61. The Simple Things in Life
We live in a complex world, and I'm a complex girl (actually, I'm not even a girl but how could I ignore a Madonna reference there)
I just moved my newsletter to Substack. But you probably figured that out cause, well, you’re reading from it right now.
Substack, if you’re not in the know, is a relatively new platform for hosting newsletters. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s growing like hotcakes (which may be a completely incorrect way of describing hotcakes but, regardless, Substack is turning into a pretty large hotcake what with their $650m valuation and all)
And, yes, this is all going to come around to you in the end, so stop your yappin for a minute and let me finish my thought.
Substack makes it super simple for anybody to record their thoughts, distribute them and build a following. They do one thing (newsletter management) and they do it well.
They aren’t a marketing platform. They aren’t an email platform. They don’t offer to walk your dog and scoop it’s poop. They help people manage newsletters. That’s it.
Substack, in a funny way, reminds me of the fidget spinner.
I’m not sure why it reminds me of the fidget spinner but after I finished the paragraphs above about Substack and kept typing, the next thing I know I’m writing about fidget spinners.
(It’s crowded living here with all the voices in my head.)
Like many others, at first I didn’t understand the allure of the fidget spinner. It seemed idiotic to me. Then I tried one. And I really liked it.
The fidget spinner does one thing - it spins.
You hold it between two fingers and push. I have to admit, the torque caused by the spin of the ball bearings feels pretty cool between your fingers.
Maybe I’m overly fidgety, but the spinning thingy sure became pretty addictive to me. And pretty calming. I don’t know if I fidgeted less. I was too busy spinning to notice.
So why has the fidget spinner taken a top spot in this convo, aside from the obvious need of me being able to say “torque” and “ball bearings” in one sentence?
An ADD World
We are in a world that tends to overcomplicate things. Every new car or computer or vacuum cleaner has more features than the last. I own a Bluetooth egg carton. When I’m at the store, the egg carton in my fridge reminds me if I need more eggs. That, my friends, is how complicated our world has become.
(Wait, did I just admit to 9,000 people that I have a connected egg carton? Oh crap. That’s gonna come back to haunt me.)
The Twitterization of America has created an ADD culture. If you can’t get your point across in 2 seconds, you’ve lost the attention of your potential customer.
The slogans of the most popular companies in the US are all less than 6 words. We, as a people, simply don’t have the time or attention for anything more than 6 words.
I remember just a couple of decades back, I would spend three hours of my Sunday morning reading the entire New York Times, cover to proverbial cover. Now? I scan through digital headlines in 20 seconds to see if anything jumps out beyond a Buzzfeed link prompting me to figure out which Harry Potter house I belong, then I roll on with my day.
Simple Is as Simple Does
Listen, I’m not known as one to keep things short. But let’s consider this as a “do as I say, not as I do” type of thought process.
The most successful brands know their message and deliver it with efficiency. Which brings us right back to Substack and the fidget spinner. For both, their value proposition is simple and straightforward .
A platform for your newsletter.
A piece of plastic that calms you down.
Not every company presents a proposition as straightforward as these two. A lot of companies - and individuals - want to prove that they can do everything. And they try to prove it all at once in one big mash-up of so many messages there is nothing to hold on to in my 2 second peruse. I fully admit that I’ve fallen victim to doing the exact same thing in the past.
Now, when I speak with a company regurgitating everything they do into one messy message, I will ask them to tell me the one single thing they do better than everyone else.
Here’s the thing: they usually know the answer and can tell me right away. “Then just talk about that one thing”, I say. “People want your product because of that one thing you do best. That’s your only message.”
What You Do Best Isn’t Always What You Do
Here’s the secret… what you do best, as a company, brand or individual, is not necessarily what you do. Meaning the functional value of the product you deliver isn’t always what you do best. Granted, sometimes it is. Take Substack, for instance. They are a platform to build and manage newsletters. That’s what they do and they arguably do it better than everyone else.
But what the fidget spinner? The thing that the fidget spinner actual does (spin) isn’t what they do best. Instead, what the fidget spinner does best is helping people relax and stay focused.
Similarly, when we look at the endurance industry, what event companies do best isn’t always the event. I’d argue that what the Boston Marathon does best is inspire people. What Run Disney does best is create happiness. On the other hand, what the Big Sur Marathon does best is an incredible course.
The Best of You
Individuals are not that different than companies when it comes to whatever the hell I’m rambling on about here. Whether you like it or not, we all have an individual brand and if you want to understand who you are it might be good to explore what you do best. Like companies, what we each do best is not always what we functionally do, but who we are.
As for me, I lead. I am a strategic, hands-on leader. That’s what I do best.
Notice, I don’t have to say I’m empathetic and creative and supportive and operational and strategic and data driven and technology-minded and and and…
We don’t have time in our society for our brains to assemble all of that nonsense.
I don’t care what your role is or where you are in your career - simplifying your message is a really good exercise. If for nothing else then for you to understand your strengths.
I was talking with a guy the other day and asked him what he does for a living. “I make complex processes simple,” he told me.
In just six words I came to know a lot about him and his strengths. He’s clearly an operational thinker, he’s an organizer, he probably oversees other people. I was intrigued.
As I asked more, I learned that he is a warehouse manager. (Boom! I win!)
Imagine if he just told me “I’m a warehouse manager”. That wouldn’t tell me anything about who he is or what he does best. I’d probably then steer the conversation into forklifts and my desire to become a licensed forklift driver cause that just seems like a cool thing to check off the bucket list.
Instead, I didn’t have to succumb him to that nonsense, because I immediately became curious of the complexities he deals with and the simplicity he creates. In his 6 words, I was hooked.
So anyway, simplicity, don’t muck things up. All this to just let you know that the I Am Jeff newsletter is now on Substack.
Thanks for reading. Like what I wrote? Please click the like-heart-button-thingy. And give me your thoughts (or what you do best) in the comments below.