Introduction:

The past 4 years have been a true voyage of discovery. I’d arrived on Google+ with the aim of promoting a couple of books, and instead began to learn so much about tech and the potential for transforming our futures.
And I truly had no idea what I was about to embark upon.

I’ve made friends with Presidential candidates, hungout with knights (that’s Sir Ben Kinsley in the gif), chatted with famous pop stars on the other side of the planet, learned from people far smarter than myself, written about 600 blog posts, created hundreds of videos for the community, and probably most importantly made true friends. You know who you are as we are connected.

This post is a way of me reflecting a little, before getting ready for the next 4 years.

Ready Player One

If you haven’t read ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline as yet, go and get a copy today. A fun read, and a great story.
And if you are a kid of the 80’s, then you will probably understand 90% of the references throughout.

I am not going to write a treatise on it now though, and just Google to find content like this soundtrack post, and a very well done list of the cultural references here.

Instead, let me just say I related to it rather well. It is the hero’s journey.
With the protagonist, Wade Watts, logging into the Oasis (their Virtual Reality platform, filled with worlds to explore) using a password: ‘No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.’* he began to play a game, make friends, explore new worlds.
*(this is a reference to a song by ‘They Might Be Giants’, a band I stayed an extra two weeks in San Francisco to see almost 20 years ago.)

Ok, I am not going to ruin the book for you by trying to make it all about me, but you get the point that…

The computer got me:

I didn’t need a VR headset. Until March 2015, I was attached to the computer for best part of 16 hours a day, for three years.
I would have strapped the thing to my chest with some duct tape and walked around with it but that may have been taking it too far. Ok, sometimes I did carry it about. And it was ‘Google Hangouts’ that got me hooked. The community, the people, the ideas.
I look back to my early mentors of Linda, Jason, George, Eric, Matt, David and so many more and know I was schooled well.

The early days were quite simply the most exciting thing I’d ever been a part of.

Just like entering into an Easter Egg Hunt akin to ‘Ready Player One’, I have to admit it was almost like a game. Alongside building quality relationships, and maybe the biggest game of all was ‘getting more followers’, and ultimately breaking the barrier to the big one – ‘a million’.
I think many people played this one.

It all came at a price though. I neglected to pay quality attention to those around me, old friends and family. I was always ‘pulled back’ into Social Media. Learning, yes, but not necessarily nurturing enough those who I loved.
You simply cannot be in two worlds at the same time (see below re: AR).

And when I hit that target last year, and from that point onwards, I let the numbers go. I also began to reconnect much better, and have made on and offline one live.

That stage really wasn’t easy though, and I wrote up the story here over ten chapters, I’ve been told – it is funny, sad, and very honest.

There are too many wonderful people to mention, and so many things learned that I will leave that, and instead turn my attention to…

Attention:

Did you see Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence at the Golden Globes for looking at his phone? Well, she has a point about attention.
Mobile phones are like wormholes for our attention, as Jason Silva sees it.

Google Hangouts on a desktop really provided a virtual live streaming experience. Quite simply, you plugged in.

And if you think they pull attention away then just wait a few years until Virtual Reality properly hits mainstream. It won’t be a glance downwards as people simply won’t be ‘there’ in the first place. It may well be we will see ‘the lost millions’ (reference Ready Player One) really come into being as gamers of all descriptions find their attention consumed behind a plastic visor.

Virtual Reality will change our lives, and this post is a precursor to me sharing a lot of content about Virtual Reality Social Platforms, so before I do let me just say: VR is going to be the biggest, most addictive trend this world had seen in a long time.
We will take a leap for sure, and along the way our attention will be ‘taken in’. I’m writing guides to help pave the way to a positive experience – helping us to connect with each other in a meaningful way – knowing  your time is finite and your attention is precious.
The emerging VR social platforms are connecting people in new ways (just like Google did in the earlier days with Hangouts), and the issues many face now probably need to be considered before stepping upwards.
They will start as avatar based platforms (guides will be published on plusyourbusiness.com soon) but in time we will be live streaming our lives as 360 video, and people plugging in to watch from all over the world. (see below)

A current social problem:

I recently surveyed my newsletter list people said their key issue was:

They didn’t have enough time to get everything done

Why is that?

My view is this – we can all get lost down rabbit holes, unless we tie a strong rope around our waists before we dive on in.
I use a notebook, sat next to my computer, to make sure I am working on what I should be not looking at yet another article on VR – although I do love the exploration.

There is something else though…

Social engagement is digital dopamine.

And the thing about so much of social media (especially when getting started): it’s a trap that dangles us ‘the fruit’ – making it a trap for your attention.  The fruit being whatever game you play, for instance wanting a 1000 followers on a particular platform, and then you Level Up.

And just like trapping a monkey, all you need is to put the fruit in a box with a slit that is large enough to put your hand through, and too small for it to get both, freedom and the fruit.

Games are cool to play, just know when you are playing them.

Why do I say this? Well, every platform wants to own your attention. And to do so, every platform needs to ‘give you something’ in return – and right now it comes largely in the form of the warm fuzzies felt through social connection, as well as the ‘gaining of more followers’.
We love it. Literally. And we get a hit when we reach a new threshold. Just like in a game.

