“That idea is stupid. Your headline sucks. Your headlines always suck. Everyone else on the planet is better at this than you are. No one will ever want to read this trash. I wonder if Starbucks is hiring.”
– That crappy inner voice in our heads
In the late spring of 1997, I went to Moscow. Everyone I met was reinventing themselves. The Soviet system had collapsed more abruptly than anyone had thought possible, and countless people were figuring out new ways of making a living.
I remember spending an afternoon in a dark, tiny apartment with some Americans I had met online and a chain-smoking Muscovite hipster named Yuri.
Before glasnost, Yuri had been a third-generation propaganda artist. His family had the official license to reproduce Lenin’s signature for political posters. When Yuri was 20, he’d planned on copying Lenin’s signature for the rest of his working life, like his father had done.
Then, overnight, that wasn’t a job anymore.
Yuri became a Photoshop wiz and started hitting up the new breed of entrepreneurs. He taught them about marketing and advertising, even while he was learning it himself.
Oh, and on the side, he was a rock star. Rock stars still needed day jobs in 1997.
That was Moscow.
2017’s motto: “Really?”
2017 has felt a lot like that spring in Moscow. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of reinvention. A lot of folks with their backs to the wall. A few gangsters and a lot of scramblers.
Whether you’ve faced your own upheaval or just a general disturbance in the Force, these are strange days.
A few people have asked me lately for predictions for the new year, and my answer is always:
Futurism is a scam.
No one can tell the future, particularly now. The environment is too chaotic, and chaotic systems can’t be reliably predicted.
What I can tell you is to keep your eyes open, stay nimble, and protect your confidence.
Where confidence actually comes from
I don’t know why people make fun of Millennials for getting “participation trophies,” because that kind of foolishness was well in swing for my generation, Gen X.
(Also, blaming kids for the school policies they grew up with is kind of messed up.)
Schools were supposed to protect our self-esteem. No negativity must be allowed, no struggle, no self-doubt. We were supposed to be showered in gold stars and happy faces. That would make us confident.
It didn’t. It made us neurotic.
Because confidence doesn’t come from that kind of fake winning.
Confidence comes from actually being able to do something amazing.
The power of mindset
Back when I was a kid, not only did I walk to school in the snow uphill (both ways)*, we also didn’t have the benefit of Carol Dweck’s excellent work and insights into the growth mindset.
Kids (and adults) who are told they’re “smart” tend to develop what Dweck calls a fixed mindset. It actually leads to decreased intellectual risk-taking (perhaps because that might prove you aren’t really smart after all). It can even lead to cheating and other unethical behavior.
Kids (and adults) who are told they “work hard” tend to develop what Dweck calls a growth mindset. That’s the belief that new material will probably be hard at first, that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and that if you put the work in, you’ll get better.
Growth mindset people have great confidence, because they know that if it isn’t good today, it’s just a matter of putting some work in and getting better tomorrow.
Growth mindset was always a good thing to have. It makes us healthier, happier, and more successful.
In the 21st century, though, it’s not a nice-to-have. It’s essential. We are all, always, being faced with new challenges and opportunities to grow our thinking. Those of us who aren’t gangsters are all scramblers.
We can get frustrated and give up, but that will lead to failure. Which, given today’s reality, may result in being devoured in the streets by wolverines.
Or we can find it exciting and knuckle down. That leads to the good stuff. (Money, impact, security, influence, the ability to continue living indoors. That kind of good stuff.)
Screw it, just do it
Today's lesson: The longer you plan without action the more space you make for doubt and fear to take over.
— Ya Girl Brittany (@xobritdear) December 10, 2017
I don’t know about you, but when times are good, I tend to take forever to implement new things.
I want to fiddle, to putter, to obsess. I want to make it perfect.
When times are stressful and I’m having to push my growth mindset for all it’s worth, I adopt Richard Branson’s phrase, “Screw it, let’s do it.”
The longer you stare from the high-dive board, the scarier it gets. No matter what you do or who you do it for, we all need to launch more experiments. To be willing to put something imperfect out there (without pretending that it’s flawless finished work).
To try the things that might not quite work, so we can find the thing that does.
2018 will be all about skills
Like Napoleon Dynamite, we’re going to work on getting some skills.
We’re going to learn to do things that are amazing.
In the new year, look for lots more resources from us on improving specific skill sets. Copywriting skills, marketing skills, strategic skills, and enough technical tools and tricks to multiply the impact of your talent.
If you read this blog, rather than something with smaller words and fewer complicated analogies, you’re probably rather smart. (Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.)
You might be what we call a “poet.” Even if you don’t literally write poetry, you probably care about language and want to create meaningful work. You’re unimpressed by weak, generic, “me-too” fluff that looks like it was put together by some kind of committee.
A very bored committee.
With a little growth mindset and some education that’s tailored for you, you can pick up some strategies to add a little “killer” to the mix.
And in the words of David Ogilvy (expanding on a quote from a fellow ad man),
“‘Most good copywriters … fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end.’ If you are both killer and poet, you get rich.”
– David Ogilvy
I’m excited about 2018. I’m going to learn a bunch of stuff and share it with you, which is one of my favorite things to do.
I hope you’re excited, too. Maybe we can make 2018’s motto Hell, yes.
How will you grow in 2018?
Got anything you’re planning on learning, doing, making, or becoming next year? Let us know in the comments!
* This is a lie. I grew up in San Francisco. I saw a tiny dusting of snow maybe twice my entire childhood.
Also, I first wrote about Yuri and Moscow years ago on my personal blog, Remarkable Communication.
