Chapter 1 Awakening
“There are no random acts…We are all connected…You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind…”
― Mitch Albom
Fox Studios, New York CityAs I stepped into the studio I felt the breeze from the air conditioning wash over me. This made me happy because I tend to run hot. You can usually gauge my level of anxiety by the number of sweat beads layered atop my upper lip. My current situation should have seen my anxiety level shooting through the roof, but I felt surprisingly calm. That I was about to face the greatest opportunity of my career wasn’t lost on me, but I was prepared. I felt good, calm even. I was told to sit at a large desk on a riser. The producer spoke to me, but nothing really registered. I was absorbed by my surroundings. It felt as if I were sitting at the control center, piloting my body through this surreal experience. She hooked a monitor to my belt, then ran a wire under my blazer, and asked me in which ear I’d like the bud placed? “I guess my right one,” I said. I could feel the lights on my face. Not good. Warmth is my enemy. Now I could feel the sweat on my back, and I knew my face would erupt any minute. However, there was nothing I could do. I really didn’t want to mess up the makeup. I certainly hadn’t expected to have that thought when I woke up this morning. “Chris, can you hear this OK?” I was staring directly into the camera when I heard a voice in my ear. This threw me off track. I’d been thinking about what I wanted to say in my head, and the voice knocked me off kilter. As the voice registered in my brain, I noticed the camera moving closer. I was a little confused to see that the cameras were remote control, but that wasn’t what kept me preoccupied. “Yes,” I said. “I’ve got it.” “OK folks, here we go,” said the director. I heard the intro music playing and I watched the show’s graphics fly across the screen in front of me. Ernie Anastos, the Emmy Award winning news anchor who I’d met two minutes beforehand started to speak. His voice was strong, assertive, and confident. “Fired over Facebook posts, a first of its kind case…” he boomed, I heard Ernie talking, and I saw him on the screen in front of me. He was only about 50 feet away, but we would be talking to each other on a split screen and I was told to look directly into the camera. I had trouble following this minor direction because this is also where the teleprompter was located, so I began to read what Ernie was saying. Then suddenly I started to panic. Cool Chris had left the building! My heart beating so hard I could literally hear the blood swooshing in my ears. “STOP,” yelled the producer. “What happened?” “Tech problem with the intro graphics, let’s start again from the top.” Ernie turned to me. “So Chris, when is your baby daughter due again?” I started to answer when the producer declared …“OK, here we go folks, from the top.” Intro music…“Breathe this time,” I thought. “And stop reading the teleprompter you meat– head.” That gave me the five seconds I needed to get myself together. Is this really happening? Will I really be on television, or will this end up on the cutting room floor? Oh man, here it comes, breathe, smile, and focus. “Joining us right now is Chris Dessi, an executive at Drive Action Digital. First off Chris, this is groundbreaking, a first of its kind case…what’s your reaction to this story tonight?” “Well, my training isn’t legal; however you’re correct, the implications of this case are tremendous…” and so it continued. Somehow, in an inexplicable twist of fate, I was now a social media expert commentator on Fox television. I decided to write this book on a chilly March evening in Poughkeepsie, NY. I’d just spent the better part of three hours interacting with and lecturing to students at Marist College. The topic I covered had a risqué title “How the F*ck Can Social media Get Me a Job”, and was filled with silliness and humor, but there was nothing silly about the message; if students start leveraging social media immediately they’ll effectively turn the tables on the manner in which they gain employment. I was taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive reception I received. The students were ready to hear my message. They knew things had changed, but they didn’t know where to start. So on the drive home from Marist, while still glowing from the energy those students had given me, I turned to my wife Laura, and said, “I have to write a book.”
