Despite the fact that I’ve been writing for over a decade and a half, I’m still relatively new to leveraging social media in the endeavor. Doing so involves understanding how to communicate with the human collective, rather than with a single person or small group like most of us are accustomed to. The good news is that, once I get people to the point of reading my articles, they have generally found them impactful or at least moderately entertaining. The bad news?
The bad news is what it takes to get them there.
My most successful article thus far (mind you that I’m still working on a relatively small scale) was entitled, “Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD.” Doesn’t that seem a bit…provocative? Well, that’s the crux of my position.
In our world of extremes, people expect to be offended (or to defend an idea that others would find offensive) before they are willing to engage in discourse.
It can be seen all around us, in every facet of life. An author can’t write about religion without either attacking it or accepting it wholeheartedly. You’re either defending atheism or attempting to prove that God absolutely exists. You can’t write about politics without incorporating images of dead fetuses (on the conservative side), or of young immigrants in tears (on the liberal side). In addressing generational gaps, it’s always either a “lazy millennial” or a “close-minded baby-boomer.”
What happened to the 80 percent of people in the middle – the ones capable of having a reasonable conversation without resorting to violent rhetoric and posturing? How have we let the outliers become our socially acceptable norm, and how to we return to a world of reason?
The challenge is this: authors make money when people read their work. They make more when people engage, comment, and share. Culturally, we now HAVE to use provocative language in order to coax complacent people to simply click the hyperlink.
So, how do we fix it?
As journalists, writers, and others who sort of “steer” human culture, we have to learn to use extreme language to coax people back toward reasonable thought. We have to provoke them toward acceptance, and anger them toward open-mindedness. It’s the ultimate challenge in persuasive writing.
“Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD” was really just an article about learning to accept the situation, culture, and beliefs of people who are different than we are, but the title stung enough to make a few people who didn’t give a shit about me feel the urge to click. And once they clicked, they were in my world. I could use powerful imagery and wordsmithing to coax them toward a thought they, perhaps, hadn’t considered before. I could weave a story that would lead them into considering the root of one of our world’s major problems.
Any thoughts from other “Guides of the Human Terrain” would be most appreciated.
People are still reasonable. We just have to remind them how to communicate reasonably, and that’s a multi-generational endeavor.
When I was 16 years old, I was selling cigarettes and t-shirts in my hometown bar, working at night and going to school during the day. I was even smaller then than I am now – maybe 130 pounds if I had a 10 pound barbell in each hand. It was an educational few years for me: I saw adults who were well respected in the community fight, vomit, and initiate affairs under the influence of alcohol. I learned how to deal with drunks, and how not to be, in a general sense.
It was during those years that I experienced my first ever “fight or flight” moment. A group on group bar fight broke out right in front of my little cubby hole of a store. It was too early in the night – the bouncers were scattered about, not expecting trouble. Still getting settled. My reaction was worse than either of the “fight or flight” options. I froze. I mean, I was a kid, right? What was I supposed to do? The guys fighting were all wearing “Tap-out” shirts and seemed like they were trying to make a name for their MMA school – MMA was just on the up and up in those years. By the time I snapped myself out of the frozen state, the bouncers had arrived. I hadn’t even had the presence of mind to call for them. I just stood there, frozen in fear. Once the fight was over, I’d beaten myself up for it for half the night. I decided right then that I would never be frozen like that again because of another man’s actions.
The next time a bar fight broke out, I was ready for it. Two guys – again, way too beefy for me to take on – were pummeling each other furiously. In a lot of ways, the second fight was worse than the first. The group had mostly been throwing each other around, making a mess but not really doing any damage. These guys were throwing real blows. Blood had already been spilled by the time I heard the noise. Don’t freeze. DON’T FREEZE.
“HEY!” I yelled in the most boisterous voice I could muster. It gave them pause, but they went back to pummeling each other. I ran in. Grabbed one of the beefy guy’s arms. Put him in an arm bar (I’d taken a bit of martial arts myself, but the passive philosophical type). I held his arm with all my might, and managed to stop his punches. Then, I realized by mistake. The other man was still free. He carried on punching the one I was controlling, and I inadvertently turned the tide of the fight. Then the bouncers showed up and rescued my 16 year old self again.
I was proud, in some ways. I knew I’d messed up, but I’d learned that the fight or flight “instinct” can be controlled. I learned that action is better than inaction, and I learned the first rule of emergency management: Don’t get excited.
Years later, those skills became increasingly relevant in a military setting, but I had one more freeze-up incident.
