How Being Mistaken for a Girl Made Me a Better Blogger

Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves.
–Thomas Merton

The first job I ever had was as newspaper delivery boy. I was twelve years old and really into the grunge scene, which meant I spent most of my time sitting around the house listening to music. So my parents thought a job would do me some good.

The Ridiculous Case of Being Mistaken for a Girl and How That Made Me a Better Blogger
Photo Credit: nep via Compfight cc

Every day, a truck from the Beacon News would drop off a large stack of newspapers at my front door. After school, I would spend about thirty minutes rolling the papers and wrapping them with rubber bands in preparation for my route.

Then I would spend the next hour, walking around town, delivering papers to people’s doorsteps.

When I first started this job, I envisioned myself riding a bike with a bag over my shoulder, tossing the newspapers at people’s doors. But when I tried this, they always ended up in the bushes or I almost crashed my bike. So I stuck with walking.

After the first month of doing this, I had to go around town, collecting dues. This was when customers were supposed to pay for their subscription, but it was also an opportunity for them to tip me.

So I put on my best concert T-shirt and flannel and set out to make some money.

The biggest embarrassment of my pre-adolescence

One of the last houses I came to was the house of an older gentleman whom I had never met before. I knocked on the door and had to wait a minute before he answered. We talked for a few minutes and after paying me, he said something that I’m sure he thought was a compliment but was anything but.

Well, aren’t you an enterprising young little lady! I’ll bet you’re going to be an entrepreneur some day.

Well, he was right about one thing.

In case you were unaware, I am in fact male, not female. Yes, I know that in my bio pic I look no older than thirteen years old, but I assure you: In spite of my inability to grow a mustache, I am a man!

Sadly, the preteen me didn’t just look young. He had long hair, was chubby without much body definition, and worn baggy T-shirts and lots of flannel (it was the 90s, everybody did it). And this wasn’t the first time I was mistaken for being a girl.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

I’m not sure if it was because I was embarrassed or shy or just because the man had given me money, but for some reason I didn’t feel the need to correct him. And for the rest of the time I delivered papers to his house, he mistook my for being a girl. I never corrected him.

Has this ever happened to you? Someone mistakes your name or something at a party, calling you John instead of Josh, or Katherine instead of Kathleen, and because you didn’t catch it the first time, you just kind of go with it?

Well, that’s what I did.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to live with this false identity as a little girl for long, because I quit the paper route after a few months. It only took a little rain and snow for me to realize there had to be easier ways to make a buck.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing kept happening to me for the next ten years. Not being mistaken for a girl — okay, that probably happened a few more times, too — but assuming an identity someone else gave me instead of my true self. And it didn’t end until I made an important choice.

An ongoing case of mistaken identity

According to Trappist monk Thomas Merton, we each have two selves: the true self and the false self.

The true self is who you really are; the false self is the part you most often show people. It’s the safe self, the person you know others will approve of. The problem, though, is that if you live as your false self long enough, you start thinking it’s the real thing.

This was what I did for years as a writer. I tried copying what my idols did and what seemed to work for them. I tried to find an unexploited niche and only grew frustrated when every market I found was overcrowded.

I chased trends, followed formulas. None of it worked. Looking around at the bloggers I was trying to imitate, I wondered: what were they doing that I wasn’t?

Finally, it dawned on me. These people weren’t, in spite of what they sometimes claimed, only writing about one thing.

This is an important principle not just of writing, but of any kind of communication.

The world’s most powerful speakers, presenters, and artists aren’t stuck in a single genre or topic. They’re creating content based on a worldview.

What you say is only part of the equation. The other part is how you say it. It’s not enough to have a powerful message. You have to have a powerful way of communicating it. And how do you do that? With a worldview that resonates.

How this applies to your message

Take my friend Pat Flynn, for instance. What do you think of when you hear his name? If you’re familiar with his work, you might think of passive income, and you would be right. But only half right.

Pat is not the only guy who talks about passive income — far from it. And he wasn’t the first person to make a claim on that niche. So how did he become such a popular voice in the subject? How did he become an expert? He shared his worldview.

Pat believes if you have a platform, it’s your responsibility to help as many people as possible, regardless of if they return the favor. And if you know him at all, you know that he practices what he preaches. He just might be the nicest guy on the Internet.

That’s why you’ll catch him not just talking about business, but his family and life and all the things that matter to him. And his tribe loves him for it. That’s the power of a worldview: it’s attractive.

A good communicator knows that what attracts people is not just niching down but targeting a specific worldview and making meaningful connections with what people believe.

So what do you write about?

Is it business? Or are you, in fact, helping people live freer lives? What do you really believe, and how can that permeate every word you share with your audience? Remember that what you say is only part of it. The other part is how.

Putting it all together

If this resonates, here’s what you need to do next to create powerful communication that changes the world:

  1. Identify your worldview and pick a fight. Think in terms of what bugs you, of what you just can’t stand. Then take a stand.
  2. Share your message with the world. I like the format of a manifesto, a short shareable document that moves people to action.
  3. See what resonates. When you put your words out there, do people respond? If they do, you’ve got something special, a tribe that you can grow and lead. If not, you need to try all over again.

You know, it wasn’t that old man’s fault for calling me a girl. He made a mistake, sure. But after that first time, whose responsibility was it to correct the mistake? Mine. And if people are misunderstanding your message or just not listening, that’s your fault.

So one last time I want to ask you: What is it that you write about? What is your blog about? Is it what you’ve been saying? Or have you been trying to play somebody else’s game instead of the one you were born to play?

Remember: what you say is just as important as how you say it.

In spite of what your mom told you, you’re not that special. There are seven billion people in this world. So if you are one in a million, that means there are seven thousand people out there just like you. How will you lead them?

I recommend starting with a worldview. Everyone has one. And it’s time to share yours.

Note: Recently, I delivered this as a talk at the World Domination Summit. To download the PDF notes from this talk, click this link. If that doesn’t work, right-click (control-click on a Mac) and select “save as.”

What is an example when what you said wasn’t as important as how you said it? Share in the comments.