Epiphanies, small moments of clarity that change your life, often occur when someone “finds God” or hits rock bottom and struggles back up. Mad Men’s episode this week, “The Summer Man,” more or less dealt with that, as Don was trying to “wake up.” And as I was watching, it got me thinking about a very simple idea that took me 22 years to learn. “Epiphany” isn’t the right word for it, but it’s the first one that comes to mind.
Even though I double-majored in four years at a great business school, I coasted through college. It was easy enough for me to get good grades and succeed. And I never got involved in anything academic. Joining student orgs seemed fake to me, like I would only be doing it so I could put something on my résumé and “network.” It took social media to wake me up from this half-asleep, paralyzing notion that participating meant selling-out.
Participating is NOT selling-out
I learned that once you start participating, you’ll want to try harder. To work more. To learn as much as you possibly can. To stop half-assing it and throw every ounce of effort into everything you do. Social media sparked a passion in me that really hadn’t been lit before.
Once I joined Twitter and started reading blogs, I realized how much I liked advertising, marketing, media. It’s genuinely interesting to me; every stat I encounter, every ad I look at, and every article I read reinforces my desire to soak up more knowledge, to participate more, and to get my opinion out there. Before I participated in social media, I had no idea what I actually wanted to do with my life.
Social media makes you a part of the community
I found other people who, like me, were interested in every single facet of advertising. People who shared my love for pop culture, tech, and media. Because I wasn’t a part of student orgs and my friends were dispersed throughout other majors, I hadn’t really connected with anyone who was passionate about the same career that I was. I was blind to that community before I got involved in social media.
I saw all these people my age writing blogs that were interesting and filled with useful information. I decided that I could write too. I could provide my own insights into this world, and people might read what I have been writing and learn something. So I started writing more about those things on a blog (this one, genius), and I joined The Next Great Generation. Social media (more or less) gave me a voice.
You can learn from this community
I saw that amidst all the junk, there were people all over Twitter with interesting, witty, insightful things to say. I saw that there were a ton of people within the industry that would be willing to give great advice. There were even some C-Level employees that were friendly and social. I learned that I could talk to them and learn something was somewhat of a revelation too; I thought CEO’s were supposed to be stodgy, cranky, unapproachable people surrounded by yes-men (yep, just like Mr Burns). Social media blew that idea to smithereens.
I’m lucky that I picked up on this passion when I did; I may have missed out on a lot of opportunities during school, but I’m giving it my best shot to make up for it. I’m not going to ever regret how I spent my time in college; I got to spend a ton of time with my friends and, as the great prophet Tracy Jordan notes, “Regrets are for horseshoes and handbags.” But I am pretty glad I figured this out early on, and I give social media some credit for my tiny “epiphany.”
Ok, two somewhat-personal posts in a row is more than enough. Back to your regularly-scheduled snarky look at advertising and pop culture next time.
Anyone have a similar moment?
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