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.