Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 25, 2012 3:19 PM

And In The End...

Do you have a morbid fascination with the end?

I'm not sure why (but I'm pretty certain that a psychiatrist would love to figure it out of with me), but I often think about the end. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm scared about how my life will end (which is in direct relation with the many issues I have around control) and that I don't want it to end any time soon. There are plenty more things that I want to accomplish in my life and I often play the "which would you rather game" when it comes to deciding between family and the rest of my life (in case you're wondering, family wins almost every time). Don't worry, this Blog post will not descend into the scary depths of our mortality. All of this leads me to wonder: "why do I do what I do?"

The truth.

I discovered (mostly through trial and error) that I love the marketing world. I love working with brands and thinking about brands and tinkering with what they can do to connect (more honestly and powerfully) with their consumers. I look around on this flight that I'm on and I see people - from all walks of life - working in various occupations, and all of them are carrying a ton of technology on them. From smartphones and Kindles to iPads and laptops. I can't help but wonder and think about a time in the not-too-distant future when we're no longer carrying these devices around, but they are actually in us... a part of us (you know, sub dermal implants or brain activity activated... who knows?). As I was walking through the airport, I noticed that the current cover story for Wired Magazine is all about self-driving cars. It is these combined instances of science fiction catching up to reality that get me excited. It gets me thinking more about how much I love marketing, and it makes me hopeful that I'll be privileged enough to be alive long enough to see how we innovate from this very innovative moment in time that we currently find ourselves in.

So, what's all this talk about the end?

When I think about my career (or when I see other people thinking about their careers), it strikes me that even with goal setting and planning, it's usually a very shortsighted vision. Think about your current work situation. You're probably wondering about your next bonus or raise, your next step up the corporate ladder or that new business pitch that is just around the corner. Maybe, you're thinking about where you're going to be in the next five to ten years? But what about the end? Recently, I've been thinking about the evolution of marketing and the role that I want to have in it. It made me realize that I only have one true goal for myself in the marketing industry: longevity.

Longevity is key. 

In thinking back, it was always there, but it wasn't something that I was able to verbalize or acknowledge until very recently. I want a career in marketing with longevity. Nothing less. In looking at the client work we do at Twist Image, this Blog, the Podcast, the Six Pixels of Separation business book and many of the things that make up my personal work - on a day to day basis - it's all about longevity. How many people do you know who started a Blog, a Facebook page, a LinkedIn community or many other things that they simply dropped or got bored with? Yes, there's a moment in time when you have to ditch what's not working or even disengage if the platform can no longer deliver economic value to your brand, but in general, I think most brands (and the marketing professionals who represent them) have very short-sighted and short-term goals and visions. This Blog has been around since 2003 and if I think back, I can recall saying to myself that the Internet Gods have given me a great gift to be able to publish without editors telling me what's good or bad and without massive costs to reach an audience. Not only did I commit to it as a platform that fit with our business goal, but I knew that I wanted it to have that longevity as well (sorry, I won't stop Blogging any time soon).

Tortoise of hare?

Longevity doesn't happen quickly. That doesn't mean that I don't put a tremendous amount of focus on creating a sense of urgency. I want stuff to get done (and yes, I like quick wins as much as the next person). The bigger thought here is that when you're focused on longevity (for both yourself, professionally, and the brands you represent), odds are that you're going to do a lot more critical thinking and ultimately, you will be putting things into the market with a much more solid foundation and expectation for outcomes. I'm starting to think about everything in terms of longevity and the value that comes with it.

What are you after?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Paul Copcutt
    Mitch Joel

    Wow deep thoughts and reflection here Mitch, but important questions we should all be asking.

    My thoughts of the end have also risen to the surface in the last year, not from a point of morbid fascination but start reality after a cancer diagnosis. The good news is that treatment was successful and the even better news was I answered the question, like you, I love doing what i do now - no need to change or re-design a career.

    But I do find often the short termness of the corporate world clashes with employees desire to have a longer term view. That is why, like with brands of products and services - we need to have a more personal longer term vision and purpose. If we can answer the question what is our bigger vision for the world and what is going to be our purpose is seeing that come to fruition we can gain that longevity many of us seek. Add values to that and then the rest of your life can be even more golden!

    Just my toonies worth

    Reply
    • Wow, Paul... I had no idea about your diagnosis and I'm thrilled to hear that you made it clear. In answer to your comment, I think many people are defined by their job or job title instead of defining their career and letting everything else be a "moment in time" of that greater vision. Stay healthy!

