A friend recently asked me what people get from reading my writing. I had to ponder this.
I started listening to the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie shortly after hearing that question. In the early chapters of the book, Carnegie spends quite a bit of time talking about message. He says people only care about what’s in it for them.
Carnegie says the other person’s takeaways have to be clear if I want to get my message across or if I want something in return for the value I provide. He also bluntly says nobody cares about me. It was some tough love, but he is right.
My readers don’t care about my interests, desires, or goals. They have their own to worry about. That’s okay with me.
I’ve been hearing about a personal philosophy frequently lately. Aim to provide fifty-one percent of the value in any relationship, negotiation, or business deal. I’ve decided to adopt it myself.
It makes sense. Those who will organically discover my written works will only be interested in what they can take away from reading, with the notable exceptions of my beloved friends and family members. That’s also okay.
Acquiring this understanding has helped my writing and creative process tremendously.
I truly want to add value. I want readers to take away something that can help or improve their own lives. Maybe I can share some insights that will help them with a current dilemma or negative life situation.
It’s not entirely altruistic. I do receive value even when I aim to provide fifty-one percent. In fact, I feel like I am taking away more from my relationships and dealings since adopting this dogma.
It’s truly interesting. Trying to be a better friend, family member, or lover creates more love and positivity in my own life. Trying to be a better listener has been far more fulfilling than when I do most of the talking.
However, if I cannot accomplish adding value through my writing, I still hope readers will at least take away some entertainment value; be it through bringing others laughs, tears, surprises, or smiles from reading my stories and ponderances.
Value is enough to earn the click. Yet if I cannot provide practical value, then truthfully any entertainment I may provide will most likely pale in comparison to that which is in a social media feed, Netflix queue, or on some favorite websites. If I aim only for the entertainment value then I am just adding to the over-saturated level of noise on the internet, or in an inbox, and frankly, in life.
When people read a couple lines they should be able to tell quite quickly if they will learn something or gain valuable perspective. If they sense they won’t, then I encourage the readers to click the “X” or the back button on their browser or app.
If I’m truly skillful and lucky, readers will read the whole article, story, or column. Even though the attention and occasional engagement is wonderful, I cannot be satisfied unless I can walk away from a session in my notebook or at my keyboard feeling like what I’ve created is something that will add true value for my readers.
As I age and mature I also learn. One thing I am consistently learning is that I don’t know everything.
“He who knows everything will learn nothing.” There are countless variations of the quote. I wish more people thought this way. I believe remembering this will make people better people. It’s a philosophy I am consistently attempting to teach my daughter. I am trying to be more consistent about remembering it myself.
Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes I’m going to write trite blatherings. Sometimes I’m going to stand up from my desk thinking, “This is awesome!”, yet what I had produced in that session is going to be complete crap. I may even be full of shit without recognizing it.
The more I write the more present I become in my writing. The voice in my head that just rants is becoming better practiced at maintaining focus and staying on point, as well as remembering what I intend others to take away.
When readers catch me slipping, I implore them to call me out. The comments section of each article, as well as the Facebook page, is open for debate, critique, and interpretation. I will never shy away from criticism, particularly that which is well-thought out. I will always listen even if I may not change my perspective.
Recently I created a controversial social media post about open-mindedness of others’ beliefs during the holidays. I was coming from the perspective of defending differing beliefs, but I did it from a very close-minded place myself. Luckily a couple friends called me out for the belligerent nature of my post. I reflected and realized they were right and that I was wrong. I was being as close-minded as those I was railing out against.
I can only improve my ‘what’ and my ‘how’ if I listen, watch, and continue to learn. When I do these I learn patience, situational leadership, more effective ways to communicate, and so much more.
Writing this article is an example of attempting to provide at least fifty-one percent. I write to transform my learnings, growth, and failures into something of value for others. I’m betting on coming through on my promise of adding significant value in writing this piece. I expect it will make people think. I am hoping others will consider their relationships and the way they approach them.
I am hoping others will think about this essay when they next interact with a person in their life, or their own creative process. My friend significantly affected my thought process with just the one question: “What are your readers going to gain from reading this?”
I hope readers will think differently when they decide how to treat others more than anything else. That doesn’t just go for those that they like, love, and care for. It should be especially true of how they treat others they don’t know, or how they treat those who don’t treat them well.
I can only possibly know what I think and feel. The same is true of anyone. I cannot possibly know if that stranger who gave me a dirty look is having a gas pain at the exact moment I met their glance. Perhaps they just lost a bunch of money. Maybe a pet or a family member is sick or just passed away.
Positivity, love, kindness, and gratitude are the cure for a bad mood and attitude. When someone approaches me with negativity and I return kindness, I will have a high likelihood of bringing the other person up to my level.
It won’t work every time though. Do not become discouraged. Sometimes when others receive that kindness it may seem like it had no affect at all. Later it may make a significant difference in their life when they are down and depressed.
From now on when I act, I will do so from a position of attempting to provide at least fifty-one percent of the value in all my relations and dealings. I will no longer focus on what I want and need first. I know that if I consider the needs and desires of others first, then I will get what I need or want, and most likely more.
I hope this will be abundantly obvious in my written works. I hope those who read what I’ve created will accept my fifty-one percent and if possible, attempt to provide fifty-one percent in return. It’s simple math really. If everyone attempts to put in fifty percent or less, then we will all average less than one hundred percent in our relationships. If everyone puts in fifty-one percent, then we will be averaging at least one hundred and two percent. That’s a pretty great return.