A few years back, I read something from renowned editor and author Sol Stein in his excellent book, 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 and ennoble the life of the reader. It’s not about me.
I began extrapolating this important reality. What one does in writing one can do in daily life. You can position yourself in such a way that every encounter people have with you makes their day far better than it would have been.
So I had to ask myself, “How do people experience my presence in their lives?” Being honest I’d have to admit that at times my involvements in the lives of the people I live and work with have energized them. Other times I’ve drained them. Usually the drain part comes when I make the encounter all about me. The energizing quality, however, comes when I forget me and seek to “provide [insert name] with an experience that is superior to the experience he or she encounters in everyday life.”
Be honest. How do people experience you?
The world, especially the technical world, both praises and misses the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers. When Steve passed away, I was 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.
Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson)