You are Always on Stage

Have you noticed lately that it is becoming less and less commonplace to hear about some dumb thing a certain celebrity or politician had said or done on the recent past, only is just now being discovered and/or reported?  Well, I have.  And you know why that is?  It isn’t that people are behaving better these days – far from it – it’s that literally everything gets reported in real time anymore.

It doesn’t even have to be something important – even stuff like a candid snapshot of so and so random celebrity knuckle deep in a nostril while sitting in traffic is enough to make the front page of  But, you don’t have to be a celebrity to know your life is under a constant microscope.  Between handheld flip cams and security cameras and cell phones with built in video capture capabilities – not to mention everything you put out there voluntarily by way of your blog, Facebook, etc., your entire life is potentially being recorded whether you like (or know) it or not.

What this implies is that not only is everything you do possibly being recorded and archived, the millions of avenues of self publishing and broadcasting  means that the ability to bring your shenanigans to the masses at warp speed is readily available.

The whole point of all this is the fact that the world we live in now forces us to come to terms with what some may consider to be a rather sobering reality: Whether you like it or not, you are always on stage.

And, while this is potentially true for prospective job hunters, it is even more so for those of us who are self employed.As your Miranda rights go, anything you say or do can be held against you in a court of public opinion.  Don’t think that you can slip one through here and there.  It’s been estimated that as many as 45% of employers use Facebook to screen potential job applicants and that number is only going to go up.  In today’s economy, the sheer number of resumes employers receive make them more interested in seeking reasons not to interview a candidate for a position, so they look for voluntary idiocy via social media accounts as a method of weeding out morons who still think posting drunken pictures of their beer-pong exploits is a good idea.

When you’re self employed, it’s basically true that you are never not working.  Any social scene, from backyard BBQs to your interactions with other parents at your kids’ sporting events can potentially provide an opportunity to meet a future client or gain a referral.  But even beyond that, every single encounter will leave an impression.  The type of impression you leave is up to you.

Think of all the ridiculous parents yelling incessantly in the stands during sporting events.  Whether you’re a fellow parent with a kid on the same field, or you’re a player yourself, or you’re a coach – you’ve undoubtedly encountered someone like this at some point.  It’s inevitable. And when you see people act this way, what’s the first thing that runs through your head?  I can probably guess – but I think it’s safe to assume that it isn’t that this person is a level headed individual you might like to someday do business with.

Every single person you encounter has the potential to to influence the perception of you and your business – so you always have to be on your game to make sure that that influence is a positive one.  Because in today’s digital age, a little bit of damage can go a long long way.

Hustler. Hacker. Slacker: An Afternoon with Paul Jendrasiak

As I’ve grown a little older (I turned 35 in February), self-reflection has become a large part of my experience.  Taking the time and examining the events, decisions, luck (both good and bad), people that have come and gone (again both good and bad), circumstances, etc. that have shaped my life to this point has had a positive effect on things going forward and is something I look forward to doing more of as time goes on.  If you’re a bit older than I am – you’re probably thinking to yourself something like ‘you think you’re older now?  Wait til you’re 50, son’.

It was exactly at that time that I was just beginning to branch out on my own as a service provider in the SEO and Internet Marketing industry.  At the time and up until relatively recently, I didn’t know Paul very well.  In all reality, I had an idea as to the businesses he was involved in – but aside from that I really knew only one thing about him: Paul Jendrasiak was everywhere around here.If you live in West Michigan, are active on social media channels around here, or even if you’ve spent any time at all in Grand Rapids, chances are you’ve heard of Paul Jendrasiak.  In case you are unfamiliar, Paul is the founder of Spambully, a photographer for GRNOW, and co-founder of Hello From Grand Rapids, among many other business ventures over the past 20 years.  I first met Paul at a cocktail event in 2010.  Prior to that, we’d connected informally on Facebook, when it was the thing to do to be counted as among his near capacity friend count.

When I was first starting out, I attended my fair share of networking events and the like.  If you’ve ever engaged in such activities – you know that it usually becomes pretty apparent who the regulars are – and Paul was seemingly at all of them.  If I was the guy with his hands in his pockets lurking on the outskirts of the party like the captain of the chess club at a high school dance, Paul was the star quarterback in the middle of the dance floor.

Over the past few years, I’d gotten to know Paul a little bit through his Facebook page and occasional chance interactions.  He was always laid back and cool and always seemed to make time for everyone.  But it wasn’t until his recent presentation at a GRAPE event called “Hustler. Hacker. Slacker: Confessions and Ramblings of an Accidental Entrepreneur”, and a subsequent conversation over coffee a week later that I realized how much he and I had in common and how his life experience resonated with me both personally and professionally.

The truth is, listening to Paul’s talk about his experience growing up – and by ‘growing up’ I am actually referring his early adulthood years – felt as if I was listening to the older brother I never had.  Paul’s remarks on growing up admiring musicians and an affinity for photography yet letting go of those dreams in favor of a more practical career path resonated with me and had me hanging on his every word.  It isn’t that his experience is a perfect reflection of mine – far from it.  But there is a feeling of familiarity in listening to Paul describe his path to this point in his life (he’s 42), and certain parallels when I think and reflect on this point in mine.

So with that, I encourage you to check out Paul’s talk below.  It’ll probably be the best 20 minutes you’ll spend today.  And by the way – as to turning 50 – I’m looking forward to it and I’ll report back in about 15 years’ time.