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Enough - Essay from Newsletter 121

The “not giving a —-“ Economy

Outworking expectations

Though silent onstage, Teller, of Penn &, has said and written a lot about magic.

One of my favorite pieces of advice from him is that you should put more effort into the secret that makes a magic trick work than the trick would seem to require.

In an interview with Smithsonian magazine he explains that, “You will be fooled by a trick if it involves more time, money, and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker) would be willing to invest.”

I’ll give you a small example.

I used to take pride that I could write my conference talks on the flight out to the conference. The talks were pretty good.

Now I spend two weeks to write, rewrite, revise, hone, craft, despair at, and rewrite again before delivering a talk.

Then I stand up and give my talk and hope the audience doesn’t feel any of the work I put into it.

That’s the magic I learned from Teller.

Put more time, money, and practice in than any onlooker would be willing to invest.

Show prep

I’ve been listening to a six part podcast history of radio station WMMS.

Back in the ’70s the weekend would begin when Kid Leo played Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and Murray Saul would come out of the song with the weekly “Get Down”.

It sounded like the too-loud guy beside you at a bar talking to you about how much work sucked, commenting on an item or two from the news, and sharing plans for the weekend ahead.

Murray was twenty years older than any of the other air personalities and thirty to forty years older than the average listener but his weekly rants were part of the ritual that officially kicked off the weekend.

Anyway, the podcast makes it clear that these weren’t improvised, drug-crazed, ramblings of a soon-to-be senior citizen.

Saul was a salesman for the station and he and the program director would start writing the “Get Down” early in the week over lunches. By the time “Born to Run” was fading out, the rant had been carefully scripted and Saul would seldom deviate from what was written on the page.

I had a program director who had worked on MMS’s AM side, WHK. He taught me to carry a notebook with me and write down specifics about what was going on on my way into work.

If the trees were blooming around the pond in front of the Art museum, I could work that into a weather update.

If I noticed the stadium lights were on because there was a baseball game tonight, I would work that into my show open for Cleveland After Dark.

Putting in the work and making sure people didn’t feel the work.

Just enough

Three years ago I was looking for a car.

I was pretty sure I knew which one I wanted but Maggie and I had test-driven a used Bolt and kind of liked it.

My mom suggested that I test a new one. Maybe, she suggested, I liked the other car better because it was new and the Bolt was used.

So I stopped by a dealership and let the salesman know that I probably wasn’t going to buy the Bolt but would like to test drive it if that was ok.

He was extremely nice and helpful. I told him I’d let him know the next day and I did. I decided to lease the other car and again he was as nice as can be.

For three years I’ve been recommending that dealership.

It’s not that the salesperson had gone to any great lengths, but he knew that I was not likely to buy from him and besides he was in commercial sales not customer sales so he wouldn’t get any commission. Even so, he was very nice and followed up just the right amount.

And not

Something has changed in those three years.

Pick your favorite swear word.

Got it?

OK. Insert it where you see dashes:

We’re now in a not giving a —- Economy.

Incidentally, if you found that you chose the wrong swear word for that sentence, choose another one and try it out.

Find one that’s satisfying.

Once you do you’ll see what I mean. That little extra effort to find the right swear word gives you more satisfaction than you might expect.

Taking time to put in the work is worth it.

So where was I…

Oh, so I’ve been looking for cars again now that my lease is coming to an end - if you’re a friend I apologize, you’ve heard way too much about this search.

One of the cars I settled on was the Bolt EUV so I contacted the dealership.

A woman got right back to me so I asked her a follow-up question and never heard back from her.

A few weeks later another salesperson contacted me that he’d seen I had been interested in this car could he help me.

He answered a few questions then said he was off for a couple of days but would get back to me when he went back to work in two days.

I texted several times after that and heard nothing.

Undaunted, I called the dealership and was told that he had medical issues but I could talk to a third salesperson.

The new guy took my information and said he’d call me back in ten minutes. That was more than a month ago.

That is the not giving a —- Economy.

A customer comes to you and says I want to order one of these things that you sell and you can’t be bothered to take their money.

But maybe

Meanwhile there was a Nissan dealer who had been responsive. I test drove the LEAF and it wasn’t for me but this guy was really good.

So I asked if they had a Chevy dealership and could I order the car through him.

Yes. And, yes.

For the Bolt I thought a three year lease would be best and Chevy just took more than $6000 off the price of next year’s models and also this year’s models but their website lists the lease without accounting for the discount.

So I asked, how much is the lease with the actual new price.

He said he would check with the Chevy group as they have those numbers.

Two weeks later he had checked half a dozen times and they still hadn’t gotten back to him.

As of last Friday, I gave up. It had been a month since I first contacted him asking “how much.”

Ten minutes worth of work on the part of the Chevy folks at his dealership and I would have ordered a car.

Let me tell you something.

Tomorrow, I’m teaching a class I’ve taught many times before. I still checked that all of the code still works and made sure that I’m happy with the flow.

I’m not willing to phone it in.

I’m not willing to be part of the not giving a —- Economy as someone who offers products and services.

I don’t know what to do as a consumer.

I don’t care that much about cars. Not like Kim. She loved cars. She knew cars.

I’ve spent four months trying to buy or lease my next car and as much as I want this to be done, I also don’t want to reward these people who just don’t give a —-.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 121. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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