We are all connected
The astronomical explosion of social media in recent years is a spiritual awakening, not a technological one. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in. I’ll also apologize if you bought this book hoping to get a textbook guide to social media success. I was going to write that book, but I think this book is more important. This book transcends technology. Plus, there are enough great books about the tactical aspect of social media, itemizing steps to meet your goals, (business or personal). These are all great books, but, none of the guidance they offer (while reputable) will work for you unless you understand why social media is so powerful. Stay with me. Social media has nothing to do with a specific company or technology. Social media will not die if Facebook dissolves tomorrow. Do you remember how popular Friendster and MySpace used to be? There will continue to be social media even if Twitter sends its last Tweet. This is because human beings make social media powerful. Social media is an extension of our collective unconscious. Social media is our digital spirit. Don’t fret – I’ll offer tactical instruction here, however I’ll also share with you the energy behind the tactics, and why I think that essence is the key to succeeding in social media. Wash it all away, take away the platforms, the dashboards, the branded color schemes, the technology and what do you have? You have humanity. Take away the strategy, the tenants of marketing, the etiquette of social media, the unwritten rules for “engagement”, and what do you have? Again, the common denominator is humanity. At our core we all know this is true. We know that when our friends write a status update on Facebook that is pure, from the heart and spontaneous, it has the power to make our hearts pound and our faces blush. We also know that when there is a lack of truth in this environment we can feel it just as if we were sitting across the room from that person. We feel the status update. We are tickled by truths that are shared. We become emotional at proclamations of truth. We latch onto those who we see as leaders. Those who are tapped into this collective unconscious and who function at a higher level have trouble replicating their successes for others because they do it naturally. It’s like asking a professional football player “How many strides, cut backs, and leaps will it take for me to score a touchdown just like you?”…it doesn’t work that way. You need to understand the goal, trust your ability, and then the “how” will unfold right in front of you. The best way to approach social media is to understand that there are tactics you need to follow. However, in order to make what you’re creating a success you need to fully comprehend the essence of what social media can be. Social media in and of itself is by no means spiritual. However all media, when done properly, is somewhat of a spiritual dance. The best commercials move us. Good or bad – fear or laughter, or tears. The best books do the same, television shows, movies, etcetera. Media, this animal on its own is “US.” It’s our collective unconscious. It’s our spirit. How many times have you seen people moved to tears while listening to music? What is that? It’s simple. It’s the truth that we’re all connected. We can feel each other when we’re all firing on the same frequency. Those who can tap into this river of human energy are those who are the most successful in life. Those who can tap into these rapids are also those who understand the way social media works the best. They conduct themselves appropriately because they don’t know any different. Now that you know the truth about social media, I need you to trust me. Social media works I promise. For you to get the most from this book, you need to let go. Let go of your preconceived notions of social media. Get Facebook’s iconic blue and white logo out of your mind. Erase the Twitter bird, and fail whale. Open yourself to humanity. Open yourself to the collective unconscious of social media. Open your heart, and enjoy this ride. I hope it rings true for you.
The Secret to Social Media
The social media secret is a big one! You have access to free tools to amplify your connection with other human beings. Instead of a solo thought, you have the ability to share that thought, and spread the energy behind that thought. When you complain via social media, you receive more complainers. When you offer praise via social media, you receive praise. I actively try to “right” my thoughts in my own internal spiritual life. I meditate, quiet my mind, and share. The moments when I’m most authentic I am most often re–Tweeted, shared and commented on. The moments when I’m false, and lose sight of my true intent, I fall upon deaf ears. After the traumatic events of September 11, 2001, I found myself seeking spiritual support and guidance. For the first time in my life I felt as if I’d awakened from a lifelong slumber. I had gone through the motions of life, but I couldn’t say that I’d ever truly lived. I was playing it safe, happy to dedicate my intellectual power to my social life. My weekends consisted of night clubbing, recreational drug use, and serial womanizing. My work weeks were there to help me recover from the previous weekend’s debauchery. I did the bare minimum to survive. I’d make a few sales calls here and there, but I was spending more time on dating sites, than on sales proposals. I was making just enough money to squeak by. I wasn’t fulfilling my full potential. I was certainly misguided. September 11, while horrible, helped me discover myself, and take my first step on my journey to self—discovery. The first step (for me) was yoga. After living through the horrors of September 11, I needed an outlet. I decided to ignore my self-conscious inclinations, and took my first yoga class. I was the only guy in the class. I felt awkward, silly and clumsy in those early days. But I was starting to scratch the surface of a larger reality. I was discovering a power within that I’d only before read about. I could now do things with my body that I previously didn’t think possible. I began falling into deep meditative states that allowed me to see my world with a clarity I’d never even dreamt about. I was experiencing an awakening. This awakening attracted amazing business success, although I had made a mistake. I didn’t focus on true fulfillment in success. I only focused on monetary success. In the years following September 11, I’d been named vice president of a multi–national advertising network; I’d bought a home in bucolic Chappaqua, NY, and had just furnished the entire home in one preposterous shopping spree. I should have been on top of the world. I should have felt fulfilled. I didn’t, because my intent for business success was misguided. I saw financial success, but felt malcontented. My goal for you is to discover true fulfillment via social media. I’m going to show you how.
