Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's not about the nametag

On January 14th, 2005, my friend Andy was drunk.

Not wasted. Not tipsy. And not belligerent, but drunk enough that he did not care if his words hurt my feelings.

“Scott, face it,” he started, “The whole nametag thing is cool. Nobody can deny that. But come on. You already wrote a book about it. So what next? Nothing! It’s like, you have nowhere to go.”

Interesting. I listened on.

“I am not trying to rain on your parade,” he slurred, “but the thing is: there is really nothing unique about wearing a nametag. Anybody could have done that. And there is nothing unique about your book. Anybody could have written that.”

Wow. For being drunk at 4:00 AM during the final hours of a bachelor party, Andy sure gave me something to think about!

In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I stayed up all night replaying our conversation in my head. Did not get a wink of sleep. And those five words kept chiming like church bells:

Anybody could have done that.
Anybody could have done that.
Anybody could have done that.

I never told anyone about that conversation.

Maybe because I did not know the answer.
Maybe because I was ashamed.
Maybe because I was afraid.

Either way, it did not resurface until about a year later.

I had just returned to St. Louis after a giving a speech at WOMMA in Orlando. My Dad and I sat down to dinner. We were talking about the growth of my business, writing books, giving speeches and the like.

And in this almost eerie, yet proud tone that only a father could project, he said, “Scott,” with a nod and a smile, “It’s not about the nametag.”

“Huh?”

“It’s not about the nametag…” he laughed.

“…because anybody could have done that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you’ve been at this thing going on six years now. Think about everything that happened: the books, the speeches, the interviews and the change you’ve brought about to yours and other people’s lives; everything that’s evolved since the day you first stuck that nametag on your shirt. Pretty remarkable, doncha think!?”

“Yeah, I…I guess it is,” I nodded.

“You see, the fact that you wear a nametag is not what’s brilliant. The brilliant thing is what you’ve done with it.”

And at that exact moment, I knew Andy was both right AND wrong.

Why he was right: sure, maybe my original idea was not unique. Anybody could have slapped on a nametag every day. Hell, they did that in Seinfeld.

But what WAS unique was what that idea had turned into.

Why he was wrong: Andy said that after my first book, I had nowhere to go.

This could not have been farther than the truth. In fact, it was the opposite: I had everywhere to go! And I still do! And I can’t wait to get there!

Folks, the lesson is simple:

It’s not your idea; but what your idea BECOMES that matters.

(Well, that, AND, "always ignore the drunken ramblings of your friends at 4 AM.")

LET ME ASK YA THIS...
What was the best idea you had in the past year? What did it become?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

Are you That Guy?

Find out in Scott's latest book at www.hellomynameisscott.com!