The buzz about buzzers

A much younger me once went to Puerto Vallarta on vacation. Like many Mexican resort towns, there was a string of hotels on and near the beach and, several blocks inland, the humming city of the locals.

Adjacent to the beach was a market full of local crafts. Almost every day a cruise ship would arrive, passengers would be bused to the market to shop, choose a hotel restaurant for lunch, and then get picked up to return to the ship with their new treasures. For them this was an adventure.

Not for me. I walked into the city, boarded a local bus at random, and rode to the end of the line to see where it took me and what I could discover along the way. I was lucky. I ended up in a charming coastal village where I hired a boatman (whose vessel was an overgrown rowboat with an outboard motor) to give me a tour of the undeveloped coastline. It was a great experience. Then I took the local bus with the local people back into Puerto Vallarta feeling as if I had seen a real, if tiny, bit of Mexico. Back at home, my friends had a fit when I told them this story, retroactively fearing for my safety.

I had forgotten all about this experience until I read Seth Godin’s excellent blog post, Buzzer Management. Godin, who once coached his high school quiz team, says that if you want a chance to win you need to push the buzzer BEFORE you are absolutely sure you know the answer to the question.

“No musician is sure her album is going to be a hit,” he wrote. “No entrepreneur is certain that every hire is going to be a good one. No parent can know that every decision they make is going to be correct.” He thinks that buzzing makes your work better, helps you dig deeper, and inspires you. His advice? “Buzz when you’re confident that you’ve got a shot.”

So now I have a great strategy to use when I’m faced with making a decision about something with an uncertain outcome, whether it’s to try paddleboarding or a friend’s new motorcycle, or ride a Segway for the first time, or attend a lecture on playwriting or Ikebana, or see a movie (most recently, “Inside Out”) with my wife and young granddaughters.

In all cases I remembered to push the buzzer before being absolutely sure.

In no case did I get the answer wrong.

Read Seth Godin’s buzzer blog here.

3 responses to “The buzz about buzzers”

  1. Karen Rodriguez says:

    Hi George,
    I always enjoy reading your articles but this one arrived at the perfect time. Fred and I are soon leaving for Ecudor. In preparation we’ve been listening to an audiobook about Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures in the Amazon. It has left me with some reservations about this being the right adventure for me. Now I’m glad I “pushed the buzzer” for the trip. I know our experiences will far outweigh any inconveniences. We hope to share our tales with you on your next visit to SF.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Warm regards,

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi Karen

      I hope you and Fred have a fabulous time. Congrats on Pushing The Buzzer. I am reminded of the time Fred left you in a foreign town while he went to have a one night monastic experience. Knowing you and your abilities, all will go well.


  2. Gerri says:

    Love this! Many years ago I boarded a plane to Costa Rica with a guidebook and no reservations or specific plans. (And like your trip, it was before cell phones, Internet etc.) Had a fabulous time. Now I’d probably research the same trip to death.

    Great advice as always.

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