Nothing Can Be a Seven?

January 9, 2019

This blog was going to be about eliminating the number “7” from your ratings scale, a concept I read about in the Tim Ferriss book Tribe of Mentors.

“Nothing can be a seven” is a decision-making tactic Ferriss interviewee Kyle Maynard uses to figure out when to say “No” to things.

I was going to talk about how eliminating the number “7” from the surveys you send to your customers could help you more accurately assess their true sentiment, interest, or satisfaction — about your services, your products, your brand, their level, their likeliness to purchase, etc.

But then I decided I wanted to know more about Kyle Maynard.

So I watched this video.

Focusing On The Wrong Things

An entrepreneur, MMA athlete, and ESPY award winner, Kyle has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. He also happens to have been born without arms or legs.

In the video, Kyle talks about how his parents decided they weren’t going to let his condition affect his life “in any major negative way.” They encouraged him not to focus on the disability. So he didn’t.

As Kyle says, “I think a lot of times we get caught up in looking at the wrong things.” That got me thinking…

Companies, too, often focus on the wrong things.

I’ve seen more than one business leader wrongly try to make up for all the ways their company was “lacking” relative to competitors — say, in product breadth or customer focus or a particular skillset — instead of focusing on their own unique value.

Focusing on gaps instead of strengths can be distracting — debilitating even. It can lead companies to chase shiny objects and dilute their true value. It can erode company morale and confuse employees and customers alike.

Differences Versus Problems

Now, please don’t mistake this for a bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach to solving very real problems your company may be facing.

What I am suggesting, though, is that the things people think are problems may just be differences and not problems at all.

Maynard’s story resonated with me because it reminded me of my own disability, one I almost always forget I have: congenital hearing loss. I’m about 40% deaf if I had to quantify it, which isn’t really possible due to variations by frequency and other factors.

I rely on lip reading. I wore hearing aids as a kid but don’t use them now that I can control the volume on almost anything. I’m sure I miss things, though.

People who know me professionally will likely be surprised to find this out — because I almost NEVER remember that I can’t hear well. Weird, I know. Or maybe you’ve had a similar amnesia about something you were born with or have had to manage for any length of time?

My disability pales by miles in comparison to Maynard’s. I connected with his story, though, in that my parents never focused on the fact that I couldn’t hear. They weren’t negligent — we just never talked about it as a problem or something I’d have to contend with.

I didn’t even realize they’d worried about it until I was an adult. And now that I’m a parent myself, I know they must have worried — a lot.

But they never showed it. What they did show was enthusiasm, interest, and encouragement for almost anything I wanted to try. I was very lucky. Still am.

Stop Chasing What You Don’t Have

I believe the best business leaders are like this too. They show up with enthusiasm, interest, and encouragement. They set their companies on a course of their own making to forge their own path instead of following another’s.

They don’t chase after what they don’t have. They dream up new possibilities and pursue them with rigor.

For companies out there who may be ruminating endlessly about what competitors are doing . . . For leaders tempted to react impulsively to a competitor’s new offering or market focus . . .

Try not to worry about what you don’t have — focus on what you do. Sometimes differences are no more than just that.

Set your sights on your own summit.

And watch the video! Kyle is a charismatic storyteller and there are so many more great takeaways from what he has to say.


P.S. Still thirsty for info on designing better surveys and eliminating “7”? Let me know in the comments and I’ll tackle it in a future post.

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