The White Canvas

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We all have the same opportunities. We all have the same channels. We all have access to the same people. It’s what we do with them that matters most.

Like an artist, all of our collective canvases start off as a white, blank space. It can be the blank screen of your Blog writing platform, it can be a empty Twitter box waiting for you to answer the question, "What’s happening?", it can be a hot microphone just waiting for you to rant and publish a Podcast with, or it can be the moment before you flip on your Flip video cam. How you fill your space is going to determine your level of success (and whatever "success" means to you).

It’s not easy.

Yes, anyone can publish their thoughts in text, images, audio and/or video almost instantly (and for free) to the world, but it doesn’t mean that everybody is going to be great (or memorable) at it. Some take their time and labour over every single thought, while others seem to be able to constantly (and consistently) publish something of quality with very little preparation as it rolls off their tongues. The talented ones really do have something special going on. The talented ones have the ability to be interesting.

Be interesting.

A lot of the online conversation is about how much one should talk about themselves versus providing valuable content to the community they are trying to build. Some people think there is some kind of mathematical formula to how many times you can talk about yourself versus simply publishing something that adds value to someone else’s life. None of that matters. All you have to do is be interesting.

It’s not easy to do.

Saying, "it’s not easy to be interesting" is actually a very complex thought. Afterall, if the real power of Social Media – and all of these publishing platforms – is to share who you really are and then no one connects with what you’re doing, does that mean you’re not interesting? Alternatively, if you have to really think about it and be calculated in what you’re publishing to try to be interesting, what’s the point?

People who are interesting often don’t think too much about it. They just are.

That’s the real secret: not everyone is interesting (sorry). Some people are more interesting than others (it’s true). Some people are super-successful, while other people will struggle their whole lives (sadly). It’s what makes us individuals, and it’s what makes us the society we are (for better or for worse), but in the end, we all do have this amazing new, white, blank canvas to explore and discover. It’s something we’ve never had before, and it’s something we should celebrate.

Don’t worry about monetization. Don’t worry about community. Don’t worry about your traffic. Focus on being interesting. Focus on bringing that white canvas to life.


  1. I’ve always said “life is a blank canvas- splash al lthe colour on it you can”
    Thanks Mitch for a very timely reminder!

  2. Ouch. I must respectfully disagree! To me, it is absolutely untrue to say that not everyone is interesting. Why? Because everyone, every single individual one of us is indeed plenty interesting.
    But the tools at hand emphasize writing, graphics, video, and/or audio pretty exclusively. You have to be good with one of these. Which limits the true democracy of the web. IMHO, we’re working towards a wider selection and flexibility of tools, along with relevant education, so that the interesting parts of each individual may be expressed through customized tools.
    In short, our technology is limited, not our ability to be helpful or interesting.

  3. Mitch,
    I think the ones who struggle their whole lives are the ones who never pick a tool with which to fill the canvas. Either through ignorance, fear or blinding indecision they don’t express themselves. I won’t be Pollyanna about it, there are certainly boring people in the world – but one persons boredom is an others ecstasy. Leaders find a way of making their vision interesting to those they need to make it real.

  4. Very nicely said, Mitch! You have not only sent the message but modeled it too :). Sometimes it’s tough to be interesting but the content focus is key. Too many people seem to be focused on what they can sell you vs. how they can hold your attention or provide value. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I think its a matter of perspective. If you say not everybody is interesting, it’s a true statement BUT they might not be interesting to you, in your perspective they don’t add anything. Maybe from my shoes it’s amazing.
    I like your White canvas, idea but I think the way Mary H Ruth putted is very true too.
    Perhaps to be successful in the online world you need to be interesting and know at least one tool that you’re good at. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful in other areas of your life.

  6. Mitch,
    I love your last sentence and the challenge you offer, and I also agree with Mary and Karl that each of us is interesting in our own unique way yet different in the ways in which we can comfortably express the color of our own canvas.
    Karl’s insight regarding leaders is spot on – the great ones paint a vision on a canvas that their followers can understand and embrace. As someone relatively new to social media I enjoy reading leaders like yourself and Mack Collier who encourage their readers to stop worrying and just start sharing their ideas.
    Perhaps instead of “be interesting” the call to arms might be, “find a canvas that works for you and be yourself…”

  7. Simply a perfect way to end my day. If only we’d worry not every now and then but actually every day on adding something to our “white canvas”, change will show itself along with uniqueness and personal value. Thanks Mitch. –Paul

  8. We all have the same opportunities and access to the same people? Um, sorry, but I disagree. I understand where you’re trying to go with democratization of ideas via social media/online forums, but the door is just only ajar. Those who already had connections continue to strengthen them by the mere fact of just being who they are. I doubt I have the same opportunities and access as Katie Couric, for example. Maybe I’m completely missing your point, but next time you put those sentences in your “lead,” be more explicit.

  9. As you know Mitch I have worked with “the Best of the Best” for over 10years now and none of them have your courage. Facts are facts and in a world of “if you just do your best…” poeple need to embrace truth. Some people will never achieve stardom, fame or greatness. Some people just truley aren’t that interesting. Period
    Keep up the great and refreshing posts

  10. Well said, Mitch.
    It’s not about monetization, community or page-views, because you can’t do any of those things if you’re not interesting to begin with.
    And to quote Bill Bernbach,”[…] they won’t listen to you unless you’re interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”
    This post is home truth for a lot of people (and a lot of BRANDS) out there. Hopefully, they’ll be paying attention.

