• "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

There’s a saying you probably know well: “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Your neighbor’s lawn always looks better than yours.

The same goes for anything really – marketing, business models, sales process, company culture:

  • Of course Ariana Huffington can talk about work-life balance, meditation and taking time for yourself, she’s made her money. That’s looking over and seeing greener grass.
  • Of course Tony Robbins can tell you to donate money even if you don’t have much. He’s also made his fortune. That’s also looking over the fence and seeing greener grass.
  • Of course HubSpot can create blog posts, ebooks, webinars, trainings, podcasts, they’re a huge company. That’s greener grass.
  • Of course Howard Schultz can say supporting gay marriage is a social decision, not an economic one, Starbucks can afford the initiative. Greener grass.
  • Of course Red Bull can send a guy to space and broadcast his re entry. They’re that type of company. Greener grass.
  • Of course Apple can be antisocial (as in not use much social media), they have the iPhone! Greener grass.
  • Of course Google can say that GPA doesn’t correlate with employee performance, they’re Google, they can afford to test out different employees. And don’t get me started about the free food they offer their employees! Greener grass.
  • Of course Seth Godin can talk about permission marketing, he’s his own boss, he can do what he wants. Greener grass.

We create these greener pastures in our minds and tend to gravitate towards these dreams. And then we get there…and the grass doesn’t look so green anymore. That’s when we find out that like before, there’s stress working there, there are high expectations, their systems our outdated or only a few people get to work on the cool projects (or the projects don’t feel so cool when you see all the nuts and bolts of them).

No, I think it’s better to take the time to fertilize your lawn – stand for your beliefs, make a difference, create art. Only leave if you’re prevented from doing that.

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The issue with many consultants stems from alignment (or misalignment). Some come and demo big and fancy tools while others, small and cheap ones. Which is fine in and of itself. The thing is, these are presented regardless of the priorities, promises and business model set out by the client.

Now of course big and fancy is exciting and small and cheap is appealing, but that’s not what matters. What good is the fancy tool if you’ve built your business on low margins? What impact will cheap have of you’ve promised uniqueness? The equation, of course, isn’t always that simple.

Thorny issues surrounding agency/client relations almost always stem from misalignment. As the service provider, you’re the expert, you need the courage to notice when your offer is misaligned with your client’s needs. No one wants to be the square peg being jammed in a round hole.

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The unremarkable brand depends on legalese, contracts and fine print to enforce their “uniqueness.”

Of course it’s comforting to be unremarkable. Since school we’ve been thought to be average: try to get an A of course, but don’t stand out and rock the boat. So today, we work hard to be average. So when push comes to shove we have to do just that.

The other option of course is to be remarkable. It’s as easily said as it is done. What if we couldn’t compete with you because you had focused on being unique? Unique can’t be replicated. What if you worked hard on making people want to work with you? Contracts are then a simple formality. What if you offered products that did what they said and were in the best interest of the client? The fine print then becomes the main copy.

Tradition forces us to be unremarkable. If you can hide behind fine print, then why create something worth buying?

Why be remarkable when unremarkable can be enforced?

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Not long ago, it used to be that your website was the only way to live on the world wide web. So it made sense to hire a plethora of developers and designers to make it.

WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and all that came before stated that the website, although vital, was no longer what it used to be. In a world of Facebook, LinkedIn, Etsy, Pinterest where clusters can find each other and regroup, your site becomes something different.

Your site becomes a part of the story, not the destination. It becomes one of the places we can go to learn about who you are if we happen to be searching Google or Bing.

So while it used to make sense to pay to get the site taken care of, it seems irrelevant today. There are some for whom the site is what matters – Facebook, your online banking site, Google – but for the rest of us, the time, energy and money must be spent elsewhere: Creating content that resonates, interact in ways that matter, be part of the group…

Only invest if your site is the destination.

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Rituals are automatisms we develop to make room for what matters. If you automate your mornings, the way you write your blog posts, your lunch hour, you decrease the energy it takes to make these things happen. The flip side of course is that it leaves more energy available for what matters: the work you need to do, the content you need to write and the art you need to create.

Rituals remove the “I’m too busy/I don’t have the time” excuse.

Rituals that lose their purpose become traditions. We do them because that’s how it’s done. We add fine print because we need fine print, we send registered mail because we need to register it, we set up a Facebook page for our brand because everyone is on Facebook and so on. They don’t free up energy, in fact they often take more up (apply the process, hire people to do it, document the steps) and leave less room for the work that matters.

Traditions are a shelter. They allow us to hide from what matters because what matters requires pushing the limit, poking the box and challenging what is. Traditions force us to do the opposite – work within the frame, within the box and accept what is.

A well setup ritual however allows us to achieve inertia and shed the platitudes so that all that is left is work that matters.

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I’m tired, I can’t write today.
I don’t feel like pushing the envelope right now.
I don’t think what I have to say matters.
What if I make a fool out of myself?
Oh but I know he’ll dismiss what I write.
I’m not important.
I’m really in over my head here…

All examples of statements that could be followed-up with a statement like “I have nothing to say.”

But the only way to stand out and make something that matters is to take a chance and speak up. Sure we might be wrong, there might be a backlash, there could be critics. Isn’t it funny though, how the naysayers are usually the ones who stand back, the ones who stay in the stands, the armchair coaches who decide to play it safe?

That doesn’t mean what you put out there is flawless, but it does mean that taking a chance is the only way to make something that matters.

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The woman next to me on the train is reading up on SMART goals. I’ve read up on SMART goals and I’m sure you have too. Yet, are your goals smarter than they were before? Are we more productive and efficient?

SMART goals work, so do most efficiency and productivity hacks. They only have one design flaw…they need to be put in place to function as designed. Without implementation, there is no change, no new way. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to create and do work that matters, but every artist has her each way of creating and shipping.

I don’t think Dr. Maya Angelou, Beethoven or Hemingway spent their time reading up on how to create more art. They perfected the routines and rituals that worked for them.

What if, instead of chasing the latest hack, you focused on just shipping. Find the thing that drives the most impact and work on that.

I think Nike had it right all along: Just do it.

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Generally, there are two ways to look at events and incidents. You can be gracious and grateful it happened or you can be bitter and angry.

Sometimes it’s black and white; it’s easier to be one than the other. It’s easy to be grateful with a promotion. It’s easy to be angry after being mugged. But other times, it’s unclear. A type of grey zone. The emotions creep in, slowly, unnoticed and I think that’s when they’re at their most dangerous.

You owe it to yourself to be on the lookout for the reactions that quietly drip in. Especially the negative. Walking around with the burden of resentment limits your creativity, your generosity and what you offer to the world.

Take the time to work on grace and being grateful, it will deliver and make all the difference.

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In a world of abundance, the one willing to be most generous, gets ahead. When everything is available, when the foundation for generating and executing any idea is available for all, holding on makes little sense.

Until, of course you need to be selfish. At some point the buck stops. You need to be ruthlessly selfish with anything that allows you to create value and live out your purpose.

You need to be selfish with your time. You need to be selfish with your career. You need to be selfish with your deals. You need to be selfish with your attention…

Be generous with what you’ve acquired – your knowledge, your wisdom, your skills, but be selfish if it will help you create something the world needs.

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Of course you can. You can teach anyone anything as long as they’re willing to learn.

And that’s exactly the point. Seek out the curious ones, the ones who want to learn, the ones who, regardless of age, status, location or situation are open to new ideas and new ways of doing.

I think our responsibility is to keep sharing, keep being generous and staying patient. Those that matter will come around.

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