Wil’s Sunday: What’s that blinking thing?
While I mainly write about the intersection of marketing and technology, I also enjoy sharing personal essays and a behind the scenes look into my work.
I call these Wil's Sunday. Enjoy this week's article below.
Ps: Today I'm including a four-question poll at the end of this article. Mind submitting the poll? The results should be available immediately after your submission. Thanks!
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
We had recently moved back to California from Nevada. My dad's job had us bouncing between the two states. Now it was The Golden State's turn to call home for what we hoped would be forever.
In general, I had a good childhood. Since we bounced around a lot, home was wherever we made it. And building friendships was tough, knowing there might be a move in our future.
I was a terrible student and excellent on the soccer field. I tried other sports. Basketball was nice. Long-distance running was good. Baseball worked for awhile outside of school.
A sidearm pitcher playing third base when not on the mound. We were visiting a family friend's home one summer and a bunch of kids and dads thought it'd be fun to play a game of softball.
My turn to bat.
I remember blood was rushing down the side of my friend's face. He was playing catcher and stepped into my swing. It turned out I grazed him while smacking the ball at the same time. He was smiling and wanted to keep playing.
My baseball-playing days were done.
As I graduated into high school, I became an even more terrible student. And an even better soccer player. Somehow, I learned the game of memory instead of learning the game of learning.
That gave me more time to think about the game of soccer.
School become easy for me at that point. I was smart, yet unchallenged. Playing varsity soccer as a freshman? Now, there's a challenge.
I kept out of trouble, for the most part, when it came to school. I took summer sessions and lots of work credits. I really wanted to be done with learning. There wasn't a guide to college or any education for me following high school.
If I look back, I see these two things as recurring causes of change in my life:
Challenge: I need to be challenged within a framework
Guidance: I need collaborative guidance
As I'm getting older and wiser, I'm replacing "need" with "want"
Being challenged comes from within more and more these days
Expected guidance might be an illusion in some (many) systems
By my junior year in high school, soccer started to become less of a challenge. I played sweeper and even though I wasn't a big kid, I was street smart, seeing plays develop before they happened.
An instinct I lean on to this day. From watching soccer to the business "pitch", taking advantage of anticipated events has become my challenge.
One day during my Junior year, I stopped by my mom's office. She worked with the school district, which was a blessing. She saw the challenges and pressures of kids getting through school and become lenient with us when we wanted a break.
While I was talking with one of her colleagues, my mom motioned me over to her desk. She was about to send a message to someone and wanted me to see it in action.
Tap-tap-tap on the keyboard, mouse click to send.
I didn't really know what to make of it. We had a computer at home and I was used to typing on a screen.
The impatient high schooler in me rolled my eyes, as if to say: "Duh".
Then, less than a minute later, a message came back in response. From a high school on the other side of town.
My life had changed.
I still remember that blinking cursor. While a different color on a different screen powered by a different computer, it's the same one I'm looking at while taking pauses in typing this article.
To this day, as that cursor blinks, mocking me for my inability to move forward right now, I think back to that one day. And the impact it's had on me.
How it led me to my first long-term job as a system administrator and network administrator, learning how to connect systems and people to each other.
How it led me to chase a telecommunications undergrad degree, figuring out how to send data from point A to point B using a faster, cheaper, reliable circuit.
How it led me to think to myself one day: "I don't want to be known as the computer guy for the rest of my life", leading me to graduate studies in marketing, connecting value to wants and needs.
How it led me to work with companies, executives and leaders from around the world in all types of industries, attempting to connect the company's value to their audiences in a model that was faster, cheaper and more reliable.
While I won't ever consider myself an artist, my father is. And I have to think all that artsy stuff rubbed off on us.
Especially as it relates to individual or unique value.
"I'm willing to pay this much money because I value it." vs. "I'm not willing to pay for it because other people value it."
That thinking somehow creeped in along the way.
And while many things are no longer considered unique these days, making that value connection remains a unique challenge. One that many entrepreneurs build their businesses around.
Whether through luck, instinct or hard work (and likely a mix of each), that blinking thing has both challenged and guided me throughout my career, ensuring I continue thinking about what comes next through continued education.
I'm gathering some info for a future post. All responses are anonymous. Mind filling in and submitting the following poll? Thanks!