Adding That Third Thing: What Nobody Tells Us About How to Handle Charged Situations

There is so much that we all take for granted when going through life.

One of the biggest assumptions that I have gotten caught in historically (and that I see a lot of people caught in) is the assumption that for any given situation, all you have to work with is you and the situation.  If you can’t change the situation (which mostly you can’t, not directly anyway), and you can’t (or won’t)  change yourself, you’re stuck and screwed.

If you’re unemployed, and you can’t seem to find a job, you may become more and more frustrated as you focus on the ‘got to find a job got to find a job got to find a job’, leading to less and less success: You are annoyed, you take that energy in with you to job interviews, it comes across in your interaction even if you try to hide it, you dont get the job, you get more frustrated, and on and on.  Even if you get a job at that point, would you be happy about it? Probably not, with all that energy built up!

If you’re a business, and you are used to marketing through the use of big splashy events and Superbowl commercials rather than providing experiences that surprise and delight your customers, and suddenly your revenues are slipping and you can’t see why, so you keep doing what you’re doing to try to affect the marketplace and make them buy more of your product, spending tons of money on a new campaign with a celebrity saying how awesome your product is, and your share of the market continues to dwindle so you fire your PR people and demand a launch event that will go viral and spread across the internet and whatever Twitter is, and on and on.

The reality of the situation (and something that I don’t think gets taught to us at any point in most of our development) is that there is actually a third element within any situation: the relationship between us and the thing in question.  The relationship is something that we always have the ability to look at and adjust.  We can focus our attention at our relationship to our not having found a job, and choose whether to remain frustrated, or tune it so that our relationship is one that is more calm, accepting “I have not found employment yet, and that is okay, because it does not mean that I will never find employment”, and ultimately useful.

ArcAttack metropolis styleWe often don’t get a chance to look at situations like this, though, since we are usually very quick to respond to a situation directly.  The most important thing to take from this, and something I struggle with but am learning, is to slow down and pause before reacting.  Take a second to look at your relationship to the situation rather than just focusing on the situation itself.  Is an advertising campaign the best way to reach customers? Is frustration the best way to deal with your employment situation?  Probably not, but until we learn to take a look at that third thing, we will be stuck there.

So, where are you stuck on things 1 and 2, where looking at the third thing might be useful?

The story is the results (so don’t try to tell it yourself!)

This past weekend I was honored and privileged to co-lead (with Joe Vella) a discussion about Storytelling in the podcasting world at Podcamp Boston 4.  What I learned during the course of the discussion, and what I tried to put out there in some of the other panels I sat in on, was this:

When you tell your own story, its hype.  Other people telling your story is better.

In the 300 episodes of content that I helped to create while at Sony Music, very few of them (with the exception of Yo-Yo Ma) were focused on the artist talking about themselves.  This was by design, because stories told by people’s stories  to the music and the affect it had by coming into their lives definitively resonates more.

The danger with talking from the position of the creator (or your company, or your product) is twofold:

1) It’s increasingly difficult for your audience to believe you can be objective.

2) We all tend to severely over-edit or severely under-edit.

A question came up in another panel (run by @cc_chapman) about what non-profits could be doing better in the SocMed space, and I suggested that what may be lacking is an effort to truly document the stories of those that are affected by contributors donations.  If you have a charity that delivers shoes to poor kids in Africa, you’d better believe you’ll get more donations if you shoot a FlipCam video of the kids unwrapping and trying on shoes for the first time than if you point that same camera at the founder of the organization and let them talk about how much they need money to get those shoes over to Africa.

The Tom’s Shoes AT&T commercial is a perfect example of results-based storytelling, and finding that rare balance of focus.

Enabling the broadcast of passion and stories of people who are affected by what you do, or the product you put out, or the service you provide, whether it be  through podcasting or even just a comment section on your websites pages is the most powerful and effective way to show potential buyers/donors/fans/friends the value of what you bring to the table.

So my advice, when working on that new product strategy, that Social Media tone assessment, that podcast, your resume:

The story is the results, the results are the story.

Restrictions are the new freedom: Web 3.0, Twitter and Setting Limits

(yes I know, quite an ambitious title)

What if Facebook only allowed you 75 friends?

Headcorn station in NThe continued rise of has been attributed to many things by many people. Beyond the ambient intimacy, portability, business uses, networking, simplicity, etc, is one thing that may not have been blogged about quite as much: In a bandwidth-is-cheap storage-is-cheap development-is-cheap world, setting limits can create freedom. limits all conversation atoms (a unit of measure for posts, replies, direct messages) to 140 characters. That’s it. No exceptions. This forces atoms to be succinct, without artifice or flowery stuff or suckuptitude or any of that capital-m-Marketing that more freedom allows.

Turns out that setting limits is a pretty effective way to get people to say what they want to say and then sit back. I’d be very interested to see what effect putting the 10 minute time limit on YouTube videos did for overall creativity, usage, and density of videos created over time. (paging Mediaeater, can Trendrr demonstrate that).

Being social network fatigued as I am (seriously, if one more site asks me to enter my email address, then upload a photo, then shout at my gmail contacts, I’m quitting the internets.), I hope this trend will expand. Another site that is doing something interesting with this paradigm is, which is exactly what it sounds like: Create and share videos, each limited to 12 seconds. From their FAQ:

Why only 12 seconds
Because anything longer is boring. The scientists here at the 12seconds dodecaplex have conducted countless hours of research to determine the precise amount of time it takes for boredom or apathy to set in during typical Internet video viewing. Our patent pending Electro-Tear-Duct Prongers have determined that exactly 12 seconds of video is the ideal amount of time to keep anything interesting.

Note to people with pre-existing sites:Imposing limits where users are USING a particular feature set is a BAD IDEA. Don’t do it, and if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So there you have it, sports fans. If you’re thinking of launching a new site with community function or content creation abilities, maybe you should think about using a limit as a feature.