Jake LaCaze

Writer and marketer doling out perspective as a service

Some writers are proud of just how lonely writing can be. They'll tell you about all the time they spend alone, trapped within their own heads, struggling to find the perfect words.

They make writing sound miserable.

It's a wonder anyone would want to become a writer, let alone hang out with other writers.

But there are plenty reasons to join the writing community.

And I'll share a few below.

Community

This answer should be the most obvious: You get to socialize. Even now, almost three years removed from the start of a pandemic, many of us could benefit from more socializing.

And when you join a writing group, you get to socialize with people who nerd out on the details of the craft just as much as you do.

If conversation runs dry, you always have at least one easy topic to revert to.

You have blind spots

You've spent hours trying to make your latest piece work. You've written and rewritten countless drafts. No matter what you do, the words just don't work.

So you submit the piece to your writing group. And at your next meeting, everyone else in your group has identified all your story's issues.

This situation is far better than writing alone.

Other people have blind spots too

Of course, you'll have the chance to be on the other side of the critique exchange.

Because your writing peers can't figure it all out alone either. So you'll get your chance to diagnose issues with other people's stories. And then you'll have more ideas of what to look out for in your own writing.

Another chance to be creative

Recently I had something funny happen to me. But it was the kind of story you don't tell everyone because the setup will take too long.

But I did tell one person: a guy in my writing group. Because the story was something he may able to massage and fit into his novella.

I don't know if that story will make it into his work. But I don't regret giving the idea away. Because the story had a better chance in someone else's hands.

And if the story does make it into his work, then I can take pride in knowing that I helped to create a portion of his story.

You practice getting criticism

So many writers are afraid of criticism. Which is fine if you keep your writing to yourself.

But not if you plan to publish and put it out for the world to see. Even if you just put it on a blog.

If you plan on taking the traditional route in publishing, an editor is most likely going to tear your creation apart line by line.

Criticism is inevitable. Might as well get used to it.

You practice giving criticism

Receiving criticism is only part of the equation. To increase your chances of receiving valuable feedback, you need to learn to give valuable feedback.

Giving proper criticism can be tough. You know exactly what's wrong with the story. And maybe everything about the story is wrong. And the author should scrap it.

But you need to be more diplomatic than that. Your fellow writer has put a piece of him or herself in that work. And you'll soon be back on the other side of the equation, waiting to hear how someone else rates a story in which you exposed your own soul.

Also, giving proper criticism is not a skill to be used only in a writing group. It's a life skill that can be used anywhere.


The Myth of Specialization says the best career path lies in specializing in one thing while ignoring all others. If you own a niche everyone else is overlooking, then riches will follow.

But there's a problem with The Myth of Specialization: It doesn't take into account just how much and how quickly the world and its economies are changing.

Going all in on just one thing may seem a great short-term plan.

But is it the right strategy for the long term?

Generalist is a dirty word in many professional circles. The term suggests a person isn't dedicated to anything—that the person lacks conviction or real skill.

But in reality, generalists are dedicated to providing value—to their employers or clients, and themselves—however possible.

#careers


Note about the picture below: Albert Camus said we must imagine Sisyphus happy. But some things make Sisyphus so angry he can't fake it. The Myth of Specialization is one of those things.

An angry stick figure driving a car


Google is making changes to its algorithms. And many SEOs are worried (but Nathan Gotch is hopeful). Long story short, Google will attempt to devalue SEO-gaming content in favor of more helpful content.

The optimistic side of me hopes this works.

The last few months as a marketing specialist have brought to light the great difference between popular content and helpful content. When you perform a Google search, the top results are usually popular because they've gamed the system. But they're not always helpful, so they provide little value.

The cynical side of me says these changes will somehow cause new problems we can't foresee. I can't elaborate because, well, the problems can't be foreseen.

So let's keep the tone optimistic and focus on the hope.

But first, let's touch on that cynicism again.

Where my marketing journey began

I graduated with my marketing degree back in 2007. I had no intent of working in marketing—I just needed to graduate, so the college of business seemed like the obvious choice. And marketing seemed the easiest business college offering.

But I graduated during an exciting time for the internet. Blogs allowed people to publish their own thoughts. And Twitter, though technically a closed and proprietary network, was certainly more open than Facebook and far more exciting as people connected on the basis of ideas rather than proximity or history.

During this time, I discovered the prophets of the new marketing—marketers like Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, and Mark Schaefer—and fell in love with their basic message.

Build relationships.

Present value.

Solve customers' problems.

The formula seemed simple. Fun. And perhaps best of all, human.

I read numerous books and blog posts by the aforementioned new marketers and others like them. I fell in love with their ideals.

But it would be a decade and half before I got the opportunity to practice them.

The state of marketing (as I see it)

Much had changed by the time I got into marketing.

What today passes as “marketing” is really a specific type of gamification.

Study the algorithms.

Learn the formulas.

Execute to the finest detail.

Repeat as needed.

A screenshot of a job posting for “clickbait specialist” on LinkedIn—a sign of the times?

Google certainly deserves part of the blame. How can it not when it's built itself up as the company which in many ways defines our internet experiences?

