What would you think if you saw a blog from Bill Gates or Carly Fiorina or Sergey Brin or even your boss with musings about their personal life… fears, hopes, dreams, quirky friendships, frustrations, and so on?
You’d gawk, of course. And then you would — along with, perhaps, the press — freak out. “Wow, what a weirdo. Why’s [such and such powerful person] writing about their personal life?”
Real (serious) businessmen and businesswomen, after all, admit no vulnerabilities. They’re not even really human, except in limited, PR-approved ways. Indeed, it’s okay for angsty teens or coding geeks or others to ramble about life, love, liberty and other personal stuff, but whoa unto the current or future business leader who dares tread into the realm of personal disclosure online.
And thus we come to my conundrum and a challenge no doubt faced by any blogger with a brain and management aspirations.
I’m hardly a business powerhouse yet; no big backroom deals in my calendar, no CEO positions being offered to me lately. But the time will come. And then, written for all to see, will be snippets of my vulnerable musings. One negotiates, ideally, from a position of strength. Expressions of inadequacy — even temporary — are not the sort of thing one wants his rivals or potential partners or, God forbid, underlings to see.
Revealing myself as human, therefore, is clearly one of those things that perhaps I shouldn’t have done in a public, Googleable way.
After all, my blog has already apparently been a deciding factor in being turned down from one prestigious job. And who knows how many other jobs or relationships my openness has cost me?
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Of course, there are exceptions. Note the blog of Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of the extremely popular domain registrar “Go Daddy.” He unreservedly talks about Vietnam, Janet Jackson’s breasts and censorship issues, and, yes, his company and its mission.
But I can’t think of any other high-powered exec bloggers, and certainly not in non-tech industries. The day I see personal bloggy musings from a senior manager of Coca Cola or Amtrak or Disney… well, I won’t eat my words (there are far too many!), but I’ll be extremely shocked.
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So, um, what to do. I like pouring out my heart publicly on occasion, and I do humbly know that others enjoy — and perhaps even learn from — reading my commentaries, so I don’t feel like simply discontinuing my personal writing on the Web. On the other hand, I feel it’s just becoming too much of a liability… careerwise and otherwise.
One simple idea I had was to simply remove all traces of my last name from my blog pages, so that at least when people typed my name in a search engine, my blog wouldn’t be the first thing they see. But no dice. Too many people have linked to BLADAM as “[my full name]’s blog.”
I could move past and future personal musings out of this blog and into either an anonymous blog, or at least one not linked to my full name. That way, I could still ‘get credit’ for my techie and marketing and other non-personal bloggings while not having any of my personal, vulnerable side attached to my name.
But beyond being an inconvenient and frustrating copout of sorts, I worry about the grander scheme of what such compartimentalization and capitulation means. It perpetuates the societal view or even insistence that those in positions of power aren’t subject to the same doubts and worries and anger and uncertainty that the rest of us are. We end up prolonging, then, a nation or even world of bloggers who embody the worst combination of a macho gun-toting George Bush, an invincible Ahnold, and a neutered Bill Gates. It further accentuates our society’s stupid belief that real men don’t cry, that strength trumps consensus, and that sharing equals weakness.
Personal blogs written by Leaders threaten our comfortable, made-for-TV view of life as zero-sum, black and white, good and evil.
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Alas, even after thinking out loud above, I’m no closer to coming up with a solution that fits my ethics and my realistic concerns about my future career and dating life.
What are your thoughts?
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Robert Scoble — a popular and prolific blogger who isn’t afraid to touch upon emotional personal issues AND controversial subjects dealing with his employer — offers some worthwhile musings on the dangers of blogging. In particular, I like this:
Every blogger has a knob to turn when he/she writes. One direction is “more interesting” and the other direction is “safer.” You gotta decide where to turn that knob.