July 9, 2021
If we’re going to do business together, I’d like you to know who I really am, and why I care enough about your marketing problems to invent a job to solve them.
It might not be normal to open up a long, earnest blog post about why I’m leaving my day job to start a marketing consultancy with bullet points about my childhood.
That’s OK. Nothing about this world, this year, or me, is normal.
I promise it’ll make sense when we get there. (Or you can skip to the end and learn about Tiny Megaphone on your own. That’s fine too.)
I just figure, if we’re going to do business together, I’d like you to know who I really am, and why I care enough about your marketing problems to invent a job to solve them.
Main thing is, I’m starting my own business because I’m listening to myself. My capital-S Self. And all the selves I’ve been.
I’m listening to all of them:
-the 8-year-old self that sold crocheted shoelaces out of a wagon on the sidewalk
-the 12-year-old self that designed paper clip jewelry and made a catalog in MS Word to peddle it to the moms at her homeschool co-op
-the 15-year-old self that wrote a fantasy novel and invented a language and alphabet to accompany it
-the 19-year-old self avoiding college papers by mocking up a business plan for a coffee shop where people could pay for food with volunteer hours
I’m listening to myself in all those ages, and listening to last year, when I heard myself making self-deprecating comments about my work in enterprise SaaS marketing in the same conversation in which I lit up with joy talking about designing Stardust Cellars’ website. Paying attention to the work that is life-giving, and life-draining.
I'm noticing how I overextended myself last year volunteering for organizations and personal projects that didn’t bring me life. Noticing how coworkers pointed out how unhappy I seemed, concerned about my overall wellbeing. Noticing what stories I was telling myself, about myself, to survive a very hard year.
I’m listening to my Nov-Dec 2020 self, who, unhappy at my job and fearing losing that job in a pandemic with no prospects, applied to over 50 jobs in tech marketing, took 30 interviews, and had 3 offers by Christmas. At one point I had 4 interviews scheduled back-to-back in a day. I wasn't eating right. I remember working on a writing sample at my mother-in-law’s condo until 2am and slipping into uneasy sleep after. I remember the adrenaline rush and crash after every second and third interview. The stress pain in my gut and shoulders. Refreshing my email inbox 20+ times a day.
What was I asking those jobs to tell me about myself?
What was I unwilling to believe about myself, for myself?
What truth was behind all that fear?
Kahlil Gibran’s chapter from The Prophet “On Work” once hung printed out on copier paper in my cubicle in 2015. Back then I was editing and updating blog posts about Verizon phones in the basement of a marketing agency. “Work is love made visible” just as a phrase by itself had such an impact on me then, and I didn’t fully understand why.
Back then, I was trying to motivate myself to do terribly drudge work with a good attitude. (It didn’t work.) Now I understand the poem better, and the words I was too afraid to listen to before are clicking into place:
“And what is it to work with love? / It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.”
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Ego will tell you funny things about yourself. Like: I always wanted my life’s work to be grander. To run for office. To be a minister. To help others in some huge impressive capacity. After all, I told myself, anything less is a waste of the privilege I was born into and the skills I’ve cultivated.
I told myself a narrow story about myself. I bullied myself into thinking that there were only a narrow few ways to live a worthwhile life, and that anything less would make me a failure. A baby. Weak. A waste of space.
My insecurity’s chaotic twin is my anger: My belligerent, anti-capitalist, constant-fury self throwing up double peace signs and sticking out my tongue at my own earnestness. Life is a joke. The meteor approaches. It’s all a meme. LOL!
When this tweet re-popularizing James Baldwin's iconic line, "I don't dream of labor" went viral, I felt very, very seen. I don’t have a dream job, other than being Sylvia Earle. I have dream lifetimes. Dream accomplishments. I dream about antitrust laws chopping up behemoth corporations eating the world. I dream about general strikes. I dream about the end of US imperialism. I dream about the ocean being healthy.
And in my quietest, most inner self, above all, I have dream emotional states. A life with spots of inner peace here and there. A life of 4-day work weeks. A life where I can rest enough to survive. A life where I am not at war with myself.
Dreaming aside, we still do labor. Labor in itself is just a necessity of being alive. So it goes. There is no life without labor. And making peace with that is a special secret:
“Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream,
assigned to you when the dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.”
“Assigned to you when the dream was born.”
I’d like to work with that kind of peace.
Now I understand what I didn’t in my cubicle 6 years ago: That it’s my responsibility to find a way to love my own life, and figure out how to make labor a part of it.
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As much as I’d love to be some sort of earthy mama herb farmer or run a hostel or be a river raft guide, truth be told, I do love marketing.
I truly do enjoy how flipping a few levers can be the difference between someone’s album, small business or great world-changing idea getting the attention it deserves. I know how to operate those levers, and it’s my joy to use that power responsibly and ethically, and educate others to do the same.
Because if it’s all a game, or even if it’s all some grand joke:
Shouldn’t we be having fun while we play?
That’s not to minimize the danger of marketing as a weapon. All my life, I've known that persuasion is a magic tool that can be used for good and evil. It's not something I've ever taken lightly. Marketing is possibly one of the most dangerous tools in the world. People can use marketing to sell war, gentrify cities, devour natural resources and oppress the voices of others.
BUT: People can also use marketing to change someone's mind, solve a problem, and defeat giants.
I fell into this line of business through nonprofit work to do the latter. (Change minds, defeat giants.) Solve big problems like homelessness and sex trafficking in my lifetime. Then I fell into tech to change the world with cool products. Solve other big problems. Now, I’m ready to take all of this knowledge and passion and do something new with it.
Something to make my 8-year-old self and my 15-year-old self proud.
I am finally ready to start my own business.
Y’all, Tiny Megaphone is open for business to tip the scales in the little guy's favor. Calling myself an early-stage/SMB marketing consultancy is what the tax guys will see, but you can know that I’m here to love life through meaningful labor my whole life has prepared me for: To support the people I root for with bold writing, tactical strategy and a few not-so-dirty tricks to stack the game for you.
We don't root for the villains in movies. We root for unlikely heroes who beat impossible odds to accomplish a great mission. You are that hero. And I'm here to help you win.
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If you’ve stuck around to the end of this post, I figure we’ll get along.
I’m glad I’m no longer ignoring this call that’s been ringing for a few years now. I’m glad I’m prioritizing the work and the life that I want, without feeling guilty, ashamed or out of place. I’m glad that I’ll be working with leaders and thinkers that inspire me.
I know who I am. At 19, 15, 12, 8 and today. And I’m proud of myself. (Hell, I just hired myself.)
I absolutely, positively, cannot wait to work with you.
Loudly, earnestly, proudly,