Choose Your Own Adventure


I get a variation on this email quite often: “I wish there was a job in social media for _____, because I’m really skilled in _____.” What’s fascinating is that the person is waiting for permission, and worse, waiting for someone else to create and open a role for them to fill. My first thought upon receiving this is to ask the person, “Who do you admire in life?” They often cite some famous person. I then ask, “Did someone make that job for them? Or did they choose an adventure that brought them there?” Sometimes, the light bulb goes on right then and there. Other times, well, bless your heart.

Where The Path May Lead

When I think about all that a business can do to succeed (or all that an individual can do, for that matter), I start from the mindset of forgetting about the path that someone else has forged. Why? Because innovation rarely (never?) comes from following an established path. If I were going to design a hotel, I wouldn’t try learning what worked and didn’t work for the Four Seasons, I’d think through (and then interview others about) all the details that matter to me as a traveler, and then consider what I could do better.

For instance, in redesigning my hotel experience, how difficult would it be to offer personalized grocery runs for every guest with a small 15% fee on top of the retail value of those products? Instead of the same lame mini bar options, I’d have invested in exactly what I wanted, would have paid for the service, and would have a much more personalized experience in my room. Hint: the path before me would never take me to this idea.

Everybody’s Doing It

In the 1990s, fax marketing was a serious consideration. (I have to pause to say that Aaron Strout often jokes about fax marketing, and I write this, I’m snorting a bit, thinking of his humor.) If that’s what you had to go by for what works as marketing, would you do it?

Many employees inherit jobs or reports or duties that came from someone before, and often, they don’t think to evaluate or question what the tasks or reports or whatever serve. I see this with marketers who keep vast spreadsheets full of information that when I query them, they are doing it because they were told to do it, and when I ask their leadership, those people say they have no idea what to do with some of the data they’re receiving.

Trends Are Shaky Signposts

If you asked people about what the current trends were in digital marketing, they’d point to Pinterest, to Google+, to Facebook nearing 1 billion users, to many other number-filled or feature-driven conversations about trends.

If you ask me, I’d say it’s in building intimate little communities of 1000 or so active contacts who are reached through more intimate communications channels for more personalized interaction. Another way of saying that: email marketing is sexier than ever. I say it related to zero trend analysis. I say it because my data says it’s true, at least when properly executed.

As the trend is large (Pinterest), I’m excited by the small ( Gentlemint). As the trend says big 3D TV experiences, I’m thinking YouTube. As people seek to automate more of their business efforts, I’m wondering how to do more bespoke/custom work.

I’m not being contrary. I’m following my own analysis, and that says that choosing my own adventure will be a lot more rewarding if I pay attention to what’s effectively finding me a community of value. I’m using my own internal and professional compass to decide what I want to do with the territory.

You Choose

Never let life lead you. The goal, the opportunity with all this, is that you can choose what you want to do, how you want to do it, what you want to pay attention to, how to care about what comes before you. You can choose the cubicle or the home office. You can decide on being an employee or leading your own mission. Never before have we had this much opportunity.

So, then, why aren’t you choosing? Or are you?

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