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Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 18 2021
Creating great work, through Stoic quotes

Creating great work, through Stoic quotes

Here are some quotes from the school of Stoicism, and how we can apply them to our daily work:

“The best revenge is not to be like that”: Just because Jeff Bezos and Kevin Plank use their leadership positions to manipulate the stock market for their gain and everyone else’s loss, it doesn’t mean you need to play their game to get ahead. Play a different game.

“What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee”: To accept the conduct or presence of bad clients or bad employees is to accept poison into your work that, once injected, is very difficult to extract. Preventative action is better than seeking out a vaccine.

“Amor fati”: Associating emotional security in certain outcomes creates high blood pressure, envy, exhaustion, and ignored families. Conversely, learning to love the journey, rather than the outcomes, creates better creators.

“Look for the poetry in ordinary things”: System and process design and/or refinement don’t feature on the cover of business magazines. Yet they’re a cornerstone of great companies. Beauty need not be sexy – learn to love systems.

“Meditate on your mortality every day”: You get to be a part of this work today. It’s just for a short time, possibly shorter than you think. Learn to love simply the act of getting to play in the first place.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 17 2021
Speed kills when you focus on it

Speed kills when you focus on it

…but speed as a byproduct is great.

Trying to go fast often means communication suffers. If ambiguity breeds anxiety, and anxiety kills creative energy, speed kills your ability to produce your best work.

Trying to slow down often means better communication. If clarity removes anxiety, and that space leads to creativity, slowing down creates the opportunity to produce your best work.

When we focus on speed, we get slow, suboptimal output.

When we focus on slow, we get faster, more excellent work.

SEAL and Delta Force operators are right: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.

Are you trying to go faster? Consider whether making it the focus is better than making it the by-product of something greater.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 16 2021
Representing your work

Representing your work

Do you represent your work?

Not just by being a spokesperson for the product. But by truly representing your work.

Chrysippus – sometimes known as “the second founder” or the third head of the school of Stoicism – supposedly wrote 500 lines a day. Not words, lines. An estimate states he wrote more than 700 papers on his work.

Similarly, Seneca supposedly read every day. “Reading, I hold, is indispensable”, he claimed. Not every sometimes, every day. This represented the belief that writing and reading should be pursued in equal measure.

Seth Godin writes a blog post every day. “I don’t write every day because I have lots of good ideas, I have lots of good ideas because I write every day”, he said. This happened to be the quote that motivated me to start writing every day 1,255 days ago.

Epictetus said, “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”   The same is true for your body of work.

Do you embody yours?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 15 2021
Between the back-foot and the front-foot

Between the back-foot and the front-foot

What’s between the back foot, and the front foot?

You may have witnessed these traits in folks along your travels in business:

When they’re on the front-foot – succeeding, well-regarded, ahead-of-the-game – they’re to be credited and revered for their self-made success.

When they’re on the back-foot – embarrassed, stuck, stressed, “under the gun” – it’s your fault it didn’t work, or the government’s, or the supplier’s.

What’s in the middle?


When we’re balanced – whether succeeding or stuck, winning or losing, among calm or chaos – we’re respectful of both ourselves and those around us, operating with sound mind and good judgement.

Lady Fortune spins the wheel, projects succeed and fail, and we get to choose whether to swing from front-foot to back-foot, or whether we’ll model something different, something better.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 14 2021
Warning, shiny thing

Warning, shiny thing

Warning: Shiny things!

Not in this post… But probably in a bunch of others you’ll read today online.

Shiny objects are everywhere. Vying for our attention. Distracting us from our commitment to focused, meaningful work.

They promise outsized riches in exchange for our distraction and detours. They deliver us splintered focus and fractional results.

Sometimes, it pays to recognise the opportunity behind the shininess. After all, many great innovations that benefit us started out shiny.

Most of the time though, it pays far more to remember the opportunity is already within our scope. We need simply stay the course.

Are you looking for more shiny things today, or more focus?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 13 2021
The answer might not be in a course

The answer might not be in a course

The answer might not be in a course.

It might not be in your industry’s “best practices”.

It may not even be in that 5,000 word blog post that you bookmarked and have been meaning to get around to reading.

It may not even be in that Facebook Group you joined yesterday, or in those LinkedIn messages you’ve been meaning to get around to.

It might just be that…

…They’re in your audience.

…And that can feel inaccessible. Further away from us than the posts and groups we’re used to turning to.

That’s simply a failing on our ability to nurture close relationships with our audience. After all:

  • Business 101: make things people want to buy.
  • Messaging 101: say the right things to the right people.

