There Are No Guarantees

by seanlow on April 3, 2017

We live in a world where there are no guarantees. No promise that if you work hard, be a person, a business, of character, integrity and purpose you will win the day, the client, the game. I suppose we never did live in this world, however, we (okay I) could always cling to the illusion given examples we could see of this vision of success.

The idea that someone, some business, could lie, cheat, undercut, oversell to “win” seemed to be, at best, a temporary and, ultimately, self-defeating strategy at best. The race to the bottom is always filled with those willing to go lower. Not so much anymore.

When people, businesses, are willing to do the very thing they cannot, we all lose. When no one or, better, no group stands up to say this way sucks, we give in to the notion that what is is all there is. Instead of spending our time seeking a new path forward, we lionize false prophets.   We cheer those who say the tried and true is a permanent truth. We dismiss the rabble rousers as lost in their naïveté. We leave the true disruptions to others.

I suppose this is the track Seth Godin has been on forever. His message was never lost on me, but the depth of his call to action, the intractability of the known was a scintilla of what I have come to see today.

We cannot begin to be better until we admit our own humanity. We are all wrong at some point. We all have something to learn and being smarter than the next person is not a race to win, but an opportunity to raise that person up. The sum of human intelligence rests in each of our cell phones. There is no point in saying you know better when the other person can just look it up.

Instead, find your mission. Look outside of your own prism to say what has to be a bigger purpose than just surviving. And make no mistake, landing that big project, the “golden” opportunity at the expense of your integrity, your character, your purpose is surviving no matter how bright the light. You are derivative and you are kidding yourself if you think that derivation will not bite you stronger every day.

I feel like I am watching creative businesses in so many categories slip into the paradigm of yesteryear.  Business owners fighting over projects that make no sense. Using antiquated processes all in the name of inertia (i.e., this is how we have always done it). Just because it does not feel broken does not mean it is not. Too many are propping up the illusion of success in the face of immense trouble in paradise. Rather than look inward, blame the client, the other guy.  Worst of all is the deep investment of the “old guard” (which include far too many acolytes that belong in the “new guard”) to dismiss those who seek to change, to evolve as quaint in the way of the world.

Truth may not win out. Character, integrity, vision may be, for the foreseeable future, lost to those who “win” no matter the price. Despite being the most connected as humankind has ever been, we have never been lonelier. Isolating bubbledom has an ever stronger allure. Or.

We can own the responsibility given to creative business. Own the idea that what you create is valuable because you say it is. That nobody needs what you do does in no way diminish its importance. Only you can do that by being willing to be derivative, by worshipping false prophets, by acting directly against your self interest. There is a better way only if you choose to acknowledge your own humanity and your own grace. Find those that wish to lift you up and be lifted in the process. The community does exist but it must start with the power of your own voice.

My prayer is not for those with character, integrity and conviction to defeat those who are willing to be derivative. That is false hope. No, my prayer is the collective voice of art, those who can create a world none of us have yet seen, find community and the power in the community to develop beyond the limitations now imposed on them. Better said, for new voices to sing with old acknowledging we are always a work in progress, never always right or wrong. Erase everything. Acknowledge that the only truth for creative business is the vast power of creativity and, from there, start again.

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