Voice Over - 12 April 2018

Let’s talk about broccoli. I’m kind of fixated on this weird ‘factoid’ that you need to introduce a non-sugary food to kids roughly seven times before they start to like it. I don’t know where seven comes from. I seriously doubt this is science. But it sounds right, doesn’t it? I remember those days of green goo all over the damn floor as I attempted to train my spawn to eat vegetables. They are all three healthy beautiful young women who relish their veggies now, but my god it was hard work.

I am beginning to believe that another reason this feels right is that ideas are like broccoli. Anything that’s really tricksy or emotionally challenging takes at least seven different people saying it in seven subtly different ways for the new idea to sink in. I suppose this is a form of network effect or social peer pressure. By the time you get to the seventh person, you’re probably saying, “Oh just shut up. I know. I know!? Leave me alone already… I’ll change my mind now.” Or it might just be you’re learning to like the taste of the new idea. Finally.

So imagine you’re a broccoli farmer. Here you have a literal gift from eons of human tinkering with genes that is absolutely perfect for our consumption. It’s big, bold, green and delicious. It grows easily, ships well, and even an idiot can prepare it. Yet all over everywhere are stubborn anti-broccoli haters who spent their young lives screaming and terrorising their dog by spitting up green sludge all over patient furry backs and whose parents gave up after try two or three. What do you do? How do you get people to eat your product?

You can’t. You just can’t. All you can do is keep growing your gifts, devising clever new marketing and packaging, developing new and ever more savoury recipes and hope like hell those haters will give it a try. You can’t make people eat their vegetables. Some of them will absolutely never eat anything but iceberg lettuce. Let it go. No matter how healthy or how important, they don’t want to do the thing that’s in their best interest.

There are so many good ideas for ways for us to be better leaders, parents, friends. So many fantastic methods to make ourselves feel healthier, more satisfied with our lives, more capable in the face of enormous challenges. But the authors of those ideas, their champions, their followers and acolytes, all of those inputs are only one in seven opportunities to let a new thing into our souls. The idea sharers need to be stubborn and keep presenting the idea over and over and over again. The idea learners need to recognise that even though I didn’t like the idea the last three times I heard it, maybe it will be tasty today.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” ~ John Maynard Keynes