A recent conversation with an old friend about “the joys of getting older” had me smiling and also reflecting on human nature.
Regardless of the challenge or difficulty, there seems to be a certain level of relief, and even motivation, when we realize that others face similar struggles.
In this case, we were commiserating about the various diet and lifestyle changes that our “mid-life” status required. We also kidded about the joys of random aches and pains that we self-diagnose.
“Okay, what did I do this week that would make this part of my body hurt today?”
I kidded that my general rule was that I didn’t start worrying until something hurt for more than a week. But, by then, I often get used to the pain and figure, “Hey, I guess that’s part of my new normal.”
My friend laughed, “The sad part is I totally relate.”
That said, I’m not taking a pro-whining stance. I’d suggest there is a big difference between having a “pity party” with peers and learning to laugh together at common challenges.
One brings you down. The other reminds you that struggles, challenges, and setbacks are part of the human (and business) condition.
One of my favorite suggestions to middle managers who ask for tips on motivating their teams has surprised a few. I tell them to have some of their top performers share a story or two with their peers.
The only catch is that for every success story, you need to hear a good failure story, as well.
Yes, stories of successes are important. There are lots of “how to’s” in those stories.
But stories of setbacks can often resonate even more. There is power in being reminded that the current “winners” around us don’t always win.
There is a tendency when faced with difficulties and setbacks to begin feeling somehow singled out.
We think that others are having a far easier time… or lots more luck. And sure, some folks may (at times) have it easier… or be on a “lucky” streak.
But over time, you’ll almost always see that our top performers don’t succeed because they have fewer setbacks. On the contrary, they almost always have more.
But they recognize setbacks, difficulties, stretches of bad luck, etc. for what they are. They’re part of the price we pay to find eventual success.
Strive to keep that in mind, and your long term diagnosis for success will be much healthier.
I had the opportunity of attending a conference in Las Vegas for a few days early last week. As it turned out, one of the huge auto auctions run by the Barrett-Jackson Company was being held in the same conference center.
Alas, my search for the tan 1969 Plymouth Fury III of my youth continues. (Sadly, that’s not as much of a joke as it should be.) Of course, if I do find one, I’ll need to expand our garage. That thing was as big as a living room.
Barrett-Jackson had large displays set up to sell apparel. The collections of shirts, jackets, caps, etc. was quite extensive.
After the third or fourth time I stopped by, I joked with the lady running the stand that they had an inventory problem.
When she asked what I meant, I told her, “You guys have too much selection. People are overwhelmed.”
She laughed and said, “You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me we have so much stuff that they can’t make up their minds.”
I asked, “How often do people say that they can’t decide and that they’ll come back later?”
“All the time,” she said.
I followed, “Do they all come back?”
She answered, “Oh, no. I guess some people just like looking.”
Truth is, maybe she’s right. Lots of folks like to shop without buying.
But too much selection can actually have a negative influence on customers’ abilities and willingness to make a decision.
Studies going back a few decades have shown that customers consistently say they prefer larger selections.
However, when given too many options, their willingness to actually make purchase decisions goes down.
Concurrently, worry and regret over the decisions they do make increases.
I’m not suggesting that we should adopt Henry Ford’s “menu” approach: “People can have the Model T in any color - so long as it's black.”
But there is something to be said for clarity.
And while few of us have the authority to reduce our product menu, we do have the ability to reduce how many things we are actively marketing and promoting at one time.
But that doesn’t mean less marketing activity. Some find success changing their marketing pieces throughout the day to match the demographics in their midst at different times.
Clear messaging is clearly better in our marketing cluttered world. How clear is yours today?