“Who’s here for challenge? Who wants more pain?”
As my aerobics instructor yells at me and I throw myself into a series of 16 lunges to a screaming house beat at 6.50am and I wonder why? Why? Because I want to be fitter, leaner… I want to be better than I am.
What has aerobics got to do with strategy?
Not quite as sweaty, but with a little bit of fluro lycra and a lot of Richard Simmons was Mark Pollard’s #straterday.
Mark promised us a mental workout, and its what we got. The room of about 100 people (many of whom, myself included, were hungover) who chose to be there on a rainy Saturday morning at 8.30am prepared to learn some new tricks.
Mark himself even asked that morning, “Why did I put myself through this?” quickly answering, in a down to earth jokey tone, “Because it’ll be good for me, it’ll help me grow“.
He’s moving onto his next challenge in New York. Do you ever find people moving on always makes you think about whether you could be doing better? Asking if you should be working on your next big thing?
But then you think, “I’m actually quite happy where I am. Can’t I just settle for a bit and enjoy it?” Does it always have to be a challenge?
It seems a strange notion that we do things to ourselves that feel uncomfortable, almost on the edge of painful, to ‘improve’. Like that part of a run where you don’t think you will be able to go on, but you somehow you do… It got me thinking about what gives us this motivation to keeping pushing ourselves?
Where’s the happiness factor?
Where is the happiness in training and working hard? Wouldn’t we all be happier if we settled, enjoyed the present and stopped chasing our tails trying to get to where we want to be next? (I know for a fact if I did it would make my family a lot happier about what I’m doing with my life).
I am currently reading (also a recommendation from Mark) DRIVE, by Daniel H Pink. He believes that what drives us is a desire for Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose in what we do. (see here for a nice animated video synopsis). Whatever the motivation there is an unquestionable exhilaration and adrenaline rush in achieving new personal bests.
To challenge ourselves is good, it makes us fulfilled and feel satisfied, and there are numerous rewards in pushing ourselves to reach that next peak – but just like in aerobics, you need to take a breather once in a while.
Be it sport or career. Your breath is a monitor – if you can’t breathe properly, you need to let yourself recover in order to set yourself up for the next burst.
In yoga they always emphasize the importance of breath. Keep your breathing steady, because it will get you through, it gives you the foundation to progress and to achieve success it is as vital as the will and courage to push yourself for whatever reward you are striving for.
What I got for $10 on a rainy Saturday morning
So, what did I learn from Straterday? (randomly taken from my rather coffee stained hungover notes)
- We like things we can all share in, unspoken human truths that bring us together, like Nat Tran’s witty observations, cracking that slightly uncomfortable yet, ‘oh so true insight’ can make your idea one everyone can relate and want to get involved in. If it’s something everyone can identify with, it makes it more interesting.
- Mindmapping is a good thing, because our brains don’t work in linear structures.
- Sometimes the mind needs constraints to help it get truly creative. Like time limits, forced connections and word play.
- We should solve problems, with strategies, through tactics that are true to our values and in a way we can measure.
- There are heaps of free tools out there like the Harvard Customer Lifetime Calculator we should use more.
- Google is the biggest database of intent. Use trends and insights to analyse what people search for around your area of interest. It’s amazing what it might tell you.
- YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world apparently.
- People tell the internet a lot of things about what they do and what they like to talk about. Listen through tools like Open facebook and Twitter and you might find a fresh approach to spark an idea.
- Demographics are numbers and letters, think about targets as humans through personas and get a richer feel of what your customer might really look like.
- Can people participate in your brand? What is your verb? What is your experience? (Katie Chatfield)
- Is having a brand ‘purpose’ better than an ‘essence’ or an onion?
- We can learn a lot from our local newspapers, Tim from Mumbrella reminded us what may be newsworthy to us, may not be to the masses, think about how to be interesting and relevant to your audience.
- Thank you Kate Gamble for your invaluable intro to SEO and important message that how we access information through Google is becoming a critical part of any path to purchase.
- Google transcribes videos on YouTube and this info is available to be searched.
- Search with a clean browser or get results that will always be skewed to you.
- We all have big bads with social rejection, and it can stop us expressing ourselves so we need to help people feel comfortable to ensure we get all the ideas.
- Be a good storyteller. (Gavin Heaton) because there is a lot people out there trying to tell you stuff. Make sure you make the effort to engage them.
And most importantly for me
I learnt that passing on what we know to others, others who are curious, is a good and rewarding thing. For me, it is being able to help and inspire others that’s one of the main drivers in me doing what I do. Seeing Mark do that, by tapping into people’s wilfulness to be better, encouraging and enlightening them for free and seeing the enthusiasm afterwards was the most stimulating thing I took away from the day.
Overall, it was well worth pushing my brain through 4 hours of solid career theory and while I am not planning to move to New York the morning helped set me up for facing up to the next round of challenges here in Sydney ad land, both with some new theory and practical tools, but crucially, renewed motivation to learn more.
So, what is really in it for us?
The recognition we receive for of our efforts undoubtedly plays a massive part in us pushing to get out of our comfort zones. Going back to Dan Pink, I find his point about ‘Mastery’ most interesting. The self fulfillment aspect of being able to pass on what we know to others in the way that Mark and his trainers did that day.
Coincidently I was leant Paul Arden‘s book ‘It’s not how good you are. ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’, by Rhys Edwards in the TCO team that same week and I think passes on an important message which sums up my thoughts from the day.
“Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you… …if you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.”
What about you though? What motivates you to push past the pain of getting that next peak? Is it about passing on your knowledge? Or simply receiving recognition for your efforts? I’m curious to know.