Well, my Marketing for Artists post seems to have gone over really well. I’ve gotten universally positive comments on it. But one particular question came to me that required a specific response.
Q: “Jon, you say ‘be social’ but what if that’s just not who I am? Are you suggesting I pretend to be something that I’m not and lie to other people to get ahead?”
A: When I started, I was a seemingly incurable introvert with no social skills.
I was homeschooled from preschool to high school graduation. Never went to a real school a day in my life. Didn’t play sports, wasn’t a part of any social clubs, didn’t live around many other kids. I never really had more than two or three casual friends, ever, all the way through high school. I was rather more than your quintessential loner, because at least he got out of the house once in a while.
I didn’t have any of the usual social outlets that — well, we call you people “normies” — did. Occasionally I’d go to church in a desperate attempt to socialize with someone, ANYONE, but it always ended with me sitting in the corner, drawing, not talking to anyone because I didn’t know how to talk to people.
Outside of communicating with immediate family, I had no social skills. I didn’t even have a way to develop them, really. I was a blank slate. There’s the typical loner, below him there’s me, and then there’s feral children.
Point made? 😉
Along the way, around age 13 or 14, I’d set my one goal in life: Become an artist in the game industry. I started working at that and obliviously continued my antisocial ways, thinking that my raw talent (ha!) would make the world beat a path to my door, magically, without me having to change or to do anything but simply be good at what I do. After all, the world was a fair place to live in, and the good guy always wins.
And THEEEEEEENNNN I woke the hell up and realized that I live on the planet earth, life isn’t a fairy tale, and I needed to make some serious changes if I wanted to get anywhere at all.
I don’t want to skim over that part — believe me, it took a long time to realize that being antisocial simply wasn’t working out for me. I was at the end of the rope and I couldn’t deny it any longer.
So I changed.
Through a lot of hard work, determination, deliberately putting myself “out there” (as the kids say) and diving headfirst out of my comfort zone for the sake of achieving something better, I changed.
Once that was underway and I started learning how it all works, everything got easier. I discovered that I liked people. I understood them. I could relate to them and learned how to carry a conversation and learn interesting things about people.
For fun, I would (and still do) talk to anyone, anywhere, seeing what I can say to cut through their shell and draw out the person inside and make them “wake up.” I like making people smile, relating to them, even if I have only 30 seconds of time to do it with. People are amazing, amazing creatures, and I can’t believe it took me so long to really appreciate them.
I’m sharing the world with them, aren’t I? Why not get comfortable with my neighbors?
So in that manner, I turned myself into a people person. I ignored all my natural instincts telling me that was a bad idea. At that point, I’d proven thoroughly that these so-called “natural instincts” had done nothing but hold me back and make me miserable by putting a blindfold over my eyes.
I had lacked the ability to see that the way I thought the world worked did not line up with simple, observable reality.
I could not see what any idiot with at least 1/3rd of an intact brain could tell at a glance, in his sleep, on hallucinogens.
The best thing I ever did with my life was realize that it came down to me and Reality, mano a mano (mano a universal-state-of-being-o?). The conclusion was clear: ONE of us needed to change… and, well, I probably couldn’t get Reality to budge, so I guess it’d better be me.
So I ran into unfamiliar territory with my guns blazing because I knew I’d learn something even if I failed.
KEY POINT: I did it without faking, without lying, without being superficial. It was honest, sincere change through hard work and determination. Sincerity reads loud and clear.
So when I said “be social” I didn’t mean it lightly.
The most important part of becoming a social creature, developing new contacts and networking successfully is to be genuine. Don’t lie. Be yourself. You know who you are, so put it out there, and be THAT. Build off what’s there. Put the best of you forward, and let the worst wither and die from malnourishment. You don’t need it.
I look at it like this: Being fake and dishonest takes a lot more effort than simply being genuine. When you’re honest, keeping a consistent persona is automatic because you’re just being yourself. It takes less time and less energy, and it’s easier to make it natural. So why bother lying?
My overall point is that people can and do change.
Ultimately, all I’m saying in the article is that if you want to be successful, these pointers can make it a lot easier. You could probably make it by ignoring them all and doing it your own way. But it’s so much more effective to follow them that deliberately choosing not to is counter-productive.