The Best Ever Failed 63% of the Time

Ty Cobb failed 63.4% of the time, finishing his career with a .366 lifetime batting average. The ultimate benchmark for greatness for a hitter is the .400 mark, and that has only been eclipsed 26 times in history. Hell, some of the sports’ greatest hitters failed 72-73% of the time, and made up for it with the ability to hit homeruns.

Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson
Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson

I think life operates much like baseball does. What makes professional athletes so incredible is the resiliency required to perform at such high levels in pressure cooker situations when the odds show that you will fail more often than you succeed. They endure weeks-long streaks of failure and still figure out a way to dust themselves off and return to (relative) success.

Would your job keep you if you failed at your primary function for a week straight?

The reason that batting averages vacillate between .200-.400 is because of the high level of competition and the incredible skill required to hit a 4.5 ounce ball which is traveling upwards of 90 mph all the while moving laterally, dropping or changing pace as it covers the 60′ 6″ from the pitchers hand to the plate. Some consider it the hardest feat in all of sports.

In comparison, I just have to navigate clients, come up with some fun creative concepts, move some pixels around, and make some things look pretty. Success in my industry is measured by the ability to increase sales (and/or membership), effectively communicate and inspire a message, spark conversation with the design, and an increase in site traffic (or brand engagement, if not an online project).

What are the benchmarks for success in your life? In your career? When you fail, do you learn from your mistakes? How do you deal with failure?

Loss is research.

It’s not always straightforward quantitative research, but if you mull over the situation you’ll be able to figure out what went awry and why you failed if you are honest with yourself. That is the ultimate key. Self-honesty, if taken seriously, can provide the greatest insight into your own performance and weaknesses (strengths, too, of course). While there might be external circumstances adversely affecting you, figuring out what you need to change will always keep you ahead of the game.

As long as you are willing to fail, and learn, you’ll continue to find overall success.

Set Your Clients Up to Succeed

Every service provider, regardless of their discipline, has at one point or another performed great service for a client only to have them call back a month later saying something broke. For us designers, we cringe as we close the email or set down the phone, and type in the client’s web address “brokenwebsite.com”, because 9 times out of 10, someone decided that they should play around with the HTML or CSS and broke the site or created a 403 error.

iis_errorBut as time wears on, and more experience is packed into your belt, is it your client’s fault for breaking something you’ve built, or yours for not properly planning for the inevitable? If I know that my client is going to keep trying to mess with the HTML of the webpage that I’ve delivered, shouldn’t I give them a CMS solution that will avert their desire to muck around, allowing them to make all necessary changes in a way that can’t completely destroy the site? When I see images being formatted incorrectly, repeatedly, shouldn’t I make a tutorial showing the client how to set up batch actions in Photoshop to help them prepare correctly?

Perhaps sometimes it’s our improper planning that is to blame, not the knuckleheadedness (lovely, Webster’s, please take note) of our beloved clients. Of course, clients are still going to break stuff (just ask the plumber who comes back to your apartment over and over telling you to make sure that you clean your drains regularly to avoid clogs…do you ever listen?). But as service providers, we have to go the extra mile because we want our work to show beautifully and for our clients to be happy. Happy clients are always talking up to their friends, family, and colleagues.

Besides, don’t we get paid to make the best possible product? How would my employers feel if I was cutting corners and not always setting our company up to succeed? I think too often we get myopic on our approach to projects, focusing on the design, the beauty, the aesthetics; at times forsaking the most quintessential piece of everything we do: creating happy and satisfied customers.

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Microsoft Songsmith Ad Crushed By Blow-up Condom Animals

Let me start off by just squashing all of the “you can’t compare those two videos” kinda comments. Because two things: a) I am fully aware that these ads are not going to run against each other, are in completely different genres, and that the Durex ad will most certainly be blocked and prevented from making it to televisions in the US, and b) I just don’t care. These are just too hilarious when viewed next to each other.

Microsoft Songsmith ad

Watch this ad for Microsoft’s new application Songsmith, which will operate only on the Windows platform (thank god). Please, try to watch the entire video so that you can fully see what I’m talking about:

Inspiring, huh? Makes you wanna go out and start making videos with your band, or quit your day job to become a dingle dong…err, or maybe not. Maybe, in fact, this is one of the worst promotional videos ever created. (Credits go to Techcrunch for the find.)

Durex Commercial

I don’t even think there’s a point in introducing this video. Just watch, and enjoy.

This video is just hands down awesome. It’s one of the better ads I’ve seen in a long while. It says, very clearly (at least to me), “You can have lots of fun having protected sex. Condoms don’t stand in the way of you having a blast (no pun intended).” Nevermind the fact that it won’t be shown in the US. It’s creative, engaging and just the kind of video that will enjoy rampant You Tube success.

(Important to note: the Microsoft video will probably get far more views on You Tube, but I think it will only reinforce their struggling brand identity issues.)

Wrap up (pun intended this time)

I’m not entirely sure what is going on with Microsoft’s advertising efforts lately. It’s clear that they’ve been getting worked over by the Mac vs. PC ads, but they are just fishing for gimmicks, and failing miserably. The Jerry Seinfeld / Bill Gates ads were horrendous. I actually liked the “I’m a PC” campaign, but it didn’t fair too well in the market either. This however, should never make the light of day (beyond the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve already viewed it on video sharing sites). It is attrocious.

The Durex commercial is just pure fun. It’s creative and carefree. Remember, it’s not like Durex is the market leader, nor the media darling in its space. Trojan owns 70% of the market share, and has had quite a bit of success in its recent campaigns. They definitely deserve credit for taking a risk on this one, especially because it won’t ever be viewed in the States.

So while these videos aren’t an “apples to apples” comparison, I think it’s totally fair to say that one has taken the right route, while the other continues to flounder. (All inuendos appear in this article free of charge. You’re welcome. Hehehe.)

The Self-Proclaimed Expert

If stock market experts were so expert, they would be buying stock, not selling advice. – Norman R. Augustine

experts-090109So-called experts are quickly flooding the relatively new social media niche in large numbers, each and every one clambering for attention. While Facebook, Myspace, Virb, Flickr, Twitter, and countless other social sites and apps have been around for years, we are currently experiencing a significant boom in focus, understanding and adoption. There’s a massive influx of new users, people that normally remain on the sidelines waiting for the early adopters to help apps through beta phases and assist in ironing out the kinks.

But, how are those new to the scene supposed to find their way? Who are the leaders?

Perhaps these self-proclaimed experts are under the impression, as Seth Godin suggested in his review of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers last week, that it’s much easier for people to get past The Dip1 and find success in “niche areas, new areas, unexplored areas. You can get through the Dip in an online network…because being seen as the best in that area is easier…”

What are the benchmarks for success? Is it number of blog readers? The size of your Twitter following? Is it your ability to soapbox, wax poetic and pontificate with confusing 2.0 jargon?

Or is it the ability to convince a town to rename itself for one of the largest marketing coups in history that makes you an expert? While Mark Hughes is undoubtedly an expert, he isn’t the benchmark either. He is one of those grand slam success stories.

So then where is the marker for the upper echelon of thought-leaders and exemplary masters? Do we leave that title reserved for people who have figured out how to make a name for themselves, or are we frugal with the moniker, giving it more often to people who are masters in making a name for others?

Does being an expert even matter in this landscape, or are we all just people trying to figure out the best way to connect with each other?

Just whom is that “expert” stamp in the social media arena reserved for?

1 Godin defines The Dip as “a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing.”

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining (or starting) the conversation by leaving a comment below. Make your suggestions on who you think should be classified as an expert. Thank you kindly.