The Secret of Life

In City Slickers (1991), the film about three middle-aged guys finding purpose while participating in a cattle drive “vacation,” the grizzled foreman Curly tells Mitch that the secret of life is “one thing.”

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?” [holds up one finger]  “This.”
Mitch:  “Your finger?”
Curly:  “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.”
Mitch:  “But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly:  [smiles] “That’s what you have to find out.”

When that movie came out, I was in the last year of a two-year walkabout trying to figure out the “one” thing for my life. I had left a teaching career of over twenty years to deal with a “nervous breakdown in the making,” at least according to the shrink I saw on a regular basis during my last semester on campus.

In that two-year period begun with the cash from one $1500 paycheck—stuffed in a wallet I forgot on top of my car at the gas station as I drove off without it—I did learn how to barter, how to survive without income, how to walk slowly, how to spend money I didn’t have to do what I wanted to do, and how to listen to and trust the inner voice.

But I did not identify my “one thing” or even solve my dilemma with the job that was killing me—”Should I stay or should I go?”—so I continued anyway for four more, very long years.

My confusion then and now—as I have been trying to “brand” a name and therefore a “single slot,” a “niche”—is that I am not willing to simply “pick a lane” and specialize which is what one must do if they want to be successful, at least according to the marketing gurus, especially regarding writers.

With nearly 200,000 books published every year, with over 2 million books listed on Amazon alone, calling attention to one’s work is absolutely required. Otherwise, it’s like doing a painting, locking it in a garage, and wondering why you’re not a successful artist. Today’s publishing culture relies heavily on the phenomenon called “social media marketing,” and it’s up to the author to “build their platform” and “launch their book.”

This happens, according to marketing gurus, by branding—e.g., opening accounts in Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and MySpace; setting up a web page; joining relevant internet clubs and organizations like LinkedIn; linking them all together, and cranking out prodigious, meaningful content so that followers can then do what they do best: talk about your books thereby marketing them and increasing sales.

Some “brands” that readers of popular writers easily recognize include:  John Grisham=legal suspense, Dan Brown= historical puzzle mysteries, Stephen King=horror.

As an avid reader, I am grateful for this phenomenon of branding; it cuts down my time in the library because I know which authors do what I like. For example, Mercedes Lackey=fantasy, as in the magnificent Heralds of Valdemar or The Elemental Masters series. Or equating JK Rowling with her imaginative Harry Potter series. Beyond books, who doesn’t know that Honda cars get good mileage? I totally get it that branding produces results.

But what if you’ve already made that kind of commitment before and simply aren’t willing to be pigeon-holed like that ever again? What if you’ve branched out and discovered lots of things you’d like to be about, write about, and do?

In my life, for example, I have been a professional educator for thirty years, but that isn’t who I am. I have been a Holistic Health Practitioner, and even though I still spend hours a day learning more ways to keep myself healthy, I’m no longer interested in doing that for clients. I have been a movement teacher, stretching and dancing and exercising with others and while I still move my body in all those ways, I now do it alone. And I spend hours and hours “gathering wool.”

So you tell me: what’s my “one thing?”

Comic relief to this frustrating challenge came this morning when I was reading an article about the relationship between allergies and dehydration. My finely-honed academic background wanted to know “Who is this person?” as in, “What’s her training?” and so I read the author’s bio. Without a whiff of education or training, it read, “…specializes in cancer prevention and recovery, weight management, stress reduction and personal development.”

Is that all?

Maybe I’m taking this branding thing too seriously. Or, perhaps that writer is like me and still hasn’t figured out her “one thing,” or maybe through her perspective “all things health” =one thing.

What about you? What’s your brand? When people hear your name, what “one thing” comes to mind? (Ask your “social network”—your family and friends). When you consider yourself—as in “What do I represent?”—what one thing pops out?

Till next time, I’ll be paying attention to what moves me. Maybe then I’ll discover what my “brand” looks like…or not. SkatingThru the “buzz” ~Pam/Tzaddi

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.