More About the Personal/Professional Balancing Act that is Causing Some Anxiety

So, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks, and I’m guessing those of you who kind of know me through this site, or at least read my entry from several days ago know that I’ve been going through a bit of an internal struggle with how to evolve my professional life.

I like having this as a place where I can mix my professional and personal life. I probably comment more freely and unprofessionally than a lot of people on LinkedIn, but I still tame my act big-time on there compared to the stream-of-consciousness I give you here. For a few days, when I thought this WordPress site should be strictly professional, I started linking the articles I wrote here to automatically go over there. I detached them today. While there is a cross-over audience, it’s not a big enough one. They don’t care about who I am; they care about what I am.

Based on the feedback I got the other day to my post, some of it not in the comments and sent in the form of email, it’s clear that people follow this WordPress site not only for the information I provide, but also for just being myself. And I’ve realized I need an outlet where I can be myself. I need a place I can drop an F-bomb and accidentally stray into political incorrectness without being beaten down. I need a place where I can be as honest and genuine as possible, and I’m finding that place is never anybody’s professional life. I need to maintain a level of professionalism, but if people find their way here, they’ll get a more human side.

As many of you know, I was chosen to give a TEDx Talk this December. You can read about it HERE, so I don’t have to rehash the details. If you want to help shape it, take this SURVEY. In the professional realm of mental health and addiction — where I’m one of the only former addicts talking about the disease of porn addiction — TED Talks are a very big deal. On a level of respectability/marketing/legitimacy/etc., being on a podcast ranks between a 2 and a 5 depending on the podcast. I’ve done a couple better ones, but the bulk are probably about a 3. A TED Talk starts at a 7 and can become a 10 if the speech goes viral online. It is not overstating it to say that this could be the best opportunity I have to break into a world where I get paid to give presentations, where I can launch a successful coaching business and write books that sell 10 times better than my current ones.

The challenge for me right now, that I am on the precipice of this opportunity (an opportunity that I understand has no guarantees…it could tank and that’s the end of me trying to make this a full-time endeavor), is in asking myself if I really want to go there. What happens if 100,000 people see my TED Talk as often happens for people who give them online? What happens if it’s 500,000 people or a million? Those numbers don’t seem real, but YouTube says they are. The reality is…I don’t know what happens and that’s become very obvious to me in the last couple of weeks since announcing that I’m doing this TED Talk.

Ever since the TED Talk has been announced, I’ve been hit with a lot more of…everything. Specifically though, instead of getting 2-3 requests to connect on LinkedIn per week, I’m getting 3-5 a day. While most are completely legit, I can still tell that many are full of shit and I don’t connect with them. There have been a few I accidentally let by and they are either weirdos or throw sketchy ideas for collaboration, or want to sell me something. I’ve had people asking for business advice, wanting to know “how to get to the next level” and even one writer yesterday who asked me to represent him from a marketing/PR standpoint because of all the podcasts I’ve been on. 

I cant’t remember if I told the people who read my blog about being invited to participate in a conference. If not, the quick version is that I received an email about two weeks ago that looked very official from an organization in the UK that was holding its fourth annual conference on addiction. According to their website, it was supposed to happen in Spain in October, but they turned it into a two-day webinar instead because of COVID. I think they didn’t have as much interest from speakers as they’d hoped, likely because of the travel and amount of people they’d be around if the event happened in-person. They asked me if I had an idea that I could give a talk about in their behavioral addiction track involving many of the ideas in my latest book.

Now, in the past, I’ve looked into conferences, and even applied to be in a few. I would guess that 80% of the time it was clear that even if you were chosen to present, you were expected to pay a registration fee. I was a little surprised, but then I checked the Internet and it sounds like in most cases, keynote speakers are given a free pass and a small stipend (including travel fees) but most others pay to attend. My problem is, I don’t know if this actually is normal or if I am just finding sketchy conferences that are full of crap and not taken seriously in the real world. If I put a conference I’ve attended on my resume, will it stick out like a sore thumb because I paid to attend? When I used to hire people in the real world, I always chuckled to myself when I saw “Who’s Who in (Whatever Topic)” listed because that’s a well-known scam that technically isn’t a scam, but suckers a lot of people in and divorces them from their money.

I’ve talked to a few trusted mental health professionals today and they’ve largely told me that paying for registration can be standard operating procedure…or it can be the sign of a scam. All urged me to carefully look at the history of the conference producers and try to find people that have participated in the past to speak with about their experiences. It makes sense and I’ll be trying to do that this weekend and next week.

There are three things that can happen here with the professional/personal balance in my life. I can be a breakout success and then flame out, which I’ve experienced; I can be a total failure, which I’ve experienced; or I can figure out how to strike that balance, a task I have very little experience with. I know I’m mentally far healthier than I was the last time I jumped into the professional world with two feet, but because I couldn’t handle that world (and in not being able to handle it made some very poor personal decisions that led to my demise) I worry about the next time I jump in with both feet. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I think it may be here, or may be more near than I can see…and it makes me anxious.

I’d like nothing more than to make freelance writing and ghostwriting a much smaller piece of my professional life and not lean on it for nearly my entire income. I’d like to explore this other world, but what if I fuck it up? I fucked things up last time and ended up on the TV news for two weeks and jail for six months.

I’m sure this mostly babbling, but I need a place for that. And this will always be my place for that. The real me, warts and all, isn’t going anywhere.

11 thoughts on “More About the Personal/Professional Balancing Act that is Causing Some Anxiety

    1. Yeah, I’m going to have to put my researcher hat on and figure this out. I’m guessing it’ll just be my first time figuring it out and they’ll keep coming at me. I’m just still green in figuring out what’s legit and what’s a scam, and I’m sure in some cases, it’s a think line.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. We never know what comes our way or how things will turn out. There is some control to an extend but mostly it’s not in your hands.
    I guess whatever happens you still will be you and that’s it.
    You can still do what you do and look what opportunities come your way.
    I would check the conference out too, just to be sure that it’s a good thing. I’ve never heard of

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And from the professionals I’ve talked to, Pierre is absolutely correct, but that still seems wacky to me. It’s like writing my book. I didn’t pay to get it published. I know people do that, but I found two different publishers for my three books. I only have the world of publishing and journalism to compare with on a professional level and the worlds are just too different with mental health. I suppose I should try to just look at it as an adventure and be glad at 44 that I’m still going on these adventures with my life.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. For what it’s worth, I usually get invited/selected to present at two different conferences in my field each year (3-4,000 attendees) and I pay room and registration and other expenses. I have spoken at one conference where they gave me a small honorarium, but in my field that’s highly unusual. That said, checking out the legitimacy of the sponsoring organizations is pretty easy. You could ask for the schedule and panels from the last two conferences and make an inquiry or two.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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