After I started my blog in 2007, I stuck to generating content about business. I would select an article in a trade publication and offer my opinion about the piece. I would get some readers, and I felt good about the work I was generating. I moved into my vice president role, and continued to offer my business insight on my blog. Then I was let go. I had a decision to make. Would I pretend that I left this dream job on my own, or would I honestly blog about my experience? We all tell ourselves lies. We create excuses, put up walls, and point fingers. It’s not easy to find your truth. The first step for true success is to stop telling lies, and take inventory. Forgive those you hold grudges against. Free yourself from the expectations of others. Put your health first, and ask yourself what will truly make me experience fulfillment? I decided I would allow my readers to learn that I was let go, and I blogged about the experience. I spoke about my depression, my drinking and my coping with being out of work. I gained a whole new readership, and I purged my demons. Once you’ve answered the question “what will truly make me experience fulfillment,” then you can begin your journey to discover the true spirituality of social media. If you decide to start a blog and base the content on what you’re currently doing at work, and that work is not fulfilling, you won’t succeed. The moment you begin to generate content from your heart, it’ll pour out. You’ll never experience writer’s block. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night with ideas to blog about. You’ll feel a light flicker inside you which you know you must share with those in your social network. You’ll crave to have a larger audience with which to share your message. See if you can recall the last time you were working on something and it felt as if time had dissolved. Moments became hours, and hours became days. You didn’t seek motivation from outside sources; you just followed your intuition. This is your goal in social media. I don’t want you to lament over every wall post, Tweet, blog post, or video blog. If you’re generating content from the right place, you’ll experience success. If your heart is in it, and you feel content in your bones you’ll succeed.
Wael Ghonim was born Dec 23, 1980 in Cairo, Egypt. In 2011, Ghonim, (a Google employee) found himself gravely concerned about the suspicious circumstances in which his fellow Egyptian citizen Khaled Mohamed died. He believed he’d witnessed his government do something abominable. Outraged, he launched a Facebook page in protest, thus igniting a revolution. Ghonim didn’t fire a gun, throw a Molotov cocktail, or induce a riot. He simply started a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Saeed.” This singular act, via social media, helped to trigger what is now being referred to as the Arab Spring. All protests in 2011 have one common denominator: social media. I’m not asking you to start a revolution, I’m asking you to be fearless. As I’m writing these words, they’ll fall on some deaf ears. However, for others— these words will feel like a kick to the belly. They’ll wake you up from your own personal slumber. Your own path will be different than mine. You’ll define yourself and gain fulfillment via your own journey. But it will never happen if you’re fearful. You can’t create if you’re fearful of others opinions, or fearful of repercussions from your work in social media. Allow yourself to be free. Engaging in social media can be scary at first. It may take you weeks to figure out what to blog about. Start small. If you can’t think of anything, get smaller. If you’re a cook, don’t blog about food, don’t even blog about ingredients. Start with the tools. Start with your favorite knife. Start with how the knife feels in your hand. Start with the perfect balance of the tool; describe how your knife is an extension of yourself and how you cannot imagine creating a dish without this secret weapon. Start small, and the rest will come. What do you have to lose? I mean, really lose? If the answer is that you may look foolish, then I challenge you. Actually, better yet — I beg you to let go of your fear. Don’t fear the detractors; Instead focus on the good that you’ll do by leveraging social media. Visualize your next blog post reaching someone who is moved to tears by your content. Feel that you’ve just inspired someone. Own the idea that you have knowledge about something that someone will love to hear. It may be how to make something, it may be your opinion about someone, it may be that you love the outdoors, and you want to share that passion. Visualize that connection. Embrace your tribe. Realize that you can reach them via technology. You can blog about something that will strongly and positively change someone’s life. You can connect with someone who is just as oppressed as you. You can shine a light on darkness that must be exposed. You can create. You can start a revolution. You must be fearless. You may be wondering— “who am I?” Well, who are you to not share yourself with the world? We are all connected, and we all deserve to be heard. We all have something to offer. We all have passion; we all have something to say. We all have an opinion. We all have love. Own that power. Own your passion and share it. Don’t be afraid of your own light. There is no reason why you shouldn’t share your passion with the world. In fact, it’s selfish of you to walk away without sharing it. There are free tools which allow you to express yourself like no other generation has been able to do in the past. If you have a business which needs an infusion, then you must engage in social media. If you’re seeking a job, and you’re frustrated that you’re not getting many interviews – then of course, you must engage in social media. If you’re unfulfilled, and