Fathers, Daughters, and Career Advice

My oldest daughter, Mara, started junior high earlier this month, and I am still reeling from the fact that she is growing up so fast.  This has further fanned the flames of what has become a “Year of Reflection” for me (sounds more aspirational than “mid-life crisis”), as I have turned 40, changed careers, and taken many a trip down memory lane.  I have beseeched her consistently in her young life to “not be in a hurry to grow up” because frankly there is no better job than being a kid.  But as she starts to enter this world of young adulthood, her thoughts and our conversations are inevitably turning more toward her rapidly approaching future. As such, for the first time we had an actual conversation of…

So what do you want to do when you grow up?” 

First, she sarcastically retorted, “I don’t know, Dad… what do YOU want to do when YOU grow up?”  Valid point, but she was stalling.  As her mind wrapped around my question, I could see the wheels turning and the emotions conflicting.  Part of her seemed to be clinging tightly to her childhood, another feeling that fear of becoming a grown up, and yet another sparkling with the excitement of adventures ahead.  Finally, with a look of peace she said, “Dad… I am still only 12 and I like waaaay too many things to even begin to decide what I want to do when I grow up.  What I do know though, is that whatever I choose will be something that I love to do, that I’m good at, and that helps people.  And with those simple words, she had concisely and insightfully given a better answer than I could have imagined. 

As I have coached and managed people, businesses, and projects over the years, it is a simple, consistent, and amazing truth that these three elements are core to achieving success and fulfillment.  Whether it is a career path, a creative idea, or a new project, we often neglect one or more of these elements in making choices and decisions: 

  • Talent: A skill or core competency that is a step above “competition”
  • Passion: An inherent love or drive that radiates from within
  • Benefit:  Making a difference for someone(s), by providing a product, service, or idea that they truly need or want.

This isn’t rocket science in concept, but is surprisingly uncommon in practice.

As individuals and teams walk through my door each day, looking for breakthrough concepts, disruptive ideas, and to growing new business, the ones that inevitably go on to be successful can say YES to the following questions: “Are we good at this?”, “Am I emotionally invested?”, and “Does it make a difference?”

Of course, by no means am I saying that “making money” is not important (I certainly don’t intend on my daughter living in my basement forever!). But the money should be an output that arises naturally from infusing innovation with these three factors.  In a world that too often encourages action before reflection, let’s take some advice from the world’s 12 year olds and stop to run our ideas and decisions through these filters.  It could make a world of difference.

This Blog Entry Will Make You Cry

I was sitting down to write this blog and you won’t believe what happened next.  Put simply, this is why you shouldn’t try to outrun a bear.

Okay, I’ll spare you the years of anticipation and hope, and tell you what really happens after you die.

But first, the real point of this post . . . clickbait.  Or when dressed in formal attire for the evening, “social engagement headlines.”

Those tantalizing little phrases wallpapering your Facebook feed.  Funny thing is, they exist because they work.  Well, at least some of them. 

And if you can get past the torment, there may be lessons to be learned about the nature of improving our content engagement for anyone charged with enticing your audience to click, read, or share.

Of course, there’s no magic formula, thank Goodness.  Our craft hasn’t been replaced by robots (yet).

According to social analytics gurus, the number one word phrase that gains the most likes, shares and comments is:

Will make you . . .

Notice that “will make you” does not start or end a headline.  But it does create a link between the content and the consequence to the person reading it.

This explains why setting up a consumer tension and pointing out the potential consequence enjoys its pride of place in the best advertising and marketing.  A phrase like “will make you” can establish why you should care about the content in the first place, while at the same time promising the message will have some kind of impact on you as well.  And depending upon what you book-end it with (that’s our job, after all), it can be effective and elegant.

For example, “BLANK will make you feel better about your daughter’s future.” 

Stay tuned for an emotional reaction, right?  Or, in clickbait parlance, “will give you goosebumps.”

Or “melt your heart.”

Of course, it’s up to us to be careful with sensational language that over-promises and under-delivers, which is why people are wary of clickbait in the first place.

Now, if you’re wondering about the the phrase that gained the LEAST amount of engagement . . . can you guess? 

Only 1 in 50 people can. 

If your curiosity has been sparked, that’s exactly what a good headline should do.  Thus endeth the lesson.

Besides, what Marcia Brady looks like today is really not that jaw-dropping after all.

Mark Smith is the Chief Creative Officer for Upstream 360 and the father of a teenage daughter.  He stays motivated by the twin powers of doubt and insecurity, while his approach to the work is making it legitimately interesting, shareable, and something people can connect with. 


Mark is also an author of the book Innovation Myths and Mythstakes, available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and coming soon on Audible.