There’s Never Enough Reassurance

I recently heard Seth Godin talking about reassurance, and his point was – if you’re looking for reassurance, there will never be enough. That really struck a chord with me and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then.

The craving to be part of the “in crowd” in middle school is one of the first symptoms of this quixotic quest for reassurance. Rosalind Wiseman wrote the book that the movie Mean Girls was based on. I had heard of the movie but had never seen it or thought much about it until she spoke in our community recently. She has a newer book about boys that I’ve been reading and one of the things she talks about it is – even the kids in the popular crowd are stressed about maintaining their status. I think this is a perfect example of what Seth is saying. These kids are looking for reassurance from their status, but even the ones who have made it to the pinnacle of the social hierarchy aren’t “quenched”. There’s never enough reassurance.

This need (addiction might be a better word) for reassurance doesn’t go away as we grow older. I seem to have a hard time saying “No” when asked to help with things. If I honestly assess what’s happening in those situations, I think there’s a subconcious fear of “them” withholding approval (approval is reassuring) and since we crave reassurance – I need the approval. I can tell you from experience – there’s never enough approval either.

What’s great about this is – as soon as you recognize what’s going on and the futility of it, you are free to stop seeking reassurance and to get on with the business at hand.


No more tilting at the windmill of Reassurance!

Why did they do that?

There are plenty of times when people that you’re dealing with do things that appear (to you) to not make any sense. I would argue that it makes perfect sense to them, given their point of view.

In his book Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell says:

In reality, many of the things that go wrong in these activities are due to perfectly rational actions, given the incentives faced by government officials who run such activities and given the constraints on the amount of knowledge available to any given decision-maker or set of decision-makers.

He then gives an example from the Soviet Union, where the manager of a factory that produced mining equipment kept them in storage, even though there was a severe shortage of this equipment at the time. Turns out that they were supposed to be painted red and he didn’t have any red paint. His fear of disobeying official orders from above (which could mean being sent to the Gulag – a very personal potential consequence for him) far outweighed his concern that “system wasn’t working”. When you look at it from that point of view, what seemed to make no sense makes perfect sense from his point of view.

The same idea applies to purchasing officials in companies that you’re trying to sell to.

Many years ago, I was in an Entrepreneur Accelerator program and the first guest speaker was John Nesheim. He asked the group to go around the table and describe our target customer. All 12 of us answered in terms of a company profile (how much revenue, what industry, etc.) He then pointed out that every check that we ever received was going to be approved and signed by a person (not a company), and said – “that’s your customer”.

In the movie Trading Places, Eddie Murphy’s character is a homeless man that 2 billionaire Wall Street tycoons have taken on as a project. Even though they have just taken him in, cleaned him up, and described what they do – he gets this concept immediately. (It’s Eddie Murphy – so there is a little bit of coarse language.)

Whoever said “it’s just business, it’s not personal” missed the point. It’s all personal. Once you realize that you’re dealing with a human, who has pressures, prejudices, priorities and a point of view different than yours – a lot more things will make sense.


“Good Enough” vs. “Good Enough for Now”

More thoughts from Seth Godin’s Ruckusmakers conference…

We talked about “perfect” being the enemy of “good enough” when it comes to deciding if your project is ready to ship. That got me thinking – and I realized that Good Enough has gotten a bad name. I think this has happened because most of the time, what we call Good Enough – really isn’t.

When Good Enough is used to mean “the minimum necessary to not be yelled at”, it’s probably not. On the other hand, if it’s used to mean “this will get the job done” – it just may be.

It’s confusing. I even searched Seth’s blog for the phrase “good enough”  because I wanted to see if there was a post that articulate what he said about over the weekend and there are some posts where he’s arguing against it and some where he’s arguing in favor of it.

It finally occurred to me that – I think we want to start saying “good enough for now”. If you’re working on a mammoth project like world peace or fixing education, Good Enough is bad because it lets you off the hook. You’ll never be done.  On the other hand, if your project moves you a step closer to your goal and you’re trying to decide whether to ship it today, then Good Enough is Good Enough for now. Ship it today and then come back tomorrow and start again on the next step – because “Good Enough for Now” is different than “Good Enough Forever”.

Public Speaking

I was thinking about the fear of public speaking recently and it occurred to me – the fear is really about “what if they think I’m an idiot?”

So, let me just state for the record – I am an idiot. If you don’t believe me – ask my wife. She’ll tell you.

Now that you know, I don’t have to worry about that any more and we can get on with it.




As I type this, I’m sitting in the terminal at LaGuardia returning home from Seth Godin’s “Ruckusmakers” conference. I feel like I’ve been drinking from a firehouse for the last two days. I had high expectations for the weekend and they were exceeded. Not only is Seth as good in person as he is in writing, but the group of attendees was – well, remarkable.

I met people from New York, Boston, LA, Atlanta, Phoenix, Missouri, Canada, London, Paris, Brazil, and Australia. Seth’s advice for the weekend was to get “naked” (not literally, thankfully) and be real. When I first walked in the door, I was a little late due to flight delays and was scrambling to find a seat. Almost immediately, there was a break and the mingling began. My instinct was to go into my standard networking question and answer script (that’s designed to keep people from realizing that I’m actually an idiot), but the other people there were so welcoming, open and real that I was immediately jarred out of auto-pilot and into an actual conversation. That continued for the duration of the weekend.

The assignment for the weekend was to find and commit to a project that will make a change in the world. Stay tuned for more on that (as well as other topics from the weekend).

Seth frequently explains behaviors with the phrase “people like us do things like this”. To flip that around, it was nice for the people that do things like this (who read Seth and appreciate his insight) to be around “people like us” for a weekend. If you’re interested, the next best thing to being there would be to get Seth’s latest book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn) or Leap First, a recording of a similar presentation.