you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, leverage social media as a discovery tool. Find like– minded individuals and find your light. You can think about all of the riches you can imagine, you can visualize your dream home, spouse, job– but if you don’t act, you have nothing. You can leverage free technology to take action and draw these things to you. Social media is the first step of a global spiritual awakening. This is why so many people fear its power. It’s a natural reaction. We’re in the midst of the most fascinating, thrilling and inspiring time to be on this planet. Social media and digital connections bring truth to our relationships. Social media has helped to organize uprisings against oppressive governments and communicated news in a way we never thought possible. We have reconnected with those we’d lost touch with. We have shared ideas and crowd sourced solutions to problems that would have remained unsolved if not for social media. The better the technology the easier it will be to share with each other. This is the reason why I’m convinced that we’re in the early stages of a global spiritual awakening. I believe that human interaction via social media is spiritual. It is a gift to have this technology in our lives. It has allowed us to share ideas, and information faster than ever before in history. This unique interconnection and the resulting network effect is an extension of our collective unconscious. Embrace this truth, and allow it to set you free when you create content. This is your first step. Let go of the fear, and take that first step. Embrace your truth, yourself, your essence, your being, and share it with the world. Connect with other human beings, add value to their lives. Bring joy, support and love. These are the first days of our awakening together. The Internet has been an integral part of our culture since the late 90s, but only now has it begun to reach its full potential. The idyllic vision for the Internet was to bring human beings together in ways in which we had only dreamt about before. I believe that the Internet will continue to evolve as a vessel for us to communicate with each other. It will allow for near real time dissemination of information (thoughts, comments, updates etc.)… For now, I want you to have a greater understanding of why social media is so powerful. This understanding will help to guide you in whatever you endeavor in Social Media. If you’re blogging and seeking an audience, then you must be true to yourself, and follow your passion. If you are seeking a job, you must put your truth before your desire for stature, and you’ll attract the correct job for you. If you are graduating, and you are leveraging social media to discover your dream job, then be honest with yourself in this search. Don’t seek the desired role that your mother or father have for you. Search yourself for your joy, your passion, and then discover this company by leveraging the tools I detail in the coming chapters. But only do this if it’s your true passion. Social media is only a digital extension of you, no more, no less. Embrace this, and allow for yourself to be open to new opportunity and the joy of your true passion. While lecturing at Marist College, I naturally followed my truth. I let go of my fear, and allowed the students to see a side of me that I didn’t even know existed. I didn’t do it on purpose. After reflecting on why speaking there had been so powerful for me, I finally realized: At that moment I allowed my true self to come through because I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t standing in front of a potential investor, or trying to win business—and I just wanted to help. What happened was nothing short of magical. I thought I was going to teach the students at Marist everything they needed to know about social media, and guide them to success. But what really happened was the exact opposite. The auditorium looked as if it could hold a few hundred people, but there couldn’t have been more than thirty students. The lights were dim, and I had the stage to myself. I stood just to the side of a ten foot high screen projecting my presentation behind me. Moments after Professor Timmian Massie introduced me; I jerked the microphone from the podium and spent my time oscillating from one side of the stage to the other. While lecturing, I find it helps to get a few names of the attendees in advance. If I discover something interesting about the person online, I use bits and pieces to illustrate different points. That day was no different, and I included senior Alyssa Bronander in my presentation. I did so, because when I Googled her name, the results included a link to her blog called Karma Waffle. The name and content of her blog are inspired by the book Soulpancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions. Alyssa’s content mostly documents her personal journey through the book. One blog post she added was inspired by a chapter in the book which challenges its readers to spend a day with the oldest person they know. Alyssa took on this challenge, and eloquently blogged about the experience: “My grandmother is 81 years old and handicapped, having lost the function of the right side of her body in a stroke over ten years ago. For her to be as cheerful and good– humored as she is in her condition is truly inspiring to me. My grandmother has taught me valuable life lessons such as how to make killer rice pudding, that there is always room for dessert, and one should never leave the house without (giant) sunglasses.” Not only did she spend the day with her Gram, she risked ridicule from her college classmates, and put herself out there. Alyssa is fearless. She doesn’t care what others think of her post. She impressed me greatly. Why is her example important? As a hiring manager, I may