The 20 Percent Edition Nr. 23: From Zero to Fingerspitzengefühl

Hello friends, and welcome to this edition of The 20 Percent.

Fingerspitzengefühl is a German word that literally translates to “fingertips feeling,” meaning developing an intuitive feel or feeling the pulse of a situation.

Sometimes, new entrepreneurs (or experienced ones with a new business or product) lack marketing Fingerspitzengefühl. When this happens, they approach complicated situations, e.g., growing an audience, achieving product-market fit, with unnecessarily complex actions, e.g., being-all-over-the-place-marketing.

This is like a new endurance athlete trying to start with running the marathon. While the end goal might be to complete a marathon, she should build up her amount of endurance training and then ramp up the difficulty until she reaches her end goal.

The Waitzkin Model to Fingerspitzengefühl

Josh Waitzkin is an American chess player, martial arts competitor, and author. What Wikipedia fails to portray is that Waitzkin has a unique talent for deep work and singular focus. He spends 5-10 years of his life dedicated to a craft until he achieves Fingerspitzengefühl and then moves on to the next thing.

He started as a chess prodigy and national champion in the 90s, became world champion in Tai Chi at the beginning of the millennium, and after a brief stint with Jiu-Jitsu (black belt under the world champion Marcelo Garcia), is now mastering surfing and advising elite investors on the side.

Waitzkin has a strategy for teaching Chess that he calls “making smaller circles,” and it’s a window to how he approaches learning new skills and honing them to the level of mastery.

With a new student, he starts with just a pawn and a king against a king. With three pieces on the board, it’s complex enough to teach the essential principles of chess but not so complex as to be overwhelming.

This is on par with my experience about how you should market a new business or product. Ambition makes us want to go all in. But the best approach is to avoid complicated openings and focus on a few pieces and moves at a time.

The Moves I Would Focus On

If you asked me what I would focus on if I started today, the answer is building a resource. This can be a YouTube channel, a blog, a vlog, a podcast, etc. These resources can scale without your active participation, allowing you to move on to new things later. After a while, creating these resources will become second nature. Achieving Fingerspitzengefühl will allow you to intuitively manage these resources with minimal effort while focusing on what’s next.

In contrast, being all over the place posting on social media, running Facebook groups, etc., can be rewarding, but chances are you won’t have much to show for it once you stop doing it. This brings to mind the boulder-pushing marketing example from Edition Nr. 2. As long as you continue spending time or money, things seem to be doing okay. But the moment you stop, everything falls apart, and you’re back at square one.

Stay inspired,