Neither my posts, my wisdom nor my ideas emerge from a vacuum. Everything I have learned until now and everything I will ever learn in my life will come from doing, learning, experimenting, and listening to people who tried to do the same thing in different ways before I came along.
I often hear people lament over the fact that there are no truly original ideas left. They’re completely missing the point. The importance some people attribute to the originality of an idea is completely overblown. It’s an ego trip. They’re just disappointed because they couldn’t be known as the guy who came up with it.
Truth: What makes an idea good isn’t how original it is. It’s how good it is.
Who cares if you were inspired by a dozen things other people did? Who cares if you borrowed from artists and designers and engineers who solved a problem or created something great twenty years before you became the precious little center of your mother’s world? Great ideas, real innovation, the next big thing, no one is going to come up with them sitting at their desk, brainstorming with a roomful of suck-ups.
Great ideas, real innovation, the next big thing, they’re all out there, waiting to be pieced together like a puzzle. And the puzzle pieces, they are scattered all over the place. How are you going to find them?
You want to find out how to get better at customer service? Take off the suit, get in your car, and go talk to your customers. Better yet, become a customer all over again. Heck, do both.
You want to find out how to design better products? Start looking at every product out there a little more closely. Things that have nothing to do with your industry. Dog toys. iPhone applications. Action figures. Tennis rackets. Bicycles. Sunglasses. Mechanical pencils. Media players. Faucets. Swiss Army knives. Even cat food is designed to look, taste and feel cool. Learn what works.
You want to find out how to become a wiser business leader? Go out and talk to people who have suffered under some really bad ones. You’ll learn very quickly how to avoid becoming the next mediocre suit with a big title.
You want to generate great ideas on a regular basis and execute on them the way Apple and Nike do? Surround yourself with creative thinkers who will challenge groupthink, uninspired corporate obstacles and collectively work together to figure out how to rock the As all the way to the Zs.
Inspiration and wisdom are everywhere. Whatever unbeaten path you may find yourself on, it’s still a path. People have been there before. Maybe the path looked very different then, but it’s still the same path. Find these people and learn from them. Since you probably didn’t have time to clear your schedule today, let me bring a little bit of that wisdom to you… but after that, you’re kind of on your own.
Very few of the little bits of wisdom below were meant to be used as business advice, which is precisely why I selected them. They’re all really about life, about decisions, about integrity, about the choices we make. But it doesn’t take a genius to see how some can be applied to customer service, to hiring, to innovation, to career management, to choosing whom to work with, and to coming out of this recession a market leader.
Rule #1: Just because someone has had more downs than ups doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to teach you. Success, just like good ideas, doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. Success is nothing if it isn’t the final intelligent outcome of a thousand purposeful failures.
But hey, don’t take my word for it:
“Nothing is just one thing.” – Carrie Fisher
“I never knew what I wanted, except it was something I hadn’t seen before.” – Robert Altman
“Change is not threatening.” – Steve Wynn
“I love discourse. I’m dying to have my mind changed. I want to know, you understand? I like listening to everybody. This to me is the elixir of life.” – Jack Nicholson
“Take a bit of the future and make it your present.” – Andy Grove
“Courage is doing something you need to do that might get you hurt.” – Bobby Bowden
“If you’re not nervous, you’re either a liar or a fool. But you’re not a professional.” – Jerry Lewis
“Hire people who will treat the switchboard operator as friendly as they’ll treat the managing director.” – Sir Richard Branson
“My definition of evil is unfriendliness.” – Muhammad Ali
“Tell the truth. sing with passion. Work with laughter. Love with heart. ‘Cause that’s all that matters in the end.” – Kris Kristofferson
“Never accept ultimatums, conventional wisdom, or absolutes.” – Christopher Reeve
“If you don’t go, you’ll never know.” – Robert DeNiro
“If you want results, press the red button. The others are useless.” – Homer Simpson
“Hypocrisy is a detriment to progress. There’s always a hidden agenda.” – Larry Flint
“Money doesn’t make people happy. People make people happy.” – Steve Wynn
“If the dark is dark enough, light flares.” – Esky (New York City mascot)
“A nickname means you belong.” – Buck O’Neil
“Risk means guessing at the outcome, but never second-guessing.” – Mel Brooks
“I don’t regret anything.” – Bryan Anderson
“If a guy doesn’t have a little gamble in him, he isn’t worth a crap.” – Evel Knievel
“Wisdom is knowing when to shut the f*ck up.” – Adam West
“The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile.” – Julia Child
“If I complain about a traffic jam, I have no one but myself to blame.” – Steve Wynn
When you’re 70 and retired, trust me on this, you don’t want to look back and wish you had done it differently. Do it differently now, while you actually can.
This post was written to “Rhino II” by the Stereo MC’s, on DJ Kicks (From my Massive Attack channel on Pandora)