find myself with two resumes on my desk. Both individuals may have a perfect grade point average, and similar extra– curricular activities, however one may be active in social media, and the other may not. Which candidate do you think I’m going to give an offer? Of course there are many factors that effect a hiring decision, however if you’ve been fearless, and blogged about something as intimate as Alyssa’s day with her Gram, I’ll better understand what type of person you are. She’s now added an additional dimension to her application by allowing herself to be vulnerable. By shedding her façade, she has come closer to her true self, and could potentially draw the right job to her. If nothing else, Alyssa’s blog post left me really wanted to meet her in person, and to thank her for showing such grace at such a young age. She shattered my stereotype of college students. She challenged herself, and proved she was raised well. It’s apparent she respects her elders, and understands what is truly important in life. Can you see why following your truth, being fearless and understanding how social media works can literally change the trajectory of your life? Similarly I addressed Alyssa’s classmate Amanda Huggins in my presentation. After Googling Amanda, I discovered her Linkedin profile which included her creative work title: “Future PR Powerhouse.” When I read this (knowing full well that she was still a student at Marist) I knew immediately that she understands the power of social media. That singular statement told me volumes about her personality. She is serious about her career, and she has faith in her own ability. When I read “Future PR Powerhouse” I believed her! These students gave me so much more than I could ever give to them. Isn’t that how it goes with all the powerful moments in life? Those times become your most humbling moments. I know that those students no longer view the job search as a linear progression. They see the bigger picture regarding how social media can help them, and showcase not only their talent, but their humanity. Even more importantly they see opportunity. Upon returning that night, after telling my wife I would write a book I said, “I would kill to have that feeling every day.” I wrote this book for you. You may be a student looking for a job, or you’re unemployed, and ready to make a career change. Or you’re sick of your current position, and you want to define yourself in your industry. Maybe you’re a stay–at–home parent itching to get back into action again. Maybe you love your job, and you love your company, and you want to tell the world about the new and innovative way the company is run. No matter the case, you’re ready to be heard. Let me be as crystal clear as possible. I’m not a sideline pundit that speculates how social media can potentially help people gain employment or their dream job. I’ve not been handed a family business—I have no inheritance that’s been spent on social media seminars. I’m just a regular guy. I’ve lived it, I feel it and I know it to be truth. I’ve spent the past four years of my life engaged in social media. By building my own personal brand I landed my dream job, made more money than I could ever have imagined, and eventually found myself appearing in front of millions of people as a social media expert. I never sent a resume to Fox News. I never had media training. I never solicited this huge break. The huge break came to me. It’s because I had built a digital reputation so air tight, that when producer Jason Hartelius called me at 2 pm, I was in the studio taping that very evening at 5:30. It works. You’ll need to make adjustments along the way, and that’s OK, but the results will be the same. Opportunities will come to you. You’ll add value, build your personal brand equity, and make more money than if you rely only on your resume, guaranteed. The world has changed, and it’s up to you to start to harness this power now. This is your time. Your resume is obsolete. So stop tweaking it, and start “thinking” for a change. Showcase your true talent, and engage in social media. Get your butt off the sidelines, and start living. You aren’t here to be mediocre. Mediocrity is a disease that’s rampant in our society. I’d bet that nine out of ten of the people who read that statement would agree. “Right on Chris.” “You tell em.” “Mediocrity stinks.” “Go get em” Then they’ll roll over on the couch, pop on their favorite reality show, and enjoy their down time because they deserve it. Being good at something doesn’t cut it anymore. The only thing you should accept from yourself is to be phenomenal. I don’t mean doing something “extra” here and there. I mean being everywhere and feeling it in your bones. Feel your business, your job search, your new hobby, your movement, your film, or your book in your soul. Eating, sleeping, and breathing your passion. Sure, you can get a cushy job that will pay well. Why not push yourself? Why not be the best? Why not become a leader? Why not apply for a job at the best company you can find in the industry that makes you salivate? Why not push yourself to learn something new daily? If you hate reading, why not listen to audio-books? Why not challenge those books, and write your own. I promise you that the minute you say good riddance to mediocrity, and wholeheartedly live that tenant your life will improve ten– fold, immediately. Simply doing a decent job isn’t only doing you an injustice; it’s doing an injustice to the whole of humanity. I don’t want to get too “heady” here, but I truly believe this. It’s up to you to push yourself, and find out what will fulfill you. Once you do this you’ll be happier, and when you finally get to do something and experience true happiness, you’ll help to make the world a better place. Do something great. You’ll thank me for it— I promise.