When it comes to art, to human work that changes people, the mass market is a fool. A dolt. Stupid.
If you wait for the market to tell you that you're great, you'll merely end up wasting time. Or perhaps instead you will persuade yourself to ship the merely good, and settle for the tepid embrace of the uninvolved.
Great work is always shunned at first.
Would we (the market) benefit from more pandering by marketers churning out average stuff that gets a quick glance, or would we all be better off with passionate renegades on a mission to fulfill their vision?
There's plenty of controversy about the new full body scanners that the TSA is installing at airports, and plenty more about the way some TSA agents are handling those that choose to opt out.
The heart of the matter comes from the fact that the TSA often doesn't understand that it is in show business, not security business. A rational look at the threats facing travelers would indicate that intense scrutiny of a four ounce jar of mouthwash or aggressive frisking of a child is a misplaced use of resources. If the goal is to find dangerous items in cargo or track down Stinger missiles, this isn't going to help.
Instead, the mission appears to be twofold:
1. Reassure the public that the government is really trying and
2. Keep random bad actors off guard by frequently raising the bar on getting caught
The challenge with #1 is that if people believe they're going to get groped, or get cancer, or have to wait in line even longer on Thanksgiving, they cease to be on your side. Particularly once they realize how irrational it is to try to stop a threat after it's already been perpetrated. (Imagine the havoc if someone had a brassiere-based weapon…)
And the challenge of #2 is that the cost of raising the bar gets higher and higher.
Smart marketers know how to pivot. I think it's time to do that. Start marketing the idea that flying is safe, like driving, but it's not perfect, like driving. If someone is crazy enough to hurt themselves or spend their life in jail, we're not going to stop them, and even if we did, they'd just cause havoc somewhere else. So instead of spending billions of dollars a year in time and money pretending, let's just get back to work.
Every project (product, play, event, company, venture, non profit) has a million tasks that need to be done, thousands of decisions, predictions, bits of effort, conversations and plans.
But what's the hard part?
The CEO spends ten minutes discussing the layout of the office with the office manager. Why? Was that a difficult task that could only be done by her? Unlikely.
The founder of a restaurant spends hours at the cash register, taking orders and hurrying the line along… important, vital, emotional, but hard? Not if we think of hard as the chasm, the dividing line between success and failure. No, the hard part is raising two million dollars to build more stores. Hard is hiring someone better than you to do this part of the job.
Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete.
Don't tell me you want to launch a line of spices but don't want to make sales calls to supermarket buyers. That's the hard part.
Don't tell me you are a great chef but can't deal with cranky customers. That's the hard part.
Don't tell me you have a good heart but don't want to raise money. That's the hard part.
Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts. They frighten us.
Does a stressful event start a cascade that ends up making even you more stressed?
If an authority figure corrects your behavior, does the intervention lead you to push back and make the behavior worse?
Does a failure set you on a path to more failure?
These questions seem philosophical or even paradoxical, but in fact I think they get to the heart of why some people succeed and others don't. We can choose to create cycles that move us up or endure cycles that drag us down.
A cop hassles a teenager who is acting out. The kid escalates. The cop escalates. Someone gets shot.
A sales call is going poorly because the prospect doesn't perceive the salesperson is confident. She responds by becoming even less confident. No sale.
A mistake is made. The stakes go up. Rattled, another mistake is made, and then again, until failure occurs…
James Bond is a hero because the tougher the world got, the cooler he got. Symphony conductors don't endure the pressure of a performance, they thrive on it.
If being a little behind creates self-pressure that leads to stress and then errors, it's no wonder you frequently end up a lot behind. If the way you manage your brand inevitably leads to a ceaseless race to the bottom, it's no wonder that you're struggling. A small bump gets magnified and repeated until it overwhelms.
Customer service falls apart when mutual escalation or non-understanding sets in. Management falls apart when power struggles or miscommunication escalate. Education falls apart when students respond to negative tracking by giving up.
Someone who gets better whenever he fails will always outperform someone who responds to failure by getting worse. This isn't something in your DNA, it's something you can learn or unlearn.
The appropriate response is not to try harder, to bear down and grind it out. The response that works is to understand the nature of the cycle and to change it from the start. You must not fight the cycle, you must transform it into a different cycle altogether. It's a lot of work, but less work than failing.
When the lizard pushes you to recoil in fear, that's your cue to embrace the trembling fear and do precisely the opposite of what it demands. This won't work the first time or even the tenth, but it's the path to an upcycle, one where each negative input leads to more productivity, not less.
The paradox of an instant, worldwide, connected marketplace for all goods and services:
All that succeeds is the unreasonable.
You can get my attention if your product is unreasonably well designed, if your preparation is unreasonably over the top, if your customer service is unreasonably attentive and generous and honest. You can earn my business or my recommendation if the build quality is unreasonable for the intended use, if the pricing is unreasonably low or if the experience is unreasonably over-the-top irresistible given the competition.
Want to get into a famous college? You'll need to have unreasonably high grades, impossibly positive recommendations and yes, a life that's balanced. That's totally unreasonable.
The market now expects and demands an unreasonable effort and investment on your part. You don't have to like it for it to be true.