A friend of mine recently came back from a trip to Australia, where he simply marveled at the predominant "can-do" attitude that existed throughout the country. His enthusiasm was shocking to me only in that as I reflected on the last year, I realized how many people I had encountered who were obsessed with what could not be done in today’s world.
It seems that globalism, technology, and political gridlock have convinced many Americans that the change brought on by each is making it impossible to do anything. This obsession with explaining why things can’t happen seems so antithetical to everything that America and our entrepreneurial spirit are founded on that I, for one, am sick of it. So I suggest we all take on a resolution to dream a little bigger this year.
I know how challenging the world is today. It is a very complex and dynamic place where there seem to be more problems than answers. But therein lies the hope. I, too, have fallen victim to obsessing about the complexities making things more difficult to navigate, but it’s always good to take a step back and remember that no dream is achieved if it’s not first spoken of in the light of day. So a few suggestions for anyone who’s also tired of hearing about what can’t be done:
1. Pick one thing you want to accomplish this year and tell everyone you work with or are close to what it is. It’s amazing how motivated you will be to get it done once you’ve said it out loud. For example, I recently created and filled the role of president for the agency. To ensure that she would be successful, and I wouldn’t lapse into doing things that for 20 years have been my entrepreneurial duty, I had a companywide meeting where I outlined her new leadership responsibilities. After such a public declaration, there is no backsliding for me now—and so far it’s been a home run for all.
2. Any time you or someone you are with identifies a problem, do not end the conversation without proposing some fragment of a solution. This is harder to do than you realize. I was recently in a meeting where we were all happily complaining about how utterly impossible the marketing problem we were wrestling was to solve. So I suggested that if we came up with a hypothesis by happy hour, drinks were on me. Lo and behold, we came up with three. Shocking.
3. Spend more time celebrating and acknowledging accomplishments, big and small, that both you and the people around you achieve. This reminder of a can-do spirit can be infectious and highly motivating. At every VIA holiday party we give out the VIA Way awards, which are granite stones engraved with the VIA logo (long story, but it has a meaning). You would think that getting a rock wouldn’t be very exciting, but I promise you, people value these awards like they had just received an Oscar. When the winners are announced they get a sincere, explosive standing ovation from the entire agency because their recognition is the embodiment of what we struggle every day to deliver—dreams. Everyone wants more of that feeling, so it drives us throughout the year.
These three simple steps of saying it, solving it, and celebrating it can be the best fertilizer to make things grow. Yes, the world is a complicated place, for sure. But people who are willing to dream a little bigger will wake up with smiles on their faces.
The VIA Agency, founded in 1993, uses cross-functional teams to solve complex marketing challenges and help clients find new growth. VIA is one of the top 100 agencies in the U.S. and counts numerous Fortune 500 companies as clients. VIA was recognized in 2011 as Ad Age's Small Agency of the Year.
[Image: Flickr user Dan Jordan]