If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ll have noticed the overabundance of instructional content. I’m not talking about Jamie Oliver politely showing you how to construct a delicious rosemary and garlic lamb shoulder for Easter; I’m talking about the sadistic faux self-help blogs that now blossom in an evermore visible part of the web.
Usually, they’re titled something formulaically dire like “Likable people never do these 28 things” or “You will die horrendously unless you read this article”. You know the ones. Basically, anything Travis Bradberry writes.
Because these blogs are produced by seemingly reputable people and posted on seemingly reputable sites, they come with a misguided sense of clout. As you read, though, you get that unmistakable feeling of someone jamming a finger right in the middle of your chest.
Regardless of how unreasonable the titles seem, and how much you don’t want to click on it, you walk away with the impression that unless you do exactly what the list says you’ll never be successful, or likable, or thin, or a good boss, or your teeth will fall out. Not my teeth!
But as I’ve written previously, replicating exactly what Sir Richard Branson eats for breakfast isn’t going to turn you into the world’s most recognizable entrepreneur.
Instructions are for IKEA, not for everyday life.
What can benefit you, though, are frameworks. Warren Buffet’s investment moves subscribe to a visible framework, so while people are hanging on each move in isolation he’s busy executing against a much deeper ideology. The NHL framework dictated that the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to bottom out, use the draft to rebuild and use their significant financial clout to pay for the best front office in hockey. By sharing Tesla’s secrets, Elon Musk has given rivals the framework they need to succeed, and he’s betting that the detail inside the framework will never usurp the particular expertise his company has already built. They’re all variations of the same thing — frameworks.
By presenting your followers with a framework, rather than instructions, you’re allowing them to fill in detail and add their own colour. You might own the framework, but they own what makes it work. It’s much the same as how the builder constructs the house, but the occupants fill it with the contents that turn it into a home.
In that sense, frameworks endure where instructions are fleeting.
The best presenter of frameworks I’ve seen is Gary Vaynerchuk, who incessantly pleads with his audience to read the subtext around his words and not treat his off-the-cuff style as gospel.
He often repeats that unless you’re on the same journey as him — to acquire enough cash to buy the New York Jets — his particular advice probably won’t work for you. The frameworks he can provide should work for you, under one condition — that you’re good enough.
An oddity to Vaynerchuk’s presence is that the more he speaks about using his frameworks, the more his audience coddles his every word (seriously, read the YouTube comments).
The simple reason frameworks are better than instructions is this: you are the unique ingredient. The reason Branson, Oliver, Vaynerchuk and Musk aren’t out copying everyone else is that they already realize that they’re the secret sauce. Just like you are.
It’s like realizing that your particular rosemary and garlic lamb shoulder is what your family love to eat at Easter. So while you may have taken the overall concept from Jamie Oliver, it’s your unique way of basting that makes the dish a family favourite. (Seriously, think about how many restaurants have started based on ‘Grandma’s secret recipe’.)
So, please, stop clicking into the Doomsday list of instructions. If you have something valuable to add, show me the framework and let me fill it in with what’s unique to my circumstances.