4 Negative Words That Will Skyrocket Your Business (Or Whatever You Want)
Yes, you have read correctly, and it has nothing to do with illegal or evil actions. What would you think if I told you that 4 well known organizations have used those words to succeed?. Sometimes lessons come from people or situations that you never expect. Maybe it has happened to you: suddenly, you find a connection that you had never noticed before between two or more topics. That was what happened to me recently with 4 words that I learned in a specific area, but I ended up realizing that those words have a universal approach.
Time ago I was in the class of a poster designer from Cuba: the talented René Azcuy. He always talked about the act of creation and the originality to transform the ordinary language into extraordinary — any kind of language. Because of this, René doesn’t used to talk in a common way, he had his own definitions for different concepts. Here is my favourite one, which also is the reason why I’m writing this:
Whenever he was asked about the meaning of Design, he used to smile and answer energetically with these beautiful words:
Design is to profane, transgress, reject and being savage
As you can see, it is a definition that you won’t find in a dictionary, definitely.
When I heard it for the first time, I was like “… what?”. It was a puzzle and my brain was struggling to find out how to set in order the pieces. Since the class was about the history of graphic design, I could only think of the designers and painters of the early twentieth century, and how they took a risk to decide what they would propose to the world with their work, and how it would influence to the next generations of painters and designers.
I thought “Ok, I got it, they were very bold by changing the things that were established by their predecessors, they provoked the birth of new artistic movements. They were able to see things in a different way” And that was it.
I thought I had understood it.
Probably I got understand the meaning of that phrase, but in a very limited way. That lesson was born when René was talking about design, therefore my brain was only processing the information inside the bubble of design, not beyond. It is as if you purchase a car in your city and think that because you bought it in your city, you can only use it there. No! You can cross entire countries with your car if you wish. The same is true for knowledge.
In my case, it was a slow process, but I could realize because across the time I interacted with different activities, not only my specialty: graphic design. I got to know some remarkable and inspiring cases that keep a relationship with that phrase of René, who at the time only was trying to describe the behaviour of designers and painters of a century ago.
Here you have 4 examples, each one based on the 4 words that René used to define design:
1 · PROFANING | TOMMY HILFIGER
Tommy owned a clothing store called The people’s place, which went bankrupt when he was 25. At the time, he was offered design assistant positions with designers Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis, but even though he felt admiration for them, he turned down the offers. 9 years later, in 1985 Mohan Murjani and Tommy founded Tommy Hilfiger.
The fashion designer was a complete unknown, but overnight, literally, overnight, everybody in New York City was talking about him.
Do you know how they did it?.
There was a man with a long list of important achievements in the advertising field, mainly known by designing scandalous covers for Esquire. That man was George Lois, creative revolution icon in the 60s. Mohan called George to publicize the first store, in Manhattan, and the first clothing line.
So George came out with a tremendously bold and “disrespectful” idea:
He designed an ad where he placed the initials of the 4 great american designers for men. The first three were R. L. (Ralph Lauren), P. E. (Perry Ellis) and C. K. (Calvin Klein), the fourth was T. H. (Tommy Hilfiger). Also, in the magazine version, he placed this text below the logo:
“In most households, the first three names are household words. Get ready to add another. His first name (hint) is Tommy. The second name is not so easy. But in a few short months everybody in America will know there’s a new look in town and a new name at the top. Tommy’s clothes are easy-going without being too casual, classic without being predictable. He calls them classics with a twist. The other three designers call them competition”.
He placed the ad right in the heart of the Fashion District, on Seventh Avenue, where immediately would be recognized the initials of the first three designers and at the same time everyone was asking “Do you know who the hell is T. H.?”. People went crazy.
So there he was, Tommy Hilfiger was profaning the sacred position that those designers won with decades of big efforts, and not even had sold one single piece of clothing. That brand became famous from day one.
Of course, Tommy was very concerned about such a comparison and at the beginning he rejected the idea, he was embarrassed. But, on the other hand, he thought that maybe people would like the clothes, therefore with that responsibility in his shoulders, he worked tirelessly to create great pieces, as he said in Art & Copy:
I literally, rolled up my sleeves and worked like an animal making sure that every button, every zipper, every buttonhole, every color, every fit, every fabric was to perfection.
As you can see, Tommy’s great effort, combined with George’s idea, made Tommy Hilfiger take off immediately to becoming a billionaire business in a record time.
2 · TRANSGRESS | DAVID HEINEMEIER HANSSON
In an interview, Steve Jobs said that as you grow up, the world say what you can do and what you can’t do and you must live your life within the limits, trying not causing any troubles because things are the way they are and there is not much you can do about it. But once you learn that you have the power to influence and modify the world, you’ll never be the same again.
