has to be an offer of an amazing gift, so do not hold back. And it can be different according to the platform/media.
Whatever audience you attract, the next step is to inquire as to who within that conversation is of greatest worth to your story and listen to their opinions. Your greatest value to them is probably not what you think it is! Then, move on to another group within your audience and greet it. If they accept your innovation, engage them, if not move on. Remember, not all of your audience will be harmless, so be wise.
Eventually, your innovation or story will get noticed, and opposition arise. Don’t worry about it. Your response to friend or foe will come naturally to you. And in any event, a little vulnerability is a good thing: it reminds people you’re not so different from them.
One other thought for now: when you write your bio be clear whether you are writing it in the first or third person. The tension in the first person is between your unique perspective and what is happening in the outside world. The balance in the third person is what your audience sees in the outside world and what is going on from your perspective. I’m just saying, it affects others perception of you.