By way of the awesome Tim Baran (have you ever heard anyone say something negative about this guy?), Community Manager of our sponsor Rocket Matter, came this wonderful story about the transformative power of social media by Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York.
Stanton writes that after losing his finance job in Chicago, he hopped a bus to New York, a city where he’d never been, to become a photographer, an avocation where he’d had almost no experience. But Stanton loved his craft and was determined to succeed; he took a thousand photos every day (perhaps in pursuit of that 10,000-hour mastery threshold ) and posted his favorites on Facebook. Soon Stanton’s few hundred likes grew to 700,000, his page raised $500k for charities and Stanton published a photography book that reached the #2 spot on Amazon. Here’s how Stanton summarizes his experience:
[My story] could not have happened 10 years ago. Without social media, I’d probably just be a quirky, amateur photographer with a hard drive full of photos. I’d be cold calling respected publications, begging for a feature. I may have even quit by now. Instead, I’ve discovered a daily audience of nearly a million people. Or should I say they discovered me. On Facebook
In many ways, insta-social media fame seems like a lottery ticket – pure chance and certainly not to be relied on as a stand-alone business model. And while surely Stanton’s story involved luck, it also took hard work and perseverance as he shot 1000 photos a day, then culled the best and posted them on Facebook by night. Every day, without fail for two years. When you show up like that, luck can happen with social media as a catalyst that can make luck happen even faster.
Starting a law practice – and even being a lawyer in today’s economy is hard. On those glass-half-empty days, like many of you, I too see shrinking markets and dead end opportunities and an endless grind of marketing that make me question why I keep banging my head against a wall. On the worst days, we can even lose faith in ourselves. Social media alone won’t fix either of these problems (certainly sitting around and watching the shiny, happy Twitter-sphere won’t) – but it can give us the charge we need. Yet, instead of recognizing the boost we can get from social media, we deride its value entirely – and diminish stories like Stanton’s. Sometimes, we’re motivated by sour grapes – a sense of “how did he succeed when I’ve been working so hard and didn’t? But it’s also difficult to credit Stanton for taking matters into his own hands, because that would mean that we bear responsibility for our situation and must acknowledge that (in most cases) we hold the keys to success if we can only find the right keyhole.
It’s scary when you realize that you’re accountable for your situation – and that as many people as you can blame, at the end of the day, your own actions played a role. But there’s a flip side to accountability also – because it’s exhilarating to realize that there’s possibility shining at the end of the dark tunnel ready to reward us if we can muster up the will to take that first step. Stories like Stanton’s give us hope — and even if it’s exaggerated, so what? Hope is always preferable to the alternative – and sometimes, just believing even for a few seconds that we have the power to make something incredible happen is all it takes to force us out the door and get moving another day.