You wouldn’t know it to look at me on the surface, but I went to 2017’s BConnected Conference feeling kinda down about my brand. I was doing better than ever, yes, but I didn’t feel like I was growing anymore. I had a wealth of contests out, consistently put content out that had people paying attention, and found myself able to do things with my blog I’d have never thought possible. If I were the Casey from five years ago, I’d be living the dream.
But you see a lot on any journey you take, and the year spent getting to this point still had me unsatisfied, feeling like I could still do so much more.
The first day of the BConnected Conference didn’t quite help. There were plenty of amazing things that went down that Saturday, like meeting Elayna Fernandez and her daughters, a family I’d love to keep in touch with, or Dani Gagnon showing me how to find value in Instagram Stories in ways I never really did with Snapchat. But it was Susan Getgood’s talk that stuck with me. The one that said the jump from microinfluencer to mid-tier content creator was having 100,000+ fans and followers.
The name of the game is mediocrity. Mediocre blogs that don’t share anything worth reading; people who skip birthdays for mediocre events; mediocre personalities, expectations and lives. No one’s striving for anything amazing anymore.
And it boggles my mind—everything’s literally within reach, but when people find out how much work it takes to build a personal brand and cultivate it to the point where people actually want to read what you write, they just give up. They rather spend time telling you it “must be nice” than to build anything meaningful for themselves, letting themselves fail before they’ve really given anything a shot—and I can’t go for that.
I stopped listening to the haters a long time ago—no more of the people who thought I was “setting myself up for disappointment” when they hear my lofty dreams or peers willing to create content that was simply “good enough”; I’ve spent many years getting to know myself, and can tell you that if I don’t keep pushing to get better with every piece I put out, I may as well quit now, ‘cuz I know I won’t make it through.
But I get it—I get that some people only got in this hustle to get their money and go, not overly concerned about what they leave behind as long as they get their cheque. That there’s a literal army of bloggers who don’t give two cares about standing out, long as there’s a shortcut or two to feed their bottom line.
But there’s no cheat sheet that’ll tell you how to reach the top of the heap. No membership guide that’ll tell you when you’ve “made it”, and the perks you can expect at each stage of the game. This is something you need to build for yourself, doing it because it fuels you, pumping through your veins—those who’ve come out looking for an easy payday quickly realize this grind demands more than most are willing to give, and it’s the few who know they need more than money from it all who’ll still be here in the end.
Which is why I’m losing my mind trying to get back on my horse after what feels like an eternity spent without a solid blog post out.
Before heading out on a 10-day trip to Mexico to see my sister-in-law get married in a little place called Tequesquitengo, I could feel it creeping in on me from all sides—a heap of sponsored content that wasn’t going to write itself; plenty of action with the 9-5 that needed handling before I took the time off; and a very comprehensive to-do list that wasn’t going away without doing what I needed to do as a Dad and doing right by my family. It’s easy enough to call yourself a blogger—slap a few words together, add a few photos and call it a day—but putting out content that’ll do any better than the stuff you’d find in a local community newsletter is a full-time gig unto itself.
It’s a struggle, though—I’ve spent countless hours trying to find myself: working past the sponsored posts to examine some deeply rooted parts of my soul—my ever-changing life as a father, trying to do the best I can for my children without sacrificing the things that make me who I am. Further studies into life as a Black man in one of the most diverse cities on the face of the planet. I’ve been so caught up in the hustle that I’ve failed to feed my soul, and that’s something that’ll need changing if I don’t want to get reacquainted with burnout.
But knowing what I want to write and doing it justice are two different things—have I led the kind of life that makes me qualified to discuss any of it? Can I write the kind of stuff that’ll matter years down the road, or am I chasing an ideal I’ll never manage to touch, stuff that’s no better than any of my peers?
