It’s that time again. This week, I will be adding to the conversation about being profound, or something that has a unique and deep sense of meaning that leads to action. We now join Kramer and George as they discuss life:
KRAMER (in disgust): Look at you.
GEORGE: Aw, Kramer, don’t start…
KRAMER: You’re wasting your life.
GEORGE: I am not! What you call wasting, I call living! I’m living my life!
KRAMER: O.K., like what? No, tell me! Do you have a job?
KRAMER: You got money?
KRAMER: Do you have a woman?
KRAMER: Do you have any prospects?
KRAMER: You got anything on the horizon?
KRAMER: Do you have any action at all?
KRAMER: Do you have any conceivable reason for even getting up in the morning?
GEORGE: I like to get the Daily News!
KRAMER: George, it’s time for us to grow up – and be men. Not little boys.
Quite simply, George is lacking a unique and deep sense of meaning. Unfortunately, over the course of the nine seasons of Seinfeld, we saw that a lot from George. And just like George we see it all the time in today’s business world as well. Many businesses squeeze the lifeblood of passion out of its employees and customers by not offering a unique and deep sense of meaning or purpose for their company. The loss of potential is enough to make you scream in frustration. And yet, it happens all the time. To loosely quote Henry David Thoreau:
The mass of [companies] lead lives of quiet desperation.
Desperate because they lack any real meaning. Quiet because they are never found and are irrelevant.
Why do so many companies miss the mark when it comes to having a deep sense of meaning or purpose? One reason, I think, is that we sometimes confuse busyness with meaning. Going back to Thoreau:
It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?
Busyness without a deep sense of meaning is quite simply exhausting and all together hollow. Meaning must always dive in the pool before busyness.
Another reason for companies not to have a deep sense of meaning is fear. We learned a long time ago that coloring outside the lines will get you a whack of the ruler on the back of the hand. (Okay. That’s old, cruel school. But you get the picture). We grow up with a sense of how to be successful by following what everyone else does. If we take this into our business lives, we’re surely to go unnoticed and unwanted.
Sure it’s scary to do something so profound it gets you found. But that’s the point; it’s supposed to be scary. If it weren’t, everyone would do it. Quiet your fears and move away from the quivering masses huddled together in the depths of obscurity to roam free and bask in the light of the profound.
And lastly, there may be some companies out there that have never been taught what it means to be profound and offer something deep and meaningful for their employees and their customers. They don’t know what its like to be a good to great purple cow that zags in the blue ocean (if you don’t know what I mean, follow the links, buy the books and start learning). If your company is not being found because it has never been taught what it means to be profound, you need to be the one that steps up and pushes for a deep sense of meaning. You owe it to yourself and your customers.
But maybe you have tried to instill a sense of meaning in your company only to have your suggestions ignored – or worse – to have your company turn its back on them. Don’t worry; I’ve been there too. If the alarm clock each Monday morning brings with it a sense of dread so palpable you can taste the distaste of another lemming-like day pounding away at your keyboard in your grey cube with a flickering fluorescent light overhead, I leave you with this parting thought from Mavericks At Work:
Does my company stand for something—anything—special? It’s hard to be thrilled with your job if the company you work for is struggling to succeed, or feels stuck and irrelevant. I’m not talking about obvious problems—red ink and layoffs. I mean the nagging sense that the company will never be anything more than okay, just another ho-hum player in its field. In this hyper-competitive age, you can’t do great things as a company if you’re just a little better than everybody else. Does the company you work for really stand out from the crowd? If not, why on earth are you working there?
It’s time to pump meaning back into our companies and our own lives and be found by being profound!
This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.