Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.
seths.blog/subscribe

Processing feedback

This is one of the most important untaught skills available to each of us.

Three times in a row, a salesperson is rejected by one prospect after another.

A customer complains to a company that its website is not working with her browser.

An editor rejects the manuscript from a first-time novelist…

What to do?

How do we deal with the troll who enjoys creating uncertainty? Or the person carrying around a bagful of pain that she needs to share? How do we differentiate between constructive, useful insight and the other kind? How do we decide which feedback is actually a clue about how our core audience feels, and which is a distraction, a shortcut on the road to mediocre banality?

If you listen to none of the feedback, you will learn nothing. If you listen to all of it, nothing will happen.

Like all life skills, there's not a glib answer.

But we can definitely ask the questions. And get better at the art of listening (and dismissing). 

The place to start is with two categories. The category of, "I actively seek this sort of feedback out and listen to it and act on it." And the category of, "I'm not interested in hearing that." There is no room for a third category.

Numbers (and the magic of measuring the right thing)

What you measure usually gets paid attention to, and what you pay attention to, usually gets better.

Numbers supercharge measurement, because numbers are easy to compare.

Numbers make it difficult to hide.

And hence the problem.

Income is easy to measure, and so we fall into the trap that people who make more money are better, or happier, or somehow more worthy of respect and dignity.

Likes are easy to measure, so social media becomes a race to the bottom, where the panderer and the exhibitionist win.

Five star reviews are easy to measure, so creators feel the pressure to get more of them.

But wait!

What does it mean to 'win'? Is maximizing the convenient number actually going to produce the impact and the outcome you wanted?

Is the most important work always the most popular? Does widespread acceptance translate into significant impact? Or even significant sales? Is the bestseller list also the bestbook list?

Who are these reviews from? Are they based on expectations (a marketing function) or are they based on the change you were trying to make? It turns out that great books and great movies get more than their fair share of lousy reviews–because popular items attract more users, and those users might not be people you were seeking to please.

Or consider graduation rates. The easiest way to make them go up is to lower standards. Or to get troublesome students to transfer to other institutions or even to get them arrested. When we lose track of what's important in our rush to keep track of what's measurable, we fail.

The right numbers matter. A hundred years ago, Henry Ford figured out how to build a car far cheaper than his competitors. He was selling the Model T for a fraction of what it cost other companies to even make one of their cars. And so measuring the cost of manufacture became urgent and essential.

And farmers discovered the yield was the secret to their success, so tons per acre became the most important thing to measure. Until people started keeping track of flavor, nutrition and side effects.

And then generals starting measuring body count…

When you measure the wrong thing, you get the wrong thing. Perhaps you can be precise in your measurement, but precision is not significance.

On the other hand, when you are able to expose your work and your process to the right thing, to the metric that actually matters, good things happen.

We need to spend more time figuring out what to keep track of, and less time actually obsessing over the numbers that we are already measuring.

Abstaining

Not voting leads to an outcome as much as voting does. You're still responsible, even if you didn't actively participate.

In any situation, not stating your opinion allows things to move forward. Silence is not nothing, it is still an action. 

No sense hiding, from yourself or anyone else.

It feels risky

Risk and the appearance of risk aren't the same thing.

In fact, for most of us, they rarely overlap.

Realizing that there's a difference is the first step in making better decisions.

Awareness, trust and action

Marketing outreach (ads, PR, sponsorships, etc.) is not about one thing. It's about three things.

Awareness is a simple ping: Oh, she's running for President. Oh, they just opened one in our neighborhood. Oh, they're having a sale.

Trust is far more complicated. Trust comes from experience, from word of mouth, from actions noted. Trust, amazingly, also seems to come from awareness. "As seen on TV" is a perverse way to claim trust, but in fact, when people are more aware of what you do, it often seeps into a sort of trust.

And action is what happens when someone actually goes and votes, or buys something, or shows up, or talks about it. And action is as complex as trust. Action requires overcoming the status quo, action means that someone has dealt with the many fears that come with change and felt that fear and still done something.

Many people reading this are aware that they can buy a new mattress, and might believe it's worth the effort, but don't take action.

Many people reading this are aware that they can buy a tool, get some treatment, visit a foreign land, listen to a new recording… but action is the difficult part.

Action is quite rare. For most people, the story of 'later' is seductive enough that it appears better to wait instead of leaping.

As a marketer, then, part of the challenge is figuring out which of the three elements you need the most help with, and then focus on that…

I am not a brand

You are not a brand.

You're a person.

