Oh, the places I went!
The best graduation address ever written is "Oh the places you'll go!" by Dr. Seuss. But after this weekend, I think it might be the greatest address about life and business ever written.
So, with "brains in my head" and "feet in my shoes", I was the girl who decided to do some public market research.
"What's in it for me?" she asked with a smirk on her face as she glared at me over the top of her glasses. She shielded her body with both arms about her.
I stood there with my mouth gaping because I had just offered, "May I buy your cup of coffee for a few moments of conversation. I am asking people two questions about photography. And as my thank-you for your time, I will buy your cup of coffee."
In case you're wondering, these were the two questions...
- What would prompt you to place a photograph in your home?
- What frustrates you the most when you take a photograph?
Less than a picosecond I recognized the lady's behavior. My mom used to do the same thing when she was girding herself so no one (usually a sales person) "could take advantage of her."
And then there was the man who responded, "What are you selling?"
Nothing! I'm not selling anything!
He was not alone in asking the question. Despite a table banner announcing I was only asking questions, and despite my statements that I wasn't selling anything, several people still challenged, "What are you selling?" (Maybe I should have had Girl Scout Cookies to affirm their belief that I was selling something?)
Hmmm, an interesting thought...if I had "validated" their belief I was selling something - even Girl Scout Cookies - would they have trusted my offer?
And for every person who challenged the offer, two more were too busy to talk. On a personal level, I understand the "I just want to run in and grab a cup of coffee then get on with my day/errands." As an observer, I was taken by how many "just want to run in and get on with my errands/day." There were a lot of people rushing about.
Why did I put myself through this for 3 hours on a warm, sunny Saturday mid-day? It's called "immersion" - talking with people who are most like your ideal clients, in the venues where your ideal client is most likely to patronize.
I wanted to hear their photography frustrations so I can offer viable solutions.
One gentleman commented that my own photographic work expresses "solitude and serenity" but he prefers urban clutter.
What is urban clutter?
Urban clutter was certainly an interesting topic between us. But, I still don't know how to describe urban clutter as an artistic genre.
Despite feeling as if I were in the middle of a self-induced, really bad "sorority rush" prank, I was able to collect valuable data. I had some marvelous conversations and met interesting people. However, I WON'T be repeating this "immersion" practice any time soon.
What did I learn?
The people who spoke with me were not a "statistical sample". We research geeks refer to these folks as "self selected". They spoke to me because they were interested in photography.
(Ahh geeze, you can take the girl out of research, but you can't take the research out of the girl.)
What I learned:
- They would bring a new photo into their homes if it reminded them of an emotional connection. (I expected this.)
- As a "gut check" about buying the photograph, their best friend would agree the photo "was me". (I interpret that to mean the photo was consistent with the values/preferences of the person.)
- They had a "good" or "fancy" camera sitting in the closet (sometimes for years) but were overwhelmed by how to use it.
- Felt as if they didn't have a "good eye" or "weren't artistic enough to make good pictures".
- Did not feel they had time in their lives to take photos.
- They were overwhelmed with the number of photos held on their cellphones - they did not know what to do with them.
I think two other points from this immersion can be considered by artists/business-persons;
- an apparent lack of trust/disbelief about selling/marketing. Why did people choose to believe I was trying to sell them something, despite evidence to the contrary? Is there something I need do to lessen the belief's power?
- the amount of people "rushing about". I am sure there is valuable data about the "rushing about". I just have to let the ol' internal computer chunk the data.
And I spent $34.75 on coffee. (That's going on the 2016 tax return!)
...Life's a Great Balancing Act
At the conclusion of my "immersion" experiment, the Hubster and I drove to Arlington, Virginia to have dinner with my sister and brother-in-law. They were babysitting their grandson, Henry - formerly known as #theweebabyhank.
That's Henry at the top of the page, rockin' out solely for his own pleasure.
I have a lot to relearn from toddlers because I'm pretty sure I've forgotten how to rock out just for my own pleasure. Wait...does this have something to do with rushing about? We forget how to rock out solely for our own pleasure?
(Chunk, chunk, chunk...)
This could be a reason I don't know how to rock out...the internal computer is always chunking data.
Sunday, we drove to Philadelphia to visit our grandsons, my son and our daughter-in-law. A weekend of visiting toddlers was a joyful respite.
Why it's so cool to be a "Grand"
Being a grandparent is like being a bird riding the thermals. It's a total "over the top" view.
When I was the parent, I loved my kids, I made my mistakes, and I was often amazed by who their little selves were becoming. However, the "developmental task" (there's that science geek again) during those 20's and 30's is to build the container that says, "This is who I am". The task is to build the container using the blocks of career, new family, finances, friends, establishing order, control, safety and a few other things. (Richard Rohr, "Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the two halves of life", 2011)
As the grandparent, my container is solid in its structure. Now I get to fill it with the good stuff - squeezing baby cheeks, pushing toddler bicycles, playing hide and seek around the corners, pushing buttons that make "MOO" sounds.
I get to fill my container with awe of how toddler brains work, how much they know, how they problem solve, what they find funny, how they test their boundaries, how they say "woof" to the dog they just met.
Being a "grand" is "finding the bright places."
We're good for this week
And remember to balance your life in the "funnest way you can."
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