And the Squirrel said to the Mountain:

“Talents differ…
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”
from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you know anyone who can do everything they set their mind to with ease and mastery, no matter what the task? Consider that for a moment. See if you can count on one hand, let alone one finger, such individuals.

I have a friend who almost fits that category: my friend Dave. He taught chemistry and physics and then decided to become a dentist. He is as facile in his thinking as he is with his hands. He built a house, a sailboat — which he is not afraid to launch into the most turbulent seas — and exquisite jewelry for his wife using the “lost-wax process.” (I’m not sure what that is but it sounds impressive, as if he single-handedly revived an ancient tradition.)

Dave reminds me of the Dos Equis guy, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” who once had an awkward moment, “just to see how it feels.” But that guy’s fiction. A parody of the perfect male. Dave is the real deal. When he’s not doing implants, or dancing the tango, he’s working out a solution to the Middle East crisis or a new slant on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. It seems every time I speak with him he’s conquered a new skill in the time it takes the rest of us to digest a crème brulee.

Why do I say Dave “almost” fits the category?  Because he has not mastered the cello or violin, or learned how to speak Dutch. Not yet, at least.

Maybe you know someone as multi-talented as Dave? Or perhaps you’re lucky to be blessed with an abundance of talent yourself? Nonetheless, I’m still of the opinion that no one can do everything perfectly well, and near-exceptions only prove the rule.

Most of us are strong in one or two areas and weak in others. Although we don’t realize it, that is often why we choose our spouses and close partners — to complement us, to help us do what we’re not good at, or otherwise do not enjoy doing ourselves. Ay, but there’s the rub!! We love them for what they do, and hate them for not being more like ourselves so they can fully appreciate who we are, or come around to our point-of-view when there’s a disagreement. Understanding this dynamic has saved many relationships, by helping expose the root of one’s resentment. But that’s another story. Let me get back to this one.

I have a neighbor who is a surgeon. When my car needed a boost one cold day in December he didn’t know how to flip the latch to open the hood of his car, nor could he locate the battery when the mystery of how to open the hood was solved. Was he flustered? No. Embarrassed? Hardly. Why? Because such realities are about as interesting to him as watching a fly land on a watermelon. His sense of self is not oriented around keeping cars on the road. His realm is the operating theater, not the garage.

Fortunately for me, I was able to complete the task and get my car started. That said,   attaching jumper cables to a car battery hardly qualifies me as a master mechanic, any more than changing a light bulb makes someone an electrician.

Okay, is there a moral to this? A redeeming basis for my appropriating a few lines from Emerson?

Here is where I think his words are relevant: It is the curious fact that communication companies seem to miss the inescapable reality that people have different talents, temperaments, and interests. Consumers need to be addressed differently based on who they are on the inside, not simply how they appear on the outside. Marketers rarely stop to consider to what degree skills and preferences are the result of inherited traits and habits of thinking. Ultimately, it is the “why” that is of interest. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, understanding the “why” is vital to creating messages that resonate with different talents, which are reflected in different Motivational Styles.

Emerson was making a larger point in his poem. He’s telling us that in the grand scheme there is a place for everyone, the lowly squirrel and the lofty mountain. Marketers may also take some inspiration from his words to:

  1. Acknowledge what the squirrel said: “talents differ.”
  2. Discover what accounts for differences in individual skills and preferences.
  3. Learn how to develop marketing strategies that cohere with this reality.

When your company is ready for consumer data to support its marketing programs; data that reflects a more human dimension with respect to how people see themselves, and therefore want to be seen. As well as how people process information, and therefore need to be addressed — Minds+Motives can provide the data and insight your company needs.

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