Why we need to bridge to a new reality
There’s a scene in the movie Amadeus where six year old Mozart performs a sublime piano composition for the King – whilst blindfolded. Watching resentfully from the shadows is Salieri, a brilliant music teacher whose own compositions could never reach the exalted heights of this snotty nosed genius. Oblivious, all Mozart wants to do is eat the palace food, chase girls and play.
Some things we do come crazy easy. And we can treat these things with disdain. If it’s not hard, how can it have value?
Yet those effortless skills and talents may be things that are extremely difficult for others – who hold them in great esteem. They can also hold hidden value to us.
Even if your current talents are not what you want to do for the rest of your life, they can be an important credibility bridge to what you want to do next.
Your ‘throw away’ skill could be a bridge to your dream
I worked in a government department with a nerdy young guy who, in between filing parking fine paperwork, wrote achingly beautiful poetry. A closet writer myself, I’d watch him stare out the window, hastily pen a few paragraphs of prose and then – to my horror – crumple the paper and toss it disdainfully in the bin beneath his desk.
He wrote mostly out of boredom. He was a singer in his spare time and his ambitions lay in being a front-man for a band. He could have reached great heights in the music world using his exceptional lyric-writing abilities as an entrance point. But he dismissed that path, focusing exclusively on singing — an area where his abilities were average. There are many famous ‘average’ singers out there whose other X factor, such as songwriting have paved the way to success.
Airbnb may never have started if its founders had ignored their University skill-set…
The three broke founders of Airbnb may never have found success if they hadn’t used their designer backgrounds as a bridge to making their first dollar in the business. Read the full story here — but in brief:
“The founders knew a big design conference was coming to San Francisco, and it was making hotels hard to come by. They created a simple site, airbedandbreakfast.com, and bought three air mattresses. The duo had met at college at the Rhode Island School of Design, so they thought acting as tour guides to designers would be a fun way to make money.
In short, they bridged from their everyday background to their new business plan — then continued to draw down on that original skillset in building the business.
“The company continued its scrappy business-building techniques. Channeling their design backgrounds, the founders launched an ambitious project to get its hosts to love the company. They visited all of their hosts in New York to personally stay with them, write reviews, and professionally photograph their places.”
In 2018, the $ 38 billion company that is now Airbnb launched an ‘Airbnb experience’ product extension where Airbnb hosts can provide guests with a tour or an experience within their local area — not just accommodation. No doubt the idea once again came from those first few weeks when the founders acted as tour guides to designers.
There’s a reason famous founder ‘back stories’ sound so allergoric. Their often humble beginnings and early experiences were sowing the seeds for their greatness.
Disney would never have created his empire without basing it on his early childhood skill of drawing — he took art classes as a boy and was employed as a commercial illustrator when he was 18 — which later led to the creation of Mickey Mouse, and the rest is history.
Don’t throw the baby out
In my line of work, I see many individuals and companies wanting to shift into new markets, change positioning or adopt new target audiences. They often resentfully — or arrogantly — turn their back on the foundations of their original success.
Rather than viewing their past achievements as a great foundation, they seem to believe their past will somehow hold them back from their new aspiration.
“We don’t use those words about our business anymore,” they say dramatically. As if a change in language alone will help them scale new heights. They often remove any references to the past from their company descriptions — meaning they are not only starting from a zero credibility point, they are whitewashing and alienating their original supporters.
There is an assumption that the ease in which they have achieved past success will automatically transfer across. But this is a leap of faith. Sure, its possible it will be instantly successful, but why make the journey harder than it has to be? If you already have a proven skill-set and fan base, why not build a bridge from where you are to your new reality?