While looking through my list of flagged items from Seth Godin's blog this morning, I came across this one:

Interesting & Interested

... it helps to be both. These are the two ways you earn attention.

If it's so obvious, why is it so difficult?

It helps to be either. And if you're both, the effect of each is multiplied. The more interesting you are, the greater the honor of receiving your attention. And the more attention you give, the more interest people will have in who it is they're getting attention from.

But Seth's right -- it is difficult. Here's why.

"Interesting" is Hard to Sustain

The world is deluged in interesting.

Scratch that. The world is deluged. Period.

It's difficult to be seen at all. And when you do manage to be visible, you can't just be interesting. You've got to be interesting enough to capture and hold attention in the midst of all the other interesting stuff that's managed to rise above the primary deluge.

Even so, anyone can manage to be interesting if they've got the guts to do something crazy. But that kind of interesting fades after it's 15 minutes of fame have ended. Then what? To stay interesting based on what you do is difficult, if not impossible, to sustain.

If you want to sustain interesting, it's got to be based on who you are, not just what you do. If who you are is unique and interesting, interesting "do" will flow naturally. If your interesting do comes from committees brainstorming publicity stunts, you're in for a long haul.

If you don't think you are interesting, you're probably wrong. Interesting to everyone? Maybe not. Interesting to some niche? Almost certainly so. You just have to discover your "USP".

"Interested" is Hard to Scale

It's easy to be interested in people one-on-one. It's harder to be interested in people one-on-thousands. It's harder to make them feel it.

You've got two options: find a way to make lots of money per person, and focus your interest on a few prime prospects, or find a way to make the masses feel your interest without interacting individually with each of them.

Let's brainstorm ways to do the second option. You might:

  • ask for feedback, reveal the feedback you get, express appreciation, and act on it. Since you're not responding individually to each person, you've got to prove that you're listening some other way. If you leave out the "reveal" step, no one will know what the "act" step was based on, so they won't know that you're listening.
  • publicly interact one-on-one with "representatives" of your target market. Step down from your ivory tower and help a few "ordinary people" who your prospects will relate to. This won't have as big an impact on those who are watching as on those you actually interact with, but they'll feel closer to you than if you're only seen interacting with your peers.

Whatever you do, don't fake it. If your eyes are glued to your own bottom line, people will see through your attempts to appear interested, and the hypocrisy will backfire -- you'll be seen as an exploiter.

When you exploit good feedback (eg. by taking a great idea and selling it back to people for exorbitant prices), you're seen as the rich stealing from the poor.

When you exploit a representative of your prospects (eg. by parading them across the stage to promote yourself without really helping them), you're seen as a slave owner.

Neither is very interesting.