One’s eyes are bigger than one’s stomach.
It’s an old idiom from the good ol’ days of the all-you-can-eat buffet.
Remember those? I do daydream about the conference hotel where you could effortlessly combine a mini croissant, greasy hash browns, a bagel with fresh lox, and some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
You know, just because.
But even though the hotel buffet has (temporarily) gone the way of the dodo, the combination of endless choice and the promise of emotional satiation live on.
Endless choice abounds. Look no further than the recent Apple event (the series 6 Watch, Watch SE, the new iPad and the iPad air), your unused (yet accruing) Audible credits, or the graveyard of unused PDF readers on your iPad.
These examples all paint a similar story. Our brains want more, yet our hearts know that it will never be enough. The result: useless cycles of worry and mental burnout.
Can a basic question stop this dead-end thinking in its tracks?
What’s the most important question?
Believe it or not, there are times when I miss having a more offline career. The offline world, after all, has many more constraints.
It shuts down after a certain hours.
There are physical barriers to meetings.
And infinite leverage isn’t always the upper bound.
On the other hand, in the land of digital you can always be doing more.
Forget writing the post. That’s the cost of entry.
Once you write it, you’ve got to share it on social, cross-post it, find partners to syndicate it, convert it to videos, yada yada yada. Because of the promise of infinite leverage, a simple closed-end task (writing a post) never actually feels complete.
And whether you play in the online or offline world, you probably have BHAGS (i.e. Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Which means that with each goal, your eyes might be bigger than your stomach.
Here’s Exhibit A, from my own life. During one of my $10k work brainstorms, I explored ways to better understand my readers and their customer journeys. Here’s the Notion document I came up with:
This sent me down an intense rabbit hole of data, CRMs, automation tools, and surveying methodologies. I even went to some product management gurus on Twitter to solicit some feedback and their responses all had one thing in common.
They were all questions.
- Do you really need all these data points?
- What does the simplest version look like?
- What question are you trying to answer?
In my frenzied pursuit to build something powerful, profitable and complex – I had failed to ask the most basic questions.
There’s a powerful question that transcends the offline and the online world. It provides a lens into your next Apple purchase AND your next product launch. It will help you cut through Shiny New Toy Syndrome (and the ensuing FOMO). The question:
What’s this for?
The question was inspired by Seth Godin (and introduced to me by the brilliant RadReader Ozan Varol).
Now while the question is simple, answering it is not. It requires us to harness our inner 5 year old and their relentless ability to ask why. Every parent has been in a long car ride when this unfolds:
It was nothing short of a torrential downpour of the same sequence: question, answer, why?, answer, WHY?, answer, WHY???
Here’s how the internal conversation went down for my harebrained CRM project:
Intentional Khe (IK): “So what’s this for?”
Reactive Khe (RK): “I’ve built this great asset and this will help me monetize it.”
IK: “Why do you want to monetize? You always say that financially you’re good and close to covering your living expenses with a comfortable buffer.”
RK: “Hmm… you’re right. I guess that I still care more about winning the game than I admit to myself.”
IK: “But financially, you’re good, right?”
RK: “For sure. I love this work, I’m good at it and every day there are countless new opportunities.”
IK: “OK, so let’s start over. What’s this for?”
RK: “Hmm. That’s a good question. Why do I do what I do? Well one of the pillars of RadReads is to find the intersection of creativity and service.”
IK: “Does this CRM project help with that?”
RK: “Probably not.”
IK: “How might you use your audience data to get you closer to the intersection of creativity and service?
The questioning ended there. I was armed with my own marching orders.
That is, until the next harebrained idea.