Passion, Relationships and Thought Leadership

Back in the bad old days of blogging, the way to get attention was simple. Flame someone long enough and hard enough and they would take notice and respond in comments, or otherwise. Bloggers realized their power for change and took their platforms seriously, calling into question media accounts in politics, public relations nightmares such as Edelman’s Walmart stunt and other such things.

On this blog, I’ve taken this tack in the past flaming my friend Duncan Riley and earning my place, for a time, in the Google hierarchy as #3 for “How to be a whore”.

Yes, I was ranked #3 for how to be a whore. Classy, as always.

With my platform, I took HP to task for jerking a customer around and turned around a PR disaster into an amazing demonstration of customer service in the social web world.

I took to Twitter and established a “personal brand”, whatever that is, for being a no-bullshit czar and calling people to task when they were presenting stories or thoughts in a way that I felt was disingenuous.

For whatever hard-nosed approaches I took to relationships in the web world, I also encouraged and linked to and cited those who I felt were thought leaders. I shared blog posts in Google Reader and FriendFeed and linked people prolifically on Twitter.

The world still operates in much the same way online as it does in any other area of life. Business, politics, technology, personal relationships – they are all the same. You will never agree with everyone else, nor should you. If everyone looked at the world the same way, we’d live in a very boring world.

When it comes to passion, it is the thing that drives people to be better than what they would otherwise be. It makes them thought leaders and brings about change. Always.

The things is, the change is sometimes good and bad and that’s where passion gets you into trouble. When passion drives you to be unbending and, for lack of a better word, bigoted or dogmatic, then passion runs the risk of getting in the way and interfering.

Truth is, particularly in the blogosphere where everyone has a voice and everyone can potentially affect dramatic change, is that passion often has to be tempered in favor of relationship. Passion may drive you to make sweeping accusations, or lump different groups of people into the same bucket with the premise that “you know what I mean”.

This is harmful. Very, very harmful. This destroys relationships, and relationships are the balance.

Relationships looks at the world and say, “what you and I are together is more important and more powerful than what you and I are apart.”

In the Great Depression (and by the way, I have a bunch of Great Depression stories coming soon), the United States entered what can only be described as a period of long winter. During that winter, people could not rely on their government, their businesses, their ways of life. All they had was each other. Families hunkered down with families. Friends built deeper relationships. All they had was each other, and those relationships formed a core foundation for the generation that would come. To this day, that generation is known as the Greatest Generation.

Passion fuels the fire, drive and ambition and is the catalyst for so many great things in history. Passion is also the catalyst for the greatest failures in history.

Thought leaders are the ones who know how to tap into passion to accelerate their goals, but know when to tap the brake and fall back on relationships to enhance their goals.

Be careful not to sacrifice relationships on the altar of passion.

Comments About Sarah Lacy, SXSW and the "Apology of the Century"

Last night at the Twin Tech Party in DC, Sarah Lacy of Business Week and I had a chance to meet for the first time. What transpired has been spun unbelievably out of control by attendees of the party. Phrases like “Battle of the Titans”, the “Apology of the Century” and labels of me being her “arch-nemesis” have been bandied around.

I personally think it’s all a bit much and want to explain what happened last night with a brief history on what happened involving Sarah and I at SXSW.

Sarah had the opportunity to interview Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder at SXSW. This came within a few months of the Facebook Beacon advertising and privacy fiasco which we covered here. Zuck is not known for public access and this was one of those few times where many in the room had an opportunity to talk to him. It wasn’t really planned that the audience would talk all that much. Handlers ensured that, if rumors are to be believed.

In the heat of the moment, and admittedly some egging on by folks on Twitter who know that I’ll say anything, anywhere (sometimes without thinking through ramifications), I heckled Zuckerberg with “Beacon Sucks“, the first of what would be many heckles from the crowd in that keynote. Get that, though? I heckled Zuckerberg.

This heckle lives on in infamy and everywhere I go, people laugh about it. “Oh, you’re that guy?”

I admit, it was pretty funny and I benefitted from the wave of infamy that went with it. But I want to be clear, I heckled Zuckerberg, not Sarah Lacy. Later in the Keynote, the audience turned on Sarah, but that was not me.

Last night, I spoke with Sarah one on one about the incident. A Flickr photoset was dedicated to the encounter, which I find slightly amusing.

Picture 8.png

Sarah was genuinely interesting, but she was naturally a little defensive when we first began chatting about the incident. I hope that the message I was trying to convey made it through: I was heckling Mark, not Sarah, and though I don’t apologize for the content of the heckle (Beacon does suck and still does), I do apologize for the unprofessional conveying of that message.

Personally, I hope that the entire incident can be put behind us. I don’t mind if the Beacon Sucks heckling incident never gets brought up again, but I may be wishing too much. In case the message didn’t translate, ” I’m sorry, for my part, in making you uncomfortable on stage, Sarah. While it was not the best interview, my message was for Mark, and not you. Hopefully you can forgive me and next time we see each other, it will be easier to laugh about the whole thing.”

And by the way, the Twin Tech Party rocked.

Update: Though it’s difficult to hear, here is a video taken at the event of this alleged “apology of the century”.

Update 2: Sarah says, “I do” – Umm, as in, she forgives me. :)

Play to Strengths

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Jeremy Schoemaker is a rockstar in SEO. Darren Rowse is a rockstar in making money online. Erin is a rockstar among women bloggers. Thomas Hawk is a rockstar photographer. Brad Feld (a Lijit investor) is a rockstar VC. Chris Brogan is a rockstar people person. Alex Hillman is a rockstar community man. Jody is a rockstar musician.

I’m telling you, everyone is a rockstar in their own right and no one can take away their strength. As Micah puts it, no one can do your job better than you can.

The problem comes when you are not confident in what you do and you let a different kind of rockstar dictate your behavior.

We’ve all seen it. Someone of stature arrives on the scene and the person who knows the space and environment best gets star struck or intimidated by the presence of the rockstar and suddenly doesn’t know how to behave, act or represent themselves.

Confidence is so important. Confidence is sexy. Confidence displays your rockstarness and communicates that you own the place and people should stick by you. Confidence draws people in and causes them to get lost in YOU.

We all need someone else and no one can do it alone.

For myself, I know I have certain qualities and abilities that command the respect of others. I also know that I need people (such as all the people above, to name a few) to teach me something about their environments. Alex, in fact, was the one who gave me inspiration and motivation, not to mention pointers, on beginning the small co-working community we have here in Maryland.

Thomas taught me (via Scoble) a thing or two about lenses for my camera.

And so on.

Who are you learning from? Who inspires you? What are you teaching others?

(See, Chris Brogan taught me how to end posts with questions ;-) )