Buddy, Can Ya Spare A Digm?

Copyright 2006 Donovan Baldwin

It make take a minute or two to get there, but if you’ll hang in, we will relate this to internet and network marketing. Oh heck! Why stop there? We’ll relate it to life and the universe and the meaning of existence. Okay, let’s just stick with business and common sense.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein defined a paradigm as “a logical or conceptual structure serving as a form of thought within a given area of experience”, which is good enough for me!

Now, everybody lives with paradigms (pronounced pair-a-dimes, hence the bad joke in the title). They are typically the basic ideas we carry around with us which help us define who we are, where we are going, how things should be done, and so on. They are actually very handy, as they save us a lot of time and effort in deciding what to do and when, where and how to do it. They are a compendium of what we know, think we know, have experienced and our interpretations and extrapolations thereof.

Whew! That hurt.

So what do paradigms have to do with internet businesses, internet marketing, or even business in general? It seems that having some good paradigms in place would make life pretty simple, no?

No! Well, yes. Or maybe. It actually depends on the person, the paradigm, the problem, and the purpose.

It’s pretty easy to see that paradigms can help us get through life. We know what’s going on, what’s supposed to happen, and what day of the week it is. You know, most calendars in America start the week with Sunday and end it with Saturday, but when I was in Europe, many calendars I saw started with Saturday and ended with Friday. Not a big deal, but if I were to glance at a calendar and expected to see Wednesday in the middle of the week, it could be easy for me to be wrong, now wouldn’t it? In fact, as I write this, there is a caledar on the wall to my left (lovely view of the Mediterranean) and today IS Wednesday. If I wanted to know tomorrow’s date, all I have to do is glance at the calendar and look one box to right of center. The problem is, that if I were in Europe, I might be a day off. This could possibly have implications, I think!

Okay, here’s a couple of paradigm stories. One’s from my own experience, and one’s known throughout the paradigm world. By the way, I used to teach a class that used information about paradigms to teach future instructors how to instruct.

So, I was a federal purchasing agent in the late 80’s and early 90’s. To complete a purchase order, we had to prepare a document that had nine carbon copies and each copy had a little red number (1 through 10) in the lower right hand corner. You can imagine what anything after the third copy looked like, and let’s not talk about the tenth copy! It was a black smudge.

The problem was that we had to distribute multiple copies to several offices, and they, in turn, would work their magic and send a copy to someone else. In an effort to make things as fair as possible, we would try to send one good copy and one…shall we say, not so good copy to each office that needed multiple copies. They, in turn, instructed their staffs what to do with each copy.

One day we moved into the 20th century. We got printers! Now we could print ten perfectly legible copies. Since the entire form was printed on blank 5-ply paper, however, there were no little red numbers in the lower right hand corner…but, it didn’t matter! All the copies looked alike! Who cared what copy they got?

Well, apparently Evelyn did.

She entered our office one day almost in tears. She explained that her instructions told her to do one thing with copy number three and another with copy number six, and now we were sending her copies that didn’t have numbers! She needed us to tell her which one was copy number three and which one was copy number six. For almost an hour, we strove in vain to explain to her that the copy number didn’t matter, since they all looked exactly the same. It was futile. She had her instructions (paradigm), and she was sticking to them.

Finally, my supervisor, who was a brainless twit, went to her boss and asked him what to do. We learned later that he told her not to bother him with such nonsense (he was in his boss paradigm), and to handle it herself. She therefor handed each of us a red pencil and told us to write red numbers in the lower right hand corner so Evelyn would know what to do with each page.

As if this wasn’t silly enough, a few days later she realized that each of us was only writing the numbers on copies three and six. She informed us that we would have to write the numbers on ALL the pages. Knowing the distribution sequence, we would just write 1, 7, 3, 6, 2, 8, etc, so we could grab two pages at a time, but she caught on to that and required us to write 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. In essence, we were back to where we had been when the printers liberated us…and all because of Evelyn’s paradigm. Evelyn’s paradigm was that her job had to be done by the book, and in her office was a book (standard operating procedures) that told her she needed to do one thing with copy three and something else with copy six. We won’t even get into the reactions of my boss…that’s not an article, it’s a book, but I will say that her paradigms were formed out of Jello and marshmallows.

So, we see this paradigm thing in the story above and think, “Well, it’s just common sense!” The problem is, that for most of us, a lot of our “common sense” is defined by paradigms. It’s the way things have always been done! That’s what the instructions say! It seems right to us because that’s “the way things are!”

Just like those Swiss watch makers several years ago who thought that their finely wrought Swiss-movement watches could never be replaced by some electronic quartz timekeeping system. How about those guys? Better yet, WHERE ARE those guys.

In the business world, and in life, things change. A few years ago, I was sending pieces of mail to names on mailing lists and making a few bucks here and there. I handed out some brochures and made a few bucks here and there. I learned to use the internet, how to use internet marketing, how to build and send messages to an opt-in mailing list, how to exchange links, and a few more tricks, and I now make as much in three months on the internet as I used to make in a year at a full-time, 48-hour-a-week J.O.B. (Just Over Broke).

Yes, our paradigms are comfortable things, but sometimes in order to grow, we need to change our paradigms to reflect reality and even changes in reality, and not some comfortable model that may have served us well in the past but which is now actually holding us back from success.

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