In 2018, Amazon released an advertisement for AWS-their online cloud platform. In their commercial, a narrator lists several ideas, tech, and entertainment that Amazon didn’t dream up- Yelp, Netflix, The Mars Dune Buggy, Airbnb, and Samsung-all recognizable examples of forward progress and innovation.
The advertisement ends, though, with a “reveal” wherein the service boasts that-though they weren’t the dreamers, per se-they are the “only cloud with the experience, opportunities, and know-how to make [their client’s dreams] happen.”
To my knowledge, AWS had never released a public, commercial advertisement like that, and it was as though Amazon’s first televised introduction to the world about their back-end web services said, “You don’t know this, but we’re running the world. We power everything you love.”
All of that to say, for every front-facing thing that we love, there is a lot of work going on behind-the-scenes. And it is the back-end support that makes what we end up seeing as valuable, possible.
I’ve done a ton of front-facing work. Part of the reason, I think, is because I am willing to take the heat that I enjoy creating. When we launched our ministry in 2002, combining the letters “XXX” with the word “church” was a dicey move. Seventeen years later, people still refer to me as the XXXchurch guy.
But there is no way our ministry would have lasted, let alone grown for 17 years without a countless number of people working with me behind the scenes…my wife Jeanette not the least of them.
In recent years, although I’ve remained “the face” of XXXchurch, I have had the opportunity to play more out-of-sight positions, as well, whether in a coaching role supporting other ministries and/or businesses, or helping entrepreneurs launch their ideas, or as a mastermind creator, etc.
It’s in the mastermind/group facilitator role that I was first thrown into the world of social media influencers. I had been working with one of these “influencers”– Jefferson Bethke (you might recognize that name thanks to his viral YouTube poem, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus, which now boasts over 33 million plays)–for close to four years by the time we put together a room of our own. We’ve worked on many online projects together–from digital products to physical book sales–and even launched a publishing company in hopes of working with other like-minded artists and solopreneurs.
The company, however, was just the two of us, and we weren’t able to scale it the way we wanted to. By the time it began to plateau, I had been a part of Jeff Walker’s Platinum Plus Mastermind Group, launched my own Collide Mastermind for small-business leaders, CEOs, and friends who I wanted to help, and decided to propose a shift in focus for our company:
What if, instead of publishing books for influencers who are spread out and disconnected from one another (and us…and the rest of the world), we were to bring them all into a small community wherein they could meet, learn from and build actual, real-life relationships?
Thus, we launched the Influencer Inner Circle and defined the purpose of the group as a means toward going far, together.
It’s a weird world, to be sure.
These people might be loosely connected by faith and social influence (I’d call it more of an awareness of one another’s existence, or a vague association based–at best–on a follower count).
These people “know” everyone, but they don’t know anyone.
The “top” as perceived by a half-million social-media followers, for all of its front-facing glitz and glam, can be–without relational intentionality–a lonely world. Many people wield enormous power and impact online, but their neighbors have absolutely no idea what it is that they really do. We wanted to create a room into which these influencers could come and feel understood, share secrets, build relationships, listen to and learn from experts, and create lifelong connections.
As it turns out, the majority of our attendees are couples, and they’re all trying to figure out how to function together beneath the enormity of the influence they hold. Also, though not true of each couple, the majority of the “status-holders” are women. The wife is the popular one in the relationship.
Which bring me to the fascinating role of The Instagram Husband.
Four years ago, The Mystery Hour released an ever-popular parody video titled Instagram Husband, filmed as a fake public service announcement to all the “human selfie sticks behind every cute girl on Instagram.” It’s hilarious. It went viral, and a quick look at the YouTube comments a mingled mass of typewritten joy, utter disgust, and some sarcastic combination of both–will give you an idea of the love/hate relationship that people have with the state of our society today…
“Thank you for bringing awareness to this terrible condition millions suffer from. ”
“Honestly, I find this video more disturbing than funny. I know it’s a joke, but it’s actually very true. It’s sad how wrapped up our society is in social media. Whatever happened to doing or eating something for the sake of enjoying it? Not for you to post it so you can gain more followers or likes…sad.”
“I found myself laughing so much. Then crying. ”
“The evolution of Husband: Hunt and build fires -> battle for power, glory, and freedom -> despair as his lady demands he takes pictures of her. ”
There are millions more to wade through. The gist of the video makes a mockery of this lifestyle, and though it’s certainly not for everyone, the truth is that in the age of social media, people really do make a significant living by posting pictures on the internet. It is a viable business model.
In January 2019, The Atlantic added to the narrative with an article titled The Instagram-Husband Revolution, claiming that “the men behind the camera are ready to step into the spotlight,” and that “while men used to be seen as begrudging participants, more so-called Instagram husbands are embracing the term and becoming an integral part of their partner’s business.”
