& Why you should be, too

You know the story. Young singer puts out his first couple of albums full of searing poetry and raw need. The public weeps with him, forms a tribe of people who feel the same needs, and turns him into a star.

Young actress burns up the screen by seemingly flaying her soul in front of us. No emotional depth is too distant for her to plumb. We gasp as we watch her. The critics rave.

Artist fresh from the street turns ordinary paint into seeming psychology. She creates at a fevered pace, tearing into our collective unconscious. From an unknown urchin she’s every gallery’s darling. People line up to buy her works and listen to her speak with wisdom-beyond-her-years.

After that, it’s all milquetoast.

It happens in business, too: You know the company—the one with the “it” product, the revolutionary service, the breakthrough that makes you scream “I wish I said/ invented/ thought of that.” The growth curve looks like a rocket-launch, and the aw-shucks whiz kid can’t quite get over his or her luck to have hit on just the right nerve at the right time.

What happens next?

They stare at their navels a while as the money and praise pour in. Plenty of time to decide what’s next! Then they “realize” that there was a formula all along. They get over the lucky feeling, and get into the can’t-go-wrong feeling. They know just how to do it again.

They’re ready to repeat their success, throwing in just a little planning to make it a guarantee, and…

Nothing.

The singer/ actress/ artist/ enterpreneur isn’t hungry anymore. They aren’t coming from need, creating from their own soul. With a billowy cushion of success surrounding them, they aren’t afraid of failure. It can’t really happen anymore. Fans will eat what you feed them, for a long while, without wondering why it tastes old and flat.

There used to be a demon behind them, always on the verge of catching up. Now that demon’s over someone else’s shoulder.

Don’t get me wrong: Planning is great. Creating for your customers’ needs is superb. And most importantly, we don’t all have that meteoric start. In fact, most of us don’t have that kind of start, no matter how badly we want it (yes I’m talking to you), so we have to plan our way of connecting with our audience much more than the company with the accidental “it” product.

We do have something in common with the whiz kids, though. We get comfortable. Uncomfortable that the success isn’t as grand as we’d hoped for, sure, but comfortable with our formula. The driving need to be the very best at what you do, to thrill and delight your customers, has gone away. When that happens, I’ve only got one consolation for you. You won’t have as far to fall as the actress, alone in her hotel room, finishing her third sh*t movie in a row and knowing it.

Complacency is the demon you can’t see.

Thank goodness for the demon at my back. I’m afraid to fail.

You should be, too.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson