Adam Hess bought “a rug” on eBay and received a comically small carpet:
He tweeted about the importance of specifying the size of the product you’re selling, but it’s obvious this shady eBay seller was trying to hide the specifics.
It’s not just eBay scammers that hide behind generalizations.
I’m guilty of this too.
- I’ve made general complaints about dating, like Dating in LA sucks!
- I think most MLMs are the same.
- I hide behind “you” in my writing
- I’ve committed the cardinal sin of planning events —saying let’s get together…sometime.
|Therapy is getting specific about one’s internal experience.||So how did that make you feel?|
|Goal setting is about getting specific about what we want.||What are your specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals?|
|New startups and consultants are encouraged to pick a niche.||The riches are in the niches. Focus on serving a target audience.|
Almost all of problem solving involves getting specific.
How to use this for shits and giggles
Let’s flip the script. Is there an advantage to sweeping non-specifics?
I asked my doctor friends about their decision to pursue medical careers.
They said that if they worried about every detail of the process in advance, they wouldn’t have started in the first place. Imagine unloading onto an aspiring MD the number of tests they had to take, the tuition they had to pay, and the grueling hours.
That’s not so motivating, compared to a long term mission like “I want to heal wounded children in underdeveloped countries.”
In this case, specifics can be paralyzing distraction and a broad mission can be motivating.
We can then classify generalizations and specifics into productive and unproductive expressions:
Long term vision
How might we leverage the most productive forms of each category?
A broad rallying cry can unite people (look at any political slogan). Yet any agenda is lost with the specifics to execute a plan.
When JFK declared that We choose to go to the moon, he followed up the memorandum with specific questions about timelines and costs.
This syncs up the idea of input vs output goals:
- Output goals (vision): I want to publish a bestseller
- Input goals (actionable): I’ll set aside 2 hours a day to write.
If you feel stuck with a decision, consider where you fall along the specific-to-general spectrum.
Don’t become a wandering generality. be a meaningful specificZig Ziglar
Want an example of how not getting specific enough really hurt me?
In 2009, I broke my wrist while at UC San Diego. There were 2 university affiliated hospitals: Scripps Health, and Thornton Hospital.
Having never stepped foot into either of these before my accident, I walked into the closer one—Scripps. With my dangling hand, I asked if they accepted my student health insurance plan. They said yes. So I got my surgery and stayed in the hospital for one night.
The bill came out to be $30,000.
Later, I found out that indeed they took my student health insurance, and “only” covered 90% of the cost. Essentially, they said my surgery (which was not “huge”) was $300,000. Had they sent me to Thornton Hospital down the road, my cost would’ve been free. This is America.
Not getting the specifics right damn near destroyed me financially.
Thankfully, the specifics also saved me. My mother had the idea of writing to appeal the cost, and we got it down to $5000 at the end of the day.