Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, March 31, 2014

Focusing on the Wrong Things

Steven Pressfield is the author of many fine books. At his blog was a very good post by one of his associates which was made in the wake of Amazon's announcement that it was making some experiments with delivery by drones and the subsequent media chatter afterwords.

The gist of the article is that it is all too easy to get hooked into focusing on the minor issues, thereby ignoring the larger ones; the ones that really matter. 

Why the article itself is about the book industry, there are wider implications in our training; what we choose to focus on, and in our larger lives. 

An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

Don’t Major in the Minor

By Callie Oettinger | Published: December 6, 2013

“Don’t major in the minor.”
Mellody Hobson said it, but I’ve thought it these last few days, since watching Jeff Bezos on 60 Minutes this past Sunday.

In case you haven’t heard, Bezos unveiled a prototype for package-delivering drones at the end of the interview. Without missing a beat, the character-bashing, Jeff-Bezos hating, Amazon-vilifying tribes descended, with articles and comments from one site to the next.
They majored in the minor.
I’m not saying that the drones weren’t newsworthy. They were—and I saw mentions pop up in everything from Outside Magazine’s site to Waterstones’ blog. And I’m not saying that Amazon isn’t above criticism, but . . .

There was much more to that interview than the last few minutes of drones. And if you are going to go down the drone rabbit hole, there’s a much bigger discussion that needs to take place, outside whether Amazon will or won’t ever be able to use them.
Instead of responding to the bigger ideas, they went for the jugular and the jocular, playing guessing games about why 60 Minutes ran the interview, why the secretive Bezos shared the drones.
1) Complaining is not a strategy
When Charlie Rose asked Bezos about worries of small book publishers and traditional retailers, and whether Amazon is ruthless in its pursuit of market share, Bezos replied:
“The internet is disrupting every media industry, Charlie. You know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. Amazon is not happening to bookselling. The future is happening to bookselling.” (about the 9:15 mark of the interview)
He’s right. And the future isn’t just happening to booksellers. Look at how the rise of e-mail played into the decline of the U.S. Postal Service’s revenues. After years of struggling, a plan was sent to Congress for approval, to end Saturday delivery. Congress nixed the plan. A few months later,

Amazon stepped in with a different plan—to add Sunday service. Via this partnership, the USPS will deliver Amazon’s packages on the one day of the week that no one else delivers them, thus increasing delivery options for Amazon customers and bringing in revenue to the USPS. A win-win.

The examples of industries sideswiped by the future is long, as is the list of industries that have risen, offering much needed innovation and efficiency.

But . . .

It’s easier to bash Bezos and Amazon than it is to look in the mirror and ask, Why didn’t my publishing house lead the charge to sell books online? Why did we focus on the chains as the future when we saw the indy stores struggling to stay afloat? Why didn’t we recognize the potential for the future?

It’s easier to hate Bezos and Amazon than it is to ask, Why didn’t my bookstore stock backlist, long-tail titles, and books from indy publishers in addition to all those big publisher frontlist titles? 

Why didn’t my bookstore create a model that could be tapped by indy publishers and authors, instead of requiring top co-op dollars that only the big guys could pay for prime placement?

It’s easier to vilify Bezos and Amazon than it is to ask, Why didn’t I keep spending dollars with indy stores instead of spending them at the big chains, which then caused the indys I love to die?

It’s easier to major in the minor.


Paul said...

Yes, like studying what can we do to reinvent traditional martial arts (indeed of focusing of how deadly "our style" truly is (and has always been) and complaining about students not coming over).

Rick Matz said...

Well said.