mountain landscape

Don’t try to change the world

Quite a few of my leisure activities involve purposefully making life hard for myself. I like rock climbing, wild camping, cycling up steep hills and snowboarding (anyone who has tried using a ski lift on a snowboard knows ski-ing is definitely the easier option).

In these pursuits, you look at the challenging path that lies between you and your goal and find a way through or around every obstacle. The whole point is to overcome difficulties not to avoid them. Ultimately your destination isn’t as important as the journey (Unless you’re heading to the bar at the bottom of the ski run!).

At the weekend I came across a great quote from the writer Ryan Holiday that really struck a chord with me. Not just in relation to my hobbies but to life in general at the moment. The quote comes from the title of Holiday’s book, which summarises the Stoic school of philosophy; “The Obstacle is the Way”. Holiday explains that those who practice Stoicism don’t try to change what lies ahead of them, or avoid it. Instead, they embrace the challenge. What they do change is how they view a tough situation, and the way they respond to it.

Take rock climbing. You can’t change a climbing route; it’s made out of rock. Every climber faces the same physical landscape, uses similar equipment, and in the main, has two arms and two legs (some have less which makes their endeavours even more amazing). Some people get to the top, some don’t. The successful ones aren’t super human, they just view the route in a different way to those who fail. They focus on what’s in front of them, getting each move right and trusting their skills. And should they fail, they look at what they can do differently next time, because the rock won’t change.

Right now we’re all facing a lot of obstacles. They are big, often scary and won’t disappear by us wishing them away or by getting angry at the world. In marketing, we’re facing some very big, hairy problems, whether you’re a brand owner or agency.

We can’t change the global events that are happening, but we can change how we view them and how we act. We must embrace the challenge, get past it and come out the other side stronger.

That’s why I say; don’t try to change the world. Change yourself, or your business. In the new normal, people’s needs and priorities have been transformed. So you must transform how you, and more importantly your customers, view your business, and stay relevant.

A fantastic example of this is how The Wild Detectives, a book shop in Dallas, is dealing with Covid 19. When the physical store was forced to close due to C-19 restrictions, they ran a campaign to change their customers’ view of what they sold. They no longer retail books. No, they’ve begun to provide something everyone’s craving – international travel. By announcing that The Wild Detectives is opening a travel agency and creating the website, they’ve reframed books as a way to escape reality and explore the globe for a fraction of the cost of actually going there.

The result of the team at The Wild Detectives accepting their current reality and exploring how they could change what was in their control was a sales increase of 200%. For The Wild Detectives, the obstacle is most definitely the way.