Are you a control freak?

Are you a control freak?
Over the past year, I've dealt with the topic of control quite a bit. My world — and I'll dive into this in future posts — has played out vastly different than my initial life plan. It really wasn't until today that the misconception of control truly clicked with me. Control is a delusion. We hope for it — I think because we believe it provides safety — but we're misguided. In reality, the concept of control prevents us from experiencing who we really are. The very essence of the word is limiting.

How hard are you trying?


Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) created a remarkable brand position for Avis in 1963 with their We try harder® advertising campaign. For Avis, advertising that employees spend a great deal of effort serving the customer — and actually delivering on that brand promise — helped increase sales immediately after the campaign ran. The result, Avis was profitable for the first time in thirteen years. Today, the We try harder® branding effort is considered one of the most successful in modern-day advertising history.

I wonder, though, is there such a thing as trying too hard? Is there a point when effort becomes an unnecessary attribute? For those who set out to accomplish great things in life — whether it's leading a profitable business, finishing Ironman Canada, raising a child as a single dad (or mom) — a good amount of effort is necessary to be successful. But, are there times when putting forth too much effort hinders success?

This is one of the many explorations I'm taking in my life. I consider persistence a positive attribute of mine, however I can't always say I see the direct benefit of it. In some cases, the more effort I put forth, the less I seem to be closer to my end goal.

Interestingly, there are a couple of different takes on the word trying — one, the more common attemptingorstriving — but another, of which is extremelyannoying. Does this imply that their is a tipping point when it comes to effort? Is it like Jimmy Cliff sang, the harder they come, the harder they fall?

A recent post by Seth Godin just spoke to the alternative to failure. Maybe, just maybe, this notion of trying has more to do with the process, rather than the end result. However, for a society that seems to center around achieving things, how do we create a sustainable model for failure? It's hard to imagine a business environment that supports failure since revenue is almost always the primary goal. In the personal world — which I only distinguish here due to the more commonly held view that it's separate from business — failures look like breakups, divorce, custody battles, housing foreclosures and so on.

Circling back to the Avis example, I think the thing that made this campaign — and ultimately Avis — successful is that trying harder was actually a clever way to communicate what was natural to them — that they care about the customer. This is part of their brand essence.

So, perhaps being persistent is simply part of my brand makeup and it would run contrary to my character if I simply achieved things without much effort.

How about you, what is your take on trying? Do you have examples of success where you didn't put forth much effort?

Reaching Higher Ground

The feeling is like a Category IV storm brewing. You're preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. You're anxious, frantic or perhaps so overwhelmed that you are at a standstill.

With the above description, I could be talking about virtually anything of importance to you — your last job interview, the first day of school, a pending case, your next marketing plan. You get the idea. 

What's interesting is the amount of punishment we put ourselves through when we're facing uncertainty. Ever the inquisitive one, I'm curious, why do we put up with this? Whether it's in our personal or business lives — which, by the way, I believe are one in the same — we go to great lengths to avoid being let down. We prepare rebuttals. We gather evidence. We do whatever we can to absorb the impact of not getting our way should the worst actually occur.

In the context of marketing, we're prepared to blame the other side — you know, sales or even worse, the customer — should the desired campaign results fall short. This behavior is extremely costly. We're slow to create and respond to market conditions. We become defensive and brand equity can suffer by losing its essence.

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
— Mother Teresa

Why does it seem, then, that we're afraid to be authentic? The reality is — whether we think it's right or not — we are constantly judged by others. And, we are constantly playing judge and jury on others. We may call it protecting our self interest. But, the reality is, we lose our ability to be vulnerable — which is where the magic happens and the storm waters sweep you off your feet and take you to a higher ground.

Addendum — After a great friend, Angela Bryant, shared this with me, I figured it would be a crime to not share it with you.

Localization vs. Globalization

Identifying trends is something I love to do. Not the kind where I predict the latest fashion, hit television series or Top 40 bubble gum song. That's not my thing. But, I do love to identify trends in thought. Actually, I believe it's one of the most important assets to being a great marketer. For those who don't know, zeitgeist is defined as the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time. So, it should come as no surprise that this is a playground I frequent often as both an individual and principal of Zeitgeist/33.

On one such visit, I was asked if I could do only one thing to shift the struggling economy, what would it be? Coincidentally, I've contemplated the shaky state of our world quite a bit lately — exploring ways that I could contribute positively to our Universe. I'll admit, when I confront the current state of the world, I often feel helpless. It's daunting. And therein may lie the problem and the answer.

See, I don't know that we have the capacity to comprehend the multitude of challenges we face as a global community. There's talk of the financial crisis, global warming, food supply shortages, terrorism and the list goes on-and-on. Mainstream media has beaten us over the head so often that we have become numb to the issues at hand. What results is a lot of great intention backed by a slew of inaction. I believe we just don't feel we can make a substantial difference to right the ship.

Okay, great. Now that I've painted such a bleak image, what do we do? Well, I believe that if we shift our attention to our respective local communities, we can begin to make an immediate difference. Building on the local successes, we will start to see a natural shift in the world much faster than had we stuck with trying to tackle global issues as a whole. We've seen this discussed in chaos theory or the butterfly effect. Keep in mind, all rivers begin as a single drop.

You are that first drop. What will you bring to your community? Share your ideas and let's see what we can do to inspire others — one drop at a time.

If my reality rings true with you, please say so. If not, please share your perspective. Local or global, I recognize the world is more than just me.

Postscript — Please know, I'm grateful for having exposure to a larger world — from my place in Seattle to getting married in Jamaica. I believe things like the eradication of polio and malaria benefit all of us. I just wonder, how much can we legitimately handle on a global scale?