Someone I know recently referred me to a TED talk in which a guy talks about a discovery he made meeting with a farmer who raises geese for foie gras. As a person who has never eaten foie gras and never will, I shouldn’t be a person who finds this talk of any value. In fact, the very idea of foie gras is horrifying to me. And yet, it’s now one of my favorite talks.
Many of us may have a vision for how to influence the world for the better. We may do so through anything from high-end business consulting to being a yoga teacher. And often, we must share that vision through some sort of content: talks, articles, classes, and other forums in which we express ideas and provide information. But many people, particularly in specialized service industries like medicine, law, and business, seek to share their message with others but falter to connect. They may use a lot of specialized terminology that goes over people’s heads, or they may simply fail to take time to correlate their ideas to their audience’s knowledge base.
I once took a miserable class in college on the biology of exercise. The professor rambled on, class after class, about different aspects of life science with very few deviations from a standard rote explanation of biomechanics. And, true to instructors who lack any sense of empathy for their class, the professor had no qualms about making us feel bad about our apathy. He once recalled how he discussed our apparent lack of interest in his lectures with his wife and she declared that we must not care about biology. But his and his wife’s perspective reflects a basic misconception that most people have: that the interest that any one person might have in someone else’s message is defined by the subject on which that message is based. I, however, know something else to be true.
It’s not the subject that matters most. It’s the execution.
This is why I loved the foie gras talk so much. The speaker synthesized the information he had and distilled it down to an underlying idea about human endeavor that had the potential to reach me and anyone else who heard it. Someone could be tasked with presenting content on a seemingly dry subject, such as an accounting professional being asked to write a piece on the significance of technology solutions in ensuring transparency of internal audits. But what if that person opened with a funny anecdote about his first accounting job twenty-five years ago and how he had to slog through all sorts of data without the use of high technology? It could even include references to seventy-hour workweeks, an oppressive boss, and how, in any given week, he worked his way through every item of that McDonald’s menu song that came out that year.
Would such an article be on par with the finest examples of 19th century Russian literature? Probably not. But would people remember it? Most likely. They would remember an article on the significance of technology and internal audits because he took the time to ensure a high-quality execution of his content.
Any subject can be interesting, be it about accounting, biology, or 19th century Russian literature. We simply must remember to take the steps to ensure this to be the case.