You know how when there’s an awesome movie that comes out, and it is based on a book, we suddenly divide humanity into those who saw the movie, and those who actually read the book?
I’ve been on both sides of this equation, as I think many of us have.
And I think it’s generally agreed that the book is usually better, isn’t it? I mean, think about it – when you read a book, the author can go into exhaustive detail painting a picture for you, or describing an experience and you get to imagine it in whatever way you like; and no matter how exceptional the movie is, you’re still watching someone else’s interpretation of the book.
Like, take the book Wild for example, a book by Cheryl Strayed. If you aren’t familiar, it’s the story of a woman who basically self-destructs and then goes on this 1,100 mile hike while she heals and reconnects with herself.
To be honest, I didn’t really care for the main character – but I really loved the vivid description of the journey. I loved her talking about the breathtaking views, and the debilitating pain she felt, the injuries she sustained, and the animals and people she met along the trail while pushing herself mentally and physically further than she ever had before.
And like plenty of popular books, they made a movie about this one as well. The movie version of Wild came out in 2014 and featured Reese Witherspoon. I never saw it, but that’s not important.
Here’s what is important: when I was reading the book, I found myself really inspired to go hike, to try new things, and to get outdoors. I found myself really curious about people who had taken long hikes, or had hiked stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail, or any other massive undertaking.
So, whenever appropriate I’d ask “Hey, did you read that book Wild?“, and a few people had read it, but normally I was met with “No, but I saw the movie.”
“No, but I saw the movie.”
We’ve all heard someone say that, right?
I don’t know about you, but my immediate reaction is pretty judgemental.
There is something about having put in the time and energy to actually read the book, that makes me feel strangely superior to anyone who had merely watched the movie.
I’m not proud of it, and I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just acknowledging it.
People who have spent time and energy reading the book tend to feel somehow more qualified, or accomplished than the people who saw the movie with an $8 box of sour patch kids and bucket of Dr. Pepper.
It’s kind of elitist, right?
But I don’t think it’s totally unjustified; I mean, when I watch a movie based on a book I haven’t read, I formulate an opinion of what the book probably was like.
And in reality, I think we’ve all seen movies that were absolutely nothing like the book they were based on. So in that sense, it’s kinda fair for us to think “You have no idea…” when someone tells us they’ve seen the movie.
Anyway, the reason for this whole post is because I realized this is exactly how I felt about entrepreneurship when I worked at Infusionsoft.
I had already owned a business, then I came to Infusionsoft where I was worked closely with small business owners for a little over three years. First it was coaching businesses one-on-one, and helping understand their struggles, and sharing in their successes. Then with Infusionsoft University I got to meet large groups of entrepreneurs, and watch as things started to click and light bulb after light bulb went on.
In a building of 600+ people whose purpose was to help small businesses succeed I believed I really, truly understood our customer.
If entrepreneurship was a book, I felt like in that building there were hundreds of people who had seen the movie, and only a few dozen who had read the book.
And I was effing proud to be one who actually read it.
It was a literal point of pride. Internally I was recognized as someone who really understood our small business owners, and I was proud that product managers came to me to ask how our customers were truly using the software, and what features they needed most.
I felt privileged to be the guy who could set them straight, and trusted to give them the pulse of the community.
But, in May of last year I left Infusionsoft. And while my perspective has changed in a number of ways since then, recently I’ve been more and more aware of one specific change.
I no longer feel like the world is divided into two camps; those who read the book, and those who saw the movie. There’s a third camp – those who are actively on the trail.
I’m on the trail now.
And it’s only been a year, so I figure I’m on the first leg of the trail. My boots are still in good condition, and I’ve got plenty of dehydrated meals; but I’m definitely washing my underwear in the stream, and my feet are covered in blisters.
I knew being a small business owner would be hard, and that it would stretch me; but no matter what I thought I was getting into, it has been that and so much more.
I spoke at ICON as an employee about billing automation, and now I know how frustrating it is to spend my time actually tracking down failed payments, or members with expired credit cards. I knew Infusionsoft inside and out, but quickly I realized that I also needed to learn WordPress, Zapier, PlusThis, LeadPages, PureChat, Xero, AccessAlly, Camtasia and a gaggle of other tools.
I knew that Infusionsoft wasn’t perfect, but as an employee, I was forgiving, and even defensive sometimes. Now, when there’s a bug that takes my time – it’s also taking my money. Not cool.
All the stuff I was so proud to have read about in the past, now I’m living it. As much as I truly believed that I knew what entrepreneurship meant, and what the people I was working with were going through; I now know that I only empathized with a fraction of it.
Because just as readers will tell you that the movie rarely does the book justice, Cheryl Strayed probably feels similarly about the book’s ability to capture what she really went through.
Now, I want to be abundantly clear – this is only my experience, and I’m sharing it in case it rings true for you too. There are plenty of people who are just flat out smarter than me, or who have a greater capacity for empathy.
This is not a criticism of my friends at Infusionsoft, or of anyone other than myself.
All I can say is that personally, I see things differently now. My perspective has evolved, and I expect it will continue to do so.
One of my favorite parts about being on any trail is that the people you meet just tend to be friendlier. There’s an unspoken respect and admiration that strangers share when they pass on a trail – the further you are from civilization, the more profound this connection seems to be.
It’s like you share a secret every time you cross paths with another entrepreneur, I mean hiker.
And man, I wish I had some killer secret wisdom to close out this reflection. If it were catchy enough it might even turn me into a meme for 36 hours.
But the truth is that it’s hard work, and there is no silver bullet.
Sure, some of it feels easier with time, but that may just be because you’ve grown a bit.
You’re stronger. Your feet are calloused, they know better where to step and what pitfalls to avoid.
The last year has been amazing, and without ya’ll I’m basically just a dude with a website talking to himself – so, thanks.
I’d love to hear if this resonates with you, leave a comment!