I have been told by several people, some of them men I have dated, that I am an ‘over-sharer’. Truth be told, I have often called myself this.
I think this tendency stems from not having friends growing up … maybe? I spent the bulk of my childhood alone. And when I finally did make friends, I lacked the social skills to understand what truths about myself I should share vs what truths I should keep to myself … what questions were too personal to ask vs what questions were politely acceptable.
As I’ve gotten older, my tendency to over-share has only gotten worse. I’ve never really seen it as a bad thing, even when it has deterred certain people from wanting to pursue me … you know, after I told them all about my messy divorce and dating history on our first date. (Ok, ok so I now know to save that for the second date.)
I’ve since learned to share in smaller doses, but I still share too much. I don’t care much for surface level chit-chat. If I want to get to know you, as a friend or otherwise, I want to know the real you and I get so bored with just bullshitting. I’m gonna ask you questions that might be uncomfortable, but it’s not because my intent is to make you uncomfortable – my intent is to truly know you and for you to truly know me. TBH, if I’m bullshitting you and not asking about your past or sharing about my own past, I’m likely not that interested in you past a superficial acquaintanceship.
I recently listened to episode 211 of Creative Pep Talk with Andy J Miller featuring writer, speaker and marketer Seth Godin (you can find the link under our ‘Shit we Like’ tab).
Side note: I don’t listen to podcasts as regularly as I should. I’m not one of those NPR-loving, biography-reading, podcast-listening well-informed peeps. I much prefer frivolous novels and binge watching Sex and the City or Parks and Recreation for the 15 millionth time.
However, every so often I will get the urge to listen to something both entertaining and instructive. This time I was in the mood for something purely inspirational and ran across Creative Pep Talk while searching. The first episode listed featured Seth Godin and I remembered Ash quoting this guy on the reg so I knew it had to be really good.
And it was.
Seth breaks down what an ‘artist’ has to do to be ‘successful’ by first really defining those words and what they mean. And then he further breaks down the age old mythology surrounding marketing and creative work in general. It’s a perspective shifter for sure and it was really inspiring for me to hear as someone who is seeking to do my personal ‘art’ (i.e writing) full-time.
But the key take-away for me had more to do with my love life than my career, interestingly enough.
Seth talks about finding your smallest viable audience when it comes to your creative career. For so long people have been obsessed with mass fame and success, assuming that if you achieve that, then you must be ‘good’ at what you do. But this is no longer the truth. You can be great, amazing even, and reach a smaller audience but still be wildly financially successful and creatively fulfilled. In fact, that really is the goal/dream these days and it is the place most explosive success stories within the past 10 years have started.
Seth says instead of dumbing down your work so that it’s more acceptable for a wider audience, you should actually do the opposite – make smarter work for better clients who belong to a very specific group of people that want what you have. Basically, fuck the haters right?
The objective is to find your smallest viable audience, know them inside and out, and be very specific about the work you’re doing and who it’s for. And in that lies the secret to your future success creatively and financially.
How does this relate to dating you ask?
For me, a single girl living in Dallas, my smallest viable audience is my dating pool right?
I’ve been dating for quite some time now and as I recently wrote about, I don’t seem to have a ‘type’. I’ve been open to any and all men because I genuinely thought my chances of finding a suitable mate would be higher. But the opposite has proven true. Instead of finding more suitable mates, I have actually found less.
Maybe that’s because I haven’t really taken the time to think about who my very small, very specific audience is. Maybe I’ve been trying so hard to see everyone’s potential while also seeking out their approval. And therefore dumbing down my work (myself) in order to find mass acceptance or success in dating.
Ok so maybe that analogy isn’t perfect. But the point is, up until very recently, I took every failed dating scenario as if my art – being me – wasn’t good enough. Maybe I share too much. Maybe I’m too emotional, etc. etc.
What Seth proposes is instead of seeking to win the approval of many by being very broad and general, we need to be very very specific in who our audience is and what we’re offering them. My ideal smallest viable DATING audience is a select group of men who will find me and what I bring to the table a good fit for them. And vice versa.
Seth says the first step in defining your smallest viable audience with your career is to first discover who your audience ISN’T. A-ha! And this is what dating is REALLY for as well. It’s not necessarily for finding the ‘one’, but rather for rounding up all the ‘not-the-one’ s.
For whatever reason this really, finally hit home for me, especially with dating. It has made me look at myself and what I have to offer, personally as well as creatively, as very specific and unique and not for everyone.
You don’t like girls who share too much information about their past or ask you about yours? Well great. Then I’m probably not for you.
I have totally understood this concept when it comes to my career. I know the kind of graphic designer I am and the kind I am not. And I’m content and wonderfully detached with my job, which has allowed me to find great success, at least by how I define it. I was never looking to be famous for my work, just to have a steady paycheck creating things I’m proud of. I also know what I’m worth in my career. I may not be the best graphic designer out there (I’m def not), but I know what my skill set is and I know who’s looking for that skill set. I know that I’m talented in my own right and that art/design is incredibly subjective. This allows me to take criticism a lot easier and understand that I’m still really great at what I do. I don’t take every rejection to heart. I know what I’m worth no matter the ups and downs with my career.
But with dating, I haven’t always felt this confident. In a really bizarre twist of fate, I went from not dating when I was younger, and feeling insecure because no one asked me out, to getting a ton of interest and then being insecure because so many of them weren’t the right fits. Basically it got to the point where in order for me to feel loved and accepted and to feel like my ‘work’ (me) is validated, I felt I needed to be accepted and validated (loved and desired) by every man I dated.
Well, that’s just insane.
I know this now, and I also know this stemmed from some deep rooted insecurity that I never faced head on until recently. And it was further compounded by a heartbreak that left me feeling lost for a bit. But I finally feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this whole being single and happy thing. Which means I am starting to open myself up to the idea of dating again from a place that is better grounded.
And the first step to getting back out there is to determine who my audience isn’t. I have done this part very, very well. A+ for me.
So far this is what I’ve learned that my smallest viable audience isn’t:
• He isn’t someone who’s going to care if I’m an over-sharer. Even if he’s not similarly inclined, he won’t shy away from being real or listening to me be real about my life and who I am.
• He isn’t someone who is on the fence about the value of being in a committed, loving relationship with someone else. I won’t have to try and dance around the idea of being in a relationship or dating with intention.
• He isn’t someone intimidated by my success or my ambitions, nor will he be someone who belittles them.
• He isn’t someone who plays games and makes me jump through hoops to gain his attention. Because I will suck at them and will definitely text too much. Just saying.
The next step Seth mentions about finding success creatively is once you discover who your audience isn’t, you then need to discover who your audience really is and what they dream of, hope for and fear.
Now this part is the harder part to guess while single, and maybe it’s something I won’t really know that until I meet whoever he is, but for now, I at least know who he isn’t. And knowing who isn’t right for you is the first step towards knowing who is. I could go on and on and on …. but the point is to not allow those who aren’t your audience to affect how you feel about your work or art.
And when it comes to dating, it’s the same principle. Because you are your greatest work of art.
I’ve taken time to push myself, to be braver, stronger, more creatively fulfilled. I’ve worked hard to cultivate the deep friendships I do have and they matter a lot to me. I value deep, raw, real honesty and sharing my truth with vulnerability and I LOVE when people feel safe to do the same. It’s what I treasure most about me and the people I’m friends with. I’ve worked hard at becoming confident alone and creating the life I have currently and, even though it’s not perfect and certainly not for everyone, it is right for me.
And it will also be right for a select group of suitable partners. And hopefully one of those suitable partners from that select group will be my smallest viable audience.
My audience of one.