When the company killed Google Reader in an attempt to kill RSS, it did so not to benefit users but to benefit its own advertising ambitions. Google opened the door for an internet built purely for metrics.

Don't get me wrong: Metrics are important. How else can a business know if it's investing money and resources properly?

But how many metrics does a business really need to measure?

Google has made it easy to focus on a plethora of metrics and to create a formulaic environment in the hope of improving those same metrics rather than create unique and helpful content.

The case for hope

The formulaic internet experience is what I hope Google's algorithm changes will help improve.

There does seem to be a push against certain types of algorithms in addition to Google's search, such as those designed by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And so I hope Google's changes can be one of the first dominoes to fall in the rethinking of these algorithms that are now crucial to our online experiences.

A return to form?

(Now I'll echo some of the sentiments Jaron Lanier made in his technocriticism manifesto “You Are Not a Gadget”.)

The early days of the internet felt like a wild frontier, for better and for worse. Each site and service felt different. Especially personal websites, which emphasized personal, often through the design itself.

But exclusive reliance on algorithms appears to have hindered opportunities for personal connections on the internet. The internet no longer feels made for humans—but for machines.

To excel on Google, you need to worry about SEO optimization. To make it on social media, you need to satisfy the algorithm. Post at the right time of day and get immediate reaction to improve the shelf life of your content.

It's impossible not to feel like a hypocrite anytime I criticize the state of the internet. If it's so bad, why do I still participate?

Because, as I've said numerous times, I still naively hold on to the hope of that return to the human web. But perhaps I'm little more than a fool.

Ah, there goes that cynicism again.

#marketing


There are potential benefits to putting yourself out there digitally. You never know who will see what you share, and what opportunities the exposure can lead to. And putting yourself online has never been easier, and there have never been so many options for doing so.

And therein lies the problem . . .

How many options do we need? And how easy does it all need to be?

We now carry a limitless number of “friends” in our pockets (via our smart phones) wherever we go. In some ways, we're never alone. Or, we always have friends just a facial recognition or thumb unlock away. It's never been easier for people to get in touch with us.

But what are the downsides of that same convenience? Does the convenience benefit us as much as others?

You don't have to look too hard to see why this hyperconnectivity may be concerning.

The vitriol in tweets. The ignorance in YouTube comments. The lack of imagination in recycled posts on LinkedIn.

Sure, it's not all bad. But the signal-to-noise ratio seems to lean in the favor of noise.

To be fair, this discrepancy is not unique to social networks. Salespeople get far more rejections than closed sales. Their success rates are often incredibly low. But the successes are enough to make up for the failures. That's why the salesperson keeps on grinding: It's worth the effort.

But what about for you and me? Are the successes worth the trouble?

Salespeople know what they're chasing: Leads that turn into sales to meet a quota for a commission.

But what are we chasing? And is it worth the trouble?

Each effort of accessibility requires more effort for the creator. So, where do you draw the line?

For anyone who wants to find me, I'm never more than a Google search away. And anyone can email to tell me what he or she thinks of anything I've written or created otherwise.

(Note: If you're one of the few reading this post in your email inbox, you can also reply directly to this email.)

If either of those methods is inconvenient for anyone hoping to give feedback, maybe we're all better off not communicating in the first place.

Ranting about Web3

Opening my mind to the possibilities of Web3 has made me wonder if a reversion to Web1 sensibilities is a better option.

Website. RSS. Email. Has Web 2.0 really created anything as useful as those tools? Perhaps so, but the walled garden aspect of Web2.0 makes it difficult to compare.

And what better decentralized technologies will Web3 create? (We can also argue over whether Web3 will ever actually be decentralized.)

As things stand right now, social media and other tools of convenience benefit those who consume content. And that consumption benefits the companies hosting the platforms. But do those platforms benefit us as creatives or expressives?

The answer isn't so clear cut or one-size-fits-all. The answer will be different for everyone, as we all have different experiences, wants, and results. And I might feel differently if I had something to monetize (and almost certainly so if I had already managed to monetize it).

I don't see myself every going full digital hermit. But it is time to pull back some. The real question is: Just how much?

#socialmedia


Can you think of a time you've been happy to be wrong?

While I'm not always happy to be wrong, when I find myself in this position, I most often experience it in terms of work.

It starts with some philosophy and strategy: developing a bit of theory. And then I plan my attack and then I pounce, sometimes missing my mark and falling on my face.

Part of me may be wounded or embarrassed about missing my target, but at least I attempted something. I gave it the old college try. And now I have anecdotes and data to reflect on and adapt my theory with.

Assess.

Plan.

Execute.

Fail.

Rinse and repeat until you get the desired outcome. Unfortunately, in a sick twist of fate, you may find that the desired result was actually not something you desired after all. Such as the case almost a decade ago when I grappled with the reality that the dream job I'd finally gotten wasn't so dreamy after all. Another reminder that the art of life includes navigating wave after wave of paradoxes and harsh realizations which can lead to their own types of failure.

This is why I no longer put much stake in the question of where I see myself in five years. I'm basically being asked what I hope to be proven wrong about in the next half decade. (Find me the guy or gal asked this question back in 2015 whose answer accounted for a global pandemic, rapid deglobalization, inflation, etc.).

