28. Antenna Connected

Is your antenna connected and ready to receive signals? Are you actively armed to interface with radio waves propagating through space? Are you prepared to intercept some of the power of a radio wave in order to produce an electric current in your brain? Mmm, let me put it more simply. Are you ready to receive a buying signal from a customer?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Buying signals quite often are as visible as radio waves. Most people don’t stand on street corners with flashy signs reading “Sell to me today!” Nor do they advertise on television that they are prepared to sign purchase orders if you call before 5:00…but wait there’s more! Buying signs most times are far subtler.

Try this. Think about the last time you bought a new car. The car didn’t need to be new, it just needed to be new to you. Think about some of the reasons you purchased your car. Maybe it was the color, or the style, you needed it for work or a bigger family car. Now I want you try to remember the first time you sat in the car. That was a pretty cool feeling right? Can you smell the car? You took it out on the road for the first time, for your first ride and what did you notice? Did you notice that your new car was everywhere? Did it seem like every fifth or sixth car was the same as yours? My magic mirror is showing me that a shiny lightbulb just went off over your head.

This effect is common and it’s called the Baader-Meinhor phenomenon. Sometimes its referred to as the frequency illusion or recently illusion. The reason you are noticing all the other people driving the same car as you is that our brains are wired and prejudice towards patterns. The cars you are now noticing have always been there, but now you have a point of reference and your brain automatically identifies matching patterns.
So, what does this have to do with developing as a resilient leader? Everything! Gaining knowledge that we can apply to other places in real time can be used to powerful effect. Making connections at the precise moment can be the difference between success and failure.

Let’s try an experiment to test the Baader-Meinhor phenomenon and test your pattern recognition skills when it comes to making connections. Have you ever heard of a guiro? G-U-I-R-O. The guiro is a Latin American percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side. It is played by rubbing a stick or tines along the notches to produce a ratchet sound. Here is the instrument in use on the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter. It’s the one that sounds like your scratching a post. (Play song open) I’m sure that you’ve heard this song dozens of times; on the radio or in movies or from cover bands.

Do you have the instrument’s sound in your head? Could you hear its distinctive sound? Good. Most likely you thought it was a cool sound at the song’s intro, right? Let’s go back to our original question. Is your antenna connected? I’m going to play you a different section of the song, a section you may be more familiar with. Feel free to sing along with me? Very often the lyrics are what we focus on rather than the music the band is playing. In most cases, the band plays their music first and the vocals are recorded after. In that case, neither party is interrupted as they conduct their side of the music. Listen one more time and see if you can identify the guiro in the background.

Do you hear it? It’s almost like you can’t listen to the song without hearing it now, right? I promise you that every time you hear this song you will always hear the guiro, just like when you drive on the road you notice the other cars which are exactly like yours. So, how can the understanding of the Baader-Meinhor phenomenon and pattern recognition benefit developing resilient leaders? I’m glad you asked.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on being prepared for opportunity. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Raise your antenna. You heard it. Raise your antenna. This theory has been endorsed by Federal Communication Commission.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. We know that our minds are wired to recognize patterns; in life and in business. By having our antenna always up we can identify those rare moments when someone gives us a clue that they’re ready to buy, if something is on sale, if someone has a preference, or if an opportunity is imminent. Because we are listening for these cues we can make instant pattern recognitions to best take advantage of the situation. Let me give you a non-business example of how it worked for me.

Last week I was at Disney’s EPCOT in line for the Test Track ride. The lines over the school holiday were ridiculous. The wait time for the ride was 100 minutes. To enter as a single rider the line was 35 minutes. It’s been a generation since I went to EPCOT and I wanted to take a shot at their premier attraction. The line into the ride was out of the building and around the corner. High above the line was a track of road that a car would ride along outside of the building. Every 8 seconds you could hear the distinctive whiz of another car passing over head. Whiz…whiz…whiz. We waited in the single line and moved our way through the typical Disney maze to the point that I could see the loading of the cars. Then, the announcement came. “This ride is temporarily suspended.” A collective groan rise from the queue. Everyone sat down to wait it out until, “This attraction is closed indefinitely.” You can imagine the frustration of the crowd. We all waited our turn…patiently. We were so close to closing the deal and we lost it.

I checked the EPCOT app on my phone during the balance of the day but the ride remained closed. And, lines for other attractions were increasing because the patrons had to go somewhere. After we finished dinner around 8:00, we were prepared to sit around the EPCOT world showcase lagoon to wait for the 9:00 fireworks show when I heard a faint “whiz”. I turned my head, cocked my ear, eyes to the sky. “Whiz”. I grabbed my companion’s arm and without a word marched us towards Test Track. Whiz…Whiz…Whiz. We reached the attraction and zoomed through the maze to the start of the attraction. The attendant told us that we were the first ones on the ride and we had the entire place to ourselves. In a theme park filled with nearly 100,000 people we were the only people on the ride. Absolutely incredible. When we finished it was a no-brainer to go back on again. This time, the wait was about 10 minutes. Word travels fast when there’s an opportunity. When we finished our second ride we noticed that the line had gone back to its normal wait time of an hour. Just like that the opportunity passed.

It was because my antenna was up that we enjoyed the VIP treatment. My antenna was up and I was ready to act…two key requirements for developing resilient leaders. Where can we apply the lesson? Many places – sales, the stock market, scuttle from your employees what your spouse wants for Valentine’s day…it can be applied everywhere. Keep your antenna up and you will find multitudes of opportunities around you.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. I’d love feedback if you have any. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.