What do people walk away thinking after they’ve been with you? Are they inspired or drained? Are people lifted beyond themselves or confirmed in the mundane and drudgery, their lives no better than before your interaction?
I once read something from renowned editor and author Sol Stein (Stein On Writing). He wrote that the correct intention for a writer was “to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in everyday life.” I was really struck by that because, like many others who write and enjoy it, I do so “because I have something to say” or “need to get something off my chest” or “have a passion for this or that.” Stein’s point is that the focus of our writing is to enhance the experience of the reader. It’s not about me or any other writer.
I think about this important reality often. What one does in writing one can do in daily life. Every interaction we have with another human being presents great possibilities for fantastic experiences or “the same old same old.”
So I have to ask myself, “How do people experience my presence in their lives?” Being honest, I’d have to admit that at times my involvement in the lives of the people I live and work with have energized them. And at other times, frankly, I’ve drained them. Usually the drain part comes when it’s all about me. And the energizing quality comes when I forget about me and seek to “provide (name) with an experience that is superior to the experience (name) encounters in everyday life.”
Be honest. How do people experience you?
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, was a larger-than-life figure, whose innovative thinking and relentless drive and sense of mission changed the world. He ranks with people like Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci.
When Steve passed away in October, 2011, I happened to be reading Leander Kahney’s excellent book Inside Steve’s Brain. The one thing that emerged very quickly from my reading was that the experience of the user was one of the absolute core values of Steve Jobs and Apple. Still is. Millions of dollars and countless thousands of work hours were and are spent to provide Apple customers with a superior experience in their interaction with modern technology. Jobs examined every aspect of the experience of an Apple customer and, with his outstanding team, honed it endlessly to ensure that the complex was simplified and that the experience of the buyer—even down to the opening and assembly of a new computer—was superior to anything else out there. Jobs’ solution to the problem of pirating of music (through illegal downloading) was to provide such a superior experience for one visiting the iTunes Store, that one would be willing to pay for the tunes and files they wanted, rather than pirate them. A superior experience as a curative for a moral and economic problem. Brilliant.
Challenge for the day: Ask yourself how people experience your presence in daily life. Be honest and willing to make adjustments, shifts in thinking, learn new stuff, whatever. You may be surprised how people jump out of the woodwork when they see how their lives are enhanced just by being with you—a superior experience.