Choose Your Own Adventure


I get a variation on this email quite often: “I wish there was a job in social media for _____, because I’m really skilled in _____.” What’s fascinating is that the person is waiting for permission, and worse, waiting for someone else to create and open a role for them to fill. My first thought upon receiving this is to ask the person, “Who do you admire in life?” They often cite some famous person. I then ask, “Did someone make that job for them? Or did they choose an adventure that brought them there?” Sometimes, the light bulb goes on right then and there. Other times, well, bless your heart.

Where The Path May Lead

When I think about all that a business can do to succeed (or all that an individual can do, for that matter), I start from the mindset of forgetting about the path that someone else has forged. Why? Because innovation rarely (never?) comes from following an established path. If I were going to design a hotel, I wouldn’t try learning what worked and didn’t work for the Four Seasons, I’d think through (and then interview others about) all the details that matter to me as a traveler, and then consider what I could do better.

For instance, in redesigning my hotel experience, how difficult would it be to offer personalized grocery runs for every guest with a small 15% fee on top of the retail value of those products? Instead of the same lame mini bar options, I’d have invested in exactly what I wanted, would have paid for the service, and would have a much more personalized experience in my room. Hint: the path before me would never take me to this idea.

Everybody’s Doing It

In the 1990s, fax marketing was a serious consideration. (I have to pause to say that Aaron Strout often jokes about fax marketing, and I write this, I’m snorting a bit, thinking of his humor.) If that’s what you had to go by for what works as marketing, would you do it?

Many employees inherit jobs or reports or duties that came from someone before, and often, they don’t think to evaluate or question what the tasks or reports or whatever serve. I see this with marketers who keep vast spreadsheets full of information that when I query them, they are doing it because they were told to do it, and when I ask their leadership, those people say they have no idea what to do with some of the data they’re receiving.

Trends Are Shaky Signposts

If you asked people about what the current trends were in digital marketing, they’d point to Pinterest, to Google+, to Facebook nearing 1 billion users, to many other number-filled or feature-driven conversations about trends.

If you ask me, I’d say it’s in building intimate little communities of 1000 or so active contacts who are reached through more intimate communications channels for more personalized interaction. Another way of saying that: email marketing is sexier than ever. I say it related to zero trend analysis. I say it because my data says it’s true, at least when properly executed.

As the trend is large (Pinterest), I’m excited by the small ( Gentlemint). As the trend says big 3D TV experiences, I’m thinking YouTube. As people seek to automate more of their business efforts, I’m wondering how to do more bespoke/custom work.

I’m not being contrary. I’m following my own analysis, and that says that choosing my own adventure will be a lot more rewarding if I pay attention to what’s effectively finding me a community of value. I’m using my own internal and professional compass to decide what I want to do with the territory.

You Choose

Never let life lead you. The goal, the opportunity with all this, is that you can choose what you want to do, how you want to do it, what you want to pay attention to, how to care about what comes before you. You can choose the cubicle or the home office. You can decide on being an employee or leading your own mission. Never before have we had this much opportunity.

So, then, why aren’t you choosing? Or are you? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Ainslie


    When I started my blogging online I chose new adventures and ideas.  And do you know where it led me – back to a path I chose when I was six.

    I spent 3 years online trying to hide my skills and experiences in education.  But along the way I found that education is in my blood and will always be my passion.

    So I learnt that the best choice for me wasn’t to completely jump ship but to pivot how I teach and who I teach (which is now online)

    So instead of creating a new path like Emerson suggested, I had to retrace my steps in order to forge ahead (again)


    • Chris Brogan

      Sounds like a really great lesson, and honestly? I think that STILL counts as making your own, because you found that lessons from you childhood were still gold for you. : ) 

      • Ainslie

        That’s true.  I just don’t like thinking that my six year old self was smarter then I was in my 30s.


  • Jamie

    Today I pick up an old book, and inside were little comments by kids. They were about how much they loved that book. One of the kids names was Chris Brogan, and I thought… I wonder what these kids are doing now! So I googled… Others were dead ends but your name brought me here, and your most recent blog is called “choose your own adventure” which is the name of the book that I fou d your name in!!! I am unsure if this is the same Chris brogan but I did want to share the coincidence.

    • Chris Brogan

      Same one. : ) 

  • Jim

    Well said Chris. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of how large a community the internet provides. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram with their phenomenal growth and large audience make for a very compelling story and will lure many start-ups to try and create the next behemoth success story. 

    I’m following your advice about email marketing and focusing on smaller communities of fans. I believe this is where social media and the internet have created the largest potential… to reach and create your own audience more effectively. 

    The niches always provide unlimited opportunities if you’re willing to look for them. 

    Thanks for the validation.

    • Chris Brogan

      How many customers do you need? That’s the number to follow x 3 . 

