During her freshman year in college, I got a call from my distraught daughter. She’d just heard from her bank and discovered she had an enormous overdraft fee. “Do you keep a balance in your checkbook?” I asked.
“What’s that?” she shot back.
“Oh, dear,” I said, “something else I forgot to teach you.”
It’s a common mistake to assume that everyone else knows the same things we do. It’s not just our children that are missing useful information, however. Chances are you know all sorts of things that would be helpful to others, but it doesn’t occur to you to share what seems ordinary. I’ve always thought that the real genius of Martha Stewart is her assumption that everyday living things are not common knowledge.
Sometimes we also need to be reminded of things we already know, but are neglecting. I thought of that recently when I was bemoaning the disappearance of independent adult ed programs around the country. For years, these folks were my favorite business partners and I held my seminars almost exclusively with them. It was a perfect match: they were small businessowners sharing ideas and information in their communities at a reasonable price.
As the Internet became a convenient go-to source, enrollments in these programs began to go down. Printing costs for their catalogs continued to go up. Eventually, many owners decided the time had passed to run their operations and they closed up shop.
I’m not sure it had to happen, but I think we who were involved all failed to remind people of something most of them already knew. That huge advantage that adult ed had over the Internet is this: something happens in a roomful of other people exploring the same subject that goes beyond simply getting information. That’s a dynamic that can’t exist any other way.
We must not assume that no matter how good our product or service is that it will market itself. We must not assume that everyone already knows how great our offerings are. And as entrepreneurs, we must not assume that what we learned about careers will translate into our joyfully jobless journey.
In his blog post, The Hierarchy of Success, Seth Godin points out that we almost never talk about the most essential things. He writes, “As far as I’m concerned, the most important of all, the top of the hierarchy is attitude. Why are you doing this at all? What’s your bias in dealing with people and problems?”
Obvious, isn’t it?