Yesterday when I got home from work, Gentry and Lex were in the front yard playing. They both had table spoons, and were squatting over a sizeable hole in the grass.
I walked over, and peered down into the hole. They were industriously hacking at the sides and bottom of a pit roughly the size and depth of a five gallon bucket, removing the dirt, spoonful by spoonful, and piling it in the grass off to the side.
I watched them for a moment. They ignored me.
"What are you guys doing?" I finally asked them. "Digging a hole to China?" I laughed.
They stopped digging, and slowly lifted their heads and looked at each other in that "we-know-something-he-doesn't" way.
"China?" Lex said, incredulously. "No, Dad!"
"Oh," I said. "I feel stupid now. I'm sorry. Well, what are you doing then?" I asked as they got back to their digging.
They stopped again and looked up at me, exasperated.
"Dad. You can't dig to China," Gentry said.
"Sure you can! We used to when we were kids!"
Lex tossed down her spoon, and stood and looked at me in disbelief. "No," she said, "you didn't. You MIGHT have dug a hole to the southern Indian Ocean, but not to China."
"Unless," Gentry said, "you gwew up in Costa Wica or somewhewe else in South Amewica."
"Um..." I said.
Lex grabbed my hand. "Come on." She dragged me into the house, jumped on the web, and navigated to a site that shows where, exectly, you'd pop out, if you dug right through, directily through the center of the earth, and straight out the other side.
"See Dad? We're on the opposite of the earth from the Indian Ocean, south of Madagascar. If you want to get to China, you have to start in South America."
I stared at them for a moment. They looked back at me briefly, then jumped up, and ran back outside. I was so dumbfounded that I couldn't think of anything else to say.
And, for the life of me, I can't imagine what it is they want to see at the Indian Ocean.
Oh yeah: be careful if you drive through town, if you go down our street, you might have some issues trying to navigate the huge pile of dirt that's creeping out into the road.
OK; that's not true. They didn't do that. But I WAS amazed to find on this website, last night, that if we were to dig that hole that we've all talked about since we were children, we'd end up nowhere near China. Lex was right; we'd pop up somewhere in the Indian Ocean, south of Madagascar.
I'm dejected, of course. It's strange isn't it, that you live your life hearing something that is, in hindsight, no more than a myth, and the evidence is right in front of us to prove that, but we readily accept it because we hear it so often.
You see, perception truly is reality. The truth really doesn't matter all that much when it comes to relating to other people; all that matters is what they BELIEVE to be the truth. I learned that lesson early on in business for myself. We started off with nothing (I wrote about it awhile back); no money, very little experience, and no real business to speak of. Only a passion and a vision for something great.
But we determined early on that we weren't going to show anyone the reality; we were going to show them what they wanted to see. And so we built a "brand"-a corporate identity, with a professional logo, nicely printed business cards, a website, nice shirts and logos on our truck. And I walked in to meet with prospective customers, having never built a home for a customer in my life, with my head up, a juanty walk, and a self-confident attitude. I listened to their questions, answered those that I knew the answers to, and made up answers to those that I didn't. All this, while we were operating our business out of a garage.
But it sold us. People believed it; they paid us good money to build houses for them. Why? Because that's what they wanted to believe. They WANTED an energetic, excited, professional and knowledgeable builder, who emanated experience, and most of all, security.
We were wise enough to recognize what it was that people who were looking to have a home built were TRULY wishing to buy. My job wasn't only to build houses. In fact, I think that my job, as a custom home builder, was to make people feel secure. To make them feel like it really is OK to pay these folks an enormous amount of money, and have them build me a home.
I guess maybe that made me a marketer; I prefer to think my job was to develop complimentary perceptions in the minds of our prospective customers.
In hindsight, maybe I messed up. We're, obviously not in business anymore. Why? A number of reasons. But I think that part of the reason is that, the whole time I was convincing our potential customers that we were a little more than we really were, I was slowly convincing myself. The job of a GOOD marketer is to build a perception in the mind of the customer that doesn't EXCEED the reality that the enterprise can create.
You see, I started to believe myself, and forgot my limitations. And reality went out the window. Why? For the same reason my customers did; because the picture that I painted for them was the picture that I wanted to see. And everytime I painted it, it became a little more real to me. Until it WAS the reality.
And that's where it all fell apart.
It pays to remember that, no matter how many people tell you that a deep enough hole will take you to China, if you act on it, you'll end up in the Indian Ocean.