It was in the Horn of Africa, where I was part of a “Force Protection Liaison Team.” I’d spent months building relationships with everyone from human traffickers to tribal elders in an effort to keep Americans in the region safe. You can’t fight a threat you don’t know about. Anyway, a hotel fire broke out in one of two hotels in the Northern half of the Djibouti. By the time my partner – a Marine Staff Sergeant – and I arrived, the place was in terror. There were electric explosions along with things like alcohol and fireworks in the building, so that added to the chaos. We were in the desert and had no water to fight the fire with. All around me there were children screaming and women crying, and worst of all – they said there was still a man inside.
I froze for what seemed like eternity – it was really just a few seconds before my earlier lessons kicked back in. Already this post is longer than my average, so I’ll summarize to a great extent, but after a night of fighting for our lives and the lives of others – seeing men pass out from smoke, and attempt to fight a raging fire with dirt and sand – we managed to at least make sure everyone was safe. Even one guy who thought the best way to fight the fire was to stand on the roof and beat it with a large stick. He thought that if the roof collapsed, it would be more effective to dump dirt on the fire from above it. I wondered why anyone would want to force the collapse of a roof they were standing on. I questioned whether I would give my life to save his – he, who had made a stupid choice that could’ve resulted in hellacious pain. The conclusion I came to is my own to bear, but what I learned that night is this:
The fight or flight response is largely dependent on experience and priorities. These days, I often find myself running toward chaos where I think I can lend assistance (it typically turns out to be nothing more than a scare of some kind). I don’t know that there’s much that would make me freeze these days – though I’m aware it’s still possible, for anyone. But if you think about the worst case scenario and know what you’re willing to die for, there’s no reason you can’t prevent yourself from ever being frozen in fear.
If folks like reading about these concepts, maybe I’ll explore them further?
Today is the first opportunity I have to express thanks to those reading along so far – I hit my first small milestone as a blogger in reaching fifty followers. If you’re new to my blog, I post “think pieces” fairly regularly, with topics ranging from mental health and self-betterment to philosophical and leadership ideologies. I also write poetry on occasion, and offer freelance editing and writing services. If you’re a seeker of wisdom and truth, I think that I can contribute to your journey while simultaneously learning FROM you, and would be honored to have you join my community. You can read “the crux” of what I do, here.
I also love to help like minded people, and in the spirit of that, would like to congratulate a like minded blogger, Peter, on achieving the same milestone (on the same day!). He’s a veteran and fellow philosopher who is articulate and thought provoking – if you read my stuff, I’d highly encourage you to take a look at his as well. As my community continues to grow, I hope to be able to aid the growth of others who write with intent of positively impacting the world.
Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for the validation of my writing thus far, and for the impact each of you have had on me with your own writing. I believe that a few strong writers can nudge the human collective toward compassion, acceptance, and contemplation, and aid one another in their journeys toward peace. And I’m stubborn enough to help that happen.
I typed in the name of my new website just now, so that I could begin sharing its intent.
As I did so, I felt a bit burnt out. More than that though, I felt the weight of conviction and a rebellious sense of purpose in a world that tells me I don’t have one, or that I can’t have one, or that I’m not qualified to achieve it. That I’m not qualified to achieve my purpose.
You see, I already know what my purpose is. Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt the strong urge to help others. To advocate for the broken, mistreated, or misunderstood. To heal them, show them how they should be treated, and to understand them. It’s all been inspired by my journey to to heal myself, to find those who treat me with kindness, or to find the people I can be understood by.
And they’re out there. You’re out there. It’s just such a complex problem to digest and address with a tone of victory.
The Quiet Visionary. Maybe I’m being too quiet – I’ve never been one to self promote, and I always feel like advocating for my own skills and purpose is too proud a thing to do. I think that a lot of people who can heal our world feel the same. But I couldn’t just start typing after I entered my web-address – there was another step before I got to my present screen. I had to click one more link.
And that’s what this is, right? My site. My blog. My space. My voice.
Mental health awareness is such a huge issue that almost everyone from almost every walk has to at least acknowledge it. Which one of you doesn’t know a person who has ended their life early, or tried to? Which one of you hasn’t thought about doing it yourself at some point, but refused because of faith, honor, love, or fear? How many more could be reading this if they hadn’t already lost that battle?
Fuck mental health awareness. We’re already aware of it.
The problem is that so many people who could honestly contribute to the healing of our country are held back from doing so by misconceptions that have existed for FAR too long. I’m held back from doing so. And that’s not a complaint or a pity party, it’s a challenge. So many people survive adversity and come out on the other side with a story to tell, only to be warned that they shouldn’t tell it.
It’s too private. It’s too shameful. It’s too real. You’re not educated enough. It’s too late to become educated enough – you have a family now. You have responsibilities and bills and all you can do is keep working your life away in a desperate grind to stay afloat.
