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Allow me to atone as last week’s holiday and some other obligations delayed this missive’s publication. It’s still a piece I wanted to share.

Writing this as I wrapped the Day of Atonement holiday, known in Hebrew as Yom Kippur, I expected to use the column as an excuse to revisit the marketing sins we should repent for.

]And then, walking home last Tuesday night from services, featuring a sermon by Rabbi Maurice Salth, I realized the holiday wasn’t about sin at all.

Well, that could be a stretch. The biblical reference in Leviticus calls for a day of atonement with some self-affliction thrown in, but to what end?

It’s the end, not the means, that we’ll examine here.

We’ll also get to how that relates to your job. Very soon, I promise. And we take our vows seriously (the opening service, named after its blockbuster prayer, is entitled “All Our Vows”).

But first, come with me to temple.                       

The Central Synagogue service I attended was held at Radio City Music Hall, a place I saw in a whole new spiritual light that night.

Rabbi Salth told a true story about a psychological experiment (“From Jerusalem to Jericho”) of seminary students going to give a sermon about the Good Samaritan. They were told they were running late, only to encounter a confederate in their way who was pretending to be ill.

Would they stop and help?

Of those seminarians about to give a talk about helping someone in their time of need, only 1 in 10 did so. The authors wrote, “In low hurry situations, 63% helped, medium hurry 45% and high hurry 10%.” The amount of “hurry” was the critical factor.

One can hope if not assume that these were all perfectly upstanding humans, and yet, they faltered.

What could have prevented their transgressing? They obviously knew the Good Samaritan parable backwards and forwards. They knew what to do. They read the playbook.

One can further assume that these righteous hearted and minded people already had the desire, or the will, to help. But the study implies that if there’s a will, there isn’t necessarily a way.

Not unless they have three elements to accompany along the will: time, attention, and agency.

First, the students were given a cruel impediment. They were told they didn’t have time, so instead of making the most of their time, they counterproductively (from a moral perspective) made the least of it.

They also lacked attention. Even if this study was run before the iPhone, AirPod, 12-screen, 1,000-app, 50,000-notification-a-minute era, the students still managed not to see what was right in front of them.

The final element, which I didn’t think to include until I wrote this out longhand and saw it was glaringly missing, was empowerment – or better yet, agency.

Imagine a different scenario where the students had time. Say they saw the suffering person – really saw him. They still had to think they could do something about it. They had to think that they could help or find someone to help.

How often do you get those pitches, even from a friend – I told you we’d get back to work – and you think, “I have no clue who can help them.” So you ignore it, or maybe you’re such a mensch that you reply and send your regrets that you can’t help.

But in the case that you really are friends with who they want to connect with, or you know of a job resource list (like this one) that could help them, or you demoed something familiar and knew how they could improve it, then they came to the right place and you can ease a bit of their pain. It’s a beautiful thing.

You had the agency in that scenario. But first, you still had to feel like you had the time to respond, and you had to pay attention to what they were asking.

That other column I was going to write about marketers’ sins was going to be about sins of commission, where we do what we know is wrong, and sins of commission, where we neglect to do what’s right.

But sadly, I’m not in the blessing or cursing business, even if my kid is finally old enough that it’s okay when she hears me curse. She calls it “summoning the Gods” all because she heard me injure myself once and I shouted, “Jesus Christ!” Now, if I curse, she asks me, “Dada, why did you summon the Gods?”

As for marketing sins, you probably have some that come to mind, whether yours or others.

Ad fraud comes with a hundred little sins. It’s like a lint roller that sins keep sticking to.

Or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) sins. Anyone who has never excluded when they should have included, cast the first stone.

Or sins of stealing time from others. And maybe ideas. Intellectual property.

Pick any – I’m sure you have some good ones in mind. Nothing you’ve done, of course. Stuff you’ve seen or heard about. From others.

There are tons of marketing sins and others that we commit professionally. I don’t want to harp on those. I’m much more curious about why we commit them and what we can do to prevent ourselves from transgressing.

I like to think that most people I meet in this business are those seminary students. Good people. Good souls. Too hurried though.

But what they – what we – need is the reminder that way more often than we think, we have the time, we have the capacity to pay attention, and we have the agency to do what’s right.

If we don’t think we have the time, we can ask ourselves, “Later, what will you wish you’d have done in this moment?”

If we don’t think we have the attention, we can ask ourselves, “Did we really see, hear, and feel what that person needed?”

If we don’t have the agency, we can ask ourselves, “Can we get this person just one tiny step closer to what they need?”

We won’t be able to help everyone all the time. And we won’t always need to. If we’re BCC’ed some impersonal pitch, we don’t have to deplete our energy – including our reserves of time, attention, and agency.

But if we remember to remember time, attention, and agency, and if we value those more, we can make our interpersonal relationships just a little bit better.

For ourselves, and for others, that little bit can make all the difference in the world.

David

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ACHIEVE
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Also, check out the Serial Marketers job board.

Other job resources (see a full list here):

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  • #OpenToWork: There’s a channel in Serial Marketers where you can share what you’re looking for
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