Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 23, 2012 6:30 PM

Intent Is Everything

What are you trying to accomplish?

There is a story told in the amazing business book, Freakonomics, about a study that was being done to figure out what makes a good parent. The genesis of this came out of the massive business that is parenting books. If you are a parent, it's always surprising when you realize that for centuries, so many people have been parents and yet, there is no real manual for how to be a good parent. Most people who were parents before you rarely have any tangible advice beyond spurting out trite sayings (like "one is one and two is ten") or having no memory of what it was like to have a newborn or a toddler around the house (did they completely black out the experience?). So, the question is this: does reading a lot of parenting books make you a better parent? The answer is no. But it doesn't end there. What the Freakonomics authors uncovered is that it doesn't matter whether you read the books or not, it's the simple act of buying the book that moves the needle. That's right, people we would consider to be great parents have bought the books, but have never read them.

Intent is a powerful thing.

There is a correlation between this story and our business lives. If parents are thinking about the content that they need to consume to become better parents, then they have the intent and self-awareness to be a better parent. So, is being a better marketer about reading every single blog and trade publication, listening to every marketing podcast or following and engaging with every luminary on Facebook or Twitter? Is being a better marketer about having your own blog, creating a tumblr about great marketing initiatives of having some boards on Pinterest about the most awesome print ads this year?

Perhaps, it's less about consumption and creation and much more about simply being aware.

I have not looked at my Google Reader RSS feeds in a very, very long time. I tend to get the information I need from e-newsletters (I know, this is very old school of me) or people I respect and follow in places like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and beyond. I have every intention of following, reading and then even creating content based of these interactions, but I don't. I have a massive list of unread articles in my Instapaper feed that I would love to get to (anyone have an extra spare three weeks that they can loan me?), but I'm starting to realize that in a world of too much to know (for more on that, please listen to my podcast with David Weinberger - co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and his latest book, Too Big To Know: SPOS #301 - Knowing Things With David Weinberger), perhaps it's simply my intent of wanting to learn and grow that matters most?

What this means to you.

The majority of business professionals that I interact with simply don't have any consumption plan. They're not infovores about their industry and they're not all that regimented with their time in relation to what they're capturing. When people marvel at my ability to create so much content, so frequently, it forces me to remind myself that although I'm not reading, listening or watching everything, it's my intent to do so that makes all of this somewhat easier for me (and perhaps creates the perception that I am engaged with a lot more content than I truly am). You can chalk it all up to passion or care, but (for me) it's mostly about surrounding myself in content with the hopes that some of it trickles down into something more valuable. In short, don't be hard on yourself for not reading or commenting on everything. Be hard on yourself only if you're not even bothering to expose yourself to all of this great content.

While this may sound obvious, it's amazing how many people don't even have the intent.

By Mitch Joel