Saturday, June 18, 2005

What's in it for Me?

It's funny, but often it's possible to succeed without focusing solely on the bottom line or "what's in it for me". This seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but I have several examples at hand where serving a greater good and staying focused on a larger vision have reaped far greater rewards as a side benefit than they ever could have gained by making the rewards themselves the end goal.

For instance, as I sit and write this, I am listening to KOTO radio in Telluride, Colorado, where I've had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time over the years. For a couple of months, I even had a weekly radio show of my own, there, called Weather or Not. And I was on the air with them again later as part of The Long and the Short of It team the year that tall person and I and the small person we had with us at the time got lucky enough to be asked one New Year's Eve (out of desperation, but who's complaining!) to take the 8-midnight shift. But I digress...

From 1200 miles away, I am listening to a great bluegrass show on KOTO - live, no less - that I'd probably have a tough time getting tickets for, were I to be fortunate enough to actually be in Telluride. And there is no charge for this. Why does the station do this? Mightn't it eat into ticket sales, if people have only to listen to the radio or a streamed broadcast on the internet? And what's this... if I was there, I'd even have access to free wireless for internet surfing? What are they thinking?!

There may be a few people taking advantage of these free opportunities without contributing financially in any way (what a waste of a revenue opportunity!). I bet, though, that there are enough of us (I gave to KOTO, for instance), who willingly send money to support a worthy cause. And there are others who may be listening to the show streamed over the internet this year and next year, may consider heading to Telluride to hear the show in person instead. This is a very big show. The producers and the radio station are not hurting themselves at all by focusing on a bigger picture. If they'd been focusing on how to ensure revenue for every last effort and activity, they'd be stepping over dollars to grasp for nickels.

I've also become acquainted with a couple of companies that make teleconference bridge lines available for free. This seems odd until I stop to realize that this is a loss leader. They are literally banking on the fact that a significant percentage of those who take advantage of this free service will stick around and pay for some of their premium services. Blogger does the same thing. And of course, they're right. I do plan to pay for the premium services when I'm ready for them.

I learned this concept best from a local fishmonger that has since become a well-known tourist destination at the Pike Place Market. Their larger vision? It's to become world famous. This vision has dictated their decisions far more than "how can I make money today" and it's been a very successful strategy. In fact, it's been so successful that they are now (from what I hear, anyway) making far more money than they ever were before they made the shift and are even in the process of embracing an even bigger vision. At least part of their fame (have you seen the Fish! videos and books?) comes from having made that shift in focus. In all respects, they are now truly world-famous. And get this... the money, the very good money that that they make comes strictly as a side benefit of achieving a vision that is larger than that money so many people pursue as a goal unto itself.

These are real life examples of the "keep your eye on the hoop and the baskets will take care of themselves" philosophy. It takes a long view of costs vs. benefits, it takes some patience and some persistence, and in the business world it takes having a good business model and checking regularly to see where you are against that model so that you're not giving away free stuff forever. In the corporate and personal worlds of individuals, it takes understanding that there may be long term benefits that matter more than short term gains and an ability and willingness to assess which you really want and need at this moment. The parallels may not seem obvious but they are most certainly there. Take a moment to think what this might mean for you and how it might affect some of your decisions.

If you have thoughts or questions about how this might apply for you, I hope you'll send them to me at so that we can expand the conversation further. Feel free to share your thoughts about Gillian Welch too - I happen to love listening to her, especially when she's got Emmylou Harris and Alison Krause with her too. It might seem that I am sitting at a computer in Bellevue but tonight my heart is sitting in a field in Telluride, listening to beautiful bluegrass sounds.

What would you do if you didn't have to worry about whether you'd benefit?

Monday, June 13, 2005

More on Networking

I think I might now (after a scant 24 hours) be addicted to LinkedIn. I keep checking now to see who has accepted invitations to be connected and what old friends I'm now able to find using the connections I've already made. It's fun to watch the network grow. Too fun, actually, hence the concern over the addiction.

As I've mentioned before, I don't do groups well. I do, however, tend to make rather close relationships when I do interact with people on some kind of regular basis. It's how I'm wired, I guess. And, for whatever reason, I like electronic communication. Plus I'm a bit of a packrat... so all this together means that I have collected a rather sizeable Contacts file in Outlook & it's all people I basically like, or they wouldn't be there.

In the early stages of the Sproqit technology, this did cause some issues ("You have how many entries?!") - the engineers apparently didn't have that many, I guess, so they hadn't thought to plan for folders that size. We got it worked out though and I haven't had any trouble with the size of my Contacts folder since then even though it continues to grow. It seems very stable now, thank you very much.

Although social networking isn't the only way to do business, get a job, find a mate, meet new people with whom you might share interests, and so forth, it certainly seems to be a very effective method. In fact, social networking was one of the primary findings leading to the popular book, How to Be a Star at Work - findings based on what appear to have been rather decent research. Not only that, but it really bore out what I've seen myself over the years. It's still one of my favorites.

If I've learned one thing recently about social networking, it's to not underestimate the power of chance meetings too. About a month ago, I discovered that a person with whom I'm doing some volunteer work is very good friends with a good friend of mine. I find this interesting and also recognize that this is the stuff of which social networks are made.

Then, last Friday, I happened to meet on the bus an exceptionally lovely young woman from Nepal who is studying here in the States. Since she's been blind a long time, perhaps since birth, she may not realize how beautiful she is and yet that is most certainly not the most amazing thing about her. She is so intelligent and so articulate and has such great passion that I am quite certain she will do great things. Who knows if this meeting will ever mean anything to me... and yet, who's to say that it might not?

Such randomness also led me to discover the blog. It was a curious find resulting from a typo on my part. Too bad it seems to have ended as quickly as it started. It might have been fun to read.

My brain doing the odd connection thing that it does, immediately leaped from this to the news that we've apparently discovered an earthlike planet just 15 lightyears away and came up with the odd thought that our social networks could get really big if going off-planet were a possibility. I suppose that's a while out though...

In the meantime, if you've observed anything interesting about social networking, LinkedIn aliens or random encounters, send your thoughts to me at and perhaps we'll find a connection!

What difference would it make to you if you were to find the events in our lives are not random?