Tag: reinvention


Choose yourself.

Many years ago, I was telling a crowded room of complete strangers about the strained relationship I had with my father. At the time I had been in Italy for a little over 11 years and he hadn’t called me once. Admittedly, this was before everyone had smartphones in their pockets but that’s hardly an excuse, is it? Not once.

As I dived into the pain this sense of abandonment had caused me, I could see I had the audience in the palm of my hand. They were moved by the story of a young foreigner in his late twenties facing his demons in public, but I couldn’t care less because I was about to hit them with the punchline:

I hadn’t called him either.

I think there comes a time in everyone’s professional life when you have to look in the mirror and give yourself credit for everything you’ve accomplished, including the bad things.

On far too many occasions, I have allowed the market to crush me, the latest of these episodes just one year ago as my dream of expanding a business beyond my known boundaries was dashed by the enormous ego of yet another pseudo-entrepreneur in search of a quick buck at the expense of creating long-term value.

By all accounts, 2018 was the third time in 6 years I’ve been forced to mop up the total chaos left behind by broken promises, disregarded contracts and unpaid invoices. Each bump along the way making me become simultaneously stronger and weaker.

Which brings us to 2019 and that mirror.

Because as tempting as it is to blame the outside world for this rollercoaster ride, just as I didn’t call my father, I must accept responsibility for not creating the conditions necessary to succeed.

All the talent in the world won’t help you if you jump into a pool of sharks without a cage.

There’s a bizarrely illuminating feeling to hitting the deck. The sensation that you’ve lost control over practically everything in your life and have to reinvent – not from zero, but from many numbers into the negative – is both momentarily terrifying and profoundly clarifying.

I won’t lie. It took two months just to get my bearings back, but I spent the time wisely, looking into the mirror not in self-pity, but in search of a way back.

And I found it.

The first thing I decided that it was time to choose myself. If you want something to happen, the onus is on you to put yourself in the position to allow it to come to fruition. And hence the @copywritermadrelingua spinoff activity came to light.

Copywriting is nothing new – I’ve been doing it for 20+ years but not like this. This time I choose to do it. I’m grateful for it. I respect it.

Choosing yourself doesn’t make you immune to the whims of the market. A few weeks after setting up all my various accounts for this project I applied to provide my services at the highly-recommended Upwork website.

And got rejected.

But it didn’t matter because in the same month I quadrupled my client base.

With choice comes power. The power to choose. The power to share. The power to be ethical. The power to decide where you want to be 5 years from now. The power to accept your mistakes and learn from them.

The moral of the story?

  1. Choose yourself. Put a cross on the calendar 5 years from now and start working.
  2. Be grateful for and generous with your colleagues and clients. Those who get it will get you too.
  3. Make sure you’re not blinded by self-sealing logic that separates you from reality.
  4. Share as much of yourself as you can free of charge. There is no limit to the value and goodwill this will provide.
  5. Always call your father back.

Something’s not right

At first I was blind to it. A bittersweet presence in my daily life, an itch I could never quite scratch.

I put it down to the usual creative paradox where you’re never truly satisfied with something in the projects you work on. Was it the idea? The client? The team…? I could never really put my finger on it but something wasn’t right and so I kept looking for clarity.

Like all curious minds, mine found solace in the works of those who wield a higher power than me and on whose shoulders I proudly stand. I’m forever grateful for the fireworks of Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk, but equally enthralled by Henry Mintzberg’s theories on emergent strategy.

And yet, an inquisitive mind has a knack of opening one door only to discover another one slightly ajar behind it, and the cycle continues.

All this academic soul searching would be pretty useless and self-serving if it didn’t move the game forward. And yet, despite the obvious professional growth and steady stream of successes, I didn’t see any real progress until I realized I was part of the problem.

It won’t have escaped any of you in marketing that every single one of your clients has, at some point, been disrupted. In the past four years alone, the automotive world has seen the arrival of electric cars and car sharing. Or what about the FMCG sector, which has gone so far online it’s now selling at a loss to keep up with the “ridiculously scary” Amazon.

Not enough? Then let’s talk about marble. If you’re like me and you live in Italy, you blindly associate marble with Carrara, but like everything in life, there’s far more to it than that. With marble production from Chinese, American and Turkish quarries going literally through the roof, Italy now has just 4.3% of the global market share of authentic marble production and is having a hard time maintaining that. Coupled with the (unexpected but predictable) arrival of cheaper artificial marble, even the age-old market of rocks have been shaken at its core.

And then the penny dropped.

We communicators are so busy adapting to our clients’ new surroundings we have forgotten that our world might be primed for disruption too. The unease that’s been growing inside of me is nothing more than the realization that we’re in a fast-flowing river of change but as a sector we’re actually standing still.

Think about it for a second. Apart from output (from TV to Digital), what exactly has disrupted the communication world? Nothing particular comes to mind.

Some of you might point out that one-time accountancy firms are now hiring creatives? Yeah that might unsettle us a little but they are the Goliaths of the marketing world so we take comfort in the fact that we’re not big enough to sit at those tables anyway.

No matter how edgy agencies and the talented professionals that work for them might be, our model hasn’t changed one bit in the past twenty years and that’s a painfully risky attitude to adopt.

In her signature video, Chief Reinvention Officer Nadya Zhexembayeva says that half a century ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around 75 years. In other words they had 37 years of growth, and 37 years of decline. You could graduate, work your entire career in one place and retire and you would not see any significant change in the status of the company you worked for your entire life.

From the 1990’s that same life cycle had shrunk to just 15 years. Now, many indicators suggest it’s down to seven.

The problem then, is that we creatives live in an echo chamber of SEO skills with diminishing returns and shrinking media budgets but we’re not changing the game, we’re subjected to it.

As a result, we’re actually making it harder for ourselves to stay alive.

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