Of course I had identified a clearly defined market for Bun (pronounced ‘Boon’) Yom’s book Tomorrow I’m Dead. I knew who would buy it, who would read it, where they would buy it and how long it would take them to finish it. I am a marketing expert who knows this sort of thing. I knew that our primary market was equally distributed between male and female over 18 years olds and I knew that our market was highly correlated with education, socio-economic status and readership of related material. I knew all about this market, but I was wrong, dead wrong.
After Bun’s presentation there was a line waiting to meet him and have their book signed. I stood there paying little attention until I heard a young man, maybe 12 years old, insist “I just want to meet him Mom!” I watched the struggle until Mom relented and the boy got in line.
Then it happened. Right before my eyes the truth unfolded. A truth that had eluded me for years. Half of the people in line were under 18! Many were not yet old enough to drive. The woman talking to Bun was buying three books he was signing for each of her children. How could I have missed this? How could I, who preach this daily, have been so presumptuous that I would base all of my knowing on my own preconceived beliefs rather than careful observation of the truth?
These young people weren’t alive during the Killing Fields, they don’t know about world history, and they probably can’t spell Cambodia, how could this be? Once again I missed. The prerequisite for interest was not prior knowledge or academic prowess, it was curiosity. Curiosity about this world, its inhabitants, and a profound inquiry into their own nature.
My faux pas was confirmed this morning as Bun spoke to 200 High School students. In these youth this curiosity was vibrant, alive, insistent. They had not yet learned to replace inquiry with history as I had done. Training is good, education is good, expertise is good, but there is no substitute for truth.