I am a big fan of the new Nike Just Do It campaign with Colin Kaepernick. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s provocative of a conversation. It asserts itself and forces you to reckon with whether you are with Nike, with Colin Kaepernick, or not.
And it’s that forcing mechanism — making you first acknowledge that there are differing viewpoints and then decide where you land — that’s magical about the campaign.
Earlier this year, I shared my New Years resolutions, one of which was to be more polarizing. As the year has passed by, I’ve become more and more convinced that this is a very important aspiration, but maybe not for the reason you’d suspect.
The word “polarizing” is often thrown around for controversial people who make bold (and often uninformed or downright ignorant) claims. And usually, those same people gain a lot of attention — that’s not really what I’m after.
I am, however, convinced that middling and just sharing facts without insight or assertions are a commodity that is less and less valuable.
This week, Seth Godin opened up his “Bootstrapper’s Workshop,” which I enrolled in (classic me). The welcome guide has a pretty fantastic section on assertions.
When you point out an insight, your colleague could say, “Hmm interesting. That’s nice to know.”
When you make an assertion, all of a sudden, you’ve made this insight more real. You’re on the hook, because there’s more of you in what you’re posting.
If someone ignores an insight, you can shrug your shoulders and walk away. But an assertion demands action. In or out, yes or no. It’s about forward motion.
You’re saying “Based on my insight of X, I believe that Y is true. To go a step further, given X and Y, I think we should do Z.”
An assertion is your take on the world. It could be an action, it could a philosophy, it could be a theory, a perspective. But it’s like a thesis: it’s got to be debatable. Someone should be able to disagree with you. There is risk in an assertion.
It’s not just isolated facts here and there–it’s those facts, as interpreted through YOUR LENS. Your background, the accumulation of your experiences, your values, your insight, leads to the assertion of what you think this insight means.
It’s worth a moment to consider: You’ve been trained to repeat what’s covered in class, to write it out on the test, to deliver provable truths. But the next step for you, for every owner, is to go beyond that.
A fact as a standalone is just a fact.
A fact, interpreted by you, is given meaning about what the implications are.
To be clear: it takes courage to say your assertions out loud. Even more to write them down.
There’s a posture of advocacy built into assertions. It’s saying, if I were the owner, here’s what I would do, here’s where I would go, here’s what I’m betting on.
When you share an assertion, you could end up being wrong.
Asserting is a generous thing to do, because it gives other people something to work with. Even if someone disagrees with your assertion, you’re adding value because the assertion is helping both of you come to a better understanding of the challenge or proposed solution.
There is a ton of opportunity (and reward!) for creators right now. Note that creators are specifically people who create. They manifest things that did not exist before.
Sharing information, without creating new value, insight, or assertions is not creating.
That seemingly thin line makes all the difference between commodity and true value.
That’s why there are “thought leaders.” There is no value placed on “thought repeaters.”
You will certainly turn some people off and create disagreements — but at least disagreements invite a dialogue. Something that does not allow disagreement or is universally agreed upon really isn’t even worth talking about.
But when you step into an arena with different points of view or different schools of thought, that’s where you’ll find more people seeking your message. People looking for connection and community.