Reader Comments (18)
Richard Tibe says
“This is a lie. I grew up in San Francisco. I saw a tiny dusting of snow maybe twice my entire childhood.”
Great writing as usual 🙂
Sonia Simone says
So kind, Richard, thank you. 🙂
Byron from _misfit_moves_ says
Fantastic advice. I was told I was smart all my life, and as soon as I became an independent adult I got stuck in a decade long rut. I accepted my position as an office drone who was always shouted down by other, more gregarious people. Now I realize that I have limitless potential, and I need not be silent anymore. I will grow into my ability and push it beyond the limits in my mind and in theirs. Cheers!
Sonia Simone says
It’s a thing! Reading Dweck’s book was like a bomb going off in my head. The kind of bomb that is helpful and constructive, that is.
Olle Lindholm says
Thanks for an excellent post!
I’m stepping outside my “content comfort zone” next year.
I felt inspired by the Authority session on the topic. I’m going to start to record more audio for my blog, and play around with explainers. With a growth mindset, it’ll be FUN! I’m also going to start small, like recording a short series (e.g. 3-5 articles), and then take it from there.
“Screw it, let’s do it!” Here’s to an awesome 2018! 🙂
Greetings from a snowy (and cold) Sweden,
Sonia Simone says
Thanks, Olle! Always nice to hear from you. 🙂
Your 2018 plans sound great!
This is too true. Things have been going well for me over the last couple of years, and I’ve had lots of ideas that I haven’t implemented because they “needed fleshing out.” Now some things in my life are changing so that my own life looks a lot like the chaos of 2017. And guess what? I’m getting stuff done and getting new clients – because I HAVE TO!
I’ve even taken on a couple of clients whose work I don’t exactly know how to do. But I have no doubt that I am able to figure it out as I go.
2018 is going to be a great year!
Sonia Simone says
Yes, ma’am, I have been there. 🙂
I don’t like disruption or turmoil any more than most people, but they can sometimes be a very effective way of getting us to make the changes we want to make.
Hi Sonia! Really glad I read your article. I spend my youth in the so called “smart ones”. Great study skills and lacking ability to endure in another areas because of unwilling to take risks.
Saksham Kumar says
This is so motivating Sonia.
I really believe in the power of our mindset. If we decide to do something we can do it easily by making up our mind. Procrastination can be destroyed by the power of our mindset.
Sandra Carter says
About two weeks ago I created a self-imposed deadline of October 26, 2018, to do whatever it takes between now and then to be able to take the leap of faith from corporate America to my goal of full time freelancing. Whew, doesn’t that just light a fire under ya? Just signed up for the Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer Program to add another heavy-hitter authority to my certifications.
So, look out 2018, I’m going to be locked and loaded going in, and I’m not taking prisoners. Time’s a wastin’, and I want this so bad I can taste it. This one’s for me.
Sonia Simone says
Cool Sandra — you’ve given yourself plenty of runway. Go get it!
It’s a very challenging (and often stressful) moment, but there are great things to be found. 🙂
Sonia, my comment was written “in the moment,” obviously. I need more of those determined moments because I’ve found that if I have a backup plan (read: day job) then I’ll never get up off my happy self and create my own future. It’s like if I know company’s coming, the house gets cleaned in a jiffy (just don’t peek in the closets), but day to day, things tend to get overlooked and put off til “later.” What am I waiting for?
Neil Harris says
I believe confidence comes from results, and results come from a combination of focus, determination and trust.
Sonia Simone says
The only trick is that when you tie confidence to results, you can fall into that “fixed mindset” thing, whether the results are good or bad. You need the confidence while you’re pursuing the results, so you can continue to put the work in.
Quick wins are helpful, if they’re on the right path. Getting something accomplished, even if it’s pretty small, is a huge confidence-builder.
Freddy G. Cabrera says
What a super interesting read, Sonia!
I really enjoyed reading this and learned a few new things.
It amazes me how simple words can have such a big impact on a kid’s life in the long run. Words and intentions are very powerful.
I believe confidence comes from getting the results you were looking for. This is when your confidence starts to build up. The more you accomplish the more confident you will become. So, confidence does start with one’s results on a specific goal or challenge.
Thanks for sharing Sonia!
I think confidence is something that can be developed and nurtured.
Nothing is more powerful than a men with high confidence. It is all in the mindset.
What a wonderful read, thanks.
Thank you Sonia. Being on a constant journey to find confidence, appreciate the above. And a few additional thoughts.
I’ve done and explored a lot…had numerous careers, jobs, self-employed…jumped, planned and? And perhaps I haven’t acquired enough of a growth mindset as sometimes things just don’t work and I don’t always have or continue to have “great confidence.”
“Growth mindset people have great confidence, because they know that if it isn’t good today, it’s just a matter of putting some work in and getting better tomorrow.”
Even if i trust that I/things will get better tomorrow. Perhaps there’s sometimes a time frame outside the “norm” whatever that is. Or perhaps it’s just not meant to be, even if the work is done.
One thing that has helped, at least with mindset which is so important, is to reframe the confidence piece. There’s a great insight from Debbie Millman (at about 40 minutes into this interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2Yz9BAxumY). She talks about confidence coming from doing things over and over and learning how to do things and that sometimes what we need is the courage to get started so we can grow the confidence.
I think, in the end, you’re saying the same thing…yet that mind shift has helped me a lot…I can have the courage to put in the work to grow, even if i don’t have the confidence.
Thanks for all your wisdom. So appreciate it.
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