We're so bad at accurately perceiving the present world around us. To hell with predicting the future world. The future us and our place in all of this.

And so when we see things as they truly are, we must accept that, to at least some degree, our desires and projections were based on a world that never really existed.

Is it any wonder we fail so much?

But once we see and accept reality, we have the chance to reassess and try and be proven wrong again.

#perspective


When I was a kid, every so often my mother would rummage through her vinyl collection and put a record on the turntable.

I smile when I think back to the times we listened to The Ventures Play Telstar. The pseudo-eponymous track “Telstar” is in so many ways a personal favorite, a song that takes me back like no other. A song I now most often enjoy alone.

I don't play vinyl at my house—I don't have a turntable or any records. Long gone are the days of putting on an album and letting it play from beginning to end to fill the space of a lazy afternoon.

But sometimes, when doing a mundane chore like washing dishes, I might pull up a playlist on Spotify and cast it to the Apple TV.

And while I don't have any memories of my mother ever dancing, dance parties are common at the LaCaze house.

Our experiences aren't exactly like the ones I had when growing up. But somehow, despite the years and the changes in technology, they're close enough.

#nostalgia


Nature vs. nurture—which is more important? Where does one end and the other begin?

Will we ever answer these questions? Likely not in a way that can withstand even an ounce of scrutiny.

These questions—and others like them—are in my head as I read through Quiet by Susan Cain

The last decade or so I've spent fighting against my introverted nature. I couldn't help viewing my introversion as a defect or hindrance. The voices of others labeling me “antisocial” or focusing on all the things I'd likely never do, such as become the type of person capable of selling ice to an Eskimo, echoed in my head as I stretched to make myself something other than a wallflower.

The good news is I succeeded. To some degree.

I am now someone much more comfortable meeting new people and smiling through small talk.

The bad news is I can do so only in controlled doses.

But there's another piece of good news: I recognize and acknowledge these limitations.

As I get older, I am constantly reminded I have only so much energy for so many things. And I've reached the stage where my energy is best spent not on playing an extrovert, but on leaning into the strengths of introversion:

Observation.

The ability to see angles and possibilities others may miss.

Hesitation to sip the Kool-Aid.

These days I'm asking what parts of myself are worth the effort to improve, and what parts are better to accept. What parts of my nature should I lean into?

The message that people can change is powerful and inspiring. So merely accepting part of yourself as you are may seem defeatist.

But the effort required to change is best spent on things worth changing. And I'm not convinced compensating for introversion is worth the effort.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The introverts are all right.

#introversion


We often talk about food diets.

Maybe even media diets.

But what about technology diets?

As I go down the rabbit hole of rethinking my relationship with tech, I am not concluding that complete elimination is the solution. Instead, I am asking how much and how often, in what forms, and what do we give up to gain in convenience?

And what are the best ways to unplug from time to time?

Getting rid of cell phones and Internet would make participating in the modern world nearly impossible (as Tom Johnson recently touched on). But we don't have to participate every second of every day.

—Thoughts inspired by the article “Technology is diminishing us” by Jonathan Safran Foer <— Recommend reading

#perspective #technology


Why does it sometimes feel as if the world is made for extroverts? Is it because they are more likely to assert their visions due to their nature?

At times it feels as if introversion is a defect.

Who are these people who need time alone to regroup or process the world around them?

And then there are the fallacies mass culture perpetuates.

Like the idea that introverts have horrible social skills. Or that they're antisocial. Or that they can't lead others.

This last fallacy may be the most damaging because it hurts not only introverts but also those who may benefit from their leadership.

Introverts have potential to be thoughtful leaders. Their reflective tendencies help them step away and process situations with the benefit of time and distance.

It would be unfair to spread the fallacy that extroverts can't do the same. Lead Yourself First gives examples of how Dwight Eisenhower, a definite extrovert, relied on solitude to make some of his toughest decisions as a general in World War II.

Solitude is not exclusive to introverts, though it tends to come more naturally to introverts. The correlation is the same with extroverts and social qualities. Social skills are not exclusive to extroverts, though extroverts are more likely to have developed such skills as they tend to get more practice.

The traits of introversion and extroversion are not indicators of where a person will end up. The traits are more like indicators of the path a person will take to get there.

#perspective #psychology #introversion


Too many people are quick to provide answers to all of life's little problems. They don't ask questions because they have it all figured out.

Myself included, at times.

In such an age, can we say we need philosophy more than ever before? Have questions ever been so important?

The long journey of personal growth and real change often starts with questions.

What does this mean? How do I feel about it? How can I change it? Can I change it?

But without questions, discovery becomes less likely.

Questions require a certain degree of humility by the admission you don't have the answers and by the acceptance you may not find them.

We know the old saying: First things first. But too often we've found the answer before we've bothered to ask the question.

Like, really ask the question.

And for the sake of discovery and not for the confirmation of what we already believe to be true.

With an open mind and a shut mouth.

And so we have to put first things first: We have to put the question before the answer.

#perspective #philosophy


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