The difference between signals and noise


Day 15 of my 16 day tour through the Southeast: Roanoke is beautiful right now even if the sky is gray... So many fall colors. If I was here as a tourist they would call me a leaf peeper. It's a real thing in the tourism industry.

Last night around 11:30 the fire alarm went off in the whole hotel. It was the most intrusive alarm I have ever heard in my life. I threw some clothes on and headed down the stairs with about a hundred other guests.

No one was panicked. Most were either annoyed, alert or still dreaming. At no time did I say to myself, "This is a real fire" (until 3 fire engines and a ladder truck pulled up). 

A hotel official met them outside where I was standing bare foot and sleepy. No panic in him. An apologetic look on his face told me this had more to do with the restaurant than the hotel.

False alarm.

A chatty Matthew McCaunaghey look-alike pulled up next to me in a bar in Charleston last week. He was having a good time and wanted to make sure everyone else was too. Cool, I thought to myself.

He was a jerk. False alarm.

A girl calls me over on the cruise ship and asks me to sit down, and then rips me up one side and down the other for suggesting that she could possibly find meaning in her work just because I find meaning in mine. At first, I thought she was just making conversation, until she called me "just another man trying to sell me something."

False alarm. She's unhappy. If I was her boss I would pay her to work somewhere else.

We get false alarms all the time:

Phone beeps: Text from some special? False alarm. Time to check in for your next flight. 

The "biggest savings we've ever offered." False alarm. It's just another cheapening of Veteran's Day.

"I got the job! My new coworkers love me!" False alarm. You gossip and show up late and take all the credit just like your last job.

"It's just a 0.21 percent payroll tax so we can restore weekend bus service. It's our civic duty to pass this." False alarm. Those millions you're taking away from businesses are coming out of their employees next round of raises.

The signals will only make their way through the noise if you create a pathway for the signal.

A signal has credibility. Noise begs for your attention.

A signal only chimes in when you should listen. Noise is the meteorologist getting paid whether she is right or not.

A signal whispers to the tribe. Noise promotes itself.

A signal is a lump where it shouldn't be. Noise wants to sell you a ribbon.

A signal is your phone ringing from your child's school. Noise is a recorded message about a booster club meeting you couldn't care less about.

A signal stands out in the crowd. The noise does things the signal used to do.

A signal hits you in the face after the opening bell. Noise wants to sell you an energy drink.

A signal causes you to take initiative. The noise wants you to join the cause.

Look at your work or your business. Find the tactics that compete with noise and choose a different battle... One you can win. And realize that some noise has a first and last name. That's all they will ever be. Dare to replace them with a signal and see how it changes everything.