What happened to my friends and me was incredibly unlikely. However, I do wish I had prepared in certain ways. If you happen to go viral, or your Tweet gets a ton of retweets, or your church happens to grow quickly, or you achieve some sort of stardom or fame, I would encourage a few simple steps to keep your sanity:
1. Have a plan for what you will do if you go viral.
I mean that. Think logically and carefully about what steps you would take and how you would realistically use your temporary stardom. Even if there is the remotest of chances of you ever going viral, at least put down in two to three minutes a basic sketch of what you would do. That way, if your world gets upended, you have at least one anchor point to grab on to.
2. Contemplate your death often.
Jonathan Edwards gives this advice, and so does Matthew McCullough in his book Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope. Thinking about death isn’t morbid; it is freeing. It reminds you that no matter what happens, you too will die. You face the same exact fate as every other living creature. It will humble you and it will bring a sense of gravitas to what you are actually doing.
3. Write down explicitly what your “why” is.
Simon Sinek talks about this in his business book Start with Why, but it is great advice in general — especially when your world goes crazy and you are given multiple options. Why do you want to accomplish x? Why are you here? Why did God place you on earth? I’d write this down as well and be specific. Seriously, don’t cop out with “to glorify God.” That’s a great broad answer, but you need to dig down and really ask yourself, “Why am I here in this particular vocation? Why do I do what I do?”
4. Learn to put down your smartphone.
I bought a white sticker to put on the back case of my smart phone so whenever I was having a conversation with someone and I was tempted to check my phone, I would see the sticker and stop. Do whatever it takes to be present and not immersed in the digital world. When technology begins to disrupt family time, lunch plans with friends or conversation, it’s time to put down the phone.
5. Be grateful.
It is a rare gift you have been given by God and the chance to impact more people. Use your platform wisely, humbly realizing that it is by God’s grace alone that you have this opportunity. It isn’t about you.
6. Be realistic.
Virality is like a virus in that it appears and can disappear just as quickly. Your stardom today may be forgotten just as quickly tomorrow. And that’s ok. Life is full of change. I’d memorize this mantra and repeat it to yourself daily: Your platform is not your identity. No matter how big or how small your following, your platform isn’t what makes you valuable or important in God’s economy.
7. Create lots of content.
Virality for the sake of going viral isn’t particularly helpful or profitable (financially that is) unless certain steps are taken. Your shelf life is going to be, at best, a couple weeks and then you will be forgotten. However, if you want to leverage your newfound platform, you absolutely must have a backlog of already created content. This way, you can position yourself as a thought leader early. This step allows you to segment a group of people from the initial flood of interest who are genuinely interested in what you make as a creator — not just whatever piece of content went viral.
For instance, Deck the Hallmark already had several podcast episodes created for people to download since we started recording during the summer months. We had a website to capture emails, an opt-in and an active Instagram and Twitter account. In the same way, have content you are constantly grinding out. Make sure it is helpful, consistent and accessible. Don’t try to sell yourself, but make quality content that meets a need. If you never go viral, at least you have a digital thumbprint of your work that you can potential repurpose later in life. If you hit it big, you’ll be grateful you did have this catalog of work to show.
A Closing Word
Your experience with a growing platform does not have to be a crisis or leave you scrambling like it did to me. But the discipline starts now, by crafting a deep, abiding relationship with our Savior through prayer, the spiritual disciplines and the meditation of Scripture. If that answer sounds overly “Sunday schoolish” (as it would have to me a year ago), I assure you it isn’t. Our faith is more than equipped to handle the onslaught of our fast-moving world. Our “old and slow” faith is the faith that endures, regardless of what this world throws at it.