What is the perfect spaghetti sauce? How spicy, salty, or thick would the perfect spaghetti sauce be?
Howard Moskowitz’s breakthrough insight here was that there is no perfect spaghetti sauce. Instead, there are many different kinds of perfect spaghetti sauce that suit different kinds of people. Starbucks wouldn’t exist if there was a perfect cup of coffee. And, Earl Grey certainly isn’t everyone’s favorite cup of tea.
The best products, services, and businesses don’t attempt to be everything to everybody. There’s a simple and important reason for this – the best products stand for something. The moment they make that choice, they lose people who don’t agree with what they stand for. A multi-millionaire may scorn Ikea’s philosophy but, for every one of those, you’ll find ten 20-somethings who will swear by it. That’s part of the game. You can’t win them all. In fact, I’d go far as to say you don’t really want to win them all.
It is much the same for us as people. If we attempt universal popularity, we will almost certainly lose what we stand for. Unlike in the case of a product or service, that means more to us than a decline in sales. It is the difference between a life and a life well lived.
The stakes are much higher. Forget about choosing wisely. First, we must choose.