Even Seth Godin gets stuck in paradigms


Friends and regular readers know that I am a HUGE fan of Seth. He has inspired me many times, including to write daily (now at around 500 posts on this site and only getting more and more committed to it!).

I also still get his daily posts, one of a very few I kept subscribing too after simplifying my online life a while ago.

Today a short post that explains once again the power of awareness through knowing when we are stuck in a paradigm, gently poking fun at a recent daily blog from Seth.

So, on this site, I write about leadership. A key to leadership is self-leadership and so self-awareness. My readers aren’t looking for basic tools on how to lead, they know that stuff well. They are looking to stretch, to go beyond the basics.

A key part of that is the journey into understanding ourselves, so awareness is key. As my dear friend and mentor, Suki Smith says: “awareness is the greatest agent for change”.

Now, to the word “paradigm”. For a story I use again and again to embed understanding, see “what is a paradigm“, but for today, two short phrases to make the point:

We’ve always done it this way”

Something we do but we can’t remember why

Being stuck in a paradigm this way can be devastating to any person, business, organisation or even country, so unlocking awareness of being stuck in this way can be almost instant and incredibly powerful.

So, to the recent daily post from Seth. First, I’ll give you an excerpt of his post. When you read it, consider that a “we’ve always done this way” paradigm completely leapt out to me, but to hundreds of millions of people used to the same paradigm he sits in, they would not realise that the solution is far easier than he then posits further in his post. To many more hundreds of millions, the solution is immediate and simple. Read on, dear reader:

“The iHome alarm clock, common in hotels, shows a small PM when the time is after 12 noon. I arrived at my hotel at 7 pm, carefully setting the alarm for 6 am the next morning.

Of course, I failed to note that the tiny ‘pm’ wasn’t showing when I set the alarm, which means when I was setting the alarm, the clock thought it was currently 7 am, and the next morning, when 6 am rolled around, it thought the local time was 6 pm and didn’t bother to ring.

That’s as complicated to think through as it is to type, which is my point.

Rule 1: always set two alarms.

But the bigger takeaway is that AM/PM on a hotel clock is not only useless, it’s a problem waiting to happen. There are 2,000 clocks in this hotel. Who’s going to check them all?

The clock would do its job far better if there weren’t an AM/PM data bit.”

So, got the paradigm yet? Understand why Seth and hundreds of millions don’t realise they are stuck whereas many hundreds of millions would read this and go “yes, the solution is obvious?”.

This will literally depend on your nationality. Seth’s post is titled “Data is expensive”, then he makes some point about this. However, I instead put it to you that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (as Da Vinci) said, and lack of simplicity is the issue here.

Before I get to the paradigm and my answer, the key point here is to be aware of when we are in a paradigm. The conundrum is that it is very difficult to see the goldfish bowl you are swimming in, so to minimise the chances of being stuck in your thinking, be diverse. Travel, spend time with people outside your bubble, learn eclectically etc.

So, what is the paradigm? Simple. Americans tell the time with a 12-hour clock so need AM and PM. Almost all of the rest of the world always use a 24-hour clock, so they never get confused when setting a hotel alarm clock. 6 AM is 06:00, whereas 6pm is 18:00.

The USA steadfastly refuses to use 24-hour clock or the metric system. The temperature where the freezing point is 32f not 0c ? Distance measured in inches, feet and yards rather than the easy decimal system leading up to kilometres ?

I have spent many years switching between and “translating” in my conversation between both. Now I live in the UK, this week I am back in the USA and already find it both tough and a bit silly to have to explain winter temperatures in Fahrenheit when Celsius is innately so much easier to understand (given 0c is freezing).

Anyway, go out and travel, learn, be curious, test your thinking, stretch yourself. You never know, you may bust out of a paradigm!

Also published on Medium.

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