Have you ever been out in public, bored or not knowing what to do and your first reaction is to grab your phone? You do it all the time. On dates, with family, during meetings, that device is becoming the death of you.
Just like any child you need to understand what you’re doing so eventually you can leave your security blanket behind.
I really encourage people in our office to turn off notifications on their phones. All that beeping and buzzing is annoying, really think about what those notifications are. Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? Email? Really what you’re doing is getting small shots of dopamine to your brain, it’s exciting, it’s verifying you’re “cool” but how much of it is just noise?
Last week Strategy Lab partnered with our good buddies at Pidgeon Social to present the first ever Honest Conference. The idea for the conference was simple: Get some amazing marketing leaders in our community together to have a frank and honest discussion about they know and even what they don’t. I wasn’t personally involved in a lot of the planning, so I don’t feel too bad about tooting the team’s horn when I say it was absolutely amazing. The lineup of speakers was the best I’ve ever experienced and the amount of value they offered was unreal. there’s no way I could even begin to cover each speaker’s background and presentation (head to honestconference.com for more info on that), but I felt it was important to jot down some of the big ideas from the day:
Create First and Improve Over Time
One of the big common threads that tied together all of the presentations was the idea that doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you have an idea idea for something you can create (be it a vlog, an Instagram, or a jewelry company), just do it, even (or especially) if it’s not perfect. Over time, you’ll figure it out and get better, but the first step is just to try. As human beings we have an unlimited capacity for talking ourselves out of things that have virtually no downside. Changing that is one of the first big steps towards doing something amazing.
Always Ask for Feedback and Act on It (in Moderation)
This feeds nicely into the idea of feedback which just about very speakers touched on at some point as well. As marketers, business owners, and people, we’re always wondering what we should actually be doing to succeed, when in reality the answer is very clearly right in front of us in the form of feedback from our people and our customers. Asking these people what we can do to improve our product, customer service, or marketing tactics gives us the road map to success. Now, this piece of advice comes with a caveat as not all feedback is helpful when you’re trying to innovate. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
(Photo credit: Sprout Catering!)
If You’re Uncomfortable, You’re Probably Doing Something Right
This is another idea that seemed to emerge somewhere along the way in each presentation. Hillberk and Berk COO Mary Weimer got some laughs from the crowd when she revealed that she is in a perpetual state of discomfort, and never really knows for certain the right thing to do. The truth is, comfort is the cost of doing something that will never really move the needle. Justin Reves’ “80% and Go” rule of thumb I think sums this up perfectly: Get to the point where you’re 80% sure of something and then just go for it (as Richard Branson would say, “Screw it, let’s do it!”)
Always Keep it Human
Whether it was HB&B’s policy of giving their employees sparkle balls to give out to strangers, or Wheelhouse’s “Wheel Mile” of encouragement at the Queen City Marathon, the stories that really resonated with people at HonCon were those that demonstrated honest to gosh humanity and compassion. In other words, the companies that succeed will be the ones that genuinely treat the people around them (customers and non-customers alike) like human being and not just numbers, dollars, or “stakeholders”. This was particularly evident when the Roughriders’ marketing coordinator Miriam Johnson spoke about their recent influencer campaign during the opening of the new Mosaic Stadium. They did a deep dive to find out what was important to key people in their community to find out what they truly cared about, then customized swag packages for each person along with a handwritten note specific to their lives and personalities. There was no hard-sell or expectation, just a true sense of caring and a desire to do something awesome.
At the end of the day HonCon was a tremendous success. I strongly believe that each and every person in attendance walked away having learned a lot about what other people in this new marketing world are doing to succeed, not only from the fabulous lineup of kick-ass speakers, but from each other as well.
Awards are overrated!
I received an email “sorry to bother, but would you mind voting for me? I’ve been nominated for an award!”. They were serious. I went and voted for their competitors out of spite.
In all honesty, it’s 2017.Who sends an email asking for a vote?
Ask on social media sure, maybe text or talk to your close friends.In my eyes the more people you have to ask to vote for you, the less you deserve the award.
I do realize this comes off as a rant from someone, who doesn’t win awards. Ha! You’d be right if you thought that, but I don’t think awards matter! Here are four individuals, who have put award winning on the back burner and focused on doing things that matter.
For every winner, there must be a loser. Every time you show, talk about, or mention an award you won, it’s simply your ego rearing it’s ugly face. Don’t do it. Don’t buy in. Don’t talk about awards you won. There’s a time and a place for it. During a job interview, on your LinkedIn Account sure, but in your social media bio? No!
In the words of Seth Godin, “Don’t tell me what you invented. Tell me who you have changed.”
Humility is a virtue.
When you send an email asking someone to vote for you to win an award it makes you seem desperate. Awards are special, meant to celebrate something remarkable you did. If you ask others to “vote” for you via email, personally, I don’t think you deserve the award. With all the commotion about the awards out there, I thought something had to be said.
In the business community when you find out the vast majority of “awards” companies and people win, they had someone close to them apply for it, it doesn’t really seem like awards matter. Literally, an agency nominating their own client work for an award? I get a part of it, I mean, it makes them look great, but eventually unwarranted awards will ketchup to you. Results will always matter more than awards.
If you could afford to buy an award would you?
Five years ago a client asked about an ethical dilemma she was having.
“Do you think we should keep advertising in major Canadian magazine, they’re the ones who decide on Canada’s 50 Top Employers.We seem to be on the list if we advertise, but we won’t be if we pull our budget. What do we do?
