My mum doesn't understand

For the best part of the last 10 years I haven’t been able to explain to my mum what I actually do for a living. Both with startups I have created and jobs I have had. Probably more so with the paid roles I have had. And this is an important insight into the world today and how we all fit into it.

How my mum responded to various activities I have undertaken:

My blog: Why do you do that? What is it about? Who pays you for it? Why do people want to read about startups?

Startup School: How can it be a school if they don’t get a certificate at the end of it? What curriculum do you follow? Why would people trust strangers with their things? Why would people rent or share stuff when they can just buy it?

Director of Strategy: If you don’t write the ads or make the film at this Advertising agency, what do you actually do? I don’t get it.

Twitter: Who cares about what you have to write? Why can’t you write more than 140 characters? What do you mean people follow you?

In fact, without being disparaging, we need to ensure our mums don’t understand what we do. It’s the best indication that we are a scarce resource in a rapidly changing landscape.

When everyone understands what we do, it almost certainly means there are plenty of people who can do it. And if there are lots of people who do what we can do, then there is less chance we can extract significant value in the marketplace.


9 Comments My mum doesn't understand

  1. nk

    “””we need to ensure our mums don’t understand what we do”””
    Thats stunningly arrogant and no good sign for the long-term viability of your ideas and life.

    The older I grow the more I appreciate the realistic comments of my mother-in-law about life as such and in practice.

    The ‘changing landscape’ is an artefact of a world with material abundance and this world will not last – I think we all know this in our hearts, don’t we ?

  2. Steve Sammartino

    NK – I would have thought my readers have the intelligence to understand the analogy of ‘newness’. Many of our parents (mine included) come from a very different business landscape…. where many of the jobs and businesses we undertake today, certainly in a startup world are beyond current comprehension. If anything it is a ‘pressure test’ for our edgy-ness. Not an arrogant stance of exclusion, but rather a reflection of change and the catching up many people will be doing as new things become more mainstream. Which most often happens a little later.

    Over to you.

  3. nk

    Yes,. I understand, But I have a gut-feeling that the ability to describe a business or an idea of any kind to ‘normal people’ out of any scene or peer group is crucial in the long term and is a very hard quality test which should not be avoided.

  4. mikisaxon

    Arrogant and short-sighted—good call, nk.

    I work with startups on executive summaries and rewrite websites and one my rules is that “Aunt Tilly” (in Steve’s his mum) should be able to understand most of what’s there. She may not understand the ‘why’, but she should understand the ‘what’. Unless, of course, his only interest is attracting early adopter/bleeding edge types, which is a very small market, or impressing the folks at the next networking event:)

    I know it’s not that easy; it was a major effort to boil the description of our new product down to a simple, easily understood sentence.

  5. Steve Sammartino

    Again – context here has been misinterpreted.

    Another point you and NK need to look at more closely are the examples…. and the basic human truths of what happened.

    Another point to note is that not understanding what someone does, doesn’t necessarily mean they (in this case my mum) wont understand the ‘output we create.’

    Open your minds.

  6. Torvold

    WTF. I don’t know Steve but going by the contents of this blog he is not at all arrogant.

    I’m also baffled that you find the contents of this specific post arrogant. I can assure you my grandmother cannot undersand the work I do, neither can my vietnamese mother in law. To me this is good because they were a seamstress and subsistence farmer respectively – hardly glamorous or lucrative jobs. How many seamstresses are there in Australia today? And how many “services” jobs are being shipped offshore or being performed for a fraction of the cost due to the internet, sites like elance and the fact that there are people all over the world who can do things just like us but cheaper. If we are a minority we’re less likely to have our jobs “rationalised”

  7. Mildlycurious

    The comments above just prove the point of this post. nk and mikisaxon will be at the tail end of any new thinking while Torvold gets it.

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