December 13, 2017
Define Love. If we are to give it, first we must define it. It’s everything. It’s yes and it’s also no. It is affection and it is resistance. It is god for some and simply faith in the good of humanity for others. For me, work on this subject began after the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Most attention was focused on the incredible divide between so many people across America. This division felt greatly out of our control, on both sides. My focus returned to the question, “What can I do?” My answer was that I can control how I treat others. I can regulate the love I provide to those around me. Right now, our world and our culture can go in a multitude of directions. It feels as if society has ceremoniously agreed that these are the worst of times. First of all, this sentiment has been expressed by every generation. It’s bullshit. Some will always believe it’s best of times and others the deem it the worst. Electric cars, smart phones and hope are in constant competition with oil, books and fear. This era is no different than the Cold War or the Crusades. This era is no different than the positives or negative feelings toward our manifest destiny to the west. There will always be wolves. There will always be angels. And you cannot have a rainbow without the rain. Now even if the ship is truly going down (which it is not), do you suggest we free fall into hate and sneer all the way to bottom of the oceans? If the glaciers are expeditiously speeding towards our shores in the form of rising waters, do we plunge our poor and run for the hills? Or. Or, do we open our arms, smile and give until our last breath? To fight for humanity is to give love. I can only imagine that world. Oar. Oar, give me an oar and I will dip it deep into the rising waters for good, forever. And ever. That is my love.
“Give love, get love” came to me as I was searching for foundational motivations within my modest organizations. I was preparing to give a keynote in Ottawa to a group of Canadian race directors. Sometimes when I say race directors people think that I either work for NASCAR or for the ACLU. Really neither, but kind of both. In preparation, my incessant reading and TED Talk watching crashed me into the likes of Ryan Holiday, Afdel Aziz, Simon Sinek and it even included a reintroduction to my beloved Victor Frankl. Don’t worry each will poke their head out at some point below. I was probably digging too deep for a thirty minute unpaid talk, but that is kind of how I roll. My station in life finds me seeking for meaning for why and how I do what I do. I was seeking.
On the most basic level my crew creates experiences and produces events. Certainly there must be more to it than that, so I sought to uncover some common threads of truth. I looked at my relationships within my team, with our customers and amongst our partners. Thematically returning to each relationship was the word love. At every level we performed our jobs with love. It could be disguised as hard work or consideration or customer focus or empathy, but for me every time it came back as love. It’s the base layer to our entire outfit. We love our staff. We give love to our participants. We smile and laugh in the office. Often times it’s really even a job, it’s an affair. We love the cities that we work in. We work closely with agencies, neighborhood groups and local non-profits. We try to give at every turn and when something does not seem to be working, we take a deep breath and love more. I can see that every successful thing we do falls under the category of giving love and I am proud of that. We give love to get love.
My favorite tales are origin stories. History and past experiences provide the most insight to the now. In looking at our origins, it seemed that our team all gravitated to a line of work that seemed fun, meaningful and always changing. Beyond our attraction to producing sporting events, we also seek to create cool in a niche world. That niche turned into just creating cool and get beyond sport. At the core was passion, a love for creative work and the “carny” lifestyle that came with it. Personally, this passion drove me to go all the way through law school, zip right pass the bar exam and then passed up the local District Attorney with a polite yet quick cold shoulder. I love the law, but my passion for creating and building things exceeded societies potential prestige. Similar stories proliferate within our organization as most of of my teammates chose to get on the events train over more stable career paths. Again at each of their core was fire, but not necessarily purpose. A few had an early goal to promote health and wellness to the masses or to fundraise around youth fitness as a public health initiative. But most were there because the gig was fun and the money was decent. Energy was a constant, but organizational purpose needed to be added. Many would assimilate passion and purpose as the same. They are not. A passion to produce events doesn’t mean you want to accomplish a larger goal. Ryan Holiday, the prolific author and my favorite modern social influencer, explained his preference for purpose over passion.
Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Passion is form over function. Purpose is function, function, function. The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Not passion. – @ryanholiday
Basically, think about why you are doing this and then get shit done. This is important because I agree that passion is too often thrown around as something to chase. “Follow your passion” is a constant theme of commencement speeches and cheesy framed office wall quotes with soaring eagles in the background. Holiday makes a valid point that passion often lacks the requisite structure for attaining goals. However, and this is where I disagree with my favorite dude of day, you still need passion to fuel the purpose. Passion fires people up, passion gets your ass up every morning for 15 hour days, and passion is so rare in today’s world that I’m not ready to sweep it under the rug for regimented purpose.