David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) knows that very well. This guy is indirectly responsable for the development of Airbnb, Twitter, 500px, Shopify and other great applications, and all due to his approach to transgress and modify things to fit their needs.
In the early 2000’s DHH was hired by Jason Fried to build a web application: a project management tool. He decided to build it with a new programming language called Ruby.
Possibly a common person would have developed the project accepting what the language had to offer, because, you know, it is what it is.
But DHH knew that he could alter the language to automate his work and get rid of repetitive tasks and save a ton of time. He named this “alteration” Ruby on Rails (RoR). With RoR he could create the first version of that project management tool, which today we know as Basecamp. DHH shared RoR as a free, open-source framework on the internet. That was a boom. The coders were able to develop faster and the newbies were able to learn to code. DHH has influenced forever the development of web applications.
Ok, maybe you are wondering why the heck he is dressed as a racing driver?
Well, turns out that DHH has a degree in computer science but that doesn’t mean that all his life he has to be a programmer, so besides he is a racing driver. There’s no barriers.
He wrote in his blog:
“After climbing the ladders of racing for five years, I finally won my class in the 82nd running of world’s biggest endurance race: 24 hours of Le Mans. On top of that, I won my class in the World Endurance Championship.”
He was able to do that because he transgressed the typical path of the racers who commonly spend a year in the same league or until they win the championship and thereafter they move to the next level. DHH found no reason to force him to remain in the same slow path, so he went into more difficult competitions, exposing himself out of his comfort zone to learn quickly and level up faster.
3 · REJECT | iPhone
The birth and death of artistic movements occurred because always there was people groups with a different thinking or philosophy. They rejected what was made by their predecessors and they proposed something new, which led to new forms of expression.
In business it’s the same, once in a while someone rejects what other have been doing by years to create big innovations in the market, or in the case of Apple: revolutions.
In 2007 Steve Jobs announced a product with years of technological advance by that time, which meant the death to others. But that would not have been possible if they just had created the same things as others.
Do you know how valuable is the differentiation? Apple does. They know that they will be lost if they are equal to others. That’s why to enter the market of mobile phones they had to reject and step away as far as possible from what was made by the competitors.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. — Mark Twain
Although it was a big breakthrough, a victory like that isn’t forever, that’s why at some point, Apple will have to reject even its own creations if want generate new revolutions. Sure, you can learn a lot of your past and the past of others, but don’t repeat yourself. Build on top of that and evolve.
4 · BE SAVAGE | VIRGIN ATLANTIC
Richard Branson embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship, he is an excellent doer. He founded Virgin Group, which comprises about 400 companies so far, one of them is Virgin Atlantic. I’m going to tell you how Richard started his path in aerospace.
Richard describes in his autobiography that he and Joan — who later became his wife — were at Beef Island airport, that night they had to fly to Puerto Rico but their flight was cancelled, and the next flight would be the next day.
They were stranded, as well as other passengers. Richard was not willing to wait until the next day, and seeing that none of the passengers was doing nothing about it, he came up with an idea: he made a few calls to charter companies and rented a plane for $2,000 to Puerto Rico. He had never rented a plane before and he had no money to pay it.
Richard have something like a mantra, it is rather a battle cry, it emerge when his instinct tells that is time for something savage:
Screw it, let’s do it.
Ok, now he had the plane, how does he paid for it? Well, he borrowed a blackboard and wrote “VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 SINGLE FLIGHT TO PUERTO RICO”. He walked around the airport terminal a few minutes and soon filled every seat on the rented plane. That night he and Joan arrived in Puerto Rico, when they landed, a passenger said to Richard: “Virgin Airways isn’t too bad — smarten up the service a little and you could be in business”.
And he did it, later he received a business proposal and in 1984 founded Virgin Atlantic. He had to struggle to convince their partners to get into the adventure. But it has been satisfactory — as Richard told in his book “Screw it, let’s do it”:
In 21 years we have gone from renting a plane to space travel.
There are words which are commonly used with a negative meaning, don’t be like others and learn to see the potential benefit that those words could have, just like the 4 examples above.
If you learn a new concept or a new model, play with it trying to see the use it could have in other fields. Don’t pigeonhole yourself.
Amplify your knowledge talking with people in other business, is great to know a lot about your profession, but believe me, doing this you will generate greater versatility of thought.
Finally, can you think of any way to profane, to transgress, reject or be savage in your business?