Have we dug our own grave?

A friend asked me what I was working on over the week, and I wrote him a list — he replied saying he was mind blown. I explained to him that the list was what I was working on for that day, not the week. He was twice mindblown.

It's been a really productive start to the year for us — we've begun a large piece of consulting work with one of our long-term clients, we've started our year of industry workshops and we're also moving towards relaunching our Hello Tomorrow email platform into something new.

I like feeling productive, it's fulfilling and nourishing in all kinds of ways — we just have to ensure we hit the bottom line too!

I've recently switched email services. If you have any issues with this week's email please shout out. Also, you'll notice you're receiving this and all future emails from my work email. Feel free to reply at any time.

How are you?

If you're a long-time reader, you'd be expecting me to ask, how is your heart today?

I hope it's full.

This week, I met with Andy Wright who runs Never Not Creative a fantastic initiative here in Australia.

Andy and I were reminiscing about our industry, the industry of creativity and discussing how much disruption we've all faced in the last 10, 20 and even 30 years. We spoke of the need for better leadership in our industry, the lack of it and the need for a framework that helps the sea of smaller businesses to see the opportunities that are before them whilst the industry is being disrupted.

"It seems we've dug our own grave and we are happy to lie in it."He says this and it stops us both — I scribble it down and we talk about what this means.

"An industry that mostly skims the surface and skirts the periphery butreally, we're just standing still."

The conversation circles around the commoditisation of creative services, the changing needs of large organisations, their insourcing of design talent and of course the enormous churn that occurs with this disruption.

At that moment, I know what I'm writing about this week.

It's 2017 — I’m sitting opposite a person. An intelligent person. A professional. I'm in a 'first meeting' — an introductory meeting which may lead to new business.

The person opposite me, a potential client, but not a decision-maker. Although, someone with a level of clout and influence in her organisation I must acknowledge if I'm going to win business.

We discuss the changing landscape of the design industry. The ebbing and flowing of the world that was, and now is so very different.

I nod and if I could time travel, it would acknowledge the mirror conversation I have with Andy in 2019.

In this 2017 meeting, as the conversation flows, I begin to sense that there won’t be any business won on this day. Not by me anyway. As disappointing as this is, after almost three decades of dancing this dance, I’m used to it.

Then she drops this...

"An agency can give good advice, but it’s like coming to a motor racing team and running a workshop for the drivers, advising the mechanics, and pointing out where you think the quick lines will be. You can produce the team livery but you’re not the ones in the race."
I smile as I let the bruise shine purple and settle on my ego. Images of a team of men in helmets circling a state-of-the-art F1 car fill my mind and the sound of a million, no ten million raving fans roar in excitement as they complete their task in 1.92 seconds.

In the seconds of awkward silence that follow, a million thoughts of panic run through my mind. Should I agree? Should I not? It's not right though. The self-talk continues as the air gets thick and this person stares at me, knowing they are in the power seat, and I am not.

The stillness it seems makes the speed of my thoughts increase, and all the more scrambled. I laugh nervously and whilst my body language shows her a docile form of agreement, my insides are a lion roaring.

This person looks at me as my back straightens and I fold my notebook closed. Quite bewildering to me, they seem to be in for a long meeting, not showing any signs of wrapping up. Time must be on their side.

I smile again and break the awkward silence with a goodbye with,

"I'm not that into car racing so I can't really comment about 'quick lines' but they do sound like 'short cuts' to me."

And in my imagination, as I walk away from that final meeting with that person who had a heightened sense of self importance, I reply to them in my own self-talk.

I respect your opinion and I can see how, from your side of the table, it might seem that someone who "isn't in the race" is ill-equipped to advise those that are running that particular race.

See, I'm in a lot of different races and have been for quite some time. I've run long races, short races and also confusing races. I've lost races and won races.

I even fight to get into races. Do you?

I've been burnt, chuffed and ridiculed but I keep going. I put myself in situations that most people would find awkward, embarrassing, difficult.

But I keep going.

I keep going because there is a difference between those of us on this side of the table and those of you, on that side.

I keep going because I have skin in the game and that filter allows me to run my race the way I choose to run it.

I have skin in the game and that means that my race is about achieving my dreams, not anyone else's. I have skin in the game and that means that I can help my small team achieve their dreams, not anyone else's.

I'm also holding the reigns, are you?

When faced with disruption I can seek out opportunity, try new things, explore new ideas and win, sometimes fail, but continually move forward.

When faced with disruption in your industry are you sitting in the pit waiting for the next car to turn up holding your fancy piece of machinery?

See, having skin in the game also means that yes, I dig my own grave, and ensure that nobody makes the choice when I lie in it, but me.

See you next week,