I did an impromptu straw poll this weekend at a party I was hosting. A bunch of smart folks stood in a circle around the grill, watching me cook Okonomi dogs, Yakitori, and toasted mochi. We were celebrating Hanami, the Japanese cherry blossom festival.
I asked the people in my little circle, “Do you watch Instagram reels or use Tik Tok?”
Everyone in the circle said they did and they loved them. It surprised me that I was the only one who abstained.
I work in technology, but I’m a bit of a Luddite. Back when I started out, there was an explosion of mobile development. As a developer, I never invested in learning it because I don’t particularly like phones (though I’m grateful for them.) Around the same time, social media erupted and I didn’t do anything with that either because I don’t want to fritter away my life in meaningless interactions.
In the market we’re pursuing, there’s a rising trend of customers looking for support with their social media and especially in reaching younger professionals through mobile social media.
It’s a wave to surf and it’s in service to market needs, both criteria I look for in opportunities.
But it’s a bit antithetical to what I value.
Many years ago, I attended a talk at a conference where a startup founder discussed a product he built. It was scheduling software and he successfully launched it selling it to salons. Between $10 and $20k MRR, he got rid of it. He said that he realized that he didn’t care about salons or scheduling.
Do you need to love what you’re selling? Are all businesses passion businesses?
I don’t believe so.
In his book, Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb told a story about a trader he knew. Taleb said that there’s a commodity they traded called, “green lumber.” Green lumber is used to describe trees that have just been cut and haven’t dried out over a season. In a conversation with the trader, he realized that the trader thought it was lumber that had been painted green. Not knowing the product he was trading didn’t make a bit of difference to the trader.
Similarly, business is about providing value. If you love the product you’re selling, it can be an advantage. But it can also be a disadvantage when the market changes and you need to as well.
Business is inherently about service and loving that is a better foundation than being enamored with any particular manifestation of it.
Featured image is Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance telephone line from New York to Chicago in 1892. Used under public domain.