If you’d like a blueprint for doing this, we made a mini-course covering how to say the right things to the right people. Warning: may require you to get closer to your audience!

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 12 2021
The successful intersection

The successful intersection

Do those with the best marketing win? We’ve seen brands with great ads in the past, things we may have shared with others. But we don’t remember their names now, because they didn’t live up to their promise.

Do those with the best product win? We may not have heard about the best products in many markets we participate in, only the ones that negotiated shelf space, or who played the Amazon game.

Do those with a different point of view win? If they’re different in a way we’d love, but there’s no product behind it for us to engage with and the marketing isn’t working, we don’t get the opportunity to love them.

So what, then? A different point of view, expressed as a better product, with marketing that works. The point all three meet is a successful intersection.

How do we get these things? We listen to our audience, we have the conversation they want to have, while being mindful of our role in the conversation and the new way forward we can carve for them.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 11 2021
Remarkable 101

Remarkable 101

People share things that are remarkable.

People like using templates and step-by-step guides that claim to help make their thing remarkable.

If everyone makes things the same way, they’re the same.

Things that are the same aren’t remarkable. They’re the same.

Ergo, to make something remarkable, you can’t do what everyone else is doing, the way everyone else is doing it.

You probably already know this. But the allure of the template and ‘best practice’ is strong.

How will this lil’ reminder shape your work?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 10 2021
Simple and Hard

Simple and Hard

There’s a natural allure to Simple and Easy.

Why wouldn’t there be? It’s Simple and Easy.

But it causes pain for those in the creative class:

“Simple and Easy” is marginalised and commoditised. It’s now (or soon to be) available with one-click, drag-n-drop, free-with-ads.

“Complex and Easy” is just “Simple and Easy” grouped together.

“Complex and Hard” is admired and respected. We may not understand it, we may not think we need it, we may not do business with it, but props for the effort.

“Simple and Hard” is scarce and rewarded. Making something that is hard to achieve, simple, is a literal breakthrough: you’re enabling people to break through a barrier of opportunity.

We get to choose which quadrant we operate in.

Which suits your work best?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 09 2021
Mediocre ideas in disguise

Mediocre ideas in disguise

Good ideas die all the time in favour of mediocre ideas.

It’s not because they’re not good. It’s because they weren’t recognised.

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

When imagination is out of focus, ‘Do what our competitors are doing’ becomes the good idea. Not because it’s good. It’s jus a mediocre idea in disguise.

The “This looks more on-trend” idea wins over the “This expresses a point-of-view that we share with our chosen audience.” idea.

The “This won’t push people away” idea wins over the “This pushes the wrong people away and draws the right people closer” idea.

Mediocre ideas are disguised as good ideas all around us.

What if you were the ones to let actual good ideas shine?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 08 2021
Asking better questions

Asking better questions

Wait on the Muse, wrestle with Writer’s Block, hope that Inspiration will Strike.

Or, ask better questions.

“I’m not clear on how to write this” leads us to either pursuing the Muse’s inspired creativity from page 14 of search engine results, or to asking, “What if we tried…this?”

“I’m not sure how to handle that objection” leads us to YouTube sales training video number thirty-four, or to asking, “What does my intuition say will serve them best, based on the narrative at play in the lives of those I serve?”

We get to get stuck, or we get to grow rapidly with (and by feeding) our intuition.

It applies right here: we get to cross-reference and further research the above idea on the Internet right now, or we get to apply it right now based on what your intuition says about it.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 07 2021
Colouring outside the lines

Colouring outside the lines

You’re not ‘supposed’ to colour outside the lines.

The lines were put there to tell you where to put the colours, right?

Same is true of the marketplace. “You’re a bank teller.” “You’re a chef.” “You’re a writer.” There are lines, for us to colour inside.

But what if we coloured outside?

What would be possible if…

  • A restaurant chef decided to harness his/her copywriting skills?
  • An entrepreneur decided to harness his/her illustrator skills?
  • A philosopher decided to leverage his/her programming skills?

Had any ideas yet? I’m sure you have!

Great ideas, great teams and great work can occur when you colour outside of the lines.

They’re just often easier to see in others than for ourselves, where the lines are more clearly defined.

What would happen if you (and those in your team) dared to bring your quirks and inconsistencies to work as an asset?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 06 2021
The benefit of contradicting yourself

The benefit of contradicting yourself

How can there be a benefit to you (or your brand) contradicting itself?

Being aligned with yourself creates Order. Consistency. Reliability. Clarity. These are good things.

