Achieving quality (re: ISO 9000 para 3.1.5) is all about meeting stated and implied needs.
But our society has conditioned us not to freely express our needs to friends, family, and others; after all, if we need something, the marketing should have worked already, and we should know where we can go to willingly exchange currency for the means to satisfy that need. And Google is always happy to help us find new places to buy things.
But in a gift economy, open expression of needs is critical. When I was at Burning Man, it became habit to express my needs at any given time. After all, if I needed something, I relied on my network to pass the message along – and ultimately connect me with the people who could help me out with the resources that I needed. (I found a great pair of knee socks this way. I gave away a beautiful black jingly bra, several rolls of toilet paper, several gallons of water, and a giant canister of naphtha gas this way.)
Steve Pavlina points out that there is probably a vast audience of potential partners and co-creators who, at any time, are ready and willing (and happy!) to meet your needs. It’s just that you haven’t broadcast those needs and so the people who would be happy to help you meet them are still in the dark. No one knows you have those needs, so no one can say hey! I’ve got gifts that will help you meet those needs.
How often do you have genuine needs in your workplace, or your life – and it’s very likely that others could help you meet those needs – but you just have NO clue how to find people that can help out? Or maybe you just don’t know how to start the conversations? Or maybe you’d like to ask, but you get into self-defeating spirals where the voice on the inside of your head is telling you they probably don’t have the time… you don’t want to be an inconvenience… you don’t want anyone to feel taken advantage of… you don’t want to impose on anyone.
It feels very awkward to express that you would really like help or support from someone else. It feels weak, maybe. But that default feeling of weakness or not-enough-ness is NOT REAL. It’s just what we’re conditioned to believe is true because of the effect marketing — and the consumer-driven economy — has had on us since birth.
I have needs too, and I don’t know how to find people that will help me meet my needs. I am VERY happy to help them meet THEIR needs. So the first step is for me to start getting comfortable with expressing my needs – and being open to the people who will show up to help meet them. For starters, here are some of my needs:
- I need someone to cut my hair across the back every month or two – straight across! – which I don’t think merits the $30 fee most salons charge. It takes 5 minutes from anyone who has a steady hand and a pair of scissors. (I can provide the scissors). Usually I get my mom to do it, but she’s several hours’ drive away. And I desperately need a cut. I would love to trade anything – or help with your statistics homework – for a straight-across cut.
- On the same thread, I’d like to find someone who will henna the underside of my hair. My friends and I used to henna each other all the time in high school and college. Now, I have no henna friends… and a head in need of rainbow flavors about every 3 months.
- I need non-aloof “girlfriends” (can be any gender) to share mutually beneficial great ideas, pointless and short-lived whining, and happy hours with. This is not to imply that my current suite of friends and confidants is inadequate in any way – I just want to make sure the supply of these people is large and diverse enough so that I can tap into it whenever I need to.
- I need a photographer (preferably in consultation with “girlfriends” who can dress me up) to take headshots for blog + future journal articles. Preferably including dragons and/or some sort of flame throwing or fire breathing (which is why I can’t get the creative services department at work to do it – no dragons, no fire). Because, you know, I like things like that.
- I need artsy Burner-type friends in Harrisonburg who want to create a “virtual commune” with me. We can share resources and moral support. If you have a venue where we can all get together and spin fire occasionally, that would not be bad either.
- I need a regular Wednesday afternoon/evening babysitter for my 8 yr old. Must be totally trusted source (so I need to have known you for a while).
- I need an occasional Monday afternoon/evening and random wildcard afternoon/evening babysitter for my 8 yr old.
- I need someone in Harrisonburg to refer me to a great family physician or osteopath who will give me what I need to manage chronic sciatica – the result of a injury from surgery over 10 years ago. I’ve been to my old family doctor and several chiropractors already. No one has a solution – the doctor says I’m too young to be feeling like this (you’re right!! I AM!!) and the chiropractors swear they can fix me, but so far, they have only made it worse. As a result I live in almost constant background pain, and it interferes with my ability to think.
- It would be great to have someone to massage my sore right foot. I have at least one person who will do it, but I feel bad asking, and he’s always working. I say “massage” – but what I really mean is “press that spot on the top of my right foot that releases the pain in my head really hard“.
- I need someone to help me grocery shop, cook, and eat healthy. In exchange, I’ll support your grocery-purchasing needs (after all, if you’re cooking for me, you might as well be cooking for YOU too!) I just need instructions, because I am helpless at the grocery store (the site of many panic attacks) and overwhelmed by the entire prospect of eating – which is why, when left to my own devices, I just don’t eat. There are too many possibilities. Note: Cooking partner has probably been identified – within hours of expressing this need.
- I need someone to force me to go to Bikram Yoga Harrisonburg at least several times a week. Note: This will depend on getting adequate and reliable childcare. Maybe you need someone to force you to go to yoga too. Want to team up and make it happen???
And more importantly – how I can help YOU?