  • Danny Brown

    Unique paths are awesome. Unique adventures, even more so. I’m completely with you on that.
    Only problem is, the bean counters and money men (especially for startups with investors that know little about this space and the “new marketing”) wouldn’t agree. And they’re the ones that count, and are harder work to convince otherwise than some choice words, unfortunately. 

    And, as much as we’d romantically like to choose the home office, family and kids actually dictate where we work.

    • Chris Brogan

      The way I’ve done it, Danny, is that I’ve created adventures that can be easily measured and counted by those who like beans. Meaning, I give them a tangible result that can be measured in revenue, or subscriptions or the like. I do my best to make my prescriptions for any company’s future growth similar, so that the wild adventure happens on the left and the interface is the same on the right. 

      As for family and kids dictating where we work, if you mean that it’s harder to work if you’re sharing the same place, absolutely. I think of “home office” quite liberally. A coffee shop is home enough for most. : ) 

      • Danny Brown

        Good point – know any good coffee shops for 8 week olds? :)

        • Chris Brogan

          No, but congrats on that. : ) 

          • Danny Brown

            Thanks, sir, appreciated!

  • miriamgomberg

    My mantra is “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” I felt it necessary to ask permission for too long. Now I am creating my own reality, and it feels great! Thanks for the thoughtful post. Miriam

    • Chris Brogan

      Permission is for 3rd graders. 

    • Conor

      I love Jim Rohn’s quote “Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were stronger” – a similar philosophy!

  • Derrick Yazwa

    Chris this post was something I needed to read today. I’m in the process of getting my first business off the ground and am seeing some early success. However I often find myself questioning whether I can really do this and asking myself who gave me permission to choose my own adventure. Your words reminded me that you don’t need permission from anyone but yourself. What are some things you have found help you beat back these crippling thoughts when you have them?

    • Chris Brogan

      You have permission. Congrats. I just gave it to you, until your own sets in. 

      Work beats back the thoughts. You need more sales. Success is the best “f-you” to your inner critic. : ) 

      • Derrick Yazwa

         Thank your for taking the time to provide a thoughtful and helpful response. Time to take sales into overdrive!

  • Turndog Millionaire

    A great post to read first thing in the morning. Sometimes you need to take the leap and have faith in yourself and your ideas. Sometimes they are unique and new, and other times they are to make something existing better

    I’m in the process of rather large changes so this is very relevant to me. A great post for me at the moment. Thank you so much

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • Chris Brogan

      New ideas are so overrated. Know what’s keeping me up at night? . That’s nothing new. I’m so sick about it. They rule. 

      • Turndog Millionaire

        isn’t the video they did epic?

        So simple of an idea, and such a great way to launch it to the world. 

        Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

        • Dr. Susan Giurleo

           O.M.G. This is why I read Chris’ blog to see things like this. That video is amazing. I’d buy the damn razors just to support that video!!

  • Craig Jarrow

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference…”
                                   - Robert Frost

    • Chris Brogan

      Pretty much the same deal. Said by someone a few hours’ drive from my home. : ) 

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  • Christina Pappas

    It’s as easy as it sounds and not as easy as it sounds. Losing my job I questioned whether I should develop upon an idea I had. I talked to a lot of people and consensus was that I was ‘ahead of the curve’. Not a bad place to be but sort of a bad place to be for me when I am the only one supporting myself. I am willing to take on the role ad introduce and steer forward with a new concept. I am willing to educate and break down walls to make lightbulbs go off. But I also need to eat and feed my bunny :) and there lies the problem. Any advice on how to prepare to set out on an adventure?

    • Marnie Hughes

      You might have to do both for a while, Christina. Your comment spoke to me as a friend of mine is in the same boat. He’s having trouble visualizing the ‘dream’ though. So he’s going to take a part time job to buy groceries and keep pushing toward the dream.
      Advice? Try not to self-criticize or buy into negative feedback from people. Surround yourself with people you respect and can learn from. And keep reading Chris Brogan’s stuff…that guy has provided me a load of inspiration over the years.

    • Chris Brogan

      The trick, always, is to scavenge and gather for today’s meal while learning how to plant for next season. Why not do both? 

      • Conor

        John Grisham is now a famous author, but for years was a little forgotten lawyer.  He had one writing goal.  1 page before starting work every day. Thats all he did.  1 page a day.  

        Don’t throw everything away in the search for a new you.  John Grisham could not have supported himself as a writer until years later.  The key was that he was investing a little bit every day in his future.  1 hour a day is enough to build something that ten years from now people will look at you and say “you are so lucky, how do I get your job?”

        As Marnie says in her comment, it’s not all or nothing, black and white… can we live a portfolio life?

  • Karen Wilson

    I’m finally, finally working on my own adventure. It’s been a dream for a long time, but it’s going to happen because I’ve stopped being complacent and scared. Doing what is “expected” of us becomes an easy habit. I’m determined to break it. 

