It’s easy to say there’s still more to learn, or I’m ready for all the possibilities on the path to making yourself a stronger cog in your company.
Then it happens.
I set down that mug I raised last month, bright-eyed and ready to tackle every project… and slammed face first into a wall.
It was a huge hit to my ego. It was a lesson in how far I realistically have to go. It forced me to confront pieces of my character I tend to ignore. It was a sink-or-swim kind of week, hand to God.
But I’m here writing this blog, so March couldn’t have been that bad.
I planned to tell you that the month was like becoming a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:
BJJ taught me that losing is learning. Losses are learning moments, and in a sport like BJJ there are a thousand losses. If they don’t hurt physically, then they hurt the soul. And there’s always something to learn. Jiu-Jitsu is always evolving. I learned quickly that belts don’t matter. Because there are only 5 of them in this sport, it can take 10-12 years to earn that black belt.
If all I did was chase that belt, that decade and change would feel like an eternity.
So, my mindset morphed over the last 4 years. I stopped thinking about promotions and put in the mat time. I trained through injuries. Doors opened.
I was recreated. I’ve been sober for 4 years and carved 40 pounds off my body. Alongside the best teammates I could ask for, I learned how strong I truly am and how to be humble in the face of learning.
But it hasn’t been easy getting here.
Now, I’m in an ocean teeming with even hungrier sharks: the upper belts who took off the kid gloves, and other white belts who are driven to take down the fresh blue. But I remember what I gained in the learning process, so I know that while those that follow will be more intense or last for longer stretches, it’s worth it.
But, hey. I can relate anything in life to BJJ. It’s too easy. Sure, it’s the perfect way to explain quelling ego and bad patterns in the face of learning, but I need to stop being such a perfectionist who skulks around easy routes.
Plus, I’ve been nursing an injury I can’t train through. I’ve been off the mats for 5 weeks and playing a hefty amount of solitaire. It doesn’t hold a candle to the stress relief that comes after 2 hours of intense cardio and simulated murder, but it does its best.
You might recall that I came to Panoptic as a one-trick pony. I knew a little about other styles of copy, but there was still more to learn.
That process included breaking old-school thought and creating new habits.
Solitaire is one of my bad habits.
For me, each round is like vigorously shaking a magic 8-ball. While I no longer play it desperately in parking lots before entering certain places, it’s still a ritual:
“I haven’t won a single hand so far. How much do you wanna bet I’ll screw something up tomorrow?” I mumble.
“It doesn’t work that way, love,” my husband answers, in a tone where amusement intersects patience.
“If I win the next game, I won’t struggle-bus my way through tomorrow.”
“You do know that not every game is stacked to win,” he points out. “Sometimes you have to lose to win. You’re going to be fine tomorrow.”
I’m totally aware of how mental this all sounds. He’s not wrong, here!
I’m also obsessed with building that personal best score (PBS). If I can break the next 1,000… you see where this is going. Just like life, there’s going to be losses along the way to climbing higher. Sometimes the losing streak lasts a long time. Sometimes it doesn’t.
When the primary goal is so small scale, it leads to a single-focus journey with no room to grow. It feels great to hit that win, but for what?
During a rough week of learning a style of copy I’d never written before, which led me to realize I didn’t have the grasp I thought I had on things, solitaire had a glitch.
“If I can just win this last game, the next time I write will be better,” I whispered.
I opened the app.
My running score had gone from 67k to 0.
I lost my damn mind.
I couldn’t fathom having to literally start over. It had taken me just over 3 years to build that score!
Forcing myself to shake it off and leaving a post-it to contact the developers later, I poured my coffee and got to work.
Hours later, I proudly shared the link for the final draft of some long-form copy. We were going to launch a sponsored ad for a product and I had a chance to try something new. I’d never written copy like that before, but I felt confident that it fit the bill.
It didn’t, though.
Google Drive allows several people to be on a file at once, so I got to watch a live editing process. I won’t lie: every sentence that got wiped, every word that got changed, and every section that got added felt like another punch to the gut.
Or another tap to a fighter on the mats I was sure I’d submit first.
Better still: another lost hand at solitaire.
The morning ricocheted back into my core. I lost that last hand on the toilet, THAT is why I did so terribly at this final draft.
By the end, about 70% of that copy got changed.
I could’ve shut down, I could’ve gotten petulant. I could’ve defended that draft, clinging to it like a rat clutches the back of a sewer screen to avoid getting swept away by water and sludge.
Or, I could swim, and look at that fresh, clean slate as the wealth of opportunity it was.
Yeah, I had my wallow-time, and second-guessed my capacity to become a better copywriter and a more professional writer overall. But unlike my inability to sever my insane connection to solitaire, I was able to see that the only place hanging onto a mindset and habits like that would get me, is back into a dead-end job.
Hell no, I’m not going there.
When have I ever been in a position, anywhere else, where a failure that massive didn’t lead to punishment or losing my job? If that copy were graded, it’d have been a 30%! But Dossy didn’t even bat an eye. He called it a learning experience and encouraged me to take everything I could from it.