If you automatically throwout the notion on advertising to win an award ask yourself, why? Sure it feels unethical, but all the major companies do it.Well at least the ones winning the awards anyway… You can choose to be a part of that world, or you can choose a different path.
How the holy hell did he get an award?
I always find it fascinating to look into the criteria for winning awards, generally someone has to apply for it. This reminds me of my 3rd year University. The Business faculty always had scholarships for “the top students”. This made no sense, because the top students were usually the kids who didn’t have to work, had school paid for, and could focus all their attention on class. Myself, on the other hand struggled to pay for school, had a terrible average and would have LOVED a scholarship. I just didn’t agree with “applying for it”.
As the story goes, my arch nemesis, the know-it-all kid, who never wanted to help out with the Business Students Society, who actually quit on us, applied for the BSS funded scholarship. Then he won. I couldn’t believe it. Why the hell would you pick the guy that was doing fine to give a scholarship to? Here I was struggling to get through classes (though I never failed one!) volunteering my ass off and the goodie two shoes just got a free ride, because he had a high average?!?
That’s when I began to mistrust “school” and any awards given away at school.
Life’s about being able to do your art, not winning awards.
Eddy introduced me to an amazing designer that he looks up to, Aaron Draplin. I’ve written about him before, You don’t need to win awards to be amazing. But I think you should watch his Ted Talk. He doesn’t care about awards, he cares about being able to do his art every single day.
What good is an award if you aren’t happy?
Aaron is a happy guy, my favourite part of his talk is when he talks about how lucky he is to just be able to do his art every day. How often we all take for granted what we do for a living? Here’s a guy, who is one of the most amazing designers of our generation and he is very open about not winning awards. I look up to people like Mr. Draplin. He could apply for awards and put that on his website and proposals, but I think his work speaks for itself.If you’re good enough you won’t need awards to make you feel better. Plus, putting syrup on shit doesn’t make it a pancake. Stop worrying about awards and start worrying about results!
What about BIG awards like the Nobel prize?
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis tells the story of the remarkable relationship of two brilliant Israeli Psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Amos wasn’t a fan of awards. For every winner there had to be a handful of losers and that just wasn’t fair to Amos.
When the Nobel committee called Amos to notify him he was on a very short list to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, Amos didn’t even take the call. He was quoted later saying winning the Nobel prize wasn’t one of the things he was going to miss when he was gone. The Nobel Prize comes with a $1,000,000 cash prize. Not a small prize to be walking away from. Amos died far too early, the behavioural economics community and the world lost a brilliant mind on June 2, 1996.
This was coming for a guy that was offered a job for the rest of his life from one of the top Universities in the world. Amos, was one of the greatest thinkers of our time! On his deathbed when the President of Stanford was preparing a last lecture and celebration for Amos, he quickly called and negotiated out of the big celebration. He never wanted to credit for what he did, it just wasn’t important to him.
How smart was Amos Tversky? Really?
The Tversky Intelligence Test.
In 2013 in Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, Gladwell tells a story about how highly Amos Tversky was regarded among his peers. As told to Gladwell by psychologist Adam Alter, the Tversky intelligence test was, “The faster you realized Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were.”
Don’t take credit for what isn’t yours.
Shep Gordon never needed the credit. (I’ve written about Shep Gordon, the Supermench before). When a music manager works on an album or with an artist they are entitled to royalties for perpetuity of the sales that album makes. Shep never signed contracts with artists to guarantee royalties. He never thought he needed to, he trusted the people he worked with. This created loyalty with the artists and groups he worked with. Shep’s reputation proceeded him, after he is referred to as the Supermench. He did admit there was a fine line between smart and stupid when using contracts though. Not to claim royalties on an album like the Beatles Anthology (he worked on it) would fall into the category of the later.
Shep is still doing fine, instead of all that money he’d much rather have Mike Myers refer to him as “the nicest person he has ever met”.
Being a good teammate is better than winning an award.
From the book Give and Take, Adam Grant tells the story of George Meyer a habitual ‘giver’ that has never worried about receiving credit, even though he was involved in some major television productions in the past 30 years.
If his name – George Meyer doesn’t – sound familiar, the shows he’s worked on will; Saturday Night Live, Late Night With David Letterman and The Simpsons. Many people involved with The Simpson’s production agreed that Meyer was a pivotal part of the team, a linchpin really.
Your reputation is far more valuable than receiving credit or an award.
Seeing your name in the credits is an ego boost.
Many people in the entertainment industry thrive off the mention of their name in the credits. To be a part of a major production even as a small role, most people would demand their name appear in the credits. George Meyer was not one of those people. Meyer was a writer and producer on over 300 episodes of the Simpsons and was only mentioned Twelve times in the credits. Having his name mentioned in the credits wasn’t important to him, being an integral part of the team was. We should all strive to be a little more like George Meyer.
Congratulations StratLab! You won an award!
Finally if you don’t believe me that awards are something you should never focus on or put time in to, because you never know when someone just makes something up. Look to the top right hand corner of this page (sorry not on mobile). “Canada’s 50 Most Inclusive Employers” was an award I made up to celebrate the first 50 companies participating in the 4to40 initiative. See even you can make up an award and give it to whoever you choose.
Thanks to Aaron, Amos, Shep and George for setting an example for future leaders.
I look up to these four individuals for the courage it took to focus on what really mattered to them. Instead of idolizing pop, culture icons or TV stars try putting up a poster of Amos Tversky in your office. Or maybe it’s a Draplin original, to keep yourself humble at work. I love looking up to people like this, people I want to be like some day. After all, we become our hero’s in the end don’t we? Just make sure you pick the right hero’s to emulate.
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