Monday, May 5, 2008

Feeling Dumb May Be the Smartest Thing You've Ever Done

Have you ever felt like the dumbest person in the room? If not, I highly recommend it.

I just returned from the SOBCON08 in Chicago. That's a conference for bloggers. That means a bunch of people knew a whole lot more than I did about everything blogging, web-related and a lot of technical stuff. I had dinner with people I were convinced were speaking Klingon at times.

"Well, you've got to take the XRwhingerwhammer jitbat and use it to open the Latvian mother's code or it will take you to the goose ginger," said Lorelle VanFossen.

People like Brian Clark and Chris Garrett, co-author of "ProBlogger" would nod and jump in with: "But don't forget the hangman's fifth gibber or the pickleman's lockdown."

OK, at times I threw in something if if I knew what they were talking about. But I did a lot of listening and asked a lot of questions. It was pretty reflective of a weekend where I spent most of it asking:

"How do I?"
"What's that?"
"Where do I find that?
"How does that work?"

And of course, the ever present: "Huh?"

But I had a lot of "A-HA!" moments as well. It felt like a giant, weekend-long V-8 commercial because I was slapping myself upside the head so much. "Why didn't I do that?" I thought (slap). "I could have done that!"(slap) "Why didn't I think of that before!"(slap)

David Bullock had the answer: Everyone feels that way. No one knows all the answers, and we're all going to make mistakes along the way. What you DO know is of value.

So, as much as I was often confused and feeling pretty dumb, I really enjoyed every minute of it. I started to get it. I started to understand. (OK, maybe not all the tech talk, but I took a lot of notes so I could look up stuff later.)

I had a weekend of mental gymnastics, of being around people that made me feel dumb -- but were also really nice and willing to let me learn from them and ask questions. And here's the thing: By jumping out of my comfort zone and exposing myself to people and ideas and thoughts and viewpoints that were new to me, I started to see possibilities and opportunities and new paths for myself and my career.

And that was really, really important. At a time when newsrooms across the country look like Tony Soprano and his gang have been there because so many bodies have been whacked, it was really energizing and uplifting to know that I didn't have to give up what I love doing, I just had to think of it in different ways.

I can't think of any better career advice for today. I want you to think of talking to someone today, of experiencing something this week, that makes you feel dumb. Ask questions. Learn. Grow.

I dare you.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Managing Your Online Reputation

Blogging has opened a whole new world for those who want their voices to be heard. From the teenager writing about everyday angst to the politico hoping to sway the masses to the business person seeking new business, the blogging world has exploded in recent years.

Still, there are a lot of growing pains that go along with the written word. I should know, since I've been a journalist for more than 20 years. I received a college degree in journalism, and have worked with some of the top journalists in the country. It is part of the everyday fabric of a journalist's life to constantly question and assess sources and information and even our own personal biases when we put our hands on a computer keyboard.

Many bloggers have never had these discussions, and that makes sense. The medium has clearly outpaced the ability to discuss all the ramifications of what is written, but it's time we took a deep breath and did just that.

One of the people who thinks a look at blogging and the responsibilities that go with it is important is Liz Strauss at Successful and Outstanding Blog, considered by many to be one of the leading voices in the blogosphere. As part of her very popular SOBCON08 in Chicago on May 2-4, Liz has asked me to speak. My subject: "Managing Your Online Reputation – Avoiding Situations that Need Damage Control."

I'm going to spend some time in the coming weeks interviewing legal experts to get the latest scoop on the liabilities that go along with blogging, and I'll also explore some of the issues that journalists talk about every day: the personal responsibilities that go along with writing for the masses; how to best manage your influence and connections for the long term; and how to react when things go wrong.

If you'd like to find out more about the conference, you can also check out Jason Falls' video. If you're attending and want me to discuss a particular issue, let me know.

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