That thing you dream of doing someday? That thing that you’re working on already, even if you’re just teething on the idea? Tell somebody about it.
Tell somebody, even if in a whisper, about that future and what it will look like: how the world will look; the person you will be; the dream.
“Somebody” is a person you trust, a person who matters to you and who matters to the idea. ”Somebody” will be touched by the idea and the brighter future the idea will create.
Even if it’s just one person, the act of saying the idea out loud puts it out there, makes it just a bit more real. The act of saying it out loud gives one person the chance to react to it, and when they don’t laugh out loud (because of course they won’t) you’ll believe just a bit more in something that seems impossible. And that might just give you that additional ounce of courage you need at the exact moment you need it.
Say it out loud.
(email counts too if that’s easier for you).
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“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’”
Baby carrots aren’t actually “baby carrots.” They’re cut carrots that were originally “seconds,” carrots that were too small or deformed to meet supermarket standards. One day Mike Yorosek , a carrot grower, had the clever idea of peeling and cutting them, putting them in a bag, and seeing if they would sell. (“Bunny balls,” his other idea, never caught on.) The rest is history.
Lately, things have gotten tough in the carrot business.
With the recession, people started spending less overall, and when spending picked up again, people bought less-expensive whole carrots. These end up in refrigerator purgatory – the vegetable drawer – where they’re not eaten. So while people HAVE carrots, they don’t eat them, and the carrot industry suffers.
Jeff Dunn, who until recently oversaw Coca-Cola’s North and South American operations, is the CEO of Bolthouse, one of two big growers in the North American carrot market. Faced with flat sales, Jeff is setting out on an aggressive new campaign and he’s totally ignoring all the “benefits” of his product. He’s not trying to market carrots as a better, healthier alternative to junk food; he’s trying to market carrots AS a junk food…catchy Cheetos-like mascot, crinkly packaging and all.
What can we learn from this carrot marketing fable?
A lot is made in the poverty-alleviation space of how we overlook and ignore the voice and the preferences of the beneficiaries of our work. Well-intentioned, we talk to people about health benefits, about money saved and doctors’ trips averted and days in school, all the while ignoring that this isn’t how you market anything well. Rich people buy shampoo because of a sense of aspiration, belonging, a story they’re telling about themselves to themselves and to others – why oh why would poor people think or act any differently? “Benefits” don’t sell.
This is happening for one of two reasons:
Ivory tower development practitioners don’t respect the poor, think of them as inanimate beneficiaries, and so practitioners don’t take real needs and aspirations into account.
Ivory tower development practitioners are crappy marketers.
(let’s leave aside, for now, that we need a whole lot less ivory tower and a whole lot more people from and of the communities being served).
It’s easy to tell the story of disrespect, but it might be that the people pushing hand-washing, bednets and solar-powered lanterns simply don’t have the same marketing chops as the folks in Atlanta (Coke).
It’s about time we look seriously at what products, outside of alcohol and tobacco, are being successfully marketed to the poor: cellphones, obviously, and mobile payments; maybe Lifebouey soap or microloans or kerosene (yes, kerosene too.)
It’s time to understand what sells and WHY, and it’s time to take the notion seriously that one of the best things we could do to make a positive impact is to get better at selling things – even free things – to people who need them. It’s time to take seriously the notion of BUILDING markets, and not just building solutions. And any efforts that lead with “it’s good for you” had better end up on the cutting room floor.
Whether or not you consider yourself a marketer or a salesperson, one way or another you’re telling stories all the time. It happened the moment you traded in your college rucksack for that nice Kenneth Cole leather briefcase; it happens each day when you talk (or don’t) in meetings, when you speak (or don’t) about topics that are a stretch for you, when you write an email (or don’t) in a voice that stands out from the crowd.
Your organization is also telling stories all the time, and the easiest, most obvious water-cooler scuttlebutt is about your story-reality gap: how the software suite that your company just touted in a $3 million, 30-second Superbowl ad is just a mash-up of so-so apps that were just rebundled and re-branded; how the ink wasn’t even dry on the financing plan when it was put in front of your Series B investors; how you don’t have everything just right yet, so how can your CEO be talking about the next phase of growth?
Here’s a dirty little secret: that gap is supposed to exist, it has to exist, it’s the gap between where you are now and where you’re going. And without this gap, you might never get there.
If your organization isn’t living this gap then it’s going too slowly, it’s dreaming too small, it’s getting too comfortable in its little sandbox. This doesn’t mean you always have to grow fast – in terms of revenues, employees, customers – but it means that you have the potential to teeter on the edge of exactly what you know you can deliver today and what you dream of delivering tomorrow. Daring to dream out loud is just the first step.
Never lie, and never ever make promises to your customers that you can’t keep (nothing spreads faster than stories about broken promises).
But the world understands that five-year plans are aspirational. You’ll never rally the troops with small dreams.
To get more sleep and always eat a proper breakfast and bring my lunch to work daily and rush less on my way to work and on my way home and everywhere in between.
To exercise more, practice yoga more and to meditate daily and to eat more fiber and green leafy vegetables.
To spend more time with family and friends, and also to build stronger relationships at work and for work.
To be on time for every meeting and also be open to spontaneous, creative, and urgent conversations.
To be slow to judgment, to anger and to frustration, and quick with a smile and a kind word.
To read all the interesting articles and videos and blog posts people send my way, and also the The Economist from cover to cover, and never to fall behind on email but not to be ruled by my Inbox or distracted by my iPhone.
To hit every deadline, strike everything off my to do list, to plan in advance and create clarity and inspiration and connection for those around me.
And to create a 30 hour day…
This year I resolve to be more accepting of myself and of others, to be more present, more calm, more generous, more open, and more at ease.
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My thanks to all of you for reading in 2009, and wishing you a year in which you continue to evolve into the person you were meant to be.