“You aren’t good enough”.
That’s the message that’s been drilled into the majority of our heads from the day we started school. Every report card, every teacher instilling the fear of failure and every student number doing exactly that, stating that you’re just a number.
At school every report I received confirmed that I was average. I was always 2% above or below the grade average. My teachers without fail would put how average I am into writing; “Jacques can do better… I’m disappointed in him”. I even had teachers tell me how much I’m not like my older sister, which was disappointing to them. Then university came around and I managed to scrape through Marketing Management’s parrot-fashioned learning with an average of 54%, which is just so super average. Finally I was mad enough to decide to take on an Honours year at Vega, the brand communications school. For the first time in my life I actually felt like I was better than average; I was allowed to ‘think’ how I naturally ‘thunk’. But even after a little bit of a confidence boost the 2008 recession hit so hard that in 2009 no one was hiring. The best offer I received was an unpaid internship at a brand agency for 3 months. It was either that or a retail floor sales position organized by a friend who was working at an Apple Computer reseller at the time. I took it. What else could I do? What an utterly average start to my life and working career (in contrast to my great expectations).
After a year and a half of working as an Apple salesperson, in the September of 2010, I got retrenched. I had no job. That was a month before I got married.
Today I’m co-founder and Managing Director of Flume – a digital marketing agency that, as of December 2015 (and just under 3 years of operation), employs 14 staff, Is the full-service digital agency for Mutual & Federal, lead creative and digital agency for Club Med South Africa, Social Media agency for Old Mutual South Africa and Old Mutual Wealth UK and runs various other digital services for Nedbank Wealth and other brands.
What happened in the 2.5 years between being an Apple salesperson and now? I managed, by the grace of God, to find a job in advertising and to grow my confidence through hard work and being exposed to some brilliant people along the way.
Here’s what happened;
Regret > Fear
Over the span of about a year before I actually started Flume, I kept on thinking about starting a business. But I also kept on thinking to myself that I’d always be the guy that dreamt it and never did it because I’m average. Until one day I woke up with a picture of myself as an 85 year-old, sitting on a chair with blankets on my legs. It was as if my older self was speaking to me and this is what he said: “Jacques, the regret of never having tried will always weigh heavier on you than the fear of trying and failing”. That was my wake-up call. I could deal with trying and failing because then at least I’d know. But getting to the end of my life and wondering why I’d never tried, the regret in that moment would be even more painful – and the worst is, it could never be undone.
So here’s what I’ve learnt about Flume and our successes in the nearly 3 years we’ve been around:
Build confidence but not arrogance
There’s a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Leaders are confident, not arrogant. People trust confidence, not arrogance, and they ultimately aspire to be like people who are confident, not people who are arrogant. You have to be confident if you’re going to sell yourself and your business; clients and employees alike want to feel like they’re in the hands of a stable ship that’s headed somewhere. Arrogance ultimately alienates and causes a fall – as the old adage says, ‘pride cometh before a fall’.
Be ambitious but not impatient
There’s a fine balance between submitting yourself to a process that grows your character and skills or hanging around waiting for someone to rescue you. You have to take initiative, you are the captain of your own destiny- you’re only where you are today because of yourself. You can’t blame anyone but yourself for where you’re at. Be ambitious, dream big, plan, create and strive. But allow your current situations and moments to shape you and build you into someone whom you’d ultimately want to follow.
Be diligent but not a workaholic
Being a workaholic doesn’t make you’re a hero, it actually makes you stupid. Working too many hours only damages you. But that doesn’t mean that you should only do what’s required. Innovation and invention never happened by only doing what’s urgent. The X factor happens when we’re diligent enough to push ourselves beyond our capabilities. It means putting in extra, but not being a workaholic. Measure output, not hours.
Find the one thing that you’re doing all of this for
And here’s the catch: it can’t be you…. Purpose comes from affecting those around you. No one ever became happy by only stuffing their own face. Trust me, generosity feeds purpose. Sometimes, when I wake up and feel like I don’t want to get up, it’s my family that I picture. I think of my wife and my little girl and then I’m inspired to carry on. For you, it may be a cause of some sort, a friend or an animal shelter – whatever it is, make sure you’re doing what you’re doing for something beyond your own personal gain.
Make room for the things that really matter
You may have heard of the ‘ball’ analogy. In our lives we’re always juggling balls. Some of those balls can bounce if we drop them and others won’t; they’ll break. We cannot believe that we can juggle all of them all at once. We need to decide what really matters. Every day, you need to decide which balls are going to bounce and which are going to break if you drop them. Sometimes you do need to leave the office early to spend time with your family. Other times that work project really needs priority over friends. You’re the master – you decide.
Lastly, remember that no matter what anyone says, you’re good enough and that regret will always weigh heavier than fear.
“If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – J.K. Rowling
“You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.” – Carter Chamber, The Bucket List.