We think; therefore we succeed.
We’re here, on this platform, because we are paid to think.
To challenge, not coast.
And while I am sure, there are widgets, services, and whatnots we are all associated with…in the end we are: Paid. To. Think. It’s our currency. The only real thing we do of value. The more unique/surprising and/or interesting the thinking we do, the more value we provide. The more value we can provide the more irreplaceable we are.
And isn’t that the point?
But when we think differently (sorry Apple®), or independently, we as people (or our ideas) are categorized as a rebellious, difficult, demanding, troublesome…
These labels make sure the thinking suffers. These labels push us to get our teams inline. To stop exploring. These labels force us to think less, and conform more. They in short, make us conform to the ordinary.
When I was young art director straight out of school, I worked hard to fit in as a means to succeed, it was the bar that I would be measured. I thought that the reason I was being pushed to conform was out of some kindness to help me succeed. I can see now it wasn’t. I was pushed to conform as a means to bring me and my thinking back to the center. Not because it was more strategic, it was to make everyone else comfortable. Make me easy to manage. A way to build a “team” or a “culture” with a unified voice. My work and growth were stunted because I thought the problem was conformity. I thought there was something wrong with me and my naïveté told me I should adapt to fit in because that’s what it takes to succeed. And to some degree it worked, or at least I worked hard and put in the hours and hours to “earn” my place and titles and pay followed.
Looking back: the work suffered. The creativity suffered. The ROI suffered.
But while my teams were comfortable they were not satisfied. I certainly wasn’t.
Sure, the clients were happy enough to come back, for a time—but bigger and better projects never came. Eventually, we were replaced.
Now, I’m talking to you.
You revolutionaries. You discontent. You insubordinate.
Lean into the labels, do not avoid them—they are a sign you are heading into new territory, you are expanding thoughts and comforts.
You are doing what you are paid to do.
Learn what took me too long to figure out and wear the labels proudly, they will serve you well in your career.
I can’t say you will always feel welcome.
You will not; but f*ck it.
If you seek comfort, take it from the notion that the push back you receive is from those that only wish to hold you down. If you find you do not fit in, find a place where you will. In the end, you will be glad you did.
But I can say, there are some “tips” in starting, and more importantly, sustaining the revolution. Here are the marching orders you need to seed a successful rebellion, the rules I learned (the hard way) over the years.
One: Root your rebellion in reality. Think. Have a reason. Use facts to support your ideas. Solid fact-based reasoning will always win any argument that is winnable (I am sorry to say they are not always winnable, especially if we cannot align with fundamental truths).
Two: Don’t make it personal, don’t take it personal. It’s not, there is (almost) always an underlying reason why something does or does not work or how you can or cannot reach someone. If you work to find the why (or why not): you make progress—even if it reveals itself to be personal. You can’t affect how they take it, but you can control how you make it.
Three: You could be wrong. Be ready. Cancel the revolution if the foundations of understanding shift.
Four: Listen. That’s how you will know you are wrong.
Five: Be open. I know, fundamentally if you listen and are willing to be wrong then you are open, but it doesn’t go without saying: you can revolt and listen at the same time, and I’m working hard to get a top ten list in order so work with me…
Six: Encourage communication. You can’t rally the troops if you never enlist them. Win hearts and minds, bring them along. Communication is they key, even if it is uncomfortable.
Seven: Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Be tenacious not stubborn. Tenacity is a skill; stubbornness is a habit.
Eight: Find strategic allies. You’ll need more officers in your rebellion.
Nine: Encourage others. Nobody notices the rebellion if it is covertly wrapped in encouragement.
And finally…be pleasant. Or at least, don’t be combative. Be the revolution, not the war. Change minds, win hearts, gain followers, make fans. Make. It. Easier.
And as a bonus: hang tough.
The work you do now is the work you will look back upon nostalgically. These are moments that lead to great work, great ideas, great partnerships. Great Success.
Viva la revolucion.
Good luck out there. XO