“warts and all”

Helen Blunden is the inaugural winner of the ITA Jay Cross Award (2016). Jay had a significant influence on my life and it was sad to say farewell in 2015. Helen’s latest blog post in many ways reflects some of the challenges that Jay faced. He was outside the mainstream. Jay was constantly shifting his business model. He was always looking for ways to be innovative but not a slave to the status quo. Helen has also been transparent and open with the challenges she has faced, doubly so as a woman in business.

“Some time ago, I asked the question Should I Get Off YouTube?

The reason is that after getting off social media, I’m reflecting on every single aspect of my working life and my output that I have shared online since 2011.

With over 500 videos of working and sharing my lessons, experiments, projects, questions out loud to the world, I realised that I had an immense body of work that I put out to the world. Some of which helped me in my working life but in many aspects, putting myself ‘out there’ meant that I was also at a greater risk of failing publicly because showing the ‘warts and all’ is bad for business. To be successful in business is to create illusions.

And so fail I did. I never was a good illusionist.

Instead I wanted to build a model that wasn’t following what others were doing. In some way, I wanted to lead something new and different – something inspirational.

In particular, I baulked at the idea of having to build myself into a ‘thought leader or entrepreneur’ and then base a consulting business where I had to rely on being at the whim of platform algorithms; to build a business around my expertise, which then I could extract huge amounts of money from subscribers or corporate customers.

That business model never sat well with me as I espoused continual and lifelong learning NOT as a ‘thought leader’ of lifelong learning.

There was always a contradiction that never sat well with me because I was always learning.” —Helen Blunden 2022-10-22

As Hugh McLeod so articulately captured, there are challenges to being either a sheep or a wolf. Helen is a wolf.

The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.

Business models for wolves do not exist. We have to find our own path. It is often against conventional wisdom. It is often difficult. People may think that I have hit some level of success and financial stability, with many global clients, speaking gigs, and citations online. They are wrong. Seeing from the edge may bring clarity, but it will not usually bring success, especially in the short-term.

I wish I had some advice for rebels on the edge but I think it’s the same life that many artists face. They have to do the work, but often it does not bring direct benefits. We do it because we have to.

Helen, thank you for sharing your journey, making yourself vulnerable, and enriching many of us. I’m sorry that I don’t know how to make this a viable business. I too, am still learning.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

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