THE BLOG

Make a Living, Not a Killing

10/18/2013 11:58 am ET | Updated Dec 18, 2013

Sometimes inspiration can come from the most ironic of places.

We were up in Rhinebeck, NY this past weekend. It's a cute country town in the Hudson Valley, filled with little shops and restaurants. We make it an annual trip every Columbus Day weekend to drive up the Hudson River and stop at all the towns along the way. Rhinebeck is our final destination, where we stay a couple of nights and check out the restaurant scene. It's a hotbed of culinary thrills, probably because it's so close to The Culinary Institute of America ... as a result some of our favorites are nestled in this little town.

Saturday night we were sitting in an adorable bar, one that was recently renovated with tons of American memorabilia. After a couple of sips of our Tito's martinis, we started talking to one of the locals sitting next to us. Naturally we got onto the topic of the current mess with the government shutdown, and the animated man next to us made a comment that has stuck with me ever since.

"We should all be making a living, but not making a killing."

Wow, powerful. In other words, just because one of us is trying to make a living or trying to make a point or trying to make money, the rest of us shouldn't suffer as a result.

Many people are suffering during this government shutdown because others are trying to make a point and "win." Now the government "situation" is on a large macro scale, but even in our daily business lives it seems like everyone is constantly trying to "win." Win at all costs, or so it feels.

I guess his comment struck me hard because I've just recently released my third marketing book and have been writing a bunch of articles on personal branding. I'm a big believer that we are all brands, like it or not, and if we think about ourselves that way then we are more likely to get what we want out of life. We are more likely to "win."

I'm not saying that we all need to become Kardashian-style brands, not in the least. What I do mean is that we are all brands on our life's journey and our pathway needs to be purposeful with a consistent stride toward our own stated goals.

I am also a big believer that no one has to lose along the way. Winning doesn't have to mean that someone else is losing.

I am very competitive. Very. I get up insanely early every morning to write my blog, to review presentations that the team has put together, and to craft new business pitches. I am very competitive. I like being successful and I like advancing along my own journey.

But it's my journey and I truly believe that everyone can win on their own as well. I don't need someone else to lose just so that I can win. And I don't aim to "beat" anyone, except myself. There's plenty to go around so we can certainly all win in whatever we choose to do.

So while we all operate in a competitive environment, I try my best to make my own world collaborative, creative and, well, human. I'm not always successful, but I try to carve out an oasis of real-ness in an environment of competitiveness that can be overwhelming at times.

Even my office has a "real" feel to it so that people who meet with me feel comfortable and at "home." It makes for a compelling and creative environment in which we draft marketing proposals for our clients. How could we possibly do great work if we aren't all in it together?

So yes, I make a living doing marketing and I am constantly trying to get ahead ... have been my entire career. But I don't make a killing in the process because that's just not a part of my brand.

I find great inspiration in thinking that we can all win as we make a living. Hope you do too.

Make a Living, Not a Killing.