Punk your business.


“Don’t just accept the old order.  Get rid of it.” — Johnny Rotten

Monday.  In offices and cubicles, meeting rooms and sales offices across the country people are filling up on coffee and water cooler gossip before tackling another five long days.  Our world has blindly accepted ‘the grind’ as the normalcy of doing one’s job.  But is that is?  Is that what this Life is about?  I don’t think so. There’s another way to think about this week–about every week–every day–every minute of your life.  And it’s rooted in the revolutionary energy and attitude that punk embodied years ago (and still does, thank goodness).  

Ultimately, our choice is between a radical overturning of the status quo or another weekly belly crawl.  Another uninspired attempt to create incremental ‘wins’ while avoiding any form of failure.  It’s a choice being determined and acted upon by insurgents such as Kickstarter, Kiva, the Khan Academy, and Project M.  It’s a choice that has more to do with a deep redefinition of inputs and outputs, profit and service, accomplishment and quality.  It’s a choice that freely admits that A) we don’t know the future but that B) clinging on to the crusty old standards of ‘strategy’ or ‘success’ does little more than entrench ourselves in a psychosis that is, at best, capturing the smallest temporary gains while, at worst, ignoring an urgent mandate for new, bright, fearless thinking in terms of what it means to ‘do business.’  It’s an unrestricted approach to thinking beyond the limits of ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘market share.’  Exploding these zombie paradigms, the Punks are asking questions about the meaning of their work, the total impact of their projects, and previously ignored dimensions of performance in order to re-calibrate value and production systems for the 21st century.  And they’re doing it with a passion and intensity that creates a magnetism all its own.

So It’s time to set down that book of inspirational quotes and write our own.  It’s time to stop pretending that what worked in the past will work in the future.  It won’t.  It’s time to assess the true, deeper value of how we spend our time.  It’s the scarcest commodity we have.  Yes, We can lumber toward someone else’s finish line.  Or we can create our own definition of success, leaping over institutional head stones in to a brighter, bigger, better future.  We’re not going to do it without a little bit of fury and a little bit of dissent.  We’re going to have to plug in, crank it up, get loud, and stake our claim…

Meaning first, money later!  You’re welcome to chase a few bucks all day long.  Hell, it worked for LIBOR right?  And at the end of the day you can head home to your McMansion and order that jumbo cheese crust pizza and cinnamon twisty bread.  But is that really it?  Does that feed your soul?  Does that give you a higher sense of purpose?  Have others been improved?  This is your life after all, with a capital ‘L.’  Find the meaning in your work and burn as hot as possible to make that happen above everything else.  It might not happen overnight.  But it will happen.  Meaning makes money.  Not the other way around.

Lose control!  There’s no game plan for the future.  Never has been.  But rather than strangle the life out of possibility, imagine a future (cloudy though it may be) in which your business is defined by a set of previously un-imagined standards.  Denmark’s decision to create a ‘Green GDP’ is an example of what I’m talking about.  And on a smaller scale there are companies that are redefining success based on a Customer Happiness Index (nod to Bhutan) in order to re-think the nature of profitability.  Taking a quantum leap towards betterness begins with an admission that our current set of ‘market strategies’ has given us endless varieties of toothpaste and taco shells made from Dorito chips.  

Get loud!  Business can oftentimes feel like a graveyard for fresh thinking.  How many inspired ideas are strangled and die somewhere between power point slide #3 and #100 at that weekly sales meeting?  So reach out.  Find your own tribe of troublemakers and leverage the collective fist-raising in order to thrust, violently if necessary, your ideas and passion in to the world.  Shout loud and long enough and you’ll find your people.  Pie Lab did it.  So did Alabamboo.  So can you.  

Think wrong!  You can memorize Drucker and Welch all you want.  But they’re not going to get you anything more than a knowing nod from the other Drucker-Welch memorizers out there.  Forget what we’ve been taught about how to ‘win’ or ‘manage.’  The paradigms are rooted in different times and different economies.  In the process of letting the decrepit idols perish we will be forced to think wrong about our lives and our businesses.  We will be forced to reassess the true value of the ash pile and ask ourselves “Who are we NOW?  What do WE want US to be?”  There’s nothing wrong with standing on the shoulders of giants as long as we view them as a rung in a ladder rather than an inescapable foundation.

Stay angry!  If you feel like a cog in a wheel then you probably are.  And that’s a personal choice.  You can change it.  You’re more than a function, more than a silo.  You’re more powerful than you realize…once you realize it.  You can stay angry with the world for as long as you want.  But get angry with yourself first.  The moment you relinquish control is the moment someone takes it from you.  Fight for yourself and what you want for your life.

Punk rock your business with the same furious anti-authoritarian guts that shattered feel-good, groovy music.  Let the rest of the world waste away in Margaritaville with the Grateful Dead.  Your move.

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