Marketing seems to attract basic people. That’s fine. I like basic people, I just don’t want to hang out with them. I don’t want to grab a beer with them and I certainly don’t want to work with them. For an industry that prides itself on creativity and risk-taking, marketing is full of boring-ass basics.
You’re all the same
Let’s take a typical marketer in tech. They love a good pour-over coffee. In their spare time, they dabble in photography and they can’t wait to tell you about the latest IPA they tasted at that hipster brewery you’ve never heard of. You know, that brewery with the brewmaster who has long hair, wears Birkenstocks, and talks about hops? I get it, your beer is hoppy. I’ll take a Coors Light thankyouverymuch.
Then there’s working out of the coffee shop. First of all, you’re not really working as much as you are setting up for your epic Instagram shoot. So basic.
I know some people are reading this thinking, “Wow, is Ryan talking about me?” Yes, I am, but I’m also talking about myself. I do basic shit all the time. I love pour-overs, I wear New Balance sneakers and hoodies to work, and I listen to This American Life. Hell, I started a marketing and design agency, basically the most basic thing you can do. The point isn’t who’s basic and who isn’t. The point is we need to fight our basic tendencies. We need to break from the mould and be interesting. Who’s with me?
You wanna be a star, don’t you?
“But besides becoming world-class in one skill, talent can come from having a unique stack of skills that no one else has. You can utilize different skills to create value in a way no one else can, thus becoming one-of-a-kind in your own league” – Celestine Chua, How to Build an Edge: Develop Your Talent Stack
Listen up! This is important! If we want to level up we need to get interested in shit that makes us unique. No more chats about craft beer, no more charcuterie boards, and for Pete’s sake, can we stop using marketing lingo and get back to talking like normal people?
To move up, you need to be the person that brings diverse skills together. Think of the software engineer that can sell. The graphic designer that’s good at accounting. How about a stand-up comedian that is a champion kickboxer and UFC commentator or a former Mr. Universe that became a movie star and politician? These are the people that stand out from their peers.
Sure, we’ll do fine sipping our lattes, talking about Coachella. We’ll move up the ranks grinding our way through mind-numbing marketing meetings talking about the grand plans we’re too chicken shit to actually implement. This year we’re going to be bold, right?
No, we’re not. How can we be bold at work if we’re boring at home?
The basics will get by until the world asks for more. They’ll get replaced by a group of judo-chopping computer programmers with a flair for creativity. The next marketing stars will be interesting and multifaceted while the basics bottom out, left to promote their freelance consulting from the coffee shop. They’ll use hashtags like #hustle or #blessed for appearances, while they vision board and manifest motivational speaking gigs. They’ll put together marketing plans and resumes for their next shot when in reality, they never took their shot. They came in and followed everyone else, afraid to take chances and stand out from the sea of basic marketers.
Alright. Breathe. We’re in this together. Everything’s going to be fine as long as we’re proactive. We know what we need to do. It’s time to try new things. It’s time to build a unique talent stack. Here’s how:
Ultralearn a random skill
I’m in the midst of reading Ultralearning by Scott Young and it’s awesome. What have I learned? With the right commitment, you can learn any skill in under a year. Pick something crazy and really get into it. Learn a new language. Dabble in the jazz flute. Dive into AI or machine learning. Try archery. Learn to cook. Do something crazy and do it obsessively. The act of learning alone will get you energized and you’ll come out of it a more dynamic and interesting person.
Go to a non-marketing conference
Stop going to marketing conferences. They’re where new ideas go to die. Go to something completely unrelated and see if you can draw parallels to what you do in your career. Seriously, I had more ideas flowing after attending a blockchain conference last year than I ever did from any marketing conference.
Hang out with real ass people
The people who perform dirty jobs are happier. While they might have jobs that others wouldn’t dare to do, they are balanced. They whistle while they work. They have symmetry in their lives. – Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs
I grew up around blue-collar people. They’re the salt of the earth. They have rough hands and value loyalty and hard work. As marketers, we’re disconnected from what I call “real ass people”. We sit at our desks all day trying to figure out what people want, but we don’t get out of our bubble to talk to those people. Expose yourself to some real folk, check out a farm or go see your mechanic. Ask the custodian how his day is going. What does he like about his job? What does he hate? Maybe you’ll learn something that gives you a new perspective or understanding. Maybe that view will translate to your work, or better yet, inspire you to be better.
Listen and watch media you disagree with
Like most people, you probably have the same social and cultural beliefs as the people around you. While you’ve probably heard what the other side has to say, chances are, you’ve never really listened to it. I consider myself a bit of a lefty, but I have no shame in admitting I consume some right-leaning media. I check in on Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder from time to time. I’ll fire up MSNBC and FoxNews on occasion. Do I agree with them? Hell no, but living in an echo chamber does me no favours.
I’m not trying to convert you, but by exposing yourself to all sides, you’ll get a workout in critical thinking, a better understanding of people, and a fresh perspective you can take to work.
With these steps, it’s my hope you’ll be on your way to becoming less basic and more well-rounded. Get out there, take some chances and be different. Your future self will thank you.