What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
I met my future wife because of a magnet on my refrigerator.
I know that sounds absurd. But it’s true. You see, this magnet, which sat in the upper right corner of my refrigerator door, had a question on it. It asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
And for whatever reason on this particular morning before heading off to work, I noticed the magnet and really stopped to read it. My mental gears turned as I thought about what I’d do if I knew I wouldn’t fail. And then, not 10 minutes later, I was approaching the bus stop and I saw this woman who I had zero business talking to, sitting and waiting for the same bus. And I thought about that question.
And the rest is history.
In fact, not only did that magnet lead me to marrying her, it led me all the way to Milwaukee, to having a wonderful little girl named Finley, to this job and even to writing these words.
Because there’s something essential in the question on that magnet that is key, not just to our personal lives, but our professional ones, too. The question frees us. It gives us a hall pass to a playground of bravery. To run, jump, and leap without fear of missteps, or worse, falling flat on our faces.
Bravery is the oxygen that breathes life into ideas. Bravery is the muscle that allows us to hurdle over our business goals. Bravery is the motivational pep talk in your head that says you can do it when things get tough.
Doing exceptional work takes bravery, both by our clients and every single person at Bader Rutter behind the work. But bravery can be hard to come by. Especially when the task at hand seems overwhelming. Whether that’s a deadline too tight, a budget too small, or a challenge too mighty (say, for example, navigating your business in the midst of a pandemic).
So how do we find the bravery needed and then sustain it? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me.
Step small, believe big.
Rome was built one slab of stone at a time. Focus on each small, sequential step. But arm yourself with gladiator-sized belief at all times.
Reason can reason later.
Your gut needs to be behind the wheel, driving solo. Reason will have plenty of time to jump in the car later and shout things from the backseat. Just not now. It will only cause you to throw on the emergency brake.
Momentum, be thy friend.
Just like Newton’s Law of Inertia, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Keep things moving, even if it’s just one part of one item on the action plan you’ve formed.
Play ping pong or pull some weeds.
You’ll likely get stuck. Paralyzed between knowing you need to do something that might call upon you to grab a healthy dose of bravery but not knowing how to go about it. When that happens give yourself a diversion. Get lost. That’s often when epiphany strikes.
Think like a magnet.
And then of course, there’s the question on that magnet. Ask it of yourself. And ask it often. In every situation you’re presented with. Trust me, wonderful things, both professionally and personally will happen. Maybe even some you never could have imagined in your wildest, most hope-filled imagination.
About the Author
Ned Brown is Chief Creative Officer and part of the Executive Leadership Team at Bader Rutter. He joined BR in early 2018. In that time, he has bolstered a strong foundation of creative talent already in the agency with over 30 new creative hires from all over the country and world. In his life before Bader Rutter, Ned spent 20+ years helping shape brands like Porsche, adidas, Audi and Apple. His work has been awarded in the Effies, Cannes, One Show, Ogilvy, Shortys, Awwwards, AICP, CA, Clios, and even a few film festivals. He lives with his wife and daughter in a 140-year-old home in Milwaukee, which is slightly drafty in the dead of winter.