Bigger (Than) Life
June 5, 2012
"Well, I'm uncertain about my interest in working on the project." Jim immediately looked at me, stunned and in amazement, as I made that declaration while driving with him toward the airport.
We had just left a meeting with a potential client for his agency, where I was being considered for hire, and on paper it would seem to have major game-changing possibilities.
"...But I thought you needed a job and wanted to work with us?" he said in a confused way. "Well, I do ... but the truth is I have spent 25 years working for other people and companies already, where on most occasions I sat in meetings, just like this one, and in order to keep my job and just 'get it done,' I had to kiss ass, polish turds, and manipulate so the deal could be closed, the money made, build synergy among the team or departments/divisions, not go 'against the grain' or 'rock the boat,' or that infamous ... 'remember the customer is always right'statement; but I knew in my heart and soul that it was so wrong, flawed, a bad strategy, a shitty idea, or it simply wasn't going to work!"
And as my thoughts raced about my mind recalling everything that had been said or proposed; I was suddenly putting so much together in the moment that seemed to have been resonating with me for years, and for whatever reason was clicking now like never before ... and really amplified by this meeting, so I continued, "And the frustrating part was you know there IS the possibility to take it to a higher level and ultimately ignite something that has a real chance of not only meeting expectations but really having an outcome that is extraordinary. But the kicker is that to do it would mean going against the very advice instilled inside of you from an early start in business ... especially the sales and marketing side of it ... whatever you do, don't ever, EVER, call someone's baby ugly."
You see, we learn quickly, because on the rare moments when you do muster up the courage to speak up and challenge what was being presented, or asked for greater clarity in the past ... it was big-time research guys like Larry who would dismiss the notion, label you negative, and use fancy numbers, slides and figures to explain that it wasn't the uniqueness of trying something different or adding greater depth, but following the average consensus among the research and modeling others' success that would make the difference."
Jim stopped me there and expressed a point that reinforced the story -- and one I have come to expect from most people (and I mean 99% of them) in marketing, advertising, or any traditional company, which is trained, taught, or has any type of experience using the same old strategy and tactics to simply make a sale or deliver a campaign in a world before now.
He reminded me that it wasn't the job to worry about the deeper mission right now, but to stay focused on building a bigger-than-life solution and a campaign that could be integrated on many platforms to impact the objectives and accomplish the goals of what was presented by the brand leadership currently.
And it was that thought process that was precisely the reason I was unsure about it all.
You see, it's exactly the hard truth ... and I mean hard, transparent and authentic truth ... and not the "authentic" that Mark has made into a buzzword on his split-screen videos where he simply tells big-time marketing gurus what they already know and has re-purposed it for media. By the way, guess what happens when you tell a person something they already know? They agree with you! But I digress ...
I'mlking about a truth where you don't just go through the process of busy work, buy some research to only prove yourself right, or eek out another tenth of a point to feel good about yourself for doing something. I mean a dig deep in a respectful but firm way to put it all on the table with nothing left inside of you so you end up with a center of a brand, product, campaign, personality, promotion and so on that illuminates passion and power that is brighter than the very sun at the center of our own universe.
That is what it takes to be remarkable, but most place the starting line at the wrong place to build the real foundation of success and start at "what needs to be" instead of "what truly is" -- and that is too shallow. You miss ever having the chance to finish the race, or you never get out of the middle of the pack, and it becomes a neck-and-neck race without you ever pulling away ... let alone having a real chance at victory.
And the problem is there are plenty of people and companies out there who simply start there, too -- take your time or money, tell you exactly what you want to hear, give you pretty presentations that would appear you accomplished something, and then you escape to a moment in time, a new position, market, cluster, and so on where it starts all over again.
Now, don't read this as me just picking on consultants, agencies, researchers, management, and so on. I have so much love and respect for all of them. In fact, these people aren't wrong - they have great intentions, do great things, and will do an amazing job delivering a bigger-than-life solution on what has been asked of them. People will do EXACTLY what you ask of them ... no more, no less.
However, that's the real opportunity today, and moving forward - you have to start by examining the "what truly is" and uncover the real depth and hard truth of the opportunity. What will make the difference now is not doing what you're simply asked to do and taking the money/job/position, but helping them give greater meaning and depth to the vision ... and even though no one can ever guarantee absolute success ... this BIGGER LIFE approach can (and you) give something the best shot for building a legacy of winning.