Thinking beyond yourself when you’re a teenager is as difficult as understanding #talklikeyourbestfriend as an adult. Relationships were limited because we weren’t chemically capable of thinking beyond ourselves.
There comes a time, of course, when it becomes clear that relationships are more meaningful over the long haul when we put someone else’s needs on par or ahead of our own. There are more returns and deeper significance. But it requires us to think beyond ourselves and care for the other person in the relationship in ways that we were (or at least I was) incapable of as a teenager. (And yes, for me now. This is something I don’t have to tell most of you—mainly just myself. But it’s a working simile, and I’m going with it.)
Social capital, by it’s very construct, requires a perspective broader than the immediate transactional relationship. I’m beginning to put the word “mature” to it (against my instinctive wishes… that’s a word that made my zit-covered skin crawl as a teenager). Thinking beyond the immediate transactional value takes a mature perspective about building value in an organization. It reminds me of how we grow out of thinking only of ourselves and how we see value in putting others ahead of our own needs. When we do this, the relationships in our lives really hit their stride.
Same with businesses. Here’re two examples that came across my reading world recently.
A bank helps their unemployed mortgage customers with their job searches. I thought this was a simple but solid example of looking beyond the immediate transactional relationship. A shareholder might say that a bank isn’t in the business of job searches, but I can hear the forward-thinking leader within the bank suggesting that it also isn’t in the business of house ownership. What do you want, the house or the revenue? Investing a little in the bank’s social capital will generate more sustainable revenue.
On the other side of the coin is this great opinion piece that contains a reminder about the story of Andrew Auernheimer. Weev, as he’s better known, exploited a security weakness in AT&T’s systems with a simple web crawler script. He didn’t use the private information he gathered for anything other than shedding light on the issue, but was prosecuted anyway. 41 months in prision, $73,000 in fines.
Assuming AT&T cooperated with the prosecution, it could have instead capitalized (literally) on the opportunity to work with Weev. Maybe this could have been a chance for AT&T to engage the public instead of push them away when it comes to the topic of privacy. Hackers on long tail are waiting to be engaged in this way. So lead them. Engage them. They want to help, be attached to something larger than themselves. AT&T probably inspired the ill-intended hackers more than they scared them them away.
AT&T might be a behemoth of a company, but it seems like a child in this instance. The bank? Showing the kind of love with for their customers that only a grown up can.
To the creative process, practice is critical. I’ve long been intrigued by the notion that artists (like athletes) spend 95% percent of their time practicing to execute well in the remaining 5% of their time.
In business, it’s the opposite. There’s very little practice time in business, and we’re expected to execute all the time. There’s the occasional executive business program, leadership retreat, coaching session, or sabbatical. But those are rare, and some working professionals may never have the chance at any of those perks.
There are many ways to practice and many techniques go in to practicing for various outcomes. This post from FastCompany Design got me thinking. Maybe we should talk more concretely about practice. Take a look at more specific examples of how practice helps the artistic creative process to see what can cross pollinate the creative process at work.
I play percussion for a South Asian dance troupe. Many of the dancers are young women with such high energy and expressions of optimism and glee that it’s as if their life is accompanied by abundant exclamation points and OMG’s hanging over their heads wherever they go. Sometimes I’ll walk into a practice studio or a room filled with these dancers and their energy hits me like I’ve splashed down at the end of a water ride into a sparkly-pink, fruity perfume pool. It’s taken some getting used to.
I thought of this when I read Kevin Kelly’s interesting piece about Extraordinary (clipped in this Farnam Street Blog post, where I found it).
The gist: Because we are exposed so regularly and so unexceptionally to the irregular and exceptional, we demand the best and greatest from our TED talks, sales presentations, and home videos of skateboard crashes and precious dog companion videos. That the regularity of irregularity in this “ocean of extraordinariness” skews our view of probability. That all must be great always.
The notion I’m sure is partially true, and Kelly is a terrific thinker. But there’s a clear and significant rise in a segment of our society that moves in the opposite direction. A segment that has reacted to growing up with the deluge of extraordinary in precisely the opposite way.
Last year, I busted out a few guest posts for the blog Please Feed The Animals. When I asked Erik Proulx (the curator of the place turned film director and inspiration for me and countless others to have the courage to just friggin’ do stuff that’s important) how many words he thought worked best on PFTA, he said “between 30 and 3000.”
There’s this famous scene from Amadeus. I don’t understand. There are just as many notes as I required. Neither more no less.
And then this nice article from the ever-reposeful Pico Iyer quotes Thoreau: “the man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important messages.”
All reminders for me today:
It’s the story, not the tactics associated with telling it, that makes the brand.
It’s the experience, not the degree to which the brand is mentioned on Twitter, that engages stakeholders.
It’s the work of people, making disciplined decisions over and over again, that inspire ideas.
Rules of thumb are only as good as the brain controlling the hand.
“Henry David Thoreau” under CC license by psd
I just moved in to a new office. I’m renting an office in a larger space rented by a web design firm (Cirro… check them out). The space is in the Freight building on the Taxi campus. Straight out of FastCompany, this place. Here’s my view through one of my walls, the glass of which was reclaimed from the Pepsi Center when they replaced their hockey glass:
Across my desk, through my glass, across the Cirro guys, through a giant, open garage door, with a view of downtown Denver.
It’s clear that the non-art world needs artists more than artists need it. Since the non-art world has gone out of its way over the years to make itself a downright despicable place for artists, artists have had to find (and have found, thank you very much) plenty of creative ways to survive in and around the non-art world. So at a time when the non-art world is in desperate need for the kind of proclivity that a creative mind or two can bring to bear in solving the challenges of our times, the last place many artists want to spend their time is in the non-art world.
To make things worse, the non-art world, operating under rules established and maintained with a significant left-brain unbalance, has un-arted itself away from any kind of perspective on the matter. Just like the study that shows incompetent people are double-burdened because they’re both incompetent and too incompetent to know they’re incompetent.
The non-art world has become too left-brained to realize it’s too left-brained.
Artists don’t owe the non-art world anything. But the world needs artists. So here’s some thoughts on how an artist might convince the non-art world to listen. If an artist is so inclined.
Here’s hoping they are.
My second guest blog post is up on Please Feed The Animals. It’s about building social capital – an outcome of effective leadership more than effective social media tactics.
And it includes a small nod to Mom.
You can check it out here.
If you aren’t familiar with Please Feed The Animals, you probably should be. Erik Proulx started it to create a space for laid off advertising professionals to reinvent themselves in what turned out to be a serious disruption in the ad agency world. In the process, Erik reinvented himself. I’ve had the chance to work with Erik a few times and I can tell you he’s a rare bird. Creative-brilliant. He’s been a great collaborator for me professionally and an inspiration for my solo efforts.
So when he said that his his reinvention process has kept him away from feeding the animals on PFTA, and asked a group of us to guest post on PFTA to keep it and the dialog there alive and humming, I jumped at the chance. I’m honored that he asked me to a part of it.
If you’re interested in my take on personal branding, here’s my PFTA post, Personal Branding’s Dirty Secret.
A remarkable person has just landed a guest columnist gig with Entrepreneur Magazine.
Erika Napolefuckintano. The Readhead.
I say Entrepreneur is lucky to have her.
For anyone who’s attended one of my presentations – Branding for the Rest of Us or Leading in a Social World – you’ve probably heard me talk about Erika. I often use her as an example of remarkability – a section where I mash-up Jim Collins and Seth Godin to talk about declaring and being that thing that sets you apart.