Categories Don’t Define Reality—We Do

October 16, 2009

When European scientists first saw a stuffed duck-billed platypus in the late 1700s, they thought it was an elaborate hoax created by Chinese taxidermists and sold to some naive sailors. One very respected scientist even pulled on its bill to see how they managed to stitch it on so neatly. But when more of these critters showed up, scientists reconsidered their position, took a closer look, and accepted the platypus was, in fact, real.

Why didn’t they accept it at first? Simple. With a duck-like bill, an otter-like body, a tail like a beaver, and webbed feet, the platypus didn’t fit an established category. So it couldn’t possibly be real! While this may seem funny, the idea of rejecting ideas (new realities) that don’t fit neatly into accepted categories, still happens on a regular basis.

*MJ-RareAirI learned this firsthand while working with Michael Jordan on his book, Rare Air. It was my first retail book experience so I was naive to the process. After working hard and putting a presentation together, I flew to NYC to meet with several prominent publishers. (By the way, when Michael writes a letter on your behalf, asking someone (anyone) to meet with you… they will.) By the end of my first meeting, I learned that since Rare Air didn’t fit an existing category, it couldn’t be “real.”

Like the scientists and the platypus, every publisher who initially saw Rare Air rejected it. By reinforcing each other’s beliefs… they shook ours. When Michael asked whom we had selected to publish his book, we were speechless. Read more

Big Megaphone

September 24, 2009

Big MegaphoneA big megaphone doesn’t make the message any truer… nor does it make it more important. It just makes the messenger louder.

On January 13, 1999, Michael Jordan announced his retirement from the NBA—for the second time. I worked with Michael on his book, Rare Air, but truthfully, I was too busy working to care about his first retirement—let alone his second.

For me, July 13th ended around 2 a.m. on July 14th with me sitting at my kitchen table, sleep deprived, having just finished concepts I had to present to a new client later that morning.

As I started off to bed I noticed the newspaper headline: MJ RETIRES!!! screaming across the front page. I opened it up and discovered this seemingly important news dominated many inside pages as well. Read more