    • Chris Brogan

      Sounds excellent, Karen. How’s it going so far. : ) 

  • John Wall

    “Two roads diverged in a wood… I started a logging company and clear cut that MF”

    • Chris Brogan


  • Christy & Scott

    Amen. I get tired of people telling me how I should start my business based on how another big company started theirs. We are in two completely different places and we probably want different things. It’s not easy forging your own path because people will question you the entire way, but you have to do what makes you feel comfortable and trust your intuition.

    • Chris Brogan

      People can’t see it until you do it, sometimes. : ) 

  • Stevenrfrechette

    Boy did I ever need to hear this today….thanks a million.

    • Chris Brogan

      You’re welcome a billion! 

  • Ryan Hanley

    Comfortable isn’t always going to be comfortable…

    • Chris Brogan

      True that. : ) 

  • laineyd7

    Hmmm, I think this could also translate to ignoring Dow Jones ups and downs as a measure of the economy.

    Great advice, Chris – I love how you think. And that personalized “mini-bar” experience is a super idea!

    • Chris Brogan

      It’s not too far afield from that. Financial planners say not to follow the Dow. They say to follow the news and the trends. 

  • Billy Burle

    Great post – I’ve been a social media ninja – not because I’m good like a ninja but because I set up a company social media presence in near secrecy to prove the value to those in the company that don’t yet see it.  I  just added it to my job description without asking permission.  I will say in looking through the comments I’m impressed that you really have responded to every post – kudos to you Chris for practicing what you preach!!

  • Tim Hayden

    Love that you are recognizing “the small”, Chris. I am most impressed with the intimacy that mobile computing and smartphones are bringing against the popular trends and faith in mass social media.  
    There was never a better time than now to determine your niche, blaze your Path and be your own YOU.

  • Angela Moore

    I am afraid of everything but I am going there anyway.  Here I go! Fun post Chris, thanks!

  • Sgregory57

    Like the way you think.  Like the way you write.  Right now, in between ditching the old path and cutting out the new.  I need an industrial size lawn mower – there’s a lot of overgrowth to clear. Thanks Chris.

  • Ryan Biddulph

    The happiest walk a path way off the beaten path. Wisdom here, Chris. Do you. Be you. Step away, and prosper. No other way to live, really, since we are designed to step away, and trailblaze and form our own little – or big – niche, whatever business or opportunity we are engaged in. Thanks for sharing Chris.

  • eClaire Sowden

    Awesomeness! Here’s to blazing your own path, creating a new niche and making up words to describe it.
    I don’t feel like much of a trail-blazer, but I have to tell you the most exciting thing about doing my own thing means that my inner critic finds it harder to compare me againgst others. Whilst it’s still trying out comparisons, I’m happily making stuff up. (:

  • Rancor Infotech

    Really inspirational article, I think we all have options to choose but we generally choose the easy path as we don’t want to take risk and want to enjoy easy & happy life.

  • Bring Pretty Back

    This is one of the best things I have read in a very long time!
    Have a pretty day!

  • Kevin

    Hi Chris, Will you be on Gentlemint soon? On a side note, what size and type font are you using?  Derek Halpern said 16 is the new size 12

  • Shawn Lyles

    I agree with you! I believe that you should reach for what you want out of life. The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote is also one of my favorite quotes I try to live by.

  • Dr. Susan Giurleo

    I think choice is the problem. As you say in the comments, 3rd graders are trained to get permission (so are 12th graders and college students). So lots of people are not competent at choosing their own path. they have no practice is trying, failing, not feeling like a complete loser when they have to start again.  This is why we get all sorts of call to arms like this post, “Live free, choose, don’t wait for permission!!” And people get all worked up and excited, then go out for lunch at the chain sub shop and come back to the cube. Choosing is hard and scary and there are a million reasons to delay choice. What people need to do is practice walking alone in the woods and finding their way back to their car without cell phone service or a GPS.   Then they will be much better equipped to go the path not taken, yeah?

  • HRIS

    Life is all about choices. The thing is there are people who simply cannot live with the choices they make and oftentimes, this is the reason why they just let the circumstances lead them and adjust along the way. But this does not mean  that it should always be this way.

  • NetPunch

    Hell Yeah life is what we make it! Great post Chris as always you keep it rocking right…

  • Andrei McBreak

    The problem is if we really have a choice. But it also needs confidence in order to make the decision. It’s really great if we could have our dream job. We enjoy what we work and at the same time earn money. :)

    PS: The title of this blog has the same title with my favorite books which are the “Choose your own adventure” books. I don’t if you guys have read it.

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  • Sathish Arumugam

    Excellent Post…Thanks for sharing

  • Sophie Novak

    Amazing post. Agree completely. Fear is what prevents people to make the right choice or to get started.