Friends: It's about some young, single friends
The Simpsons: cartoon about a dysfunctional family
Dilbert: Comic about a nerd and his dog
Garfield: About a cat
When you find an exception to the simplicity rule, it often proves the point. For example, Seinfeld was famously "about nothing." That should have been a recipe for failure, and indeed it had poor ratings for the first few dozen shows. I forget the details, but somehow it ran below the radar at the network because it was financed or produced in a different division than usual. That difference allowed it to stay on the air and develop quality, and an audience, while other shows with low ratings came and went.
So here is the key learning. If you are planning to create some business or other form of entertainment, you will need quality at some point to succeed. But what is more important than quality in the beginning is some intangible element that makes your project inherently interesting before anyone has even sampled it. That initial audience will give you the luxury of time to create quality.
I have a twofold test for whether something can obtain instant popularity and thus have time to achieve quality:
1. You must be able to describe it in a few words.
2. When people hear about it, they ask questions.
I saw this at work with my restaurant. We recently started what we call after hours dancing. (See how easily explained it is?) And as soon as we started talking about the idea, everyone had lots of questions. Was it live music or a DJ? What kind of music? What time does it end? Is there a cover charge? And so on. Rarely did anyone say, "That's nice. Good luck with it." Something about the idea makes people curious. And sure enough, it has been a solid success with no advertising, just word of mouth. And this immediate audience has allowed us to improve on it every week. Quality followed popularity.
And the odds that somewhere there is at least one planet inhabited with some version of advanced humans is very high indeed, for there is no rational reason to believe we are the first of what will be thousands to come. It's more likely we are somewhere in the middle of the process.
[Note: Yes, I know all of the individual ideas in this post are borrowed from places such as the old TV show Firefly, Boltzmann's Brains, my own book God's Debris, and more. But you probably haven't seen them all together. I hope.]
Sometimes you hear a guy with a leader voice in a non-leader job and it immediately seems out of place. I wonder if the voice quality makes leadership more feasible or if the body chemistry that promotes leadership (say testosterone levels for the sake of argument) create an excellent voice as a side benefit.
There are plenty of leaders with sketchy voices, of course. Bill Gates comes to mind, as does the first President Bush. Obviously there's more than one way to get to the top. But I wonder if we will ever see a medical procedure to turn normal voices into leadership voices for the purpose of furthering a career.
My guess is yes.
Then check out the comic I drew way back on 3/13/95.
I never repeat intentionally, but I often get a nagging feeling that something looks vaguely familiar. That's probably because the human mind is tuned to recognize patterns, and almost everything you see reminds you of something you already saw.
I suppose I'm most prone to repeating a line spoken by Dogbert because his voice is the one that plays in my mind all day. He says the things I am thinking but could never say in polite company. When someone tells me they got a "new position" at work, what I say aloud is "Congratulations!" But what I think in the deepest Dogbert part of my brain is "Grabbing your ankles?"
Okay, that's three times I've used that same joke. Ithink it's out of my system now.