The Value of Dependence

“In their own minds, everybody is Mick Jagger.”

This is how Derek Sivers explains the value of customer service – of serving those in your community – those that you are dependent on. The example he gives is:

“Imagine that every person you’re emailing with is Mick Jagger. If somebody were to email you and say, “Hey Derek, I’ve been checking out your site and I have a question about so-and-so and where can I download the PDF e-book?”

“If you think of that person as some peon that’s a pain in your [butt], that’s another email in your inbox. You’re like, “You just follow the link. Jeez, don’t be such an idiot.”

“But think how you would respond if the email was signed Mick Jagger, You would go, “Oh my god, it’s an honor to even be speaking with you. Wow. I’m so happy you emailed. Here, let me . . . in fact, you know what? Instead of telling you where to get the PDF, I will attach it to this email so you don’t have to bother because I know you’re busy. Wow, thank you so much for emailing.”

He concludes: “Treat everybody like it’s Mick Jagger. In their own minds, everybody is Mick Jagger. They are that important. So let’s honor that, let’s respect that, and talk to them as that.”

I have been thinking a lot about how we are dependent on each other for success and well being. In the past year, my wife and I have made some big decisions:

  • I started a business
  • She left her job to be home full time with our 10 month old son, and pursue her art career

Inherently, these decisions have the air of “independence” about them, that we are disconnecting from traditional systems and support structures that most people rely on. But I can’t help but feel that with these decisions, my wife and I have become MORE dependent on others, and that this is a positive thing. That I am more focused on serving the needs of the communities that I am a part of – the needs of others.

In fact, starting our own businesses is the MOST social thing that my wife and I can do, and the biggest commitments we can make to others.

I think others view starting a business as me “not having a boss anymore.” It’s the opposite really – I now have MANY bosses. Each of my clients is someone I have to serve and ensure is 100% happy with my services. Each student I teach is someone I have to meet their expectations and provide a lot of value to. The markets and communities I serve will determine the health of my business – I have to give and give and give as much free value as I can to ensure I am a valuable member of these communities.

All of this has made me acutely aware of how interconnected we are, how well being comes from what I can do for you, how I can make others more successful.

Why? Because the good will of these communities are what have allowed me any opportunities I have. The only way I will find success is by the good will of others, including you.

Sure, like anyone, I am a fan of a certain level of independence – of free will – of choice. But I do look critically at what independence is and what dependence is, and which helps us create a more meaningful experience in our culture. That dependence can be positive – helping us to each grow and be a part of something larger.

This is why I have been such a big fan of social media. It connects us to others – strengthening ties that are a support structure in so many ways: professionally, emotionally, socially, within families.

For many types of publishers, it has been an awakening to realize that they are not just delivering a product with content, but are linchpins in a community that depends on them. That publishers can’t just deliver information – they must serve and connect these communities in other ways. And yes, that means providing resources that are sometimes free – that help without asking anything in return.

How does this relate to business, to digital media, to publishing? This:

Myspace to Be Sold to Specific Media for $35 Million

Just six years ago, News Corp. bought Myspace for $580 million.

But without the connections – without people choosing to spend their time on Myspace, the company has little value. Sure, the domain name has value, the brand equity has value, the technology has value, the experience, knowledge and connections of whatever employees are left are valuable. But with Facebook being valued at around $70 billion, you have to wonder: what went wrong with Myspace?

It was noted that:

“News Corp. bought Myspace for $580 million in 2005, and made that back via a lucrative advertising deal with Google when the social networking site was flying high.”

Perhaps Myspace should have been serving the needs of their community, instead of serving ads.