I’ve got kindergarten on the brain. In less than a week my first-born will put on her backpack and walk down the hall to room 222, leaving her preschool days behind for good. Questions keep popping to mind – How will she adjust to the early hours and long days? Will she make new friends easily? What will she learn?
That last question brought to mind Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I’ve never read the book, but at the height of its popularity (20 years ago!) I remember seeing countless posters and kitschy items with this list of life lessons. My personal favorite is still “Take a nap every afternoon,” followed closely by “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”
Taking a fresh look at the list today, another one stood out: “Remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.” Look. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do here – get people to look at us/our product/our service/our company? Yes, it is. But the life lesson doesn’t tell us how to get people to look at us – it tells us to be the ones who are doing the looking. Funny thing is, that can be the best way to get people to look at you.
Steve Jobs looks. He looks at a black and white PC world and adds a splash of color. Seth Godin looks. He looks at the ways ideas spread and creatively applies that to marketing. Ryan Gravel looks. He looks at a circle of largely unused rail lines around Atlanta and sees a potential new transit system for the city.
It takes practice to get really good at looking. Start small. Look at your to-do list for the day. What’s there that shouldn’t be? What’s missing? Then move on to the bigger things. Look at your product/service. What does it look like to your current customers? What do potential customers see when they look at you? Taking a good, hard look at the world around you can generate some big ideas. So take a look around, then get ready to take action. And when you do, don’t forget another kindergarten life lesson: “When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.”