If You Had Less Courage...

Greeting from Monteagle, TN, our writing retreat. I was sitting on the deck this morning, watching the millions of green leaves drink the water as the rain tries to get past them to rest on the earth. There's a 700' drop off a rock cliff to the two waterfalls below. I woke up thinking about courage, but I decided to describe a world where it's absent.

You're a principal running a digital, marketing, advertising, public relations, or design firm. You're creating jobs and doing good work, all the while trying to remember some days why you do this in the first place. It's the weekend and you can't wait to get back to work or you can't stand the idea of feedng the machine again on Monday. From time to time it's good to step back and get a helicopter-down view of what your life looks like. So here goes.

If You Had Less Courage...

  • If you had less courage, you'd work with some clients who can't benefit from your core strength. You'd actually be a much larger firm without a ruthless eye for clients who value your expertise, are hungry to benefit from it, make you smarter, and embrace your unique ability as a firm.
  • If you had less courage, you wouldn't call bullshit on some of the way your clients are spending money, chasing vapid trends, playing politics, and holding your influence at bay.
  • If you had less courage, you'd renounce the financial data at your fingertips about the firm's performance. You'd absorb it but tell yourself that the laws of gravity don't apply to you and that "things are different here" and assure us that you have your reasons for the compromises.
  • If you had less courage, you'd keep adding people to the payroll and also keep your head down in the craft, working in the business instead of on it because that's where you are comfortable. After all, you'd tell yourself, flat org structures are the thing these days and these new employees are better at self-managing their performance.
  • If you had less courage, you'd blame your culture on the employees (especially those lazy and entitled and promotion-seeking millennials).
  • If you had less courage, you'd keep making the best of the stream of RFP cattle calls and accept your rightful place in the universe.
  • If you had less courage, you'd let the marketplace determine your position, your size, your profit level, and your influence. You'd fashion a stage where tens of thousands of firms are interchangeable with your own so that your 24-hour drive-up expertise lane was always at the ready, grateful to make a buck.
  • If you had less courage, you'd price your work like other agencies do so that, in a perfect world, you'd have an equal shot at landing it.
  • If you had less courage, you'd be hanging on to implementation because you loved it, all the while the rest of the world is eating away at the edges of the things that you are "doing" to make money instead of "thinking" in irreplaceable ways.
  • If you had less courage, you'd stay in that partnership with the guy who turned out to be replaceable by a senior staffer, doesn't really share the entrepreneurial burden equally, and values people differently than you do.
  • If you had less courage, you'd leave the agency world because you were tired of the battle.
  • If you had less courage, you'd stay in the agency world because the future looked terrifying.

But you don't have less courage, which is why I love you.

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