Rediscovering My Radical Self

September 12, 2018

One of my favorite thought pieces on the future of brand strategy is from Martin Weigel. It’s titled “Reclaiming Planning’s Radicalism.” Although I first read it in 2014, I go back to it on a near-annual basis. It inspires me to consider how my discipline can add value to the process of using creativity to solve business problems. I take something new away from it each time, and it continues to help me grow professionally.

The main idea in this piece is that radicalism is about asking smart, challenging questions in the spirit of getting to the root of business opportunities and/or human behavior, using the understanding to inspire ideas that fuel business growth. It’s a simple idea but one that is often lost in a volatile industry like marketing where chasing trends is, for better or worse, the name of the game. All strategic minds would benefit from the wisdom shared by Weigel, who reminds us that the best value we can offer clients and agency teams is to deeply understand a business so we can identify opportunities.

Recently, it occurred to me that this philosophy I so admire could, and probably should, be applied to me on a personal level as well.

I certainly don’t want to undermine the importance of a fulfilling career. But there is so much more to us as human beings than what we do for a living. For much of my professional adult life, advertising has defined a large part of my identity. It hadn’t occurred to me that my career does not entirely define me, but may say something about what really matters to me.

I’ve had to really explore what brings me joy. By “really explore,” I mean I actually take the time to write down my thoughts. I think a big part of getting to the root of something — especially yourself — requires written documentation of your experiences over time. A few frequently revisited questions help me get there:

What was the best part of my day?

I still can’t believe how little I considered this question before, but such is life. We turn on autopilot and stay hyper-focused on our to-do lists. Taking a brief moment to consider just one thing from the past 24 hours that I found especially fulfilling has opened my eyes to the parts of life that matter most to me.

What no longer serves me?

Like many people, I can find myself trapped in a vicious cycle of rumination about things that frustrate me. It’s difficult to avoid this entirely, but stopping my thought pattern to reflect on what no longer serves me is a more helpful method of considering the not-so-happy things in life.

How can I be more generous?

Generosity is one of my favorite words. By definition, it is a readiness to give more than is necessary or expected. It’s my way of making sure growth is always on the horizon for me.

Much like brand planning itself, this exploration is a process. This process has led me to explore some very cool things; big things like starting a business with three best friends, and small things like a daily tarot card reading. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an exact certainty of what the most radical version of Liz Giel looks like. But as Weigel says in his article, “Without the skills and interest to get to the heart of the matter, planning is a body without a skeleton.” Without getting to the root of things, we can’t set the right objectives. This applies as much to our work as it does our lives.