Don’t be the elevator man
He’s always polite. Always smiles. Always wishes you a good day. But he’s also boring and bland.
If around the edges the people live who are not afraid to be hated by some people and be loved by others, then the elevator man lives in the middle where nobody hates you, but nobody cares about you either. He could disappear tomorrow and no one would care.
As Seth Godin puts it: “Would they miss you if you were gone?” We’re often so scared of upsetting a few people that we adapt to everyone’s wishes and in the process of trying not to offend anyone we become bland and boring.
I remember when Justine Sacco made a twitter joke which lead to her being fired and twitter blowing up. I don’t wanna talk about the ethics right now, but I wanna talk about the take away for many journalists that covered that story. They all said something along the lines of: “That’s why I hardly ever post anything and if I do I think very carefully about what I post.”
That’s extremely ignorant. It’s the best way to go through life unnoticed. You’ll never realize your greatness (cliche but true) that way.
You’re capable of at least 10X what you’re doing now but if stepping on a few toes scares you so much that you either won’t release anything or only stuff that’s dead center.. congrats now you blend right in and there’s zero difference between you and a competitor which means price fighting.
Don’t be bland. Step on a few toes. Do stuff you hate. Get out of your comfort zone. Be a little bit better than you were today. Challenge the rules. As long as you don’t hurt other players or the game, don’t be afraid of looking silly. Don’t be the elevator man.
I’ll end by quoting Louis C.K.’s story:
I spent 15 years as a comedian, going in a circle that went nowhere. I hated my act, I had been doing the same hour of comedy for 15 years…and it was shit, I promise you.
I was sitting in my car after the show [in a Chinese restaurant] , just feeling like this was all a big mistake: I’m just not good enough; I felt like my jokes were a trap.
In the car I listened to a CD of George Carlin talking about comedy, talking about it seriously.
The thing that blew me away about this fellow was that he kept putting out specials. Every year there would be a new George Carlin special, a new George Carlin album. How did he do it? It made me literally cry, that I could never do that. I did the same jokes for 15 years.
On the CD they ask him, how do you write all this material? And he says, each year I decide I’d be working on that year’s special, then I’d do that special, then I would throw away that material and start again with nothing. And I thought, that’s crazy, how do you throw away? It took me fifteen years to build this shitty hour, and if I throw it away, I got nothing.
But he gave me the courage to try it — and also I was desperate, what else would I do?
This idea that you throw everything away and you start over again. After you are done telling jokes about airplanes and dogs, you throw them away. What do you have left? You can only dig deeper. You start talking about your feelings and who you are. And then you do those jokes until they’re gone.You gotta dig deeper. So then you start thinking about your fears andyour nightmares and doing jokes about that. And then they’re gone. And then you start going into just weird shit.
It’s a process that I watched him do my whole life. And I started to try and do it.
I was having a hard time being a father, and I wanted to say it on stage. So I thought, forget all the old jokes, start again. And I said the first thing I thought of: “I can’t have sex with my wife, because we have a baby, and our baby is a f**king a**hole.” It was how I was feeling, and I just said it. And the audience went Whoa! And I thought…oh, I’m somewhere new now.
And I said, “I never got babies in the dumpster before…but now I get it.” [audience gasps] And they did that! And I thought, I’d rather have that, then the shit tepid laughter from my fifteen-year old jokes. So I started going down this road. And he (George Carlin) was the beacon for me, always. He always gave me the courage.