Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to be Timeless, Part 1

“What scares you?”

That was the question I asked my group.

The first answer came from Cameron. And I remember feeling my gut drop to the ground as soon as the following two words came out of his mouth:

“Becoming irrelevant.”

Good lord. What a terrifying concept for any entrepreneur to entertain.

Especially in the minds of your clients, in the eyes of the media and in the opinion of the marketplace – I can’t think of anything that poses a greater threat to the profitability, equity and longevity of your enterprise.

So.

What’s the answer?
What’s the antidote to fading away?

TWO WORDS: Being timeless.

Like a Picasso.
Like a black dress.
Like a Beavis & Butthead tattoo on your left ass cheek.

That’s timeless.

And even though it’s typically a subject comment, there are still a few universal principles that apply to everyone.

Here’s the first part (read part two!) of how to increase the timelessness of you, your brand and your organization:

1. Simplicity isn’t just eloquence – it’s endurance.. The only challenge is: Simplicity is hard. It requires more energy, more brainpower and more courage that pursuing complexity. Especially when that son of a bitch shoulder devil incessantly whispers into your ear, “If you keep it complex, people will think you’re smart.”

Wrong. Simplicity is a fashion that never goes out of style. Fight for every inch of it. Stop creating riddles that take too long for impatient people to solve. Stop making things bigger than they need to be. And stop complicating your message.

Constantly ask yourself questions like, “Is this simple enough that a kindergartner could understand it?” “How easy will it be for people to repeat this?” and “How much more could I distill the essence of this?”

Remember: Simplicity isn’t crushing the complicated – it’s eliminating the extraneous. Start eliminating the non-essential so the necessary can speak. People will listen. Are you backpedaling your way into needless complexities?

2. Resist conforming to short-term trends. Every morning when I sit down to write, one of the questions I keep asking myself is, “Will this sentence be relevant to my grandchildren?” If not, I usually cut it. Because if there’s no hope of my work living after me, what’s the point?

I came to this planet (from some other galaxy, I assume) to leave a literary footprint that leads future generations to the land of executing what matters. Can’t exactly accomplish that goal if the material I write does nothing but gush about the latest fad, complain about the crudest celebrity or whine about the worst sports team.

Not that timely issues aren’t important. The challenge is to avoid getting caught in the seductive undertow of low-level inconsequentialities that have reached the end of their product lifecycle. How much timelessness are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

3. Choose to champion the beautiful. Seth Godin once wrote, “Beauty is a signaling strategy. Even the most hard-hearted people are suckers for beauty. We treat people and products differently when we think they're beautiful. The reason people and organizations have invested so much in beauty over the years is that beauty pays off.”

Lesson learned: Design matters. No matter what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and whom you do it for, beauty – however you define it – makes you timeless. Period. How much energy are you investing in being a beautiful organism?

4. Don’t grow so much that you get away from the fundamentals. Continuous improvement, personal evolution and complacency prevention are essential elements of success. But your foundation is there for a reason: So you don’t forget who you are.

My suggestion: Don’t let go of the original idea that made you successful. And don’t leave things behind that never should have been left behind. I just learned this (yesterday!) from Mark, another participant in my facilitation group. His comment was that if you forget the rudiments – you forgo the revenue.

Instead, be like Larry Bird. Shoot your hundred free throws, every day. You won’t be forgotten. Are you regularly reinstating your brilliance of the basics?

5. Free yourself from the chains of conventional structure. Break beyond the mold of the generic. And refuse to live anywhere that’s not outside of the normal linear progression. My suggestion: Change the rules so you can win at your own game, become the exception to every rule in the game, or change the game entirely so there are no rules.

That’s how you upset the status quo. That’s how you become timeless.

Take Quentin Tarentino. His post-modern, non-linear movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction broke brave new ground in the world of film, thus securing Tarentino’s name among the film elite. And even though the medium might be different by the time future generations view it, his message will still remain.

Remember: The best way to become timeless is to create your own clock. How many rules are you the exception to?

6. Leave an abundance of room for debate. Regardless of your personal beliefs, you have to admit: The Bible is about as timeless as it gets. Doesn’t mean you have believe everything it says. Doesn’t mean it’s better than any other work of fiction. The fact is, it’s the most printed book in history: Six billion copies.

Interestingly, The Bible also happens to be the most debated book in history.

This is not an accident. And if you want to apply this principle of timelessness to your world – be it personal, professional or organizational – here’s the secret: Increase mental flexibility. Constantly elicit feedback from people whose unique experience can contribute new dimensions to your ideas.

Then, remain open to those new ideas – even if they scare you. Especially if they scare you. Otherwise arrogance clamps obstruct the nourishment required to feed your timelessness. How are you creating an environment that enables, supports and rewards authentic dialogue?

REMEMBER: There’s nothing more frightening than the prospect of irrelevancy.

Whether you’re an individual, a brand, or an organization – it’s always worth investing the time in making yourself a little more timeless.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What are you doing to keep from fading away?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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