There comes a time, maybe many times, when you can’t understand what other people are thinking. You are putting out energy, attention, physical labor, — as Churchill once said, “blood, sweat, toil and tears” — and yet no one seems to care. You think your story, your cause, your writing, your work, your business is the most important thing in the world and all you get in return is silence.
It’s easy to come up with a hundred reasons why no one cares. “They’re stupid.”, “They’re evil.”, “They’re Republican.”, “They’re Democrat.”, “They’re rich, poor, black, white purple, speak another language. It’s the economy, the government, the world, the flux, the weather, the tides.” We can come up with thousands of reason why our work and our lives aren’t fully appreciated. We do this out of self-preservation. If we allow ourselves to think of the “real” reason no one is paying attention, it might break our hearts.
There are 2 reasons why people aren’t paying attention to you and your work. The first reason could simply be that they don’t know you. They haven’t encountered you or your work and to them, you don’t even exist…yet. This can be countered. There are so many methods to expose yourself to others these days. It only takes a little work on the Internet to build quite a large group of people who “know” you. In fact, this is much easier than ever before and can be accomplished with a little hard work.
The second problem overwhelms the first, however. It can overwhelm us and kill our desire to create. It is partially under our control, but also part of the infinitely complex dance of human interaction. This problem is one of the most difficult to face in life, but it is also one that we MUST face if we hope to live the life we deserve:
Our work is ignored or dismissed because people do not see value in it.
Sure, we may see the deeper value and that can be important in its own right, but in order to make people pay attention, it must have value to them. If not, it might be a short term curiosity, a pleasant distraction along the path of life, or even a minor annoyance, but without value, it will make little or no impact and mean little to them.
So, you can rail against the world, the weather or the weekend, but it all comes down to value.
No one using your online community? They don’t see the value. No one listening to you podcast? They don’t see the value. No one coming to your play, your television show, you concert, your book signing? They don’t see the value. Human beings want to improve their lives. They want to have important new experiences. They want to feel growth, both intellectually and emotionally. Their first judge of your material is, “What’s in it for me? How will this help me be a better, happier, funnier, healthier, smarter person?”
If you examine your own thoughts, I think you can see this is true. You do the same each and every day. You look at objects, shows, books, Facebook Friends and Twitter followers and wonder, “What’s in it for me?” If you do this, you must imagine that others do the same. We are all human and all subject to some very fundamental laws about the way we think and act.
While it can be depressing to realize that some of your work does not have value to others, it also shows us a path to a better place. No matter how bleak it might seem, we can always address the most basic question – “How can I make it valuable to them? If people don’t see the value, how can I show it to them in a better way? How can I ‘prove’ it?” There are an endless number of ways of acting on this question, but you will have to figure out your next step based on your own wants, needs and desires.
Whatever you do, don’t think you can prove the value by shouting at them, “How stupid can you be!?!?” This is counter productive at best and outright destructive at its worst. Instead you need to talk with them, sit with them, listen to them and figure out how your work can have value to them. Then, you need to show that value. You can tell people why they should be interested over and over without result, but when you show them the value, the results are immediate.
Is one of your projects failing? Are your books not selling? Is your company struggling? Are people simply not listening? If so, take out your notebook, look deeply at your work and find ways to make it valuable to your clients, your customers, your audience, your department, your company, your publisher, your agent, your wife, your family. Value is a natural attractant. When you find the value, people will find you.
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