There's a popular belief in the startup world that a small business would be wise to launch an enterprise that is "narrow and deep" rather than "broad and shallow." In other words, if you are building, let's say, an app that tells you every time a fresh batch of bagels is available in one of New York's gazillion bagel shops (piping hot NY bagels are an art form), you don't want to start off in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx all at once. Perhaps you start out with a one-square-mile radius near Penn Station, and see if you grow an audience. Maybe tweak the user interface to allow for distinctions between sesame and poppy, bialys and flagels. And, if you grow that audience into a group of repeat customers, you develop a deeper relationship with these app users, and word-of-mouth and give-and-take provide you with the ability to spread the word about the app to other neighborhoods, other boroughs, maybe Long Island and Westchester, and then other states.
What sometimes gets lost in the concept of "narrow and deep" is the idea that this is the way to nurture relationships, too. And I can think of no greater modern invention in this world for nurturing relationships "narrow and deep" than Facebook. If I instead treated my Facebook friends like Twitter followers, that would make the relationships so much shallower. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for Facebook. I am grateful that I can engage in political arguments with Facebook friends who espouse radically different perspectives than my own. I am grateful that there are Facebook friends that trust me and others with painful revelations of mental illness or hard-to-kick addictions. I am grateful that I can share in the moment when a child is born or takes his first steps or loses her first tooth. I am grateful that I have a personal connection to each one of my Facebook friends, even if that connection was a couple of weeks spent together thirty years ago. Expressing gratitude is a revelation of our inner lives. By allowing ourselves to reveal our inner lives more, we give others the opportunity to decide for themselves whether we are "for real."
Related: In Defense of Facebook
Gratitude has become fashionable, with gratitude journaling a popular 2015 activity and online celebrities proclaiming gratitude as the key to designing a fulfilling life. But just because it's fashionable doesn't mean it's wrong. When we express our gratitude for others' embrace of sharing, we preserve the richest aspects of our relationships with others. People want to feel honored and appreciated. The blog post "1000 True Fans" is also fashionable, cited as a template for successful artists and entrepreneurs by the likes of Tim Ferriss and Pat Flynn and Seth Godin. It was written by Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired and the author of the eye-opening book "What Technology Wants." Business success, according to the True Fan doctrine, can be achieved through a narrow and deep framework. Relationships of mutual appreciation and gratitude can keep a business growing and thriving:
One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.
Professionally speaking, relationships that are nurtured "narrow and deep" have proved time and again to be immeasurably rewarding. Our law firm is a boutique firm that hardly has a marketing budget, let alone an advertising budget. Instead, we have relied mostly on meaningful relationships borne from scattered "real world" moments in our lives, but cultivated often through the Internet, social media, email. Our client base grows slowly but steadily. We cultivate not out of greed or manipulation, but through genuine affection and admiration--these are relationships we truly enjoy. Hugh Prather, in his famous book Notes to Myself, observed:
One thing has become clear: all acquaintances are passing. Therefore, I want to quickly get close to the people I meet, because experience has shown me we won't be together long."
Physically, of course. Prather could not have fathomed that people woven through the long fabric of our lives could collectively and interactively experience wonder under a blood red lunar eclipse, for instance. Wonder is inextricably linked with gratitude, maybe because it is so easy to forget that the world we find ourselves overwhelmed by is itself a gift. To be overwhelmed, to be reminded that we are but specks in this vast universe, is actually a gift worthy of gratitude.
Last week, I pulled into my driveway and gasped. The morning sunlight landed on a Japanese maple in our yard in such a way that the leaves boasted shades of red that seemed too pure to be real. I was alone. I wanted to share this moment--my feeling of wonder--with people I cared about. I didn't have my SLR camera. I just had my iPhone. I took a few shots with my iPhone. The phone could not do it justice. My skills as a photographer could not do it justice. But it captured the moment just enough. I posted the shot--a poor substitute for the real thing--on Facebook, with one word: "Unreal." Friends with whom I speak weekly and others whom I haven't seen in decades quickly clicked the "like" button. A friend 3000 miles away commented "Wow!" It was a small moment, but I was glad to share it. I am grateful for that oft-maligned "like" button, which ultimately provides a simple acknowledgment that other people have an interest in what I have to say. That I am not alone.
And the day after, when a few strong gusts blanketed my yard with red dry leaves, I found myself thankful that I preserve my best and worst moments on a Facebook timeline, to share with those who take the time to stay connected.