Recently a new reader stumbled across my blog and later on his own blog described me as a “New Age Californian.”
I wonder what he what conclusion he'd have reached if he knew that the day before between meetings in San Francisco I’d ducked into a bookstore to read Forbes magazine's annual billionaires issue.
Or what he would make of the fact that I’d lived in the election-map “blue states” of Utah and Florida 28 of the last 30 years? Or that I’d moved to Silicon Valley two years prior to work on business plan due diligence with some colleagues who broker deals between venture capitalists and early-state start-ups. Ah, then would I be a bourgeois capitalist?
Basically, he was scanning his repertoire of worldviews and his frames of references to "figure" me out. I'm only picking on him because it is the umpteenth time of late I've personally experienced this pinning down.
The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. - Paul Cezanne
We all do this all the time. One of the functions of the brain is to filter and pattern match: oh, yes table, not new information. No need to process its texture, the craftsmanship, the woodgrain, or to touch this one. Table, check, done.
Marketers are simply notorious for it: we segment, and slice and dice the population and make broad-ranging assumptions. We make up stories about sets of customer...
And so when a new customer comes in the door, or sends an email, or is sitting down in the one-on-one interview, are we really listening and directly experiencing them? Most of the time we've lazily plucked up an idea in the trusty story grid in our head. Ah yes, I've seen this type before...
"[We] must instead focus on what people believe and then work to tell them stories that add to their worldview." - Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars (disclaimer: quote may differ in final published version)
Our mind is off and racing: what's a great story to tell to a New Age Californian? Sustainably grown crystals and sage? Bonk! Wrong. You'd never get anywhere marketing to me with any New Age story.
Yesterday I stumbled onto a little gem of a book by Anthony de Mello on clear seeing and clear thinking.
If you wish to get in touch with the reality of a thing, the first thing you must understand is that every idea distorts reality and is a barrier to seeing reality. The idea is not the reality, the idea "wine" is not wine, the idea "woman" is not this woman. If I really want to get in touch with the reality of this woman I must put aside my idea of womanness or Indianness and experience her in her thisness, her concreteness, her uniqueness. Unfortunately most people do not take the trouble to see things like this in their uniqueness; they just see the words or the ideas...
The idea therefore is a barrier to the perception of reality. - The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello
"The stories we tell ourselves are lies that make it far easier to live in a very complicated world.
We tell ourselves stories that can't possibly be true, but believing those stories allows us to function. We know we're not telling ourselves the whole truth, but it works, so we embrace it.
We tell stories to our spouses, our friends, our bosses, our employees and our customers. Most of all, we tell stories to ourselves." - Seth Godin, All Marketers are Liars (warning: this quote may differ in final published version)
Before we concoct stories - and many marketers are fairly proficient at creating, telling and spreading stories - we could use a refresher course in observation and listening.
Observe all men, thyself most. - Benjamin Franklin
Observation is especially key at the fuzzy front end of marketing - at the innovation stage. Even more cost-draining and time-consuming than the wrong sales pitch is if you built your entire product on the wrong premise.
Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes. - Thomas Wentworth Higginson
One of the most challenging skills in the world has got to be seeing things from the perspective of the customer, the employee, the partner, the supplier, the person sitting on the other side of the table from you – because we are constantly filtering everything through our own perspective and making unconscious, assumptive leaps about others based on our perspectives, our decision-making framework, our autobiographies, our experiences with others beforehand, and our frame of reference.
I made a promise to keep a watch over myself, to remain master of myself, so that I might become a sure observer. - Paul Gauguin
This is a big topic and this post can't do justice to it. One helpful practice is to practice observing - versus thinking - when you are in any one-on-one with another person. It's called bare attention by Buddhists. Observing is not thinking. You note, register, observe mentally what's arising moment by moment. You're not thinking "about", needing to do something "with", and most importantly not comparing or putting things in relation to anything. You can always do the analysis later.
Observation is hard. Back when I was a computer programmer if I was stumped with a problem or a bug that was kicking my ass the trick was to show the code to a colleague. More often than not, the missing semicolon was plainly obvious to her. Yeah, obvious to fresh eyes. You'd scoured that code line by the line so many times you weren't registering it anymore. You had conceptions about the code in front of you - but you'd ceased to see it itself anew each time.
If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason. - Sir Isaac Newton
I've written about the first day of the Advance:
I noticed the slower I walked the more alive the surroundings became. When I quickened the pace where individual grass blades began to blur my meandering mind filled my attention with its to-do lists, plans for dinner, the outline for my evening talk, and anything it could muster to drag me away from the present moment.
This is what I noticed the slower I walked: the simple aching beauty of a sprawling meadow dotted with lumbering California oak trees pierced a veil of indifference within me which touched a spot that brought me to the edge of tears. Tears of joy.
The next day I repeated the same trail, and the following. With each successive day it was harder and harder to feel and see that fresh aliveness. Routine had set in. I'd seen this, my mind declared, and I'd seen that before too. I was soon checking out. It was easy to let my mind meander to the point that I wasn't seeing anything at all but living in head again.
There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago. - J. Robert Oppenheimer
Fresh perception and observation is not a wistful dream. But it does require vigilance not to lazily fall back into stored patterns rather than the wonder before our eyes right now.
You can observe a lot just by watching. - Yogi Berra
. . . integral wisdom involves a direct participation in every moment: the observer and the observed are dissolved in the light of pure awareness, and no mental concepts or attitudes are present to dim that light. - Lao Tzu