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Expression Not Impression

July 5, 2009 7:28 am

by Glen Allsopp, Plugin ID

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If how we live each day ultimately becomes how we live our lives, then it’s probably a good idea, now and then, to zoom in on the things we do on a daily basis. One such thing could be the actions that we take in terms of goal achievement and advancing in certain areas of our life.

In the average person, our actions are a mix of both expression and impression. Expression simply being sharing your true feelings with the world and doing things for you. Impression being changing yourself and what you do in order to get other people to like you or think highly of you in some regard.

For the first 18 years of my life, I was definitely stuck in impression mode. I would always react to the crowd and follow the trends whether it was music, fashion or hobbies. Quite simply, I rarely expressed what I wanted to do or be; I was always being someone I hoped other people would like or think more of.

When I was 17 I was featured on an Official Google Blog and referred to as ‘Dave Chambers’. This was the alias (which is completely random) I had given myself so that my friends and family couldn’t find out what I was up to online. I wasn’t doing anything dodgy; I simply didn’t want to face the potential judgments for following my passions.

Thankfully, I have moved far away from this mode. I wouldn’t say I’m completely ‘out of it,’ but I can’t even see the borders. Instead, I now spend my days expressing myself as much as possible. Some current examples of my expression include:

  • Wearing the top of a sock on my wrist most days, just because I like the way it looks
  • Putting my writing on-the-line on a daily basis with a website that has a picture of me and includes my full name
  • Previously being obsessed with having the latest phone, and now owning one that features nothing more than a colour screen
  • Only owning one item of clothing with a label, and that’s my trainers. This is not because I’m against big brands, it’s just that I don’t need the tag to feel valuable
  • Joining a public speaking club not only to conquer my fears, but to share my message with another audience
  • Having walked up to hundreds of women – completely sober – and said things like “Your hair is f*cking amazing” (this girl turned out to be quite famous and got me VIP in the club) or “I just came to say ‘Hi’ because you look adorable” or whatever I feel at the time. Not canned lines, just an expression of my thoughts out loud

In the last two years I have turned my life around 180 degrees and now I’m an expresser, not an impresser. And you know what; life becomes so much easier when this is the case. Life just begins to…flow. Before I get into that, I want to cover some examples of being someone who is simply self expressing rather than trying to impress.

Examples of Impression vs Expression

For those of you who are still unsure what I’m talking about or just want more clarity on the subject, the following examples (with their expression / impression counterparts) should help clear things up.

Always Buying the Latest Gadgets

Impression: Doing this because you want to be known as either rich or an early adopter. It may even be the case that you just want to have something that other people don’t.

Expression: Buying gadgets because they help you to do what you do more effectively. Buying them could even be that you just…want them (Key: whether people know you have them or not).

Chatting Up a Guy / Girl in a Bar

Impression: Doing it in order to validate your level of attractiveness or social skills. Also doing it just to show your friends your ‘abilities’ in this department.

Expression: Having a genuine interest in the guy or girl and simply showing how you feel by introducing yourself to them.

Choosing a Career / Income Path

Impression: Choosing to work in an industry where your parents want you to work or one which society deems as valuable. Pushing yourself down a road because there’s a lot of income potential.

Expression: Doing not only something you love, but something that you feel you can provide real value to people with. Something that allows you to really put yourself into your work, whatever it may be, and make a difference.

Expression As a Way of Making Money

By now you should have a clear grasp of what I mean when I speak about expression and impression. In this section we’re going to look at the angle of expressing yourself as a way to lead you to financial abundance.

In a recent post, I highlighted a concept I had put together about your followers filtering themselves. I said:

My philosophy is quite simple: keep doing what you’re doing, and people will happily filter themselves. If you stick to your values and certain friends don’t like that, they will naturally drift out of your life while you naturally attract other people. If you regularly write long blog posts then people who prefer short ones will naturally drift away while those who like more content will be drawn towards you.

Don’t always feel like you have to give yourself or your projects a label. Just keep doing whatever aligns with your beliefs and values, and the rest will handle itself.

Although you may like the sound of this idea, it’s not always good for business. For instance, as you know, I write much longer articles than most bloggers. This isn’t because I want to stand out or even imitate other people who use this method successfully, it’s simply because I feel it is the best way to get my message across. I would rather write one brilliant post that people can learn a lot from than 20 short ones with snippets of value here and there.