Nah, man. It’s time to challenge that.
Every single day people are literally choosing to blow their brains out or hang themselves in their own “living” rooms because the way we are treating mental illness is NOT working. NARCAN is now available over the counter, because people choose to run to drugs where a more obvious solution is absent. Almost every veteran I meet has been diagnosed with PTSD, because our nation would rather throw money and mind-numbing drugs at problems than to see them properly addressed. Many within my own circle will judge the stance I’m taking because people should just “turn to God.” I believe that God gave us the tools to overcome adversity together, and it’s not always enough to just project the things that pain us into the sky and be freed of them.
Most of the people you engage with beyond the surface level are proud to share with you conditions which replace their own names in illustrating the adversity they’ve overcome. You’re not a person – you’re a person battling depression. You’re a person battling bulimia, anxiety, PTSD, or anorexia. You’re a person battling. As if anyone out there is not battling.
You’re so thankful when you finally find someone else who is battling the same disease that you are…perhaps they can understand you. Disease, when written regarding mental health, is a word created by other people to monetize issues that have been faced since the dawn of humanity. The truth? The truth is that mental diseases and spiritual brokenness are the same damned thing. Honestly, at this point – with suicide rates skyrocketed and diagnosis at an all-time high – what’s the harm in trying a different approach?
I may not have a master’s degree, or a doctorate (though I hope to find the means to add those tools to my kit), but I think I have an even more valuable tool. MY story. I can help the broken to heal, because I’ve healed from being broken.
Anyone who scoffs at this post or the language in it hasn’t been in the place I’m talking about. But SO many have. And SO many are still there, and hiding it. Military leaders. CEO’s. Waitresses and strippers and whores and soldiers and children and happily married men and women and preachers and teachers and cooks and druggies and the homeless population that we try SO hard not to see. None of them is more important to me than the rest, and none of them has less potential than another. They all just need an advocate. Someone to give them the time of day, an open ear that won’t judge and can offer advice based off of practical experience, not some text book.
That’s the crux of what America’s mental health issue is, and it’s also the key mission of The Quiet Visionary. People don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to a therapist who tells them only that they’re “intellectualizing their emotions” and lacks any hint of empathy or compassion. If that sounds like a story based on experience it’s because it IS. The one time I sought professional help, I found someone who was professionally disconnected from the world’s problems. Someone who lacked the experience to relate to the world’s darkness. People bound by a code of ethics that prevents true connection or understanding, people who seek to drag the broken into the light without understanding why they haven’t been there in the first place.
Humanity is not a shameful experience. Real answers do exist. Cut yourself some slack. Pain is not something to be hidden. It’s something to be shared that others might better avoid it.
I may not have a degree like they say I should. And now, well into adulthood with a wife and child of my own, I’ve found myself thus far incapable of dropping everything to return to school. Sure, education is a great enhancement for tools forged by hard experience. By what use is a tool adorned with jewels if it’s never been forged in fire and quenched into its most durable form?
Better a plain and humble sword that was made properly than a jeweled one made of softest metal.
I can help you climb out of the pit. I know the path. I’ve been there before. And I’m working so hard for you, behind the scenes. Processing my story into something digestible. Not something to cling to, but something to learn from. And not because I’m better than you or because I’ve been through more, but because it is simply my purpose to do so. To change the broken stigma of mental health “awareness,” and give folks who are in pain actual solutions to their problems.
But every advocate needs an advocate. Help me build my platform so I can help those who are in the dark to understand the darkness, and thus overcome it.
You will hear more from me. If you need help, reach out to me anytime. It doesn’t matter who you are or how we’re related. I see the world’s hidden pains. The only real solution is unconditional love. Whatever happened to unconditional love?
A little over two weeks ago I wrote a blog about a forthcoming strategy that I hoped would increase my following – I actually predicted that it would double it, but instead, it TRIPLED!
Don’t be too amazed, yet – I’m still new to this (to blogging, not to writing), so “tripled” really only means that I went from ten followers to thirty, but if you read The First Blog, you’ll see that I have a relatively high confidence level moving forward. What it really seems to come down to is culture, and the study of culture has been a lifelong passion of mine. I’m happy to say that many of my followers have consistently interacted with my posts (which I hope means they have found them impactful), but the really amazing thing about the growth is that it was done ENTIRELY on auto-pilot.
I was on a vacation to get married at the Grand Canyon, a magical experience that you can read about Here, and simply scheduled a poem to be posted each day at the same time while I was gone. During the brief moments that I had service on my vacation, I followed the folks who had interacted with my posts with intent to further check out their work when I got home. That’s it! So, it’s true that blogging is about consistency.
