Get Over Yourself And Know What You Don’t Know

Have you ever gone to a new restaurant and thought, “Wow this place is amazing”?  You continue to visit your new favorite restaurant for a few years.  But then more people start to catch on to its greatness, and suddenly the hole-in-the-wall you loved is over-crowded and over-priced.  While it’s good news that the business is continuing to thrive, if they do not continue to evolve, success will be short lived.

I have seen it too many times; after small and ongoing successes, people walk around like that is all that matters: to sustain that success. That’s when you lose awareness.  Losing a sense of awareness is about more than losing perspective.

I sometimes go fishing in a remote area of Canada accessible by driving across the border to a floatplane where we meet our host, Trapper Bob.  We stay in his cabin, and he regales us with stories as he drinks his scotch.  On these fishing trips, the menu is a bit sparse but it always includes a particular blueberry jam, which I love.  It comes in a can, and it tastes amazing. The first time I had it, I kept thinking, “Blueberry jam in a can!  It tastes great, and it comes in a can, which is so unusual.”  The only time I have ever eaten this Jam is on Trapper Bob’s fishing trips.  I had never seen this unique Canadian jam in the U.S.

A couple of trips later, still smitten with the jam, I bought a case of it before we drove home.  While the jam itself wasn’t too expensive, I paid a fortune to ship it back to South Dakota.  “Who knows how long this stuff will be around?” I thought.  “I want to share it with my closest friends and family.”

My wife, Tami, saw the case of jam when it arrived, gave me the “Jeff-what-the . . .” look, and then asked, “Why did you do that?”

I proceeded to explain to my wife that this jam was the best jam in the world and only made in Canada.  It was the holiday season, so my plan was to keep 12 cans for us and give the rest away as gifts.  “Who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a can of special Canadian jam?”

Tami said nothing, and over the next couple of weeks I kept my promise, doling out a can apiece to relatives over the holidays like it was caviar – telling each one the story of where the jam comes from and how special it is.  Tami mocked me every time I did, but she didn’t understand.  I knew how special this jam was.

Soon after I had started handing out my precious cargo, Tami and I were in our local supermarket, when she started in on me about my jam again.  I had had enough.  I turned to her and lectured, “You just don’t know what I know, Tami, so you don’t understand how special this is.  I’m the connoisseur, and you obviously can’t appreciate that.  When we find something like this, we should treasure it and be thankful we can have it while it lasts.  You need to act.”

Tami interrupted me with a knowing smirk and pointed behind me.  As you have probably guessed, when I turned around there was the Canadian jam – cans of it covering the shelves of our supermarket.  For two bucks each.

Just because you don’t believe something is possible doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Losing perspective leaves you unconnected to what is happening now and the things you should know to act on.

If you stop really looking at your surroundings, you could miss something big: When did that building go up?  When did the Wilsons paint their house?  When did that giant display of my precious Canadian jam appear in my supermarket?  When did I lose my most loyal customer?  Don’t ever let this happen with your brand.  Never stop learning. Never stop researching or testing.

A brand is nothing more than a promise delivered. As marketers, it’s our job to deliver that promise and to notice if we are failing short.

The best way to stay aware is to constantly ask questions of yourself and others: What are the trends and the things I don’t know?  What are the key attributes of my business?  What do I suck at, and what don’t I know?  Use questions like these to stay aware and adapt to highlight your strengths, overcome or transcend your weaknesses, and beat the competition.

I speak a lot about thinking big and acting bigger, but it’s not about thinking that you are big and walking around like you know better.  That way lies Jeffy’s Jam.

Get over yourself – now – and know what you don’t know!