Ever interrogate a 4-year old? If you’re a parent, you probably have — and usually after something has mysteriously become broken while you weren’t there. The routine is always the same: there’s a little watery-eyed shrug (which almost always effectively turns your heart into a puddle), and then the magic words:
“It just happened.”
The thing is, that wasn’t true then, and it’s equally never true for adults.
Which is to say, there’s a cause behind every effect, but we spend too much time reacting to the effect than we do unraveling the actual cause.
For example, let’s say I come up with a new tagline for a client’s brand. Now, I don’t just reach into my magic bucket of words and crank these things out, hoping something will stick. Nope, instead coming up with a tagline is mid-stream in the process; I’ve already spent lots of time unearthing their USP, developing a strategy and we’ve worked through the process to come to an agreement on direction and how best to present their brand over the long term. The tagline needs to capture and convey all of that, so once the initial legwork’s done, it’s my job to do just that.
So when, on those rare occasions, a client comes back post-presentation and says it doesn’t work for them, well, the 4-year old in my wants to stamp my foot and say ‘No! You’re wrong! I’m right! And I’m taking my toys and going home!”.
As a strategist, I’ll let you in on a little secret: That’s NOT a good strategy.
But as an experienced adult, I also know that it’s time for me to respond, rather than react. And also to recognize that this didn’t ‘just happen’. There was, somewhere during the process, a miscommunication, or misinterpretation, where something didn’t quite click.
In short, there’s a cause for the effect.
I know this seems like common sense but, again, often times we seem to try and fix the effect, rather than the cause.
If your car stalls, it didn’t just happen. 9/11 didn’t just happen. If the stock market tanks, it didn’t just happen. If you’re significant other packs up and leaves you nothing more than a hastily written note, it didn’t just happen.
The good thing is, if we can just remember to just take a single breath when whatever happens happens, and remember that we have a breadcrumb trail back to the source, we can fix pretty much everything. Which makes life less scary and hopeless.
And one final thought: good things don’t just happen either, so try and unravel what’s going right, understand that cause, multiply as needed, and enjoy the effect.