“We have unfortunate access to greatness.”
I paused the podcast to write this down. In his writer’s brilliance, Adam Grant formulated the issue I’ve been having for years.
As I look at the big names in marketing and the content they create.
As I look at big brands with fully developed content marketing programs.
As I look at companies with masterful messaging that clearly positions them right.
Maybe you have it, too?
It’s sort of related to impostor syndrome, but it’s also bigger than that. If I had to deconstruct it, the main ingredients are doubt in your ability as a marketer and the hopelessness that comes from knowing that you’ll never catch up no matter how fast you run.
“We see people at their peak and assume they started far ahead of us,” Grant continues in that podcast.
It’s a classic “frame of reference” issue. On a cognitive level, you know there’s a lot of distance between where you are and where your admired brand is. On an emotional level, though, you can’t help but feel deflated. It looks like an impossible mountain to climb.
When doing client work, I discuss three types of competitors with them. One of these I call “aspirational competitors.”
These are the big guns. The stars. The brands you want to become when you grow up.
Some teams come into this exercise with excitement. But in some cases, I see that thinking about these big brands literally saps their motivation.
This is where I remind them of the goal.
It’s not about going against these competitors head-to-head. That’s a fool’s errand.
It’s about learning what we can do today to get a step closer to them.
And step after step, quarter after quarter, we’ll get better.
We’ll probably never catch up, as great brands keep moving. But it’s not about catching up. It’s about moving forward.
As we go into the end-of-year planning period, the quote “unfortunate access to greatness” comes up more often in my mind. Keep it at the ready.
Use it to remind yourself what the goal is. It’s about looking at the greats to get better. Not to catch up to them.
🤩 P.S. What brands would you like to look like when you “grow up”? Gimme some examples!
P.P.S. The whole conversation between Adam Grant and Malcolm Gladwell is worth the time. Give it a listen.
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