One thing you have to take into consideration is that I want to build this brand into a business. I make a substantial income from my other online activities, but it is PluginID which aligns more with my life purpose and it is something I would like to see succeed. If there was nobody interested in the way I express myself (long articles), then I would have no business. Fact.

Just because you feel like you’re being true to yourself and following your own values, it still doesn’t mean that people care about what you have to offer. In order to make money via self expression, you need to share your value in a way that people want it. I don’t believe that everyone just has one way of doing this. For example, if writing doesn’t work out for me, I could turn to public speaking, creating videos, or even making software for people in order to get my value out there.

Each is a very different format, but it is still a way for me to express myself and create value at the same time.

Examples of True Expression for Income

Although I like to mix my personal stories in with each post, it’s often a good idea to look at other people who are practicing what I preach.

  • Gary Vaynerchuk – Gary and his family owned a wine business which was fairly successful in his local area. Due to his huge passion for wine, he started making videos reviewing all of the varieties out there. If you watch Gary, you will notice he is just so enthusiastic and so passionate about what he does and this really comes across. After a few years of going down this route, his wine company is a national leader and he has landed a 10-book publishing deal worth 7 figures.
  • Chris Guillebeau – Chris’ story certainly lives up to the name of his site, The Art of Nonconformity. He has been self-employed all of his life, generating his income online. He is passionate about travel and is currently attempting to visit all 197 countries in the world (right now he’s visited over 110). His blog has become a rapid success and, in less than a year, is already making him a full-time income.
  • Seth Godin – Anybody who authors a book puts themselves on the line for criticism. Even with the best-sellers at Amazon you can some negative reviews of them out there. I could have mentioned any author here, but Seth is one that I feel stretches the boundaries and does what he does in a way like no other. He really puts himself out there through his blog and book titles like “All Marketers are Liars” but offers insane value, and succeeds for doing so.
  • Sean Platt – Sean may not be as well known as the above, but it does not mean he isn’t earning through self expression. He is one of the most talented writers I have ever come across in my life and I will be very surprised (and disappointed) if he does not write a best-selling novel in his lifetime. After years of failing to express his writing ability, he started a blog and writing business and has gained a strong and loyal audience for doing so.

All of these men have managed to express themselves in a way that is congruent with who they are and make money for doing so. Sure, their incomes probably vary a lot, but that is not the point. The point is that it is possible to make money through expression – just make sure your expressing something that people want.

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The Choice is Yours

It is completely up to you whether you want to lead a life of expression or impression. Leading a life of impression could also be phrased as living a life of reactivity. You constantly have to adjust what you do in every situation to try and keep other people happy and make sure they hold an image of you in their head that appeals to your ego. You have to remember who you are, to which person, and keep up with this image.

It’s tiring. If you want to live reactively then go ahead; although we both know there is a better way.

There is a popular quote by David Allen which goes “You can do anything, but not everything.” We can also tweak this quote around so that it applies to the current topic: “You can please anyone, but not everyone.” No matter what you do or how many people you have helped, there will be someone out there who is ready to put you down.

This is quite a sad realisation, but it doesn’t mean you have to let it affect you. Right now, I’m choosing the route of expression. I’m following my internal compass and expressing my internal state into the outside world. In a way, this makes life easier. On the other hand, it can also be difficult.

If you’re so used to holding back and keeping to yourself, it can be hard to turn that around and start expressing your value and doing what you want to do. In my own case, the process was gradual and it involved climbing many small steps to get where I wanted to be. This is not something that will happen overnight, but if you let it – it will happen.

Ultimately, I like to look at the idea of ‘expression not impression,’ as following your own path. Expression in this case is not about doing crazy things you wouldn’t otherwise do; it’s doing the things you want to do. Things that someone stuck in impression mode would not do because they’re worried about the reaction.

True self expression has made my life so much easier and so much more enjoyable. There will always be people that want to hate or hold you back this way, but there will also be people like that when you try to impress others as well. Luckily, the problem is with them, and nothing to do with you.

I will constantly try my best to lead by example – but more importantly – I want to lead the creation of more leaders.

The choice is yours…

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Original artcle can be found here.

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