      Reply
  • Posted by Anthony
    Mitch Joel

    I'd say IMPACT. When I'm dead, I'm dead. There's a quote by, I forget who, that reads, "you really die two deaths. One when you breathe your last breath. And one, a while later, when someone says your name for the last time." Everything we'll do or say will one day be forgotten and to me it's not about living long but living FULL. Make an impact on the world, change perceptions, evolve for the better of humanity and life. I guess that's what I would be after, impact. It's healthy practice to examine your own mortality and know that planned obsolescence is in our nature. "the unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates

    Reply
    • Mitch Joel

      I completely agree with Anthony here. Longevity doesn't mean very much to me if it is without impact. Smart people can all run on the wheel in the world of "just getting by" or toeing the line of "average work. That work is focused on survival and doesn't take risk, or a chance to rise above the fray.

      When I think of impact, it leads me back to my favorite Steve Jobs quote:

      “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

      That dent (impact) doesn't need to be the next iPod or iPad, it can be a teacher or mentor making a difference in someone's life, a coach giving a sense of inspiration a player will carry on the rest of his life, a finace who gives you unlimited love and support so you can do what you love.

      It's those impacts that break the samsaric wheel. It's those impacts that define longevity.

      Reply
  • Posted by Lance Binley
    Mitch Joel

    For the here and now, I am after being a great father and husband. It is not something for tomorrow or for yesterday, it is about each chance I get - moment by moment. My family defines my success.

    Reply
    • "my family defines my success" is awesome. In my exercise I tried to compartmentalize my professional vision because I knew I would wind up with a similar line to yours if I did it for everything and I did not want to negate the value of the work that I do at a professional level. That being said, I may just steal that line from you as for my general life :)

      Reply
  • Posted by Kneale Mann
    Mitch Joel

    My parents remind me even in their mid-70s to live a live of purpose. I was in a client meeting recently and we were talking about goals and it suddenly didn't have anything to do with the revenue line. Hey perhaps purpose is what we all seek but we push it away in place of climbing that ladder or nailing that next prospect proposal?

    We can drive ourselves to distraction thinking about the end at the same rate we can do the same about the next five minutes. All of this points to our inability to actually live in the now.

    As I move closer every day from media and marketing into helping people become better leaders, it makes me realize how much time I have spent in my life worrying about the past and the future.

    So I guess we should look closer to our own purpose, our destiny perhaps, and live more in the right now rather than fussing too much about the five year plan that we'll never see realized because in five years (if we're all still here) we may be distracted by the five years after that.

    Be kind, help people, follow your passion and enjoy now.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitchell Arrieta
    Mitchell Arrieta

    Wow...@Lance: can I quote you on that final line? That pretty much sums everything up..."My Family Defines my Success"....

    Reply
  • Posted by Francis Tousignant
    Francis Tousignant

    How long did it take you Mitch to realize longevity was your goal?

    I, myself, am after doing as much as I can and always doing something I love. Its a start but I feel like its still not clear yet what I want to do in the end. The only answer I have is I want to be happy in yth end.

    Reply
    • It wasn't one, particular, moment in time. I think I just realized that when I do something and it's something that I enjoy, I throw myself into it with the mind-set that it's all about longevity (and as I commented above - not just longevity but with meaning and substance).

      Reply
  • Posted by Lucas Wilk
    Mitch Joel

    That is a very thoughtful post Mitch and I have to say that I’m not all that surprised that you wrote it while in flight. As much as flying can be quite tedious (particularly here in North America) I always get a tremendous sense of serenity whenever I’m 10,000 feet up in the air. I am not entirely sure why that is, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that flying provides a perfect opportunity to experience a slightly different configuration of the space-time continuum that defines and perhaps sometimes even limits our daily lives. The point that I’m making is that sometimes you literally have to be 10,000 feet above to get the 10,000-foot view of what it is that you’re doing in your life.
    Although it may not be all that healthy to habitually ponder about ‘the end’ it certainly is very worthwhile to think about the future. One of the countless things that I’ve learned from Brian Eno is that it is fun to ponder ‘unthinkable futures’ from time to time, for future is more often than not unexpected, unpredictable and messy. I am currently reading a wonderful book by William (“the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”) Gibson entitled Distrust That Particular Flavour (it is a collection of various articles that he’s written over the course the past 25 years). The future is more or less the defining tenet of his work and one of his key ideas is that the web is more and more becoming a prosthetic nervous system that’s accelerating and enveloping the entire civilization. We currently have over 5 billion people with cell phones and 3 billion connected to the web. What the effect of this will be in the long term no one knows, but clearly it is a given that the world of tomorrow will differ substantially from we have right now. In terms of how all of this relates to our personal ‘long terms’ it could be argued that one ought to focus on doing great work that either has artistic merit or one that has impact on other people’s lives such as philanthropy (there are many ways of positively impacting people’s lives for profit as well). Put another way, when you’ll be approaching ‘the end’ of your time here you won’t be thinking about the CTR of the email campaign you were in charge of back in 2012. Instead, you’ll likely be reflecting on what it was that you achieved and the people who helped you along the way, or so I hope.

