The Bob Ross mindset

Photo credits : Bob Ross Inc. Photo credits : Bob Ross Inc.

Time flies when you’re having fun they say. I’ve got news for you; time flies anyway. It flies by like a rocket and the world changes under our eyes.. Fasten your seatbelt.

Last week someone asked me what I am really good at. “Really good” she emphasized. It’s funny because I always ask that question during job interviews (and sometimes even when trying to have a more meaningful conversation in a bar with a stranger,) but somehow she caught me by surprise. I told her what I thought my friends might recognise me for being really good at.

This morning I woke up with the answer I should have given: “I am good at making mistakes.”

Although our society is not very supportive and well equipped to encourage trial and error, it’s what I do best. It’s what we all should do more of. Making mistakes and sucking at what I do has built my knowledge, skill set and character bit by bit.

Making mistakes is a delicate subject when it comes to working with a client that just wants to hear how you’re going to make his project an instant success. Reality is that every project is entirely new in it’s context. The objectives, the people, the ingredients and the tools needed are constantly shifting and any type of cooky-cutter approach would be a bigger threat to the project.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Whether Charles Darwin said it or not, I believe this statement to be true. A great part of the children that are in our schools now, will have professions that don’t yet exist today. Would the skill-set you left school with serve you well today?

Understanding and accepting the dynamics of trial and error is what really brings results nowadays. In fact I believe that trial and error is a skill on it’s own:

1 – Be Bobb Ross. Say no to fear. Embrace your mistakes: Enjoy learning. It’s the only way to understand what works and doesn’t work in every unique situation. In my case the complexity of brands and customers make things hard to predict. Gut feeling and past experiences don’t always provide all the answers. Be Bob Ross. Make happy mistakes.

It’s nice to try new things. It’s cool to meet new people. Wecan all learn from a conversation with a 7 year old, the taxi driver and the professor.

2 – We all need to make more mistakes and learn faster. The best way to do this is to ask yourself “What did I suck at today” very regularly. Laugh about it, think about it, make another mistake tomorrow. Or better yet; today.

3 – Set up multiple and measurable tests: Yesterday I had a discussion with one of my clients what approach would work best for their direct mailing letter. After arguing about tone-of-voice, length and call-to-actions, we decided to A/B test the response on the two best letters and send out to the full batch of prospects as soon as we’re satisfied with the response-rate. In other words, as soon as we have made all the mistakes we needed to improve.

Last year I launched a new product on Kickstarter to test the waters. The campaign was not a home-run but the tests and the feedback gave us massive insights and we are now back at the drawing board without losing a lot of time and money following the wrong path.

4 – Continue, stop and start: A great fuel for thought is provided by these three questions: What do you need to CONTINUE doing, what do you need to STOP doing and what do you need to START doing?

5 – Be willing to make bold changes: Believe in what you see. If you see it doesn’t work, then it’s not worth believing or holding on to. Be willing to make bold changes. Change diet, change partners, change lifestyle, change profession. Or hell, change religion if you need to.

6 – Focus on speed: We all have tons of work to do. It piles up. Focus for a few hours on the most important thing and force yourself to deliver on what seems to be an unrealistic deadline. Make more time to make more mistakes and learn from them. Learn from them sooner and faster!

By now I’ve made so many mistakes in so many projects that they could be valuable to you. If your brand, company or project could use the Bob Ross mindset combined with the skill set of an International concept developer, brand builder and retail strategist, feel free to send me your details.

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