I realize that it is often a very specific push that gets you on your way. The folks doing that pushing are ussually called rainmakers or some other similarly flattering name. They are the ones with the capacity to tell everyone else just what to focus their attention on. They can start trends and change public opinion. And those that get thrust into the spotlight with graceful pushes are sometimes referred to as darlings. Whether they are darlings of business or just media darlings, these are the lucky wunderkinds that seem to have the ability to outsmart all of their competitors merely because they were chosen to be that way. And everywhere I look, there are more people claiming to be rainmakers and yet more seeking to be their darlings. With blogs such as Techcrunch or services like Digg so prevalent, it is little wonder that the effect of this almost coronation-like process has become the way in which you “make it” in the world of technology or innovation.
But, should we want to be crowned or bestowed with that label of Social Media Darling? The Digg effect is powerful, but is it where we need to be devoting our thought process. Is being picked up by the fountainhead of virality the path to creating something worthwhile?
I would like to make the case that we should not strive for this kind of “darlinghood.” I would like to state, for the record, that being an industry’s new pet project is counterproductive. While it may lead to more users or to more people looking at what it is that you have started, in the end, I think that worthiness of buzz does not come from a single review in Techcrunch.
We should strive to be darlings of thought, darlings of wonderment, and darlings of need. While these are not industries that can hold us up and say that we represent all that is good about their market, these values can be held well outside of any niche.
Being a darling of thought means that conversation is not complete when TechCrunch picks you up. It means you are sticky enough for people to hate you and love you and write about how interesting your ideas are. It means that you are a lightning rod for more than just geeks (from whatever corner of the universe you decide is important, there are always geeks). It means that writing you off isn’t a pastime for many who come in contact with you. A darling of thought means that you are a platform with more than just one purpose. You are actively encouraging others to try untested things with your ideas.
Being a darling of wonderment means that you don’t have a quick category to be stuffed in. While many people may write about you, there is an indescribable quality that others who want to do what you have cannot possibly match. Wonderment allows people to contemplate your significance in terms of other great phenomenon. It gives a context for where you have been, a story for how you could possibly have been so creative and a thrust for what is yet to come. It allows people to hold on to you for no reason that they can possibly convey. It gives license to fanaticism and parody. It is a cup that is always being refilled with something new to sip and ponder.
Being a darling of need is simply being heralded as having solved a concrete problem. Too often we are all searching for new problems to tackle or ideas to untangle, but you have solved something that was preexisting, something that we all thought was going to plague us forever. As a darling of need, you conquer those issues that free us of some shackle that had previously held us back. While not pretending it was easy, you have shown everyone else that it is possible to undo what has been unbearably done and reinvent what was tortuously invented. Everyone knows that you have value because they can see it, clearly in the full transparency of your ideas and execution.
So, be darlings but not media darlings. Allow yourself to seek out rainmakers, but only if you are worthy of rain. Be needed and thoughtful and wonder all of the time. It is my hope that it is in this that I will be honored for my work, and not for simply falling across the desk of a bored editor looking for the next big thing or a single Digg user who has found a viral quality within my ideas. If it happens, great. If not, I think that being a darling in the ways I have described will be enough to get me through even the leanest of times.
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