My next strategy actually comes from the wedding post linked above. In the interest of “branding,” I’ve primarily kept my “travel writing” separate, but I was shocked at the number of folks who liked my Grand Canyon bit within the first few minutes, so I’ve decided to migrate some of those blogs over in time as well. I’m slowly discovering that, as someone who hopes to use written language to inspire and heal others, my “brand” is fairly flexible. Write impactful, honest shit. That’s my brand. Done.
So, I have a plethora of travel and personal blogs that I will migrate over, and I bet I can get to a minimum of 55 followers by the time that’s done. They say the first 100 is the hardest – I hope to hit that number by the end of July. Blogging is about consistency, “the grind,” and honestly caring about your impact, not just the numbers. I promise that I will succeed at this. Follow along for more strategy updates, or to be inspired or encouraged in your battles to overcome adversity. I will share each and every success, but more importantly, I’ll always share my failures.
Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)
P.S. I always welcome any tips in the comments! My initial mistake was importing a bunch of content at once – remember that your posts are the most visible during the first few hours after posting! Also, use appropriate hashtags, and always link to other work. Finally, write about things you are honestly passionate about – don’t force it. Any tips for me?
Throughout my life, I’ve studied a number of cultures, and most recently I’ve become a member of the blogging community. It’s been about a month, and I’ve gained a grand total of about ten followers, but I think I’ve hit a pivotal milestone. It’s happened with every culture I’ve been emerged in, and evidently this one is no different – it even took around the same amount of time in the cyber world that it takes during foreign travel.
After a month of immersion and study, I’ve gained confidence that I know how to navigate this place! It just so happens that I’m also scheduled for a rare and exciting opportunity – a two week hiatus from my “real job.” So, I’m going to use that time to conduct a content/blog growth experiment which you are more than welcomed to join in on.
My two weeks away from work will be spent hiking and camping in the Southwest with little signal, so I’ve scheduled some posts in advance. Let me set the scene for you by sharing a couple of lessons I’ve learned, along with my predictions going forward:
It seems to me that the way this blogging thing works is that people who are passionate about writing attempt to use their craft to influence or inspire others. In their efforts to gain a readership (and often, to genuinely contribute to the community of other writers) they slave away and get down into the weeds with their feelings, giving 100% of their honest effort to provide quality content.
It also seems to me that, as someone endeavoring to contribute to the community of others while growing my own, I set the bar pretty low for who I’m going to follow. It’s like, if they have decent grammar and their blog is basically professional, I hit them with a follow and hope that they will be marginally inspired by my work like I am by theirs. I also make a note of the blogs that I REALLY want to read, so I can stay up to speed with their content. This guy is presently at the top of that list. (Note that it isn’t dishonest when I follow blogs I’m marginally interested in, I just have faith in their ability to grow over time and want to help them do so.)
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that “branding” is evidently important. However, as a freelance writer whose “brand” is simply using the written word to provoke and inspire contemplation, I think I largely get a free pass on this one. All I want to do is write impactful shit – so that gives me a pretty wide range to work with.
While I thrive on persuasive writing (particularly, articles on idealism and leadership), I’ve also been a poet for as long as I can remember. I have hundreds and hundreds of poems already written, but breaking into articles and content is new for me.
All that said, I’ve scheduled some of my favorite (self-healing/self-help) poems to be posted once per day at 0800AM until my return on May 28th. Cristian Mihai said in one of his articles that consistency is more important than almost anything when it comes to blogging, and I believe the guy! Your content is the most visible during the first few hours that you post it, so posting something new consistently is bound to yield more followers.
I guess the ultimate goal of a blogger is to first build your network using whatever strategies (authentic or otherwise) you can, and THEN once that community has been built, try to maintain it by inspiring them, hoping that you’ll be able to hone it down to people who are honestly impacted by your work. And strangely, I’m okay with that. If I get a thousand followers, and then 80% decide that my work isn’t for them, then I have gained 200 followers that I can honestly engage with and learn from.
My prediction is based on two factors:
That, in general, the poems I’ve scheduled over the next couple of weeks will attract an audience that is genuinely interested in all of the things I write (I observe life’s subtleties and draw larger lessons from them – that’s essentially poetry).
That I will be able to gain more of an audience by not being so attached to the idea of growing one. The things I’ve written have impacted me – there’s no reason I need to check a hundred times per day to see if they impact others.
I’m betting I’ll be able to at least double my number of followers during this experiment. And if I don’t, I promise to be straight forward about my lessons-learned and redirection of course when I get back. Click follow to see how it goes, and know that I’m genuinely thrilled by the idea of building my organic, honest community, and learning from your contemplation as you learn from mine.
If you stayed with me this far, you must be intrigued. Here’s an example of what to expect each morning.