Sunday, September 14, 2008

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

This beautiful photo is by Trey Ratcliff.

I'm always surprised when I meet someone my age who has never read a blog. (Luckily, Dear Reader, this doesn't apply to you!) But then I have to STOP MYSELF and remember that people are different. REALLY different and this is the BANE and BEAUTY of our existence. We eat different cuisine, speak different languages, worship different gods. We live in different huts. And this is something to CELEBRATE and LAMENT.

Every great prophet knew/knows this. And yes, in my book, every great prophet was/is a marketer of sorts. If we define GREAT MARKETING as the ability to:

1) reach people at a deep level

2) change the consciousness of a community

3) persuade others to adopt a new point of view

4) ignite a social movement

Take Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or even Jesus. All of these folks were marketers of a sort and their genius lies in this. Painting a NEW picture of how the world can and should be and encouraging me to "take up the cause" by FIRST walking a mile in "my" shoes.

I TRUST these prophets because they know me. They've "paid their dues" and more important they know and care about my life. Marketers call this being "audience-focused" but it's more than this, it's about meeting people on their own turf and taking a sincere interest in their world view.

Make no mistake this is HARD to DO. I don't live in the Middle East. I don't struggle to put food on the table EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I don't live with chronic disease and trauma. I don't worry if I'm ever going be able to send my daughter to school.

Still, I can learn about other people. I can travel and read and listen to their stories. And I can EXPERIENCE instead of IGNORE my own suffering and this can build a bridge to understanding. My own suffering humbles me and helps me to be compassionate. It enables me to EMPATHIZE with others and imagine other realities.

If you want to succeed in swaying others to embrace your cause, STOP navel-gazing. Instead, START LISTENING and LEARNING about how it is for someone else. AND, pay attention to your own pain. Let it lead you to a greater awareness of what it is to be human. A struggle that we all share.



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