This is what keeps me up at night—knowing how badly I want to reach my potential, but not knowing if I’ll ever get there. Though I’ve written long enough and hard enough to be confident that my work can do great things, I still can’t convince myself it has what it takes to change lives. Or that it can do any more than simply take up digital space and do any better than the uninspired memes and uninformed opinions that already constantly plague us.
I sit here, and I’ve yet to be convinced that my work can outlast me.
And that’s what it really comes down to—I want so badly to create classics that the pressure I put on myself sometimes halts me in my steps… but we all know there’s only one way I’m going to reach my goal, and that’s to keep on writing.
So that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Be Mediocre if You Want—But Remember; Hard Work ALWAYS Pays Off.
These moments where self-doubt takes hold and I start questioning whether I’ll actually manage to make something valuable from my efforts, I have to remind myself of the things I’ve accomplished already, and how I would’ve called it quits a long time ago if I listened to everyone telling me what they thought I couldn’t do. That I couldn’t be successful if I strayed from the safe path—that a stable job, good family and debt-free existence were as far as my dreams should go. That I couldn’t exceed my life’s station—that a life without trust funds, Ivy League schools and family connections could only take me so far, and that I should leave greatness for those better equipped for it… it’s simply not meant for a lowly commoner like myself. Sure—I look at my peers who show up on the scene more often; the ones travelling across the globe and going to the hottest events… and while it’s obvious to me that this would’ve been easier when I was younger and childless, you don’t just quit because something gets harder.
You just get better at it and figure out what works for you.
So I hope you didn’t miss me too much, but the boy is back—you can only let a cloud hang overhead for so long before it’s time to get yourself together and move on; when it feels like the world’s trying to hold you back, that’s when you shine your boots, stand tall, and remind it that ain’t nobody got time for that.
But the hustle continues and I’ve still a million and one other things that I could be doing, so I’m gonna get back to it. If you made it this far down the post, kudos to you, and I’ll tell you this—if the 2016 we’ve seen so far is any indication of things to come, we’ve still got a very interesting year ahead of us!
Thanks for continuing to check the blog out and until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night. While I’m no political activist trying to fight a system that’s holding me down, there’s still plenty I’m fighting against daily. A blogosphere filled with people who just don’t try, satisfied doing the bare minimum for their content, not aspiring to grow any greater than their current stations. A world that still sees most Dads as bumbling idiots, when really, they’re likely the most involved they’ve been at any point in history! It’s a constant hustle to change the narrative around me, and this reality inspired the post you’re reading now — the one where I stare the world down and let it down that we gon’ be alright, even when they want to see us fail.
July 2015 — I’ve just turned 32 years old, and I’m trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
I’ve built this #BloggerLife for myself — a little digital space with promise, letting me share thoughts and ideas with thousands, evolving around me as I learn to massage them into something more… spectacular.
I don’t know whether I’d call myself a blogger anymore — things have grown much bigger than that. My site’s more than a blog template, my stories more than a handful of images and subtitles… I look at my #BloggerLife and my other lives running alongside it, knowing what I have to offer is far more than I could achieve by sticking to expectations set by other people.
I can’t do things like everyone else does and expect to find my answers — I need to carve a path from the bedrock of my life; one that’ll let me do everything I must as a husband and father, but still let me create what I want to without sacrificing precious sleep and sanity.
And for that, a little over three decades deep into my life, I look at everything I’ve built so far and ask myself the simplest of questions:
And out of nowhere, like a dreaded cold that chills your bones, The Months of Ber have fallen upon us, signalling the time to check on our affairs and tie up loose ends wherever we can.
With summer wrapped up but a wealth of work still sitting on my plate, I looked at my desk and didn’t even know where to start. When I added cleaning my desk to The 2014 100 back in January, it was no joke — the pressed wood of my 2% stake in my home has long vanished under piles of unfinished ideas, half-read books, and a plethora of resources I got with good intentions, but ultimately used them so seldom that all they do is take up space.
It’s time to figure out what really needs doing in my life, and with luck, I can enter 2015 much farther ahead than I was a mere 9 months ago.