The Ordinary Seat at the Extraordinary Table

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Robert Rose on why celebrating the ordinary things in our lives can lead to, well, the extraordinary.

Hustle. Be remarkable. Be special. Live off coffee. Sleep is for the weak. Obsess or be average. Differentiate. Be extraordinary.

Sounds like the rock and roll, entrepreneurial lifestyle of today’s successful young manager. Right? Every day we urge others, and are urged ourselves, to do something different than we did the day before. Breathless book titles, blog headlines and motivational speakers alike all tell us that for the young marketing leader to succeed, they must figure out how to create special, unique things. And they must do it all the time. Every... Single... Day. 

It’s exhausting.

There is certainly a growing backlash to the ‘hustle’ culture coming. In fact, in March of this year, New York state introduced a bill that may give managers the right to disconnect. But that doesn’t address today’s constant pressure we feel as marketers to constantly maintain a level of “remarkability”, “virality”, “extraordinary”. And research shows that young people feel much more pressure to stand out, than their older counterparts. 67% of those under 40 feel “extreme” pressure to succeed, as compared to 23% of their parents.

But here’s the thing about being creative and having a strategic seat at the business table. Not only can you NOT be remarkable every day, it’s actually counterproductive to even try. By definition, no one can be remarkable every single day. If you were, the sheer uniformity of your remarkableness would make it unremarkable. Likewise, you can’t work your way into being more creative and extraordinary. You can’t exponentially hustle more tomorrow than you hustled today: If you hustled only one hour on Monday, and then doubled your hustle every day thereafter, you’d be out of hustle hours by Thursday. 

Our push to continuously excel, differentiate and hustle has bred hurriedness into our lives. And guess what? The work suffers as a result.

Our push to continuously excel, differentiate, and hustle has, in many cases, become the focus of our marketing practices and our careers. It breeds a hurriedness into our lives. And guess what? The work suffers as a result.  

I had a call a few weeks ago with one of my clients. We’d been talking about how to bring joy back into the job of marketing. We discussed considerations like quitting social media, getting more focused, or figuring out how to take quality time for creativity. First, she remarked, “When did I stop allowing my days to be elegant? When did I start believing that I wasn’t enough unless I kept pace?” Then she said something that really resonated with me: “My favorite moment of the last week was sitting on my porch watching it rain. I savored every moment of that quiet, ordinary scene.” 

It was her slowed-down absorption of the ordinary that gave her access to the extraordinary.

This, the celebration and mindfulness of the ordinary, is how we get to extraordinary.

We can access the extraordinary through the quiet, ordinariness of our work, too – if we’re willing to give up feeling superior (or inferior) to those around us. If we’re willing to be comfortable with ourselves. If we’re willing to find the “special” inside ourselves, rather than solely in some external measurement of validation. 

Research illustrates this too. One study found that the most effective business leaders understand the power of ordinary practices. These leaders celebrate and process the trivial, mundane, day-by-day things that they and their team do and say. It gave them access, and insight, into the tremendous impact that they were actually having.

And impact is what gets us invited to the seat at the strategic business table. Next time you find yourself striving to create the most special business strategy ever, do the equivalent of going outside and sitting on your porch to watch it rain. Give your full, unencumbered attention to your work in all its ordinariness. That’s when the extraordinary can emerge. 


Robert Rose

Robert Rose is the chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute and a senior contributing consultant for Digital Clarity Group.

Robert is also a leading author, his first book Managing Content Marketing is a favourite around here. Robert is also the co-host of PNR's This Old Marketing podcast, the #1 podcast as reviewed by MarketingPodcasts.com.

Read more from Robert here.


More from the September issue...

Inspired by the album A Seat At The Table by Solange, this issue goes back to why we started this whole thing in the first place - the next generation of marketing rockstars. With fresh faces joining the usual roster of legends, we’ve got inspiration from creatives Olivia Foster and Stephen Kelly, and tappit CMO Jenni Young. Read More

Robert Rose

Helping marketers create remarkable experiences. Chief Strategy Officer @AdvisingContent Author http://KillingMarketing.com . Startup Advisor. Mapmaker. Troublemaker