For all the tasks that marketers have on their plates, it’s been fascinating to realize how often my days are filled with the simple goal of taking something complex and carefully boiling it down to its essence. A hopefully tangy syrup I can dribble on emails and talks and pitches and visuals and stories to make each a little tastier, a little more enticing, and a little easier to consume. It’s impossible to count the number of times I’ve gone for a walk or leaned back in my chair as I search for just the right word or phrase to deliver my message in as tidy a package as possible. Or taken that already tidy package and tried to refine it just that little bit more.
With so much effort put toward this art over the last 15 years, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that along the way I’ve semi-intentionally done similar with something that’s even more complex.
A lil’ old thing known as my life.
It’s not to say that my life is absurdly complicated – it’s not and keeping it that way is something my wife and I actively try to manage – but it definitely has gotten more complex as I’ve ambled along. For me, though, this complexity came to a bit of a head 4-5 years ago. Work was overwhelming, balance was getting harder to find, and life wasn’t making as much sense as it used to. I remember searching for that same sort of pure, simple message to guide the decisions I made during life as I used to describe the products I marketed during work.
I wasn’t searching for a self help book with a few hundred pages, I was searching for something closer to a tagline with just a few words. These handful of years later, I feel like I’m making progress toward that goal.
While this may look different tomorrow, right now this tagline exists in the form of three words.
The first is empathy.
I am not someone who is naturally empathetic. I was a fairly judgy, petty kid. But the more I’ve learned to put in just a sliver of effort to understand the hearts of others, the more I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. If you could peel back my quirks, you’d see a guy who is genuinely trying his best. And I’ve come to love the idea of extending that same, judgment-free idea to others; peeling back the layers from their actions to try to see the intentions beneath the surface. When I do, I almost always see a person who is trying to do their best with just as much effort and sincerity as I am.
Which leads me to the second word, patience.
Empathy seems to take more effort than other responses, so being the somewhat lazy sack of human that I am, I’m not always great at it. Plot my “empathy success rate” on a chart and you’ll see a rollercoaster between doing pretty well and the embarrassing opposite. Which means I have to remember to be patient with myself as I try, with mixed success, to keep the overall trend in a hopefully upward direction. When you combine this with empathy, patience is also something that I try really hard to have with others. If I want people to be patient with me because I’m doing my imperfect darndest, I need to be patient with them as they do theirs. Like empathy, when I’m able to be even a tiny bit more patience than usual, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. It feels good. It feels healthy.
It’s also 100% in the “easier said than done” category, but this brings me to my third word.
Which is gratitude.
When I was a kid, I was taught to say my nightly prayers before bed; kneel down, say what you’re grateful for, ask for things you or others need, amen. Like punching in the right phone number, this was the formula for connecting with deity. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to embraced the apparent reality that I don’t feel this connection as naturally as other people do. But even though I’m not sure if my words make it past the ceiling, I’ve come to appreciate this daily habit of taking a minute to say out loud what I’m grateful for. Some days that’s a deep tour through my funny little life, sometimes it’s as simple as appreciating that I’ll be sleeping in a warm bed tonight instead of one of the many variations of the opposite.
Now, over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at being grateful for things – my proximity to a ski resort, my wife and kids, my warm home, the work/life balance by job provides, my health – the thing I’m trying to do better at is the intersection between the first two words on my list. The moments when people are patient with my imperfect efforts because they can empathize with what I’m trying to do.
That intersection is a beautiful place for humans to hang out. I also brings me to the place where you’re reading this post.
SlopeFillers is full of flaws. It always has been, it likely always will be. The 2,000+ posts on this site are filled with thousands of typos and hundreds of incorrect assumptions. I don’t have a consistent posting schedule anymore which makes it harder to follow and I miss dozens (if not hundreds) of fantastic campaigns every season because I just can’t watch the market as carefully as I used to. And let’s not even talk about my batting average with predictions. Yet behind those flaws is a well-intentioned dude in his home office, doing his best to juggle life and work and this still-there desire to share the amazing work all of you do. A dude who still cares so much about this project, but doesn’t have as much time for it as he used to.
Yet every time I see a campaign that catches my eye and I carve out enough time to hit publish on another collection of thoughts that’s almost certainly filled with typos and mistakes and half-baked assumptions, people read it. And, even more, people appreciate it. They hit reply, they send me a note, they come up to me at a conference, they send a text, they give me a high five.
That’s what I’m thankful for today and every day I publish something here. That you amazing people in this industry are so empathetic and patient with my imperfect efforts that are so full of try. I don’t know if I deserve the loyalty you all offer, but I’m trying hard to notice it and reciprocate that gratitude.
Thank you 1,000x.
And with that, I wish you and yours have a very happy Thanksgiving. See you next week.
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