It was 4:30 am. I was trying to find my way up the trail in the dark. Eight miles into the wilderness and many more from Durago, Colorado, the path in the San Juan Range of the Rockies was unclear. I have never relied on GPS to find my way in the backcountry. Why, you may wonder, would anyone not use technology to find their way in the dark? Here’s my answer. Dependence on technology makes us weak. It makes us soft. We lose certain skills that we can otherwise develop if we do not have it available. Self reliance heightens our senses to our surroundings.

Colorado trailI like to say that any adventure worth taking cannot control for every possible variable. The nature of true adventure is risk. And today we do everything within our power to minimize risk. That’s not to say climbing a high peak without a helmet; headlamp or proper gear is wise. Rather, it is to know what equipment we need for the journey. Writing and promoting also carry certain risks and uncertainties. We often feel like we are trying to find our way in the dark – stumbling ahead and hoping we are on the right path.

As people who do interviews to promote books, ministries, or other products, the absolute answers for getting it right are elusive. You can listen to countless voices that will tell you what you ought to do – develop a platform by building your Facebook presence, join a speaker’s bureau, or attend a conference. It can be exhausting and confusing. We want simple answers. While bolstering your speaking and Facebook (social media) presence is important, they are not a panacea for success.

Don Otis speakingMost of us have limited budgets, time, and energy. If you don’t have a big church or a back-to-back speaking schedule, go for the obvious, the chance to tell your story. You can do this on radio or television, or on social media. The bottom line is that you are the one in control of your message. The best results always come for people who are good storytellers, who are enthusiastic, and who connect well with an audience. As Dr. Jim Coffield says, “We think in stories. We remember stories.”

If you are looking for GPS coordinates in marketing, you won’t find them. Anyone who tells you they know what these are is trying to sell you something or . . . they are unaware. What I can tell you is that proximity to the audience you are trying to reach matters. And your story matters – how you tell it and how you connect it to your audience. Focus on your message. Focus on telling and retelling your story. Proximity to an audience is always good but we can’t sit down one-on-one with everyone we want to reach. That’s where public speaking or using broadcast media appearances can make a difference.

By the way, I did eventually find the trail. After heading in the wrong direction for two miles, I intuitively sensed I was on the wrong path and turned around. Even as authors we do this now and then. We take a step back and ask ourselves, “Are we heading in the right direction?” But to redouble our efforts when we’re doing the wrong thing never gets us where we need to be.