Wes Kennedy Writes Things

These are my thoughts, largely unedited, definitely not written by AI.

How do you feel when you’re using the internet today? Excited? Happy? Smarter? No, I didn’t think so. Like most things, Capitalism has failed the Internet. The Internet used to be a beautiful thing. Something that was a bit weird, but the weirdness was part of what made it special. It was “weird” because people exposed their ideas in raw form, there weren’t millions of “themes” that made publishing a slick website easy, meaning most sites were just whatever HTML/CSS someone could scrape together. What was beautiful about it was the content.

Individual humans spent huge amounts of time curating content, writing stories or programs, and did so just because they wanted to give the world a glimpse into the beauty they saw in the content. No one was writing to fulfill a quota, gain followers, or monetize anything – they were just there to give or to memorialize something they found importance in.

That Internet is largely gone, or rather has slipped into the background as giant corporations have destroyed the internet as we knew it. As usual, we can see the mark of Capitalism all over this murder of the Internet. In order to extract capital, social media, ad-tech, and corporations now own most of the material on the public Internet without most of us knowing it. And now, it’s getting even worse with “Artificial Intelligence”.

I’ve been operating a blog in some shape or form since the mid 2000s. I’ve lost most of the content to multiple platform migrations, just straight up trashing it, or for other reasons, but none of that matters – because I’ve largely been utilizing my blog from a taker’s mindset. I built my blog originally because I thought it was a necessity in tech, which it honestly was when I was getting started. So many people had their own blogs and that was where I’d find solutions to a lot of the problems I faced. But now, all that information is gated in various platforms instead of being owned by the creators and readily accessed in the future.

My mindset around blogging has been slowly evolving over the last few years, but it has finally solidified after being gifted a talk from my good friend Mark Snow, titled simply How to Present, and after I heard something in a podcast a while ago:

”Wait to write, until you must write the thing.” – Someone, at some time, on a podcast, somewhere

In Mark’s talk, he focuses on the tools you need to present to in-person and remote audiences, but I believe that a few of the themes can be applied to your writing as well. So let’s start there.

Are you giving or taking?

In Mark’s talk, he walks you through showing up to give to your audience instead of showing up to take, referring to those actions as the giver’s mentality and the taker’s mentality. The basic premise is, if you are presenting to an audience of any size or shape, no matter the goal of the presentation, you should be there to give something to them. The audience should walk away feeling like you gave them an important piece of information, a new perspective on something, or knowledge in a thing that you understand deeply.

Most sales meetings approach from the perspective of wanting to find a sales opportunity, move forward a deal, or to close a sale. This is purely coming from a taker’s mentality, not necessarily by the fault of those involved, but purely because of the environment that they’re forced to operate within – one rooted in extracting capital from another company. So many potential customers avoid meetings such as these because it doesn’t feel good to know that the person on the other side of the table is there solely because they need to meet a quota. This isn’t always the case, but is often.

Taking a step back from the sales portion of it, let’s see how writing to give would apply to something as simple as a personal blog. If your intention of the blog is to simply chronicle your life, then this won’t apply to you. If any of your content ventures upon the realms of imparting knowledge, thought leadership, or even opinion, you need to be able to give something to your audience.

When writing something, the first thing you need to do after understanding the premise of the content is consider who the intended audience is. If the audience includes anyone else other than yourself, then you should think deeply about what you’re writing – not as a form of self-censorship, but to ensure that you’re providing “a gift” in exchange for the time people will spend reading your words. In the case of this very blog post, the audience is whomever would consider writing content on the internet, but it is also me since I write content on the internet. If my goal were to take from my audience then there would be a few pieces of this post that would likely stick out to you:

  • There would be a call to action to do something after reading this (share, subscribe, sign-up for a course, etc).

Note: I do accept “subscriptions” to this site, not for monetization, but for notification of new posts. I do nothing with those emails except notify on new posts.

  • I would be portraying myself as an expert, someone who does this perfectly. And I definitely don’t do any of this perfectly.

In reality, I’m writing this post as much for myself as for anyone who reads it. I want to give more and take less, because there would be nothing better for this world than more people doing the same.

Say only what you must, when you must

If we think about our relationship with the Internet these days, for many of us it comes with a trigger of guilt, one that’s tied to not updating our various web “properties” often enough or without enough quality content. Why is that? Why do we feel that we owe the nebulous internet anything? We pay for access to the thing, shouldn’t it owe us something? This is one of many problems with Capitalism, the feeling that there must be an equal (or likely very unequal) exchange of value for time invested.

The fact that I tend to feel guilty when I don’t update my personal blog often enough is both sad and truly comical. So more often than not, I would write a random blog post that had little content and just met an invisible quota that I had created in my mind because I’ve been manipulated into thinking that posting more will equal “success”. If anything, my personal blog is a liability to my continued employment since I speak my mind there, but I’m a human with thoughts, but those thoughts apparently have KPI’s attached to them.

So from here on out, I’m only going to write something, if I must, and if I’m the only one that can or is willing to. Otherwise, this is nothing but noise.

Be human, at all costs

We are all multi-faceted humans with interests, who long to be loved, fed, and feel a sense of psychological and physical safety – ignoring that to appear stronger, less vulnerable, or having everything put together is a veil that can easily be seen through. In your writing and when appropriate, write from the heart.

I am a human who is struggling to find my way in a world that is continually more and more anti-human. I want to be a better husband, father, brother, friend, human. That means working through my shit. That means unearthing trauma from my childhood. That means learning more about and fighting injustices. My goal is to always approach this blog with vulnerability, openness, and honesty. If I make a mistake, put my foot in my mouth, or do something else that offends, I will admit and note it publicly, and learn to do better.

I urge you to do the same with your writing. We’re here on this same rock for such an inconsequential amount of time, but if we’re not our true selves, and open to feedback, then what are we truly doing? Surviving to die. That’s what.

So what’s next?

Approach each opportunity to present yourself with humility and confidence. It’s okay to know you’re good at something – and when you are – it’s okay to share what you’re good at with the world, when your intention is to give them that thing. If your intention is to build yourself up or to “me too” the situation, then you need to re-evaluate the why behind everything you’re doing (I hear that there’s a book about starting with the Why... you should read it).

There’s not a single thing in my life right now that I’m accepting without evaluating its benefit in my life and my impact on it. There’s not a thing I do that I’m not evaluating with this criteria:

  • Am I giving or taking?
  • Am I the one that should say/do this?
  • Can I continue on without saying/doing this?
  • Will the world be better or worse because of this action?

Write when you have conviction and when you want to give something to others. If there’s a hint of take, do nothing. That’s it, that’s the whole thing.

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