Peer Pressure Is Not a 4-Letter Word January 7, 2011Posted by craftlass in Uncategorized.
Remember those lectures in elementary school and junior high about peer pressure? They always focused on how it would be used to coerce you into drugs, alcohol, sex… basically, everything else that they gave big lectures on. It’s true, sometimes peer pressure is used that way. I would like to put forth the notion, though, that the problem is more about the peers than the pressure.
Over the past year or so I’ve become part of several new groups of people (well, new to me, at least). In other words, lots and lots of new peers to pressure me.
Most of the people who visit here probably know me through my song “Bake Sale for NASA”. Did you know that the song was almost never heard? I had quit everything to do with music and was utterly joyous about it. I was about to launch a new business I was really excited for. I was happily domesticated and thought my life was just about perfect, even if a little boring and lonely to someone looking in. I still enjoyed playing guitar, though, and there is nothing I can do about stopping the torrent of songs that pop into my head, including that one, they drive me crazy until I get them out. Just for fun I started going to The People’s Open Mic in my town, thinking that was as far as I’d go with it, no ambitions for more.
One night I told my friend Stephen Bailey about this new song and it’s inspiration and he immediately laid on the pressure for me to play it, even though it wasn’t quite done and I didn’t have it memorized or anything. I finally relented and it got a great reception. In a completely naïve way I tweeted about it (after all, I have a sort of diarrhea of the tweet, I can’t help over-sharing there) while I was buzzing over the cheers. A few tweeps requested to see the lyrics so I posted them on my old blog and was shocked by the positive responses. Jen Scheer immediately asked me to post them on the Space Tweep Society site and I marveled as it got dozens, then hundreds, of views right away. The feedback was overwhelming and the pressure was on again – this time to record the song.
I released it over Thanksgiving vacation, expecting almost nothing. After sending out one tweet that it had already appeared on Amazon I was again shocked, this time at how many people were retweeting about it and even writing their own tweets directing people to the download page. The song was selling, despite almost no marketing and definitely no planning or preparation.
Suddenly, my world was upside-down. I was doing interviews, getting to travel to amazing places, see things few get to see, and interacting with all sorts of people I would never have imagined would give me the time of day. The opportunities that came my way were beyond my wildest dreams and they just keep coming!
Peer pressure caused all of this.
What made the difference? The peers. This time the peers happen to be smart, talented, and fantastic people who I believe genuinely want the best for me, as I do for them. I hope, dearly, that any pressure I’ve laid on them is of the same positive variety. I am no longer shy with my pressure on others, either, when I see talent in someone I want to push him or her to full potential.
There’s a lot to be said for self-confidence and the fact that you need to push yourself, but sometimes you need a little bit more. No one is confident all the time and sometimes we are too wrapped up in our daily lives to see ourselves objectively. I do believe in myself overall but I didn’t feel particularly talented or clever when I wrote “Bake Sale for NASA” and I’ve never liked my voice (like most singers, I’ve found, but not great for the confidence). It took a few new friends, ones who were around just long enough to have faith in me but not long enough to lie to make me feel good. They would have had nothing to lose if they told me it was awful but they said the opposite and I believed them. They’ve continued to support me and our friendships have developed into ones I treasure.
I have learned the hard way that many people can’t be trusted and want nothing more than to bring you down and trample your dreams. Those peers lay on the dangerous pressures, whether it’s to do things you shouldn’t or not do the things you should.
So, what’s the overall lesson here? You will find peer pressure in any group, so surround yourself with the right people and make it a very good thing!
This was inspired by this fantastic post by Shannon Moore, which outlines some great examples of positive peer pressure that I’ve experienced as well, I probably could have written her post if I’d thought of it first. Thanks, Shannon, for the eloquent writing and plenty of inspiration beyond this piece.