In fact, my term for the combination of passion and purpose, form and function, is producing life product. In order, to create important life product we need the passion to start, to fuel and to finish within the structure of purpose. Purpose is the finish line and the training plan, but I believe there is something special in the emotion required to persevere. The gear to the grit. Life product is all actions within your personal and work life. There is no delineation and thats why the most interesting people are always at work, yet never working. Raising your children, building your company or supporting your community should all be part of your life product. And it’s a big part of giving love.
As it applies to our organizations, passion within the ranks can turn into purpose under focused leadership and direction. Once purpose is crystalized and determined then that love for the work can be disseminated like tentacles into every area of the business. Now, I am not naive in understanding that special events especially in sports and entertainment may evoke more passion from its proprietors than your corporate accounting firm. On the other hand, one must begin with engaged individuals and add purposeful leadership. Get the right people on the passion bus and the leader drives with direction and as Holiday says, we “…function, function function.”
Lets talk about money. I make money. We are a FOR profit. Frankly, I am pro-profit. I love making a modest living doing something I love. But love comes before the money. I will always spend and give and work and bend and listen to make sure someone on my team or a customer feels the love. And gets paid. Always. This costs me money in the short term. However, in the long term this choice is directly linked to more profit…especially in this day and age. This philosophy has been driven home by the writings and research of Afdel Aziz. Aziz is well known a brand marketing expert, but with a focus on brands that do good. He recognized that modern consumers are looking for more from their brands than just cool. They are looking at the TOMS, Patagonia’s, and even Paul Newman salad dressings as “the #newcool.” Authenticity puts you in the right place and people can smell it. That smell of confidence provides the path and the answer to the saleswomen and consumer.
Paradoxically the thing the universe will give you the most money for is the thing you’d do even if nobody paid you #goodisthenewcool – @afdelaziz
We give love because we personally are in the place we are supposed to be. It is so hard to love others when we are not personally happy. Perhaps we’re in the wrong relationship or the wrong job, the right position or the right geographical coordinates. Love yourself and make sure you are in the right place or you won’t be able to love and thrive. Give yourself love and you are automatically getting love. That one is easy…start there.
In our organization, one of my main tasks is to make sure that each team member is stoked on their job. Checking-in with them and attempting to prevent burn out from menial tasks is a constant. Essentially our leadership teams ensures that each team member feels loved. We want our people to be happy. It seems obvious, but the author of Starting with Why, Simon Sinek recognized the power of this interaction.
The leaders who get the most out of their people are the leaders who care most about their people. – Simon Sinek
And this care seems to spread to the rest of the company. Once the team feels safe then they make others feel the same way. It’s like trickle down Reaganomics that actually works. By giving love, we have loyal team members. By giving love, we have die-hard members of our customer tribe. By giving love, we have deeply woven relationships with our vendors and partners. The receiving end is not the intention, but instead a pleasant return on investment. I rarely have to worry about how my team will treat someone. They get love, they give love.
Once we learn the success of the equation there is nothing more to complain about. Upon receiving constructive customer feedback or if we get turned down for a job there is only one answer. Throw more love at the next event or towards a request for proposal. The best tactic for this pivot is increased empathy to see where that client is coming from and ask “where did we lose the job?” This requires conversations and strategy, but more than anything putting ourselves in their shoes. The answer to the equation is typically give more love. Don’t ask for more, give more and know that you have chosen the path of the clear conscience. It may not come back immediately, but the knowledge of an appropriate action is an immediate return. More often than not it’s a for profit decision as well.
This was all hammered home by Holocaust survivor and philosopher, Dr. Victor Frankl. In his classic Man’s Search for Meaning Frankl reminds us of the basis for the direction of self reflection.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Victor Frankl
This is coming from a man that was interned and almost driven to his own death in Aushwitz. Frankl could not change his station in the camps. But he could control the attitude within his spirit. Emotional reactions are pointless because trouble is only trouble, once recognized as such. While we may have divisions in this country, we can only control what is within our power. We have the power to empathize with others, listen and give love. The ultimate example of this was Frankl’s mindset at the end of the war. If there was anyone that could turn cold and hateful, it should have been him. Instead his outlook came down to this.
The Truth, love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. – Victory Frankl
Focus on your life product. Turn that passion into purpose. Focus on what you are giving. Find your team, love them and get them to continue the chain to your tribe. Control the elements in your sphere, see it through and let it rip. I believe we can get this chain of giving through our teams, into our customers, through out our communities and change the world. #givelovegetlove
(Quick note on gratitude. Of course gratitude is the process of returning love to complete the equation. There are so many people that have given me love and opportunity. Starting with my personal triumph of winning of the parent lottery in Barb and Tom Service. Love to my brother Scott and always to the late Adam Service. Love to all my teachers and coaches for challenging me. To the rest of my family, my friends, my teammates and my colleagues… lets keep going. There has been so much love given to me in my 37-years that I cannot thank everyone, but I love you all.)