So, I did. I know that editing isn’t a personal slight, and that negative feedback fills in the gaps so you’ve got a solid foundation to improve future work.
I took notes and saved them in a file with my draft and Dossy’s draft.
That night after typing up the minutes for one of our meetings, I pulled up my solitaire app. Instead of focusing on that big 0 staring at me, I decided to check out other parts of the game I hadn’t before.
Solitaire also has levels and point achievements. How awesome! Any games I win — which don’t even have to be consecutive — fill up a bright green tally bar. I couldn’t have discovered this at a more perfect time.
My PBS is always in the back of my mind when I play, but I stripped away all the unnecessary (and let’s face it, insane) pressure I put on myself over something so simple.
By focusing on a larger goal I’m far more relaxed about my losses. And because the larger goal is a longer way off, my PBS grows by default. Funny how that happens. Also funny? How fast those levels rise when I stop paying attention to them. Since I knew I’d be spending time in the hole before I made any kind of progress, and the climb as a whole would be slow going…
I exhaled and just let it go.
And here’s what happened when I did the same thing at work:
A slurry of content poured out over the next few days to get polished up for Facebook posts, which were scheduled to go out over a 2-week span. These posts were nothing like any content I’d written for Facebook before.
My fledgling step into journalism wasn’t terrible, either. I fleshed out a small article I’d written for Stuff For Your Dog (SFYD) in January. After a quicker-than-expected editing process, it was published on March 8, thusly creating a blog section for SFYD.
A second article was published on Panoptic to simplify website design and building for the first-timer and small businesses. While this one was more of a struggle, it had more to do with my research process than writing — though there’s always more to fortify there, too.
I faced the editing and feedback phase with a fresh, open mind and picked up a few more lessons in the changes.
I did more work with long-form copy, too. This second ad didn’t do the greatest, but we figured out why. No flinching or gut-punches here, either. I already knew what I could improve on the copy, and we knew we were taking risks with things like image choice and price placement. Kelly had a new idea about a short form of copy to try, too, so we’ve got that on tap.
And this small loss was outweighed by a massive win:
I detest the term go viral. I hear those two words and I cringe, then pick my eyeballs up from wherever they rolled.
But that’s what the post on grieving the loss of a pet did. I took a chance and shared the link in a dog talk group I’m in. One of the many things I need to do is build tougher skin. They’re wise, and they love their dogs. That would be the crowd to give any negative feedback without restraint.
My notifications started lighting up and I braced myself.
First, the comments began to pile up on the post in the private group.
Then, we started seeing shares happening in SFYD’s notifications.
Then, the comments started pouring in on the original post.
People loved it.
I could barely keep up with the comments, but for a topic like this I felt compelled to do so. Yes, we are trying to build a following and the goal of a company is to make money… but we also want to build a community. And I love the concept of community online. Absolute strangers were sharing pieces of their heart, and people who didn’t know each other were offering comfort in comment-replies.
I don’t think I’ve ever had that profound of an impact on people I know, let alone a whole world I don’t.
But this is a retrospective about our company as a whole, so let me share some final stats, what they mean for us, and how we’re climbing each level, steady and sure.
As of our meeting on March 26th, that post reached 45,425 people on Facebook. It pulled 124 reactions on the original post, and 1,200 reactions overall. Lastly, SFYD’s page gained 70 new likes. Organically.
The next day, I archived the post in article form on SFYD.
This was a stellar win for us. But one great post with a decent reach isn’t the end goal. It’s not something to rest on.
Kelly and Dossy already operate with this mindset and I think that’s part of why I was able to keep myself together that week. They see the bigger picture in what they do, and they’re never tangled up in second-guessing, 16th drafts, or self-doubt. And if they’ve had moments like these this month that I’m not aware of, I can tell you they don’t fold in on themselves and wave a white flag when they do.
Dossy has been plenty busy with the work he does for multiple Panoptic clients. There have been some changes with how much time is devoted to certain companies, all while traveling for meetings, handling the back-end of SFYD, and working on a side project with a web designer and strategist — who’s already had eyes on our Shopify site! We’re definitely excited about the prospect of working with her longer term.
Kelly has leveled up in her department, too. She’s been creating more original infographics for SFYD’s social media, and experimenting with different layouts and designs for our product posts. She’s brought another idea to the table that we’re hoping to explore in April. She does all of this while balancing tasks that, if she didn’t, this ship wouldn’t sail so well. She’s got mad time management skills!
I couldn’t have broken through the wall I’d smashed into if not for them. I won’t get mushy, so I’ll just say they are the perfect platform for growth.
My relationship with solitaire has gotten healthier, too! I did wind up sending a message to the developer. While I never heard back, a few days later my original score had returned.
I didn’t bat an eye at the loss of a fresh 2,700 I’d managed to reach in 3 days. I know that my PBS will keep going up if I just think about reaching the next level, so I barely even notice the score anymore.
Remember it took me 3 years to reach 67k?
The glitch happened the first week of March.
Here’s what my score is now. It’s about 1,500 below my new personal best, but whatever. I climbed 22k in 2 weeks.
There’s more out there to gain than what I’ve allowed myself to believe.
Come at us, April. We’re climbing!