There are plenty of these men/husbands in our Influencer Inner Circle. Their wives are brimming over with online popularity, and they’re trying to figure out what to do with it. Do they leave their jobs to help a growing (albeit volatile) business that seems to have fallen in their lap, or stay in something more stable? What about their career goals? What about their dreams?
One of the couples interviewed in The Atlantic’s article is in our group–Dani Austin and Jordan Ramirez. Dani is a fashion blogger, and her husband acknowledged the difficulty: “I was raised in a generation like, Here’s what the atomic household looks like. You’re supposed to go out and be a banker, doctor.”
What I see happening through our mastermind group, the relationships there, and the insights formed as a direct result of having now worked with many of these couples is that the ones who are really crushing it are the ones who have decided to take that proverbial step of faith and team up together.
I’ve been in the internet/online space for a long time. XXXchurch had hits before social reach even mattered, and way back then, my wife and I teamed up together to learn how to generate awareness for the things we believed to be necessary.
For me, then, this social-influencer group is one of the most fun things I’ve ever been a part of.
In our day and age, social reach is everything.
If you have it, you can do anything.
But that doesn’t mean you have the wherewithal to steward it wisely or foster it well.
I’m not the guy with a gazillion followers. I don’t have that reach, personally, but–while I don’t believe it is arrogance speaking, here–I do understand that world, and I thrive in these spaces. I have the skill set to complement the work that folks like Dani, Jordan, and the Bethke’s are doing. It is fun to share knowledge with others who not only need it but want it. Here’s a large part of why:
People get popular (or–if not popular–discover some measure of success) doing what they love to do. But growth, success and/or popularity involve maintenance, and it doesn’t take long before you’re stuck in the weeds, where working on “maintaining” your passion replaces all that you were passionate about in the first place.
I’ve had to do my fair share of learning about all of this, as well. I’ve come to discover that I enjoy strategizing with and talking to people, not sitting in my tiny bathroom-office and building funnels for them. I like helping people figure out how to thrive in what they actually love. That’s what I’m passionate about. That’s what I love. And no, that’ll likely never wholly extinguish days (or seasons) that we hate, but the point is that mutually-beneficial, complementary and/or appropriately delegated roles spur us along toward a life that isn’t bogged down by a dead-end cloud of dismay at what it has become.
The point is that we are better together.
I’ll be honest with you: as a mostly front-facing guy for most of my life, taking on roles as “behind-the-scenes” guy — what I am tempted to think of as the “back seat” — has been a humbling experience. Sometimes, I find myself in bouts of self-pity thinking, “What about me?”
I also think that — right or wrong, good or bad — many men in a male-dominant world sometimes struggle with entering into a more “support-based” role for (improperly thought of as “second-to”) their wives.
But I legitimately believe that it is better to give than to receive.
I wrote one of the guys in our group recently and asked him:
What if you being an “Instagram Husband” and supporting your wife’s endeavors ends up better positioning the both of you for success over the long-haul…maybe even for future generations on down the line? What if you took the knowledge you have gained from your work experience in the business world — your management capabilities, your corporate job, your brand development, your marketing know-how — and all of the knowledge that is currently at your disposal in order to partner together for the sake of your marriage, family, and kids?
The goal is never revenue, but a lifestyle. That being the case, what does it matter who takes the shot? So your wife scores the goal… and you made the assist. Perfect.
And who has any idea what the future holds?
Jeff Walker was a stay-at-home dad for years while his wife went out and worked for their bread. Everyone thought that he was a failure. He had $400 worth of disposable income for the entire year, and he used half of it to buy a Tony Robbins DVD, which taught him enough to start an income-generating-newsletter that has since evolved into a twelve-million-dollar per year business.
Being “jobless” wasn’t ideal back then, but in hindsight, not having one gave him the ability to devour what he needed to learn. That season has since become as close to priceless as he and his family can imagine.
Maybe you’re in something like that season, now (even though you’re far from jobless). Perhaps you feel like handing over the reins somehow makes you a failure.
It doesn’t, and support goes both ways.
To bring it all full-circle, you have the chance to be the AWS for your wife’s dreams — to participate in powering everything that she loves. To help create the systems that are necessary for her work to flourish. Maybe her weeds are your passions, and vice versa and collaboration means neither of you ends up with Goat’s head thistles sticking into your skin.
When all is said and done, I think that if you have the opportunity to work together and support one another–her for you or you for her–you should take it.
Beyond all of that, in the end–if you absolutely need the affirmation–your wife isn’t going to say “I” anyway…
She’s going to say, “we.”