Whenever we hear this turn of phrase, it tends to be regarding a negative situation or outcome of the proclaimer.
Why was I born into a poor family?
Why did I get the cranky boss?
Why aren’t I good at mathematics?
Why am I so short?
Why don’t I have clear skin?
The interesting thing is that we never hear these people asking why they were born healthy, with working limbs, in a country without war or famine, and with a family that loves them.
No, they’d rather point out the ‘margnial’ negative facets in their life and only ever look up the ladder to people who are better off in one particular area. They forget to look down. We all have elements in our lives in which others are better off, and we all have elements in which we are better off than others. So it’s vital we look both ways, up and down, and keep a balanced perspective on life.
In fact the real why me question they might ask is why don’t I have a better attitude? And the reason they don’t ask this question is that it is something they have total control over.
Our view on success depends largely on our reference points. If we look up we see some of what we might hope for. If we look down, we see that our lot in life is not that bad.
There real danger is only looking one way. If we focus just on those above us, we may never be satisfied. We could turn into workalohics, forget to appreciate what we have achieved, or even worse, we could become jaded and jealous. If we focus just on those below us, we become satisfied, lazy, or simply accepting of our status quo.
If we look both ways it helps us to stay balanced and have perspective on what we have, versus what we’d like. And the last important thing to remember is to define ‘up’ carefully, and make sure it focuses on riches beyond the financial type.
Meet Alistair Leathwood. Alistair is the Managing Director of a large research firm. Research is a typically conservative industry, which for good reason is filled with conservative individuals. The type of individuals that are diligent, thoughtful, sedulous, hard working and considered.
Alistair is also one of these people.
The interesting thing about Alistair is that he doesn’t let the reality of hard, thoughtful and considered work get in the way of fun. Alistair knows that it is possible to display personality, have fun and actually still get work done in a professional manner. And when I caught up with Alistair for lunch today he told that he doesn’t just ask his people to have fun in the office, he mandates it.
Just quietly, this is the kind of attitude I can dig. An attitude that knows that a suit and tie are not the basis of diligence or insight.
So here’s little picture of how cool cat Alistair rolls. He’s an everyday colored sock man, regardless of what else he happens to be wearing…. and the bead necklace? Well he’s had it on every time I’ve seen him and he reckons he’s worn it everyday for the past 10 years. He then went on to say, the shirt and pants where for me, while the socks and necklace were for him!
It feels a lot like the industrial revolution and the marketing of widgetry had a subconscious influence on what business people would wear. A specified expectation of limited differentiation which I will be glad to see the end of. I think we should all take a sock out of Alistair’s drawer and ensure we don’t become our own version of Mista Bob Dobalina
And don’t panic, the world is quickly learning that how smart and capable we are is not dependent of our uniform.
I was recently reading an article which asked advertising people if they had to choose youth or experience what would they choose.
Ogilvy executive chairman Tom Moult sited the exemplar below.
There’s an old David Ogilvy story. He was looking at some creative work from a junior. He asked how the guy how he knew the ads would work, the junior explained that he was sure they would as his intuition told him so.
Ogilvy said, “Imagine your appendix ruptures right now, and I rush you to hospital. There are two surgeons available, one is an experienced surgeon, and the other one is new to the game but is offering to operate on you using his intuition. Which one would you choose?”
While David Ogilvy was a genius, and this is a compelling allegory he forgot one important thing. Advertising is not surgery. It’s not even a science for that matter, so we should never judge it as such.
What would I choose?
A youthful attitude.
Youth is a state of mind and our mind is as nimble or as old as we let it be.
Two young boys had the unfortunate up bringing by a father who was a thief a scoundrel and a drunk. He gave them little support and set the worst possible example for how to lead life as an adult.
One of the boys grew up to be just like his father. A thief and scoundrel and a drunk.
One of the boys grew up to be a successful businessman and a stand up member of his community.
When they were asked why they turned out the way they did as adults they both gave the same answer:
“What did you expect, my dad was a thief, a scoundrel and a drunk”
Yesterday I went to a well known cafe in Melbourne for breakfast. Yes, it had a amazing the decor of a restored warehouse and exotic free range egg combinations, but that wasn’t what impressed me. It was the way they served their ‘non-customers’.
By the time we where half way through our second java a line had started to build for people waiting for a table, which is pretty rare in a cafe centric city like Melbourne. Up until that time the thriving restaurant still had amazingly quick service. But the service I was most impressed with was the service they gave those who weren’t even customers. People waiting patiently outside were treated to complimentary cafe lattes and flat whites. I’m sure they were surprised and delighted at the good will gesture. The tone of the staff there also told me that they gave them coffee because they were genuinely sorry they couldn’t seat them immediately. They meant it, and it wasn’t a promotional ploy. Something we’d never see from a chains store or large corporate. They’d be more concerned with wooing ‘non-customers’ that rewarding their ‘sure bets’. I say they’ve got it back to front.
The reality of the complimentary coffee is that it sent out a good vibe, and cost very little to do. And the benefits? Well I’m already blogging about it and put it on my twitter stream which goes to many thousands. I’d also say that rewarding those you’ve already got, is a far better investment than investing in those who’ve never helped your business. Something all startups should take note of.
I once worked in a consumer goods company which went from Individual offices to open plan.
I now work in an advertising agency where we have moved from individual offices to open desks.
What happened at these two firms is interesting. The first office (consumer goods marketing) sent out a mass email banning iPods (and any other brand of personal music device – this is seriously what the email said). Claiming that the idea of open plan was to encourage open communications, and it was rude to listen to music while working. That we couldn’t do our jobs while listening to music as it was distracting. While at the same time the directors had offices with doors.
The second office (advertising) did something much different. Firstly, all the directors have the same size desk and space as every employee. On our first day in the new office we all had a gift on our desk wrapped beautifully with a ribbon. Inside the pack was free coffee vouchers (for the cafe across the road) and a brand new iPod nano. And it had a note which said the following:
“The iPod nano – this is good for a few things. Moving to open will at times be challenging. If you feel it is getting on top of you, then feel free to bung in your iPod and listen to your favourite tunes. We’re also into the idea that we can all play part in creating our new vibe. So we’ll be asking you to supply the music each day. We’ll place a sign at the reception that says “Today’s music thanks to Ant Shannon.” Please make your playlist and get it on the dock. The iPods you’ve received also take video – get in the habit of recording the stuff you like or think about. Keep it, play it, share it.”
A massive difference in attitude, culture and resulting creative output. The culture we create in our startup or any business is a result of what we do, and we can change it at any time with a bit of effort and humanity.