There’s a spot in New York City, on 5th Avenue between 51st and 50th Streets. If you go there late at night, or early on New Year’s Day, you can actually stand in the deserted center of one of the busiest avenues in the city. The spot itself isn’t remarkable — it’s what’s around you. To your left is St. Patrick’s Cathedral and to your right is the statue of Atlas in front of Rockefeller Center.
In other words, you are literally standing between one of the world’s greatest expressions of faith and one of mankind’s most enduring symbols of science, technology and rationality.
Whenever I’ve stood in this spot, the juxtaposition of life’s two great themes has added valuable clarity into the confusion of my choices and challenges.
As we begin a new year with its delineation, both artificial and realistic, between what came before and what comes next, I think it is important to keep these two themes in their proper place.
The challenges of business, marketing and our personal lives and finances which this new year will bring will seem unexpected and insurmountable to some, expected and easily addressed by others.
When you look at life as a continual set of challenges and opportunities, when you have a method for addressing problems rationally and intelligently, applying the right tools or the right processes and then testing the outcome before moving ahead, this year’s challenges are no more daunting than last year’s.
When you have faith in your own abilities and in your own ethical core, you have the strength to face any new challenges and opportunities because you have the sure knowledge that you are up to the task, and that even if you fail at times, you will not give up and eventually will find the answer or solution.
It is only when we confuse faith and rationality, and attempt to use faith as a tool to reach our goal, that we are doomed to failure. Faith is a feeling, not a tool.
I had a client who attended a Small Business luncheon and was told by an expert consultant that she needed a blog and that it would help her business. She believed the speaker, and came to my agency and said, “I need a blog.”
We discussed why she wanted a blog. We rationally explored who would be interested in reading it, and came to the conclusion that the way in which her customers find her business and what they want out of it would not be enhanced by a blog. We discussed the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain a blog, and compared it to other expenditures of effort which could have a direct impact on new customer acquisition and repeat business.
When we were done, her belief that she needed a blog and her faith in the speaker/consultant was replaced with a rational assessment of blogs and their ability to deliver ROI for her business at this time.
The conversation reminded me of the now classic, cliche conversation from the mid-90’s:
“I need a website.”
“Everybody else has one.”
“What do you want the site to do for your business?”
“I don’t know. I just know that I need one.”
We all know how well that turned out.
Now is the time to have faith in our ability to use our rationality to navigate the challenges ahead and come out of them stronger, smarter, and more able to succeed at the hard tasks at hand for our nation, our businesses and our selves.
It is not the time to reignite the war between faith and rationality that has divided and handicapped us for centuries.
So can someone please explain to me why something that’s so easy to see on 5th Avenue is so much harder to see in our own lives?