    @Paul - great to see that everything's OK.

    Reply
    • OK... that sold me - buying that book right now.

      As for flying, I hadn't thought of that. In full disclosure: I had the core concept of this post long before the flight (it's been on my brain for a while), but maybe the 40,000 feet did open up new thinking.

      Thank you for the very thoughtful comment. To me, your comment embodies why I Blog: to get smart people to contribute, add and (even) disagree with me.

      Reply
  • Posted by Jessica
    Mitch Joel

    I read a lot of blog posts, and most of them I quickly forget. I can guarantee this post will stick with me for a long, long time. Mitch, you bring up such a great point. We (myself included) get so caught up in the short-term goals (winning that bid, climbing the ladder, even sticking to our five year plan), that we forget about the big picture. That's about thinking about and creating our legacy. What's the one thing you want to be known for- - forever? That's what you should focus on.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kevin Behringer
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch:

    This is great advice for all of us - something I need to be more focused on.

    It's also excellent advice for brands.

    In this era of jumping into the hottest social media tool and bouncing from one shiny object to the next, it's important for brands to consider longevity as a strategy. As numerous case studies have shown, it's the organizations that take the time to build something, focus on the longevity of the business and realize that success is rarely an overnight process.

    Kevin

    Reply
  • Posted by Lee Carey
    Mitch Joel

    I would not argue with your thinking about everything in terms of longevity and the value that comes with it. Great Blog
    As a techie, I also try to balance this with temporary, which everything in this world is. Balancing point determines urgency and urgency is the message.

    Reply
  • Posted by Billy Delaney
    Mitch Joel

    I spent years getting to an understanding of the end. It is not what most people think it is!
    but in this example that you are discussing your longevity, a good thing, if you love what you, a hell if you don't but have to keep on doing it for the money.
    I have been a rolling stone, and in that there is a longevity of surprise. Always seeking more, finding it and leading on to yet more.
    I love life, and I want to assit other live life too. Now that means in the small business world, where lots of people are struggling to navigate the landscape.
    Really enjoying the topics posted here.
    Looking forward to hearing you in person at SoSlam 2012

    Reply
    • This type of stuff usually only starts to creep into our conscience as we get older. It's too bad, I'd have done a whole lot differently when I was younger if I had the knowledge that I have now. Something tells me that I'll be saying the same thing about the me of today in twenty years time as well.

      Reply
  • Posted by Daniel McNeet
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    Peace of mind is the result of losing your fear of dying and controlling your desires and not allowing your desires to control you. I have it, and I hope you will get it soon.

    Longevity is good, but it must have quality attached to it. Your dedication to your clients and your profession are admirable, but will not be worthy without the quality of longevity.

    Failure Is Your Motivating Friend http://bit.ly/rv3oC8

    With respect,

    Daniel

    Reply
  • Posted by Shoshana
    Mitch Joel

    This article made me think about the pointlessness of some of our pursuits. New technology is an incredible tool but can also take you out of reality and creates a self involved bubble that many people exist in. I think that it is important to keep our marketing and branding down to earth and honest. The newest gadget doesn't have longevity. The conversation you have with another person using the technology does.

    Reply
  • I agree with the need of knowing how fast is too fast, and having enough patience to reach true longevity (I'm publishing a blog post next monday on this same issue, at http://restreitinho.com).

    I specially liked this part: "Longevity doesn't happen quickly.". Seems logical, right? Right, but so many people aim to have long-term success measured... today, tomorrow, in a month. I believe it's part of the urge to prove yourself now and get that bonus now and get that international career now. "Now" is good, but aiming to be your best self in a year, 5 years, 10 years... that may be overwhelming to think about. But that's the secret: if you have a specific vision, your "now" will be much more productive.

    Reply
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