Slogging it out for the Magical Moment

September 22nd, 2009

I was listening to Seth Godin’s book The Dip the other day. It’s an oddly encouraging tome about when to quit and when to stick. Instead of mulling over implications for my business I found myself thinking about a recent hike in Yellowstone National Park and what I like to call our Most Magical Moment of the trip.

Seth talks about The Dip involving a long slog between the initial excitement of a new adventure and the mastery required to take advantage of it.  Most people, when they get bogged down in the tedium of becoming a master, simply give up. Our hike was not so different.  We were in search of a petrified forest on an unmarked trail high on an exposed ridge in bear territory.  That’s all the detail we had.  About two thirds of the way through the very vertical hike we were just about ready to quit. A group who had started ahead of us perched on a lookout just off the trail. “We’re not going any further, we have no idea where those petrified trees are.”  We decided to stick it out.  How often do you have a chance to see trees frozen in time for 50 million years?

We pushed on up the next ridge and into an open meadow where I saw a glimmer of fur in the sagebrush. “Wait, I’m not sure what that is but it’s too small for a bear!” It was the most beautiful red fox.  Foxes are common in Yellowstone but rarely seen.  In fact the book I brought home of wildlife in the Tetons and Yellowstone had only one photo of a fox out of the hundreds of creatures featured. We stood watching quietly as the fox scanned the brush, looking for its meal.  She looked at us directly and then looked away, acknowledging that humans were in her presence but that she had no interest and we meant no harm. We were mesmerized.  She then ambled toward us to reach some shade trees to bed down for an afternoon nap.

It was a magical moment. If we had not pressed on and overcome our aggravation with a steep rocky path, we would not have observed this wonderful example of wildness.  I recalled our rare encounter as I listened to Seth, thinking that companies that forge ahead, ask the hard questions, pursue mastery are ultimately the winners.

It’s easy to skip the hard questions, but those very questions give us the answers we need to more effective in communicating with target audiences.  Among the first questions we address when planning a message strategy:

  • Who are we really selling to? If we did not have the rapt attention of this audience, would our business survive?
  • Who are the top three competitors most likely to steal business from us?  What are they doing better than us?  What customer needs are they failing to address? Stumbling upon that answer is a golden opportunity to communicate your differentiation to customers.

Seth notes there’s no shame in quitting when you’re in a hopeless situation.  But if you’ve decided to be the best in your field, you need to stick.  Being committed to what you know to be true, regardless of the apparent obstacles, can indeed reveal a magical moment.

Found the Petrified Forest

Found the Petrified Forest

And the more elusive Red Fox

And the more elusive Red Fox

Slogging it out in Yellowstone, we found those petrified trees, but the chance encounter with the Red Fox set that hike stand apart from all others.  It was the defining Magical Moment.

Posted September 22nd, 2009

Author: Categories: Communication Strategy, Leadership Tags:
  1. July 17th, 2009 at 05:00 | #1

    What a lovely parable about the joy (amidst the sweat) in the process rather than just the glory of the outcome. Thank you for sharing it!

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