  11. I think Mitch is spot on. Meaning, Katie Couric can start a Blog and she may have more people connecting to her because of who she is, but some random News Junkie in Michigan can start their own news Blog, and they do have access to the same audience that Katie has online. Regardless of their “name” or connections, great ideas do spread and if their content is “interesting” )as Mitch says), it finally does have the capabilities of spreading far and wide.

  12. While these comments are spot on when it comes to the greater good, I think they are a little Pollyanna in terms of what Mitch is talking about in the context of this Blog. Seeing as this Blog is about Marketing and Social Media, I think Mitch is totally in the right. As a brand or individuals within a company, sure your perspective may be interesting and unique because you’re an individual (in fact, Mitch talk about this a ton here and in his book), but when you do start marketing and promoting yourself or your brand, you have to be interesting and not everyone will be able to uncover what it is that makes them interesting, and there will be very different levels of interest as well.

  13. Mitch, the train of comments covers a lot of my thoughts….. I too think that everyone is interesting in their own way (but it does not mean that that will translate into a large following) and not everyone will be able to translate their interesting features into this type of marketplace.
    So, I think this post is both full of good advice and slightly off kilter, BUT that is the interesting thing about the blogosphere isn’t it. Many different points of view and the ability to seek them out and decide if you will follow them or not.

  14. Thanks, Mary, you said what I thought! I’m good with my hands (not too bad with words, but a rubbish self-publiciser) and know many people who are absolutely fascinating, deeply successful as people and great contributors – but deeply inarticulate and completely stumped by technology of this sort. The web is a kind of ‘parallel world’ for many, and it’s a kind of blindness to write off the value of those who can’t get their head round it – their talents lie elsewhere.
    As an aging person I get very cross with those of my generation who stand in judgement on the young – please don’t fall into the same trap in reverse!

  15. Scott P. (above) was closer to my sphere of reality/context. If you’ve been playing along at home on this Blog or have read my book, you’ll know how often I talk about the power of being a unique individual and building bridges within your own community (I often quote Oscar Wilde: “be you, because others are already taken”). I also spend tons of time discussing the value of individual and niche networks. Of course each person is unique and interesting to a group of others, but this was more in the context of brands and building a loyal/engaged following online (and this does include personal brands). Realistically, we still use some traditional measurements (like size of audience or following) and, in this case, it’s just going to work out that some are much more interesting than others (even within their own unique spheres of interest). That doesn’t mean they have less value or less meaning, it just means that it spreads to a much smaller audience/following (which doesn’t make it any less loyal, either). Next time, I’ll be sure to contextualize my thought in a clearer fashion.

  16. Here’s a thought — if you find yourself in that sad camp of being “not that interesting”, go out and DO something that is. Then talk about that. Take action that’s in the interests of others. Learn from your actions. Add your insights to the world. With brevity, clarity and passion. Chances are, someone will find that interesting.

  17. I think the Post was Very Interesting. I reached this blog by following other interesting people such as Steven Baker who wrote “The Numerati” and commented on your book “6 Pixels of Separation”. After reading your very interesting book I followed your tweets which are usually aligned to this interesting blog.
    I understand that it is all about perception but like a few others mention what is interesting for me might not be to others. That is what makes us individuals are uniqueness in choosing what is of value and what is not.
    I can say that if most people just tried being unique they would be more successful than if they where just thinking at reaching specific goals (which in most occasions they have no control).
    Great Post!

  18. I completely agree that not everyone is able to be interesting. Let’s compare to American Idol for a moment. Millions try out. Some have great voices, others simply don’t. Even those with great voices have varying degrees of success. The ones who are able to make the music their own and bring their own twist usually go the farthest. Then there are those, who as Simon says “are forgettable”. They sound like hundreds of other singers you’ve heard in a night club. There’s nothing interesting or unique.
    The bottom line – just as not all of us can be the a successful singers, not all of us can be successful publishers. Publishing simply may not be the right canvas for some folks.

  19. Great post. Great comments.
    Plutarch said “Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”
    By listening well and asking questions, you make the other person interesting. That works in reverse too. If you communicate well and answer questions that others may not even know they have, you’ll be interesting.
    To be interesting: be interested in helping others.
    We’re listening to Malcolm Gladwell read What The Dog Saw. He turns the seemingly mundane (e.g., ketchup, hair colour) into the utterly fascinating.

  20. Mitch- Great stuff! Reciprocity is key (GIVE to GIVE), and the ROI is AMAZING if you are patient.. There are groups out there the will connect with ALL people, just need to be yourself and they will find you or vice versa… Blessings, Brian-

  21. Enjoyed this post! I think too many people try so hard to focus on the functionality of their business but fail to get into the emotions of their audience. To be interesting is to be memorable!

  22. “Don’t worry about monetization. Don’t worry about community. Don’t worry about your traffic. Focus on being interesting. Focus on bringing that white canvas to life. ”
    Yes! Lately I’ve been worried at how “uninteresting” my blog looks like – since I don’t write catchy titles that pay attention to copy; I just write the first title that comes into mind!
    Thanks for the article, Mitch. Though I think to achieve success, some degree of artificial efforts are necessary (at least for the majority of us).

  23. I believe the key to being interesting is to simply start by writing about things that excites you and then focus on delivering your content to like-minded individuals (niche?). What’s interesting to me might not be interesting to you and vice versa.
    I definitely agree people should not worry about monetization and community (at first). It’s okay to have a plan, but once you start blogging focus on the moment and enjoy the creation process. People need to become engaged in the activity of creating content they love. If not, they simply will not last.

  24. Well it’s one of the closing lines to one of Sondheim’s most successful musicals (Sunday in the Park with George) so it had to have been good advice:
    “White. A blank page or canvas. So many possibilities.”

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