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Three completely unrelated things came together this past week that individually weren’t all that fascinating but together formed a something  I think needs to be given form to.

1. Fear. I was a guest panelist at Greenville’s Switching: Leaving Freelance for the Corporate ladder and vice versa event. My fellow panelists and I shared insights about the pros and cons of working either inside the corporate machine or outside of it. (Really great topic, by the way.) Because many of the folks who attended were in the midst of a transition – some going back into the corporate world and some coming out of it – one of the themes during the event’s discussions was the role that jobs and job titles play in our self worth. Some of that can be pretty negative so we’ll talk about that in Part 2.

2. Bullshit. Discussions about my last 4 posts (The Last Year, R.I.P. Personal Branding, and the last two bits on how to avoid becoming a cog in the social media / marketing bullshit machine) started to sound very similar: There’s what’s real and there’s what’s made-up. We all increasingly feel pressure to keep up with our peers, to put on appearances and to appear more successful and happy and normal than we really are: Everyone’s a best-selling author now. Everyone’s an award-winning expert. Everyone has worked with Fortune 500 companies and major brands. Everyone is launching startups and raising millions of dollars in funding. Right. Except no. A lot of that is just smoke and mirrors. It’s spin. But because so many people are doing it and because it is amplified by the 24/7 onslaught of self promotion, link-bait SEM content and personal branding on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Youtube, Quora, Foursquare, Klout, blogs and five dozen other overlapping platforms, every little bit of spin and bullshit gets amplified to the point where it becomes not only believable but overbearing.

We’ll talk about that and the impact it is having on all of us, on the business world, on politics, right down to the state of the economy. Bullshit affects everything, and never in a good way. Look around. It’s like someone’s open the floodgates. How’s that been working out? If bullshit helped get us in this mess, do you really think more bullshit will help dig us out?

3. Truth.

This: The top 5 regrets people make on their death beds. Read it. (It’s short.)

When it all falls away and there’s no one left to impress, when you would give anything for another few hours of life or maybe a chance to do it all over again, all that will be left to contemplate is the truth. You want a glimpse into those last few hours of your life when you’ll look back and consider what you really spent your life doing? Here is a stripped down version:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made or not made.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. […] All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. […] By creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

When faced [with approaching death] […] it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. […] It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. 

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what  others think of you is a long way from your mind. 

Hat tip to Zsofia Tallai for sharing that link. We’re going to talk about that article as well.

Those three pieces are connected, and this week we’re going to talk about all of that. No ROI discussions. No social business focus. Just this. Because the problems we are dealing with right now, the reasons why the value of social business is still not clear to so many executives and decision-makers (let alone ROI), the reason why world economies are in shambles, the reason why so many people are divided and out of work and stressed out of their minds is this: We’re addicted to both fear and bullshit. We’re stuck in cycles of fear and bullshit. Everywhere we go, it’s there and we can’t escape it, and it’s a serious problem.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

*          *          *

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Today’s post isn’t going to be about brand management, marketing, advertising, PR, or best practices for social media programs. In fact, this post isn’t going to be about any of the things I usually talk about on this blog. I won’t give you any advice, share any professional insights or teach you how to do anything that will enhance your campaigns or make your companies kick ass. Today, I just want to lend a helping hand to a few people in my life who have fallen on hard, if not slightly dark and scary times. Some of these friends are people I have known for a long time. Others are people I have come to know through Twitter, Facebook, or this blog. More still may be people I haven’t met yet, but will thanks to this post.

All of these folks have something in common: They have had a shitty week. One found out she has a rare health condition that could change her whole life. Another buried her sister. A third lost a job he absolutely lived for. A fourth is heartbroken. A fifth lost hope, which is just about one of the worst things that can happen to a human soul.

I could sit here and wax philosophical about ups and downs, cycles being mere moments in time, about the need for patience and courage and even perseverance, about the fact that as humans, we fall on our faces sometimes, we screw up, bad things just happen out of the blue and for no apparent reason, but you know how long-winded I can get. So instead, here is a collection of insights from people far smarter and wiser than me, that will hopefully bring some solace, if not comfort, to anyone having a really horrible week:

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
– T. S. Eliot

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.
– Thomas Edison

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
– Japanese Proverb

If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.
– Lee Iacocca

Failure does not exist. Failure is simply someone else’s opinion of how a certain act should have been completed. Once you believe that no act must be performed in any specific other-directed way, then failing becomes impossible.
– Wayne Dyer

Celebrate endings – for they precede new beginnings.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
– Nelson Mandela

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.
– Helen Keller

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.
– Dolly Parton

To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.
– Theodore H. White

This thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.
– Mary Pickford

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.
– Raymond Lindquist

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

The starting point of all achievement is desire.
– Napoleon Hill

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
– Anne Frank

Let me end this post with a quick anecdote. Yesterday, an old friend posted this to his Facebook page from his cell phone:

if I had not pulled the woman back onto the sidewalk just now, she would no doubt be dead.

holy shit. really.

Which, of course was followed by this:

what if I had gone to lunch at a normal time instead of 2pm? what if I had been texting? what if I had decided to go to subway instead of lamazou for lunch?

Life is a pretty wild little adventure. You get beaten to a pulp sometimes. Other times, you’re ready to take on the world. Truth is, very little of it is really ever under your control. You do the best you can. Sometimes things work out, sometimes things don’t. But in spite of all the success and failure, in spite of the great moments and the horrible ones, everyone gets to save the world in some way at pretty regular intervals. We impact each other’s lives every single day. The butterfly effect is still real and relevant, perhaps more so today with human beings becoming ever more connected through technology and social platforms. We all share each other’s wins and losses. We all participate in each other’s lives. We can help each other better, faster, longer, and across vast distances.

If today sucks, if it is the hardest day you’ve ever had to endure in your entire life, hang in there. Someone’s life might depend on it tomorrow or next week. Your next tweet or blog post could change someone’s life. Your next idea could revolutionize an industry. Your next walk to Lamazou (or Subway) for lunch could save someone’s life.

Hang in there. It’s important that you do.

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