Solve the problem in front of you

SOBcon is a conference where 150 people who use social media to communicate and relate and learn, spend 3 days talking with each other about how to do those things better. It’s a combination of church and a cocktail party and an “ask the author” session and an episode of  “This Old [marketing] House”  and group therapy (“no one out there understands me” “I understand”).

Genius tableWe were in the first big discussion session of SOBcon last Friday. As I look at my notes, Jonathan Fields had talked about career success, about finding the intersection of a viable niche (my paraphrase: A group of people, constantly renewing, who are actively searching for something that works to alleviate the pain they are experiencing, and who have the resources for that pain release) and your passion (my paraphrase: the ability to solve a problem in a way that makes us come alive.)

Somehow, the panel discussion that followed turned into a panel talking about fear, about how to deal with fear, about dealing with failure.

And then our table started talking about what to do, both about fear and failure and about actually identifying niches and markets and audiences.  We were the genius table, the trouble table: Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough and Britt Raybould and Nancy Swanson and Steve Woodruff.

As I look at my notes from that conversation, I see a box with a phrase from Sheila: Solve the problem in front of you.

When she’s dealing with a thousand things, with lots of “what could happens” with fears and ambiguities and distractions, that’s where she starts.

And then in my notes, right below that box, I see a list of names.

The list of names is five guys that I know from church, from my work. I know questions that each of the five regularly think about, regularly ask of themselves and of others. I know the questions that a couple of the guys are asking right now, about their future, about their growth.

And I realize that part of finding your niche, finding your market, living out your passion is simply taking Sheila’s advice.

Solve the problem in front of you.

I don’t look at these guys or their questions as problems. But I do see that I have within my ability and resources and interest helping each of these five guys work on the answers to their questions. In fact, I find that idea quite energizing. And in the process we might work through some answers that may be helpful to other people as well.

As I think about SOBcon, as I think about figuring out passion and niches and social media and the other stuff that comes out of that conference, I can do all kinds of planning, dreaming, speculating, and worrying. Or, I can say to five guys, “Have you thought about this way of answering that question?”

So for the next couple days, among other things, I’ll be working on these questions and talking with these guys. They are, I suppose, a very small niche. But they meet the definition. And it’s not about the size of the market sometimes. It’s about helping people who want to understand.

You know what I mean?


10 responses to “Solve the problem in front of you

  1. holy moly, that sheila is a smart one. Sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet you at SOBCon. Sounds like you had a great time- me too.

  2. Jon,
    What a way you have of making things real and easy to understand. Thank you for the conversation we shared at SOBCon. I’m wishing I was still with you all.

  3. Joseph Ruiz

    Jon, I am glad we had a chance to meet in person. I really appreciate this particular blog and your musings for these five guys. I think I will join them in pondering your questions.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ben – I did have a good time. And I hope that you were on the far side of the room. Then I would have an excuse. If you were next to us….oh my.

  5. Liz – it was indeed a fearless conversation. Thank you.

  6. Joe – thanks. As the answers are written, I’ll let you know. And it’s likely they will show up over on

    And it was nice to meet you and to hear your Don Miller story. Wonderful.

  7. Love this. Another small yet mighty GEM from SOBCon – it was an amazing event. So many takeaways and yet each one is entirely powerful in its own way. Thanks!

  8. Really needed to hear this today. And certainly a take away from #SOBCON. It was incredibly fruitful and fed business prowess while learning a lot about myself.

  9. I wish that I could act as sensibly as I sound. 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughts and for being at our SOBCon table; now I feel like going and solving something.

  10. Jon,

    We should probably all start with a small list and a mission like yours. It would probably help us (even in business) in more ways than we expect.

    It kind of ties into Steve Farbers’ Greater Than Yourself (GTY) project/presentation.

    It was a pleasure meeting you in person!


    P.S., Thanks for introducing Chris Brogan to Don Miller’s writing, who introduced him to me. Transforming writer.