Many people in the business world today – and especially on the marketing and creative end of things – like to talk about “re-writing the rules” and “breaking new ground” and “being rebels.”
Unfortunately, most if it is just that: talk.
In the end, most of us end up toning down our designs. Our ideas. Our business plans.
Why? Probably fear, mostly.
Fear that we might offend. Fear that our work will turn people off. Fear that we’ll lose market share or clients or prestige. Fear that we’ll push the cork just a little too far, a little too soon.
Fear that the client will walk away.
Fear should be the thing that drives you to train harder, fight smarter, race faster. Fear should be our motivation to excel and break new ground. To seek every possible advantage. Fear should make us bold. Fear should push us to the front of the pack, where the cheetahs or coyotes or wolves can’t get to us.
Fear should not paralyze us. Ever. Ever. Ever.
Playing it safe is not an option. It isn’t what we got into this business for. It isn’t why clients and customers came to us in the first place. Playing it safe isn’t what made Elvis the King, or Madonna a pop icon, or iPod a huge commercial success. Playing it safe isn’t what crushed Hitler’s war machine in 1944. It isn’t what broke world records. It isn’t what put men on the moon. It isn’t what cured polio. It isn’t what made anyone fall in love with you.
Whenever I see boring products on a shelf or boring advertising in a magazine, or boring copy, or a boring political platform, I can’t help but roll my eyes and ask why. Seriously. Why? Why bother? Why did someone waste time on this? Why did anyone spend money on this? Why would anyone think that being indistinguishable from anyone else (or just being… unremarkable, period) is even in the realm of good ideas?
Why play it safe? Is it smart to play it safe in love? In war? In politics? In design? In art? In business? In sports? In religion and philosophy? In literature? In our thinking? In our cooking?
Fear is a natural response. Fear is healthy. Fear is what makes us run faster, think better, fight harder, search deeper. Fear should drive innovation. Fear should drive us forward.
Fear should never turn us into cowards.
Everyone loves to talk about being bold and innovative. Everyone wants to puff out their chest and speak of the future as if it were something easily grabbed by the throat and pounded into rightful submission.
Unfortunately, most people (and companies) don’t have the oysters to actually go beyond the yapping phase. (If they did, I wouldn’t be so damn excited every time I run into a company or creative agency that actually puts its money where its mouth is.)
The good news is that I am slowly building a network of awesome, super talented, smart, visionary business people, thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs. They’re out there. I meet or discover new ones almost every day, and that’s pretty damn cool.
The bad news is that even if that very exclusive club grows to be several hundred strong, even several thousand, it will still only be a drop in the proverbial bucket.
The 1% of the 1% of the 1%.
Talk about a minority.
We really ought to try and make that number a little bigger. (That’s one of the reasons why many of us blog, if you were wondering.)
We really ought to lead by example. By not being afraid to be bold, and make people react and talk and think. We really ought to not be afraid to fall flat on our faces at times, or to make some people angry, or to step on a few toes.
Controversy isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a company. In many ways, it is the very thing a company might need to define itself as a brand. Standing for something. Style. Integrity. Design. User-friendliness. Something.
We owe it to all the kids who graduate from college and find themselves having to work for thankless companies that will waste their talent and rob us of their creativity for years and years and years.
We owe it to ourselves to be the rebels we once hoped we would be. The leaders. The groundbreaking pioneers.
I am not saying that you should expect to singlehandedly change the world. (I’m not saying you can’t either.) I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be afraid to try.
And that when you do try, there will be hundreds – no, thousands – of us cheering for you.
And yeah, if the first few attempts don’t work, we’ll be there to help you dust yoursef off until your perseverance pays off. It doesn’t matter if you’re a junior-level media buyer or a product manager or a sales management trainee.
Don’t be a chump. Don’t be a yes man. Don’t get suckered into creating average workor falling in line behind all of the other drones who had your job before you came along.
Playing it safe sucks. It always did.
Don’t just talk about rewriting the rules. Do it.
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