Last weekend during the typical “kids, time to clean your rooms” time, I came to the realization that my daughter has been not so much cleaning, as two-handing everything deep under her bed. “Out of sight, out of mind” may be a good strategy when it comes to ex-boyfriends, but applying it to possessions results in three mismatched socks in her dresser and a whole lot of, “Mom, where’s my THING?”

I decided it was time to help out.

Do you do this? Do you “help” your kids clean up, only to realize you’ve spent five hours sorting through Barbie shoes and potentially used Kleenex while they sit on the floor and read books instead of putting them on the shelf like they were asked? This may have happened to us.

An interesting upside of spending hours in a room with an almost eight year old is there is a lot of time to chat. At one point in the afternoon, Natasha started telling me about how Grandma thinks she’s a “girlie-girl” but she is NOT!

So I asked her what was wrong with being a “girlie-girl”? Why couldn’t she be some of that AND a triathlete and a dancer and a cheerleader and a soccer player and an artist? Why do we focus on “or” instead of “and”? Life is not a religion. It’s okay to pick and choose the pieces that suit you.

I’d love to report that we had a world changing conversation and my daughter is now poised to be the Prime Minister of Canada due to her mother’s advice but, as most parents will guess, she sort of shrugged and told me not to throw out the crumpled paper in my hand because it was the most special special that ever specialed.

I so recognize this conversation. I remember being her age and categorizing people into groups and blatantly rejecting certain groups as definitely not me. And this is okay, it’s important to have a sense of who you are. The difficulty is in the categorization. That someone who likes X automatically likes Y and Z and not A or B. It causes us to overlook subtleties in favour of stereotypes.

Focusing on AND instead of OR is an extremely powerful idea when it comes to seeking your people.

For example, say you’re a business that serves athletes. An OR mentality focuses on the stereotypical; athletes like sweat, working out hard, and competition. This is probably true, but pretty generic. These are general traits, but there’s no emotional connection.

Humans are complex. As much as we like to categorize, we tend to categorize ourselves into a number of areas. Interest and loyalty come from finding a business/person/community where we recognize more than just one of our passions. We want to feel seen.

An AND mentality pushes you, as a business owner, to think deeper. Maybe you serve athletes who also love horror movies and gourmet cooking. So you create products and services and events that incorporate all these areas. While this is clearly niched to the extreme, those people who fit into all those categories will be your most loyal brand evangelists.

They will feel seen and valued by your business and they will reward you with their loyalty.

AND is a scary word. A lot of business owners feel safe in the OR. It’s safe to say you’re a guitar teacher. People are familiar with guitar teachers. They know what they do, they may even have hired one. It’s safe for the business owner because they don’t have to worry about excluding anyone.

The problem is it’s infinitely forgettable. There is nothing about it that distinguishes you from any other guitar teacher, especially to potential customers who don’t know good guitar teachers from bad. And if customers can’t tell what makes you different, they use the only method of categorization available to them; price.

AND takes risk.

You will exclude some people.

You will have some people think you are batshit crazy.

You will be seen.

But your people, the ones who are looking for you when they don’t even know it, they will be the ones who celebrate your brilliance and thank the universe that they found you. They will be loyal, they will be your biggest cheerleaders and your most loyal fans.

And you and your business will thrive for it.

 

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