Or to be more accurate, we are ‘in love with it’. In other words, we are held to a platform as it feeds our brain.
Unlike old fashioned TV, we are part of the storyline.

We all want, and need, people to pay attention to us in social media. If they don’t, we feel down i.e. we get used to that level, and feel a loss when it drops.

Sure, working to get a million followers may well make you feel good for a time, and potentially give you status within a platform but (and you’ll have to trust me on this one), unless you have a business, or enough money elsewhere, you have a problem.

This is not new. With almost a million people having visited this blog for tips, I am aware that I’ve shown lots of people ‘how to play the game’. Now it the time to ensure business is in order. You won’t reach the end and be given the options to convert followers into love, or hearts into money.

And attention in Social Media comes in all forms of engagement – the likes, hearts, +1s, comments, shares, retweets etc.
In VR we will start to see similar activities on Social Platforms, including follower counts/connections, and just wait until our Facebook connections that come into play via the Oculus Social apps.

When you can add in ‘learning and surfacing new content’ to this as you have a perfect brain storm of activity for many lifelong learners, including myself.

I am sure it can be seen as ‘novelty seeking behaviour’, and so many of us get excited about ‘the next thing’, and know that I really am excited still about the prospect of VR. We know both Facebook and Google have the user base to make it explode once they get the headsets right, as well as others with a solid play on the field too. Virtual Reality is the next platform.

So why such a post before I write posts about how awesome VR is?
Well,  t
he thing is this: unless you have your house in order, unless your business processes are built, and unless you are able to ‘turn a wheel’ and create value enough for people to pay you, then guess what? You may find you are simply ‘having an experience’, and just like with Social you are getting the warm and fuzzies, but not going to get paid for it.

And the new platforms are brilliant, I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a selfies in VR?

A potential solution

Jennifer Lawrence maybe didn’t mean to make a such philosophical point about living in the ‘now’, but she did.

When you pay attention for long enough, a new world emerges through the old one. Shining, different, and obvious as if it has been there all along but you’d forgotten about it.

I think this world emerges most of all in this world and with people. The digital world encourages a different sort of ‘mind’, faster, more active. I’ll watch educational YouTube videos on 2x speed, but when I read a book it is word by word. No rushing onwards, to get to the next thing.

With all this in mind, you have an opportunity:
stop seeking more engagement, and start looking at how you can add value to those around you.
This way you make the most of your time on social, and prevent hours/days/months of wasted time.

pay quality attention to people more – people want attention, feel lost without it, and just like speaking in a room to a million people, it doesn’t matter at all unless the people who matter to you are paying attention. (Seth Godin calls it active listening)

know what you are getting into; know your outcome. If you want to be part of the next wave, awesome. If you want to build a business, then it may be worth waiting to see how the new land lies.

and, listen to Chris Brogan more carefully. He is the person who could see I was lost last year, and through three words ‘Be Here Now’, he managed to wake me back up. Chris makes people feel loved, special, valued.
He is a very good role model for me to have and I continue to learn everyday from him.

Freedom

Underlying so much of what we do I believe is one concept – freedom. And we are not free if we lose the choice in any moment. Leaving this world for the next hyper-connected one will be even more profound that people falling into the mobile wormhole – they will have a headset on, and are less likely to return quite so quickly.
And it doesn’t matter if it is Jennifer Lawrence in front of you, or the person at the checkout – everyone deserves attention when they are serving us.

We know Augmented Reality is on the horizon too, and this may well lead to a new type of attention condition – unlike VR or the mobile. I’ve been doing comedy on all this for a while.
Attention is finite, and cannot be ‘here’ and ‘there’ at the same time. Even an overlay onto this world (AR) will need our attention, just like people do.
As such with both AR and VR, ‘Be here now’ is about to take on new meaning, as the meaning of ‘here’ is about to enter a totally new dimension.

The interesting thing is this – some people will be ‘in the real world’ streaming their lives, some will be plugging in watching.
Some will be streaming whilst they are plugged in, and streaming what they are seeing, and so on.
Our view is about to change considerably. And if we transition well, we can learn from the past.

Conclusion

I’ve loved so much of the past 4 years, despited challenges of figuring out who to serve and how to charge.
The game play (the follower count in particular) was something I never expected to get into, and as I say, it is probably the most empty of things to count. You really don’t want to get to the end and find out that what would have really helped you was more life, not a bigger score.
Personally, I’m back into my corporate groove once more with clients, great friends and good health.
What is not a game is the relationships you build, the alliances you forge, and the community you build around you – the people you truly love.

The connections I’ve made through Social are second to none, and I thank you all for being a part of this, and a part of my life. Even if I don’t see you much now, I appreciate your influence.

This blog post has been a ‘pep talk’ for me too, and by re-centering my world on what I value most (as well as setting clear outcomes), it is changing for the better every day.
As in ‘Ready Player One’, we see at the end how Wade would not have succeeded without friends. I’ve always felt this was the opportunity on social – find your people, win together.
Finally, I still heed Halliday’s final advice to Parzival (Wade’s avatar name) when he finally won the egg. It was this – ‘don’t hide in here forever’.
And in the meantime, onwards.

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