In business, if things are going well, it’s easy to become complacent. You don’t want to get cocky and rock the boat. If things have gotten challenging, it’s even more likely you’ll become overly cautious and get in a rut. Whether you’re on either side of that spectrum or hanging out somewhere in the middle, we can all use the wise words of the fine ladies in Salt-N-Pepa as an anthem to nudge, prod, bump, and shove toward meaningful change.
Here are five simple ways to help you push it real good.
1. Push yourself. Pushing yourself does not mean sleeping four hours a night, existing on Red Bull, skipping lunches, and never taking a day off. Rather, it means working to your capability — or on a good day past it — consistently.The key to