I've been hearing a lot of people tell me they won't do anything gutsy: Friends advising me against certain actions cause someone might react poorly (as if anyone's paying attention); colleagues warning they think everything should be on pause while the economy recapitulates; partners saying no to events because they think it could hurt their "personal brand" (whatever that latest cliché means); and clients who feel their dulled-out partners might "get mad" over an overly-aggressive PR campaign (their partners couldn't get press on their own though). Then I've overheard many suffering financially tell me they are waiting out this period to see what happens in a kind of take it "day by day" attitude that emits this kind of what will be will be or it is what it is or what can I do but wait and see bullshit.
Hey everyone; guess what! The chips have now fallen ... so go get some off the floor.
Laziness equals self-importance during a crap economy. If you think somehow things will magically change overnight--look Ma, Dow moved a notch--then you live in a fantasy land and the faster you wake up and stop paying attention to the Gosselins and DO SOMETHING the better it is for and your bank statement.
Having balls are at issue. The only way to get anything done worth doing is to take risks. No chance taken is wasting precious energy since same old same old sucks; you aren't doing much to upgrade your position in life. Dare I say: it will help your personal brand?
There is no better time to stand up and say, "Let's try that ridiculous idea in the office" (and in your personal life too, imagine) than this goddamn second. It is that simple. If you look at our nation's checkered history, all the fine successes that came up during Down Periods were when companies, the government or individuals said screw it let's do it and went head-first to partake of the nuttiest, "over-the-toppest," and most outrageous thing they could think of in their wildest, and least expensive, dreams.
Why? First, no one is paying attention to you anyway. Everyone is so darn turned inward right now that to get any attention you have to be shouting from a multitude of rooftops (see The Rules below).
Your clients/friends/lovers/associates/bosses/enemies could care less if you're loud or noisy do because they're ultimately worried about their own skin. They'll appreciate you had the chutzpah to make a thing happen when they cannot. (Well, they won't admit that to you but you'll sense it.)
As for trouble gathering, it's like the old saying that I will now make NEW: If it makes you feel good...do it!
There is a big group of workers doing a great noiseless job Covering Their Asses--they worry about their jobs more than doing their jobs. You know the ones: they act like wallpaper and hope to G-d no one notices they're still there because they just do what they are told. Never make waves, always seem to be on the side of zero activity. Those people are useless. And I know you aren't one.
Alas, making money in a gargantuan recession is tough; there is not a ton of money for companies to spend. Ah but...when the dust settles ones who excelled with their heart will be remembered; the CYAers whose heads were down will be despised. With that, I offer The 5 Rules For "Balsiness" In These Bad Times:
1. Be consistent, be yourself
You know, I never thought I'd say this, but you got to hand it to Ex-VP Cheney. He never veers from who he is--even when it's dastardly! The other day he was asked about the torturing he oversaw and said he wouldn't take back the decision even if rendered unlawful. That's an attitude many of us can learn from: not the position he's taken, but the feeling that what he believes in is not swayable and you can't make him take it back. In these times that kind of resoluteness is respected.
2. Rule the roost somehow
Find something that you can do at work that no one else can do and MAKE SURE it's obvious that you are doing it--and well, and a lot of it, and with glee. Oh, and it helps if this is not part of your job! This is not kissing butt; it's just finding a new way to be useful above and over the norm. Then, when you want to do something outrageous like I'm about to describe, more people will think "Yeah him."
3. Find the loudest perch--and make noise from atop the thing
Come up with a statement that is contrarian to the popular view (like "I hate candy!") and then get known for it. I'm serious.
4. Think up something fantastic
When you're falling asleep at night and something weird but doable occurs to you, jump up and type it out on your PDA. Once you determine what you were trying to say, it will be a better idea in the morning. Then that germ of an idea has to be something you talk about with lots of folks. Shift your energy--daydreams and small talk - and get collaborative in a real sense. Don't be competitive; be outright damning to anyone who thinks it is a bad idea. Remember that if everyone likes it there's something wrong with the idea--someone has to hate it (it's the law). And don't let it get murdered by Committee Think, Inc.
5. Be Known as a Bit of a Trouble Maker (Key Words "Bit Of")
Darn! Show off a little. They're going to talk about you anyway. So in order to wreak havoc, make waves. It's good to be remembered, particularly since the layoffs are not over, no matter what the economists (wrong) say. Trouble is healthy and yet more common in headier times. These days with so many scaredy-cats working at their desks, someone with some verve/gusto will stand out as someone to KNOW. Everyone may be mad at K West, but his tour went on sale Friday and it's nearly sold out. Trouble? Yeah. T for paycheck.
And don't forget: this thinking can help in pursuit of late-night activities too.
Bottom line is there is no bottom line. There is no energy or gumption or newness in almost every industry. But you - you! - have one superb idea that is rambunctious and in line with how people are feeling--you can feel its ingeniousnes. I bet you could get others to participate in it, since, uh, they don't have much going on besides award shows, tweeting, and fantasy football!
You got to be the guy who stands up in middle of a dull meeting and says what are we doing here? As my pal Sally Hogshead, author of "Radical Careering" and a marketing expert who doesn't demur, says: "Never allow the size of your mortgage to exceed the quality of your work!"
Remember you have to secure buy in from everyone you work with. Way to get something going is to sell it, baby. Believe in the idea to such a degree that those whose normal M.O. is to naysay lunch orders might even go "You know! That dude knows what he is talking about."
Be passionate, have your talking points at the ready, and explain what the agreeable colleague will get for going along. Show them what positivity/money/affirmation will occur should the idea become reality. Make it seem like they co-crafted it by writing down input. Like a Broadway producer once told me: "Never tell prospective investors the production is finished."
If the ones who pay you paltry cash tell you "no you didn't" cause you a) took a stand; b) went a little overboard with messaging or c) began to tell it like it is ("Our industry is slow-as-crap and it's time to rush things,") then you got to find better payers. Maybe say what I do when someone says to me, Well we should discuss this internally before it goes any further:
"Yeah I get it. It's all good. Would you have the person that replaces you call me?"
(For more like this come look at my stuff @ Laermer.com)