Start with why

The Long Tail (book 10 of 12)

The Long Tail (book 10 of 12)

October 23, 2020
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I picked up The Long Tail by Chris Anderson from a please-take-a-book-for-free-shelf somewhere or other. Might even have been at Malmö city library at the end of TEDxSlottsparken, come to think about it.

”We have been trained […] to see the world through a hit-colored lens.”

It’s one of those books where the concept has been well-known to be, the term long tail one I’ve likely used many times, never actually having read the book, a bit like Simon Sinek’s Start with why.

”One person’s noise is another’s signal. If a producer intends something to be absolutely right for one audience, it will, by definition, be wrong for another.”

Written in 2006, me reading it in 2020, it’s a bit of a funny throwback to the time when life was just starting to get so digital that it is today. There are references to MySpace but not Facebook, to Netflix and BlockBuster, but these were the days when Netflix was more or less solely a DVD-rental-by-snail mail-company. Twitter, iPhone, Instagram… nonexistent. That in and of itself is both a bit fun, and all the same, makes the book a bit dated, very clearly written when it was written.

”Niche products are, by definition, not for everyone.”

The concept itself though, the long tail, is still highly relevant, even though I would venture a guess to say that many probably still don’t really think about it actively, but rather unconsciously.

”Because the tools of production have entirely democratized, the population of producers is expanding exponentially, and now there’s little stopping those with the will and skill to create from doing just that.”

This is not a book where I’ve made many a marginalia-entries, quite the opposite. A dozen, perhaps. One dog-ear, but one which didn’t even make it into this post. It’s not a book you should spend time reading, honestly. I probably shouldn’t either, but… alas, I have, I did, and here I am.

I do find the will and skill to create interesting though. But I will save that for another piece.

”Fundamentally, a society that asks questions and has the power to answer them is a healthier society than one that simply accepts what it’s told from a narrow range of experts and institutions. If professional affiliation is no longer a proxy for authority, we need to develop our own gauges of quality. This encourages us to think for ourselves. Wikipedia is a starting point for exploring a topic, not the last word.”

The long tail does enable us –you, me, everyone– to find the little niche markets suited specifically for our personal needs, wants and wishes. And yes, that’s a place where I can be encouraged to think for myself, it makes it easier for me to find more perspectives than I could before. Perhaps.

However, it also makes it harder. Look at the bubbles of confirmation bias that we all live in nowadays, or at least I do, bubbles where ”someone else has thought for me”, making it very easy to stay within the boundaries of said bubble. That is not helpful, and not, I think, a sign of a healthy society. Wanting that, a healthy society that is, is something that requires more from me. It means I have to be very active and deliberate in what questions I seek to answer, and whose answers I choose to listen to. That’s necessary discernment for me while developing my own gauge of quality, and it’s an ongoing, evergreen process. It requires continuous work, never finished. Because those gauges need to be calibrated and re-calibrated over and over again as the world (and I) shift around me. Around us.

And that’s an insight I am happy to have gotten, an insight which makes it worth my time to have read The Long Tail. So. Perhaps. You should read it too, because you just might be answering a different question than the one I’ve just answered, or you’ll provide another answer to the same question, once you’ve finished reading it. Only way to know is to find out, by doing it. By reading it. Or at least reading up on the concept. If you do, please share any question and/or answer that shows up in you.


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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Start with why (book 3 of 26)

February 11, 2018
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It’s a bit surprising I haven’t read this book before, I agree. I mean, I even helped initiate a movement in Sweden that asked #WhySchool, so undoubtedly asking Why to find the underlying purpose, the driving force, the reason for What and How, is a habit close to my heart. And yet, I’ve not actually read the book before. I’ve watched his (Simon Sinek that is) TED Talk, many times, I’ve listened to podcasts with him, and oftentimes use his Golden Circle, and now, finally, I can honestly say I’ve read the book Start with why.

Golden Circle

The Why in the Golden Circle is the why of “WHY do you do what you do?”, that which is your purpose, the driving force behind all that you do, and how you do it – your reason for getting out of bed in the morning; the meaning of your life, in a manner of speaking. In the words of Simon Sinek:
Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions – everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire. 

I can see my why, and have clearly seen it for about 8-10 years or so, but I haven’t truly mastered the art of voicing it clearly (which is not uncommon, and there’s a logical reason for it as well, as the two inner circles of the Golden Circle correspond to our “emotional” limbic brain, with the outer What-circle corresponding to the rational and language-centered neocortex. So, it’s easier to explain what it is I do, and harder to tell you why.). Yet. What gave it away to me, was me lying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, looking backwards to all the jobs and positions I’ve filled in my life, and finding the common thread, that which all of those experiences has in common: I encourage change. I see that which is, and also, what it could be, and work relentlessly as an agent of change, to help (people, departments, companies or organizations) reach a greater level of potential.

On page 214, Simon Sinek tells me why that is “the way to finding one’s why”:
The WHY does not come from looking ahead at what you want to achieve and figuring out an appropriate strategy to get there. It is not born out of any market research. It does not come from extensive interviews with customers or even employees. It comes from looking in the completely opposite direction from where you are now. Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.

About the same time as I saw that common thread, I woke in the middle of the night with clarity on the meaning of my life: to make a positive imprint. So, I am an agent of change wanting that change to be for the better. Now I just need to be able to voice this clearly and succinctly, to make it communicable.

The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

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