Social Media: Tool or Threat?

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, was interviewed by James Altucher on the podcast The James Altucher Show. In the conversation, Newport brings up a concept called “mental residue,” which is the phenomenon that occurs when we glance at our email or our cell phones for just 30 seconds just before we dive into a practice, discipline, or some kind of focus.

He says this “mental residue” stays with us for up to 20 to 30 minutes into our focus time.

I’m sure this could be expanded to include any activity we happen to be doing in real life – from having dinner with a close friend, to performing in the workplace, to writing a poem. If we allow our minds even brief stimulation, it could mean some serious mental costs.

This brings to attention the danger of Social Media. While some aspects of the “online presence” can be useful, every Impresario walks the line between falling prey to the focus deficit it can cause, and only using it strategically, to reach folks in ways that doing so in person could not.

Cal Newport argues that Social Media is not really useful or needed at all because it causes people to waste attention and therefore does more harm than good. I am inclined to agree with him, because at the end of the day, it’s the Craft, the Vision, that truly matters.

A New Word For The Same Feeling

From time to time, when thinking and writing about the kinds of things I like to think and write about, I encounter a serious challenge. That challenge is, “How do I describe a feeling without using words that have become increasingly over-used?” When talking about the Impresario, for example, I’ve often used the word “Connection,” but the truth is, I really am bothered by this word.

I’m bothered by this word because it is overused. In circles of entrepreneurs, authors, other bloggers, psychologists, podcasters, and other twenty-first century weirdos, the word “Connection” pops up ad nauseum. Perhaps this occurrence of the word first started because we realized we were experiencing so little of it in this age of social media, smart phone hypnosis, and cyberfriends. But now the word, it seems to me, has lost much of its power.

I don’t like a cliché anymore than the next person, so my first inclination is to simply go ahead and use a new word. These days, I am using the practice of blog posting as a way to explore my ideas about the Impresario. The concept of the Impresario, to me, is rooted in personal interaction. This interaction happens in two ways, often at the same time: 1) sharing and collaborating in Art, and 2) relating. This second way, “relating,” can happen on so many levels, and it’s really key.

So if I’m going to find a new term for “relating” that’s not the now-cliché word “Connection,” I have to take all this into account. I’ve already thought a bit about it since yesterday’s post, and it seems to me that the best word to replace “Connection” would be “Intimacy.”

It may sound a touch extreme, but the Impresario is an extreme character. And in this conversation, if “Connection” goes out the window, we need a new, stronger term to describe really the same Feeling, because the Feeling is what we’re ultimately getting at. I like “Intimacy” because it implies a sense of closeness and vulnerability that is essential in the new way of making and presenting Art.

So in blog posts from here on out until further notice, I’m going to be using the word “Intimacy” quite a lot, rather than “Connection,” to describe what happens in the collaborative process of Impresarios. That is, until I get tired of it, and then I’ll have to find something else!

If any of this hits home, tell me about it by sending an email to Thanks!

Connections: Now, It’s Personal

I mentioned briefly in my last blog, “A Day In The Life” about networking. I kind of shed networking in a… more cynical light, depicting it as somewhat of a “necessary evil,” much like I often see social media, as per the spirit of the post.

Actually, with proper focus, networking can serve as great vehicle to make progress in both the social and business worlds. Networking is absolutely not optional. It is a tool that is used to make connections, personal ones, that can be the defining bridge to someone’s next place in life. I believe the same is true for social media.

I had never heard the term “networking” so much until I moved to Nashville. When I first considered moving here, I even started hearing the word a lot. “So many opportunities with all of the networking you do!” “There’s so much networking going on!” And they weren’t lyin’.

Nashville may very well be the top networking town in the country. OK, maybe LA or New York, because of their size. But Nashville could very well contain the biggest hub of music networks. Wherever you go, dive bars, cafes, and even churches, people are unavoidably connecting, or building on past connections.

These connections form the framework of the modern business model. They are what is driving us. It used to be “them, and maybe us,” now it’s all of us. The true relationships are made from these kinds of encounters, which always start as personal.

Is networking a “necessary evil”? Yes and no. You want to network, you need to network. The times are a-changin’. You could also network until you’re blue in the face and still have nothing to show for it except a hangover. Perhaps better not to think of it as “evil” and more as “necessary.”

How do you, or how would you like to start, incorporate networking or social media into your daily life in a timely fashion? On Wednesday, I’ll show some ways I intend to tackle this opportunity.

A Day In The Life Of A “Budding Musician-Entrepreneur”: A Rant

You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re not in the mood to do anything except eat and sleep. You just got home from a long day at work. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re a musician. You haven’t had a chance to practice yet because you’ve been catching up on unpaid bills and other loose ends. There’s an event you need to attend tonight because of the indispensable networking opportunities and the chance to showcase your hard work. And you… still need to write a blog post?

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World, writes that three to four blog posts a week is ideal for a functioning platform. Let me repeat that: three to four blog posts a week. He says frequency is the key to traffic. For those of us with full time jobs, projects of our own, families, and the need to keep our sanity, this may sound a tad demanding. And you know what? It is.

I’m not just talking about blog posts. I’m talking about the whole litany of tasks we are expected to complete as creative entrepreneurs, most of which are to be done online. Yes, folks, it’s not enough anymore that we be creative, brilliant, vulnerable. Now we have to publicize everything on that wonderful, vast expanse of cyberspace: the Internet.

It’s not enough that we put our hearts and souls on the line by composing soul-wrenching music or tantalizingly transparent poetry. Now, we have to upload everything we create. And after doing that, we have to tweet, post, blog, tag, and respond, in a constant fashion, everything we think, do, and say.

And the whole time, have a smile on our face, go about our day, and be creative – and, in the case of musicians, practice, transcribe, write, and repeat.

Since I’m a musician, let’s break down a typical day in the life of a budding musician-entrepreneur with a typical full-time job.

7:00 – 9:00 am Roll lethargically out of bed, clawing at your smart phone which is also your alarm. Drag your still half-asleep ass to the shower, then try your best to make a breakfast that doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup.

8:00 – 9:00 am Force yourself to practice. Try not to drink too much coffee.

9:00 – 9:30 am If it’s blog day, finish proofreading and editing your newest blog post. Expound on the thoughts you should have begun the night before. If it’s not blog day, congratulations! You get to practice for an extra half hour.

9:30 – 10:00 am If you live in a city like Nashville, you have to hop on 5 different interstates before you get to where you’re going, unless you’re lucky and you only have to travel through a suburban maze, in which case you just might have enough time to pack lunch. Arrive at work.

10:00 am – 6:00 pm Work.

6:15 pm – 6:45 pm Go to the gym. That’s right, you heard me. How can you afford a gym membership? How should I know?!

7:00 pm – some time between 10:30 pm and 12:30 am Network, play gigs, OR stay in and write and figure out how home recording works. If it’s a writing night, and you absolutely cannot come up with anything worth a damn, sit at the frigging piano, or with the guitar, for an hour.

If it’s a networking or a gigging night, you may very well be out until, like, 2:00 in the morning. Wherever you go, make sure you have your laptop or a notebook handy so you can jot down creative ideas that come to you from the omnipresent Wellspring of Creativity. Tweet about some of these ideas.

(12:30 – 1:00 On a networking/gigging night, haul ass back home. Hopefully you didn’t have more than a couple of beers. If you haven’t eaten yet, your blood sugar is probably raging. Don’t worry, you have kale and spinach waiting for you from the Farmer’s Market that you get to cook yourself. Make sure not to eat fast food or put anything in the microwave, because you’ll get cancer.)

11:00 pm – 12:40 am If you were lucky enough to be home by 11:00, get started on your next blog post. If it’s not a blog night, move schedule ahead 40 minutes.

12:40 – 1:00 Try to read something. Anything, as long as it’s a book. Readers are leaders.

1:00 to 1:15 am – Night ritual. This should involve looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how awesome you are. Also, brushing your teeth. Occasionally flossing. Taking any evening supplements or medication that you might be on for any reason, self-prescribed or otherwise.

1:15 am – 7:00 am Five and a half hours of sleep, here you come! (If you’re lucky.) Well, your Pinterest account might be lacking, but I suppose you earned it.

Sound familiar? If you’re not a “budding musician-entrepreneur,” this may sound a bit off-the-wall. Although I can’t say I myself adhere to this schedule strictly in any way shape or form, I include it here to make a point: to juggle all of these balls, one might just have to be superhuman.

If you pick up any amount of cynicism from this post, it’s probably because some days I indeed feel kind of cynical. I believe that the Internet, though amazing for what it is and what it makes possible, is every bit as bad. Or at least, dangerous. It’s forcing us to compartmentalize our time in a way which would seem to any previous generation no less than insane. Hard as I try, I can’t imagine Beethoven tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming between writing movements of any of his symphonies. He had bigger fish to fry.

Have you ever been frustrated by the detraction from substance that inevitably occurs through the obligatory requirements of modern day social media? For the budding entrepreneurs like myself: whats are some ways you balance mandatory self-promotion with creative time?