But contradictions create Quirk. Uniqueness. Rarity. Relatability. These can also be good things.

I love systems (reliable) in our work, yet enjoy card games for play (luck-based). Our work is deeply influenced by philosophy (wise), yet our visuals frequently feature cartoons (silly).

People (and the brands they represent) can’t be the same as everyone else and yet be different and memorable at the same time.

Please, bring order, consistency, reliability and clarity to your work. But don’t forget to bring your team’s unique quirks, the things that make you relatable to those you serve, that which makes you a rare match in their evaluations.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 05 2021
Help Economy

Help Economy

If what I share helps you understand your market narrative better…

And that help creates positive results in your work, be it new outcomes or key insights…

…You’ll consider my team when you want to go further along your journey. You may even tell your friends.

Welcome to the help economy.

What are you holding back that could serve your choice of market, today?

What are you waiting for permission to do for those you wish to serve?

What if you were to stop waiting and stop holding back, for good?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 04 2021
Product Dev vs Relationship Dev

Product Dev vs Relationship Dev

If your product is obviously worse than other products on the market, you have a product problem.

For everyone else, there’s a relationship problem.

What’s the narrative taking place in the minds of those you wish to serve?

What’s a stand you take that your audience shares emphatically with you?

When was the last time you checked in on that narrative, refining your understanding and expressing it in your messaging?

These things have nothing to do with your product. These are calls to move closer to your people, to learn from them, and to love on them.

Please, make a great product.

Then focus on relationships.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 03 2021
Before you scoff

Before you scoff

Ever look at the work of a competitor, and scoff?

“We can do so much better!” you might exclaim.

Careful. What does “so much better” actually mean?

If it means you have the ability to outperform a market offer, where you think it’s great but buyers don’t care, did you really make anything “so much better”? Your scoffing may become a yardstick measured against only by you.

But if it means you have the ability to better serve your people in ways they care about, where you’ll bring more meaningful advantage to them thanks to your skills and insights, that’s another matter entirely.

Before you scoff, turn your focus to those in your care: what does better mean for them? And how can you bring more of that into their lives?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 02 2021
Going out of business

Going out of business

You will, eventually.

Much, much sooner than you think.

The question is, who’s putting you out of business:

Option 1: You. If you grow today, the you of tomorrow will put today’s version of you out of business. It could be a better you, that today you can’t compete with.

Option 2: Someone else. If you don’t grow today, someone else will have. Their skills, their offers, their market position, they’ll move, and you won’t.

It’s not something to stress about. A day off doesn’t put you on the back foot. But when you go out of business, we have a certain amount of control over who makes that happen.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
May 01 2021
Are you guilty of these?

Are you guilty of these?

What makes you want people to leave you alone?

Two reasons that probably spring to mind:

  1. When they’re annoying you
  2. When they’re selfish

With this in mind…

…why is so much sales, marketing, and advertising guilty of both of these things?

And why are guilty businesses and individuals surprised when they get suboptimal results from these efforts?

We get emails every day. We like and respond to some. We delete others. The difference? Being guilty of the above.

We get calls every day. We like and look forward to some. We hang up on others. The difference? Being guilty of the above.

We do business every day. We love buying from some brands. We hate being sold to by others. The difference? Being guilty of the above.

Are you guilty?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 30 2021
Being OK with the journey

Being OK with the journey

Three things are needed in order to get somewhere:

  1. Knowing where you want to go
  2. Knowing what it costs to get there
  3. Being OK with both

Wanting to run a PPC campaign, but “needing it to ‘work’ right away” skips #2 and #3.

Wanting to invest in a huge social media following, but not really knowing why, skips #1 and #3.

Wanting a fantastic marketing website, but “needing it done cheaper” skips #3.

Wanting to develop a skill with a new tool, but “needing to use it perfectly now”, skips #3.

If we can’t be OK with all three things, we can’t be disappointed if we don’t get where being OK with them would otherwise take us.

Where do you want to go? Did you count the cost of getting there?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 29 2021
What if we did…this?

What if we did…this?

Asking, “What if we did…this?” turns our work upside down.

When challenging the way we do things, team members may respond, “We assumed that we do it this way for a reason.”

And they’d be right. Challenge the reasoning:

What would get better, what would get worse?

How would it make life easier for our chosen audience, and/or for us?

What are the trade-offs? Are the trade-offs worth it?

Many of our product or service refinements come from listening directly and intently to those we serve.

Others come from having listened directly and intently, then turning our work upside down with them in mind… just to see what ideas emerge.

Try it. Who knows what you might come up with.

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