It’s Never About You

I will be the first to admit – I am an incredibly selfish human being. There, I said it. But guess what – so are you. And the guy next to you. And the one next to him. We view the world through an incredibly skewed one-person’s-perspective lens which guides our everyday desires and demands. And yes, you are a good person who helps others and recycles and donates money to worthy causes, but trust me, most of the time you are preoccupied by one thought – consciously or subconsciously – “what’s in it for me?”  You did not buy that shampoo because it promises to donate a portion of proceeds to starving kids – you did so because the bottle assured it would make your locks luscious and irresistible. You don’t want a Tesla because it’s an eco-conscious choice. You want one so everyone would finally realize what a badass baller you are (who possibly happens to care about the environment).

So why is our personal selfishness so important to realize? Once you have a grasp on the concept, only then can you create something  your audience will truly care about.When I first started working on ReferMe, I wrote out the website and mobile app specifications based on my personal vision. I carefully laid out the communication strategy and user experience description that I crafted based on the research I did without asking anyone and with a sample of one – me. When I talked to the investors, I told them I needed their money, connections, and experience, so that I could start the business. That’s a lot of “I’s,” isn’t it?

I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time and was baffled why the start-up was not gaining traction. Who cares what I want?! Nobody! Literally, no one cares what I want. I should’ve known better because I saw this same thing happen at my other business, Social Smoke, too. We’d spend tens of thousands of dollars on flavors or hardware designs that we loved and wanted to make but they weren’t selling well – they were not what our customers wanted. Once it finally clicked and I slowed down to start doing customer interviews, collecting feedback, and updating the project based on their specifications, I saw the project transform from “Abe thinks you’ll dig it” to “Abe built you what you dig.”

Whether you are just defining your next project or have an established business, it is never too late to identify your end customer.  Who is the person that is purchasing or consuming your final product (don’t forget that these can be two different customers)? Once you define and personify your customer, go out there and ask them for feedback; don’t assume that you can just put yourself in their shoes. We are all biased. Market research – even the DYI kind – can yield some surprising insights.

I use this in my personal life too. When I’m sitting down for a coffee with my friends I think “what’s in it for them”? Do they want to genuinely connect with me? Or do they have the desire to help on a project because they have the same purpose in life – to help others achieve their dreams? Or are they just need me to shut up so they can vent and go back home happy? Use this simple question to help guide you and see your relationships transform.

Realizing that people’s actions are guided toward fulfilling their own personal desires will make you look at your business and relationships differently. What’s in it for me? Remember the mantra to get in the right mental space as you set out to do anything that involves interacting with others.

Inspired? You now have some homework to do:

  1. Immediately stop whatever you’re doing and read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” if you haven’t already.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. Every interaction should be guided by “what’s in it for the other person?” question.
  3. Ready to take the next steps? Let us know how we can help!

Now go and change the world, one person at a time.

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