Moving toward meaning

July 21, 2008

Intuitively–and really more as an adaptive tool to compensate for a bad memory–over the years as a writer I’ve made a habit of furiously jotting down as much of everything anyone says in meetings with clients prior to doing creative work. 

I came to call those meetings “Discovery” meetings (from the legal tasks also called “discovery”), but in Creative Discovery, the aim is not to uncover everything there is to know about a business, but to find out very specifically, what makes the business (or product or service) tick, why people buy what they do from them, and what people do and say to help their potentials make the decision.  I take those things, sort of “glorify” them if I can, distill it down so it will fit in an advertisement, buff if up following the client’s direction, the send it off for production.  That’s pretty much what I do for a living in practical terms.

But what’s my core?  What makes me (and eventually my business) “tick?”  What the heck is it that I say that convinces people that they should entrust their marketing messages to me? (It’s amazing how many business people–even in Fortune 500 or 1000 companies–don’t have any or only the vaguest idea, either, of what they do or why anyone should work with them–or worse: I find they often have conflicting ideas–and send mixed messages to their market).

I do have an idea of “what it is I do and why” and will build on it as I go (and have this looney notion–brought on by reading “The E-Myth”–that I can somehow standardize and package that up as a repeatable business).

An interesting parallel example (and much more interesting than the examples Michael Gerber uses in his book) is a maker of saxophone mouthpieces, Theo Wanne.   He apparently makes amazing mouthpieces (for around $700 a pop!), but hiis real goal, though, and he uses it throughout his marketing messages, is that of developing his own and his client’s spiritual well-being–for Theo, it’s about Soul: (check out his blog).

That got me to thinking about where my own internal thing–my soul (or whatever)–is centered . . . I re-read the summary post on my blog (because I thought I said something about it there), and there it was, “helping people.”  Of course that’s too broad and doesn’t say anything about what I do to “help people” . . .  but guess what?  It doesn’t matter what I do, so long as I’m guided by that central motivator–the meaningful part of why I do what I do.

So, I choose to do what I’m good at as a vehicle to help people find what they’re looking for:  When I teach, I begin by asking the (music) student where they’re going and what they want to do with music, in almost the same way that I ask business people what they’re doing and where they want to go with it.  I imagine working as a personal chef in the same way.

So I’m moving away from working to make money or because I feel I must work to pay bills and support a spending habit; instead moving toward sort of the Zen of working . . . my own need to help people, and to perform work centered around helping them get from where they are to where they want to be . . .


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