A living, breathing, autonomous individual who doesn't seek to maximize ROI or long-term brand value.

You have choices. You have the ability to change your mind. You can tell the truth, see others for who they are and choose to make a difference.

Selling yourself as a brand sells you too cheap.

(Actually, if a brand is nothing but the promises made and kept and the expectations we have, then yes, I guess you are a brand. The modern kind, the brand where connection matters a lot more than ads or hype.)

Apocalypse soon

It's a bug in our operating system, and one that's amplified by the media.

I'm listening to a speech from ten years ago, twenty years ago, forty years ago… "During these tough times… these tenuous times… these uncertain times…" And we hear about the urgency of the day, the bomb shelters, the preppers with their water tanks, the hand wringing about the next threat to civilization.

At the same time that we live in the safest world that mankind has ever experienced. Fewer deaths per capita from all the things that we worry about.

Risky? Sure it is. Every moment for the last million years has been risky. The risk has moved from Og with a rock to the chronic degeneration of our climate, but it's clear that rehearsing and fretting and worrying about the issue of the day hasn't done a thing to actually make it go away. Instead, we amplify the fear, market the fear and spread the fear as a form of solace, of hiding from taking action, of sharing our fear in a vain attempt to ameliorate it.

When we get nostalgic for past eras, for their culture or economy or resources, it's interesting that we never seem to get nostalgic for their fears.

The foggy mirror

Most people can't resist a mirror. It makes the wait for an elevator more palatable, and we can't help checking–how do I look?

In many ways, though, this is futile, because we can never know how we look through other people's eyes.

No one else has lived your life, heard all of your jokes, experienced your disappointments, listened to the noise in your head. As a result, no one else sees you (and your actions) quite the way you do.

And, to magnify the disconnect, every single person has their own narrative, so even when two people see you at the same time, they have different interpretations of what just happened, what was just said.

The same goes for brands and organizations. No one has experienced your brand or your product the way you have. They don't know about the compromises and choices that went into it. They don't understand the competitive pressures or the mis-steps either.

Even the best quality mirror tells you very little. It doesn't make a lot of sense to focus on this sort of grooming if you want to understand what customers or friends are going to see. Far better to watch what they do.

(But yes, you do have a little green thing stuck in your teeth).

Finding your big magic

Launching today, a new master class from Elizabeth Gilbert.

Liz Gilbert is a gift. Hew new book Big Magic is a generous beam of light, a chance to shake off the ennui and fear that holds us back.

Last month, I was thrilled to be able to work with her on a new short Udemy course. It's launching today. The course runs on Udemy, and if you become part of + Acumen, it's only $29. I'm grateful to her for her energy and insight, and for donating her time.

I think you'll be changed by the time you spend with her as well.

Liz has the extraordinary ability to help us find the genius within, to dig a bit deeper than we thought we could dig.

The single four-minute riff in this course about hobbies and careers is worth the entire cost of the course. As I was standing in the corner of the room, feeling my energy and optimism rise, I realized I was witnessing something special. 

You can get the discount by joining + Acumen.

My leadership course which kicked off the series is still available. Details are here and the discount is here.

Thank you for leaping, and for supporting this mission. So far, the long-form + Acumen courses have already engaged more than a quarter of a million people. This new series of mini-courses has, thanks to you, raised more than $125,000 to pay for the production of even more courses that will help people see a little farther and contribute a little more.  Worth noting that Jo-Ann Tan and Amy Ahearn at Acumen have made huge contributions to making this change a reality. 

Time to leap.

Sharpening failure

Losing the election by ten votes or by a million–which is worse?

"Missed it by that much," is a way to amplify how we feel when we don't succeed. So, when we miss the bus by just a few seconds, or finish a math proof just behind the competition–we can beat ourselves up about this for years.

Much rarer, it seems, is the opposite. It's hard to find people still congratulating themselves after winning an election by just a few votes or making a plane by a step or two. Nice that it happened, but we ask what's next, where's the next crisis?

We have a name for someone who expects the worst in the future. Pessimism is a choice. But we don't seem to have a name for someone who describes the past with the same negative cast.

It's a dangerous trap, the regular reminders of how we've failed, but how close we've come to winning. It rarely leads us to prepare more, to be more adroit or dedicated. Instead, it's a form of hiding, a way to insulate ourselves from the next, apparently inevitable failure.

The universe is not laughing at us. It doesn't even know we exist. 

Go ahead and celebrate the wins, then get back to work. Same for mourning the losses. All we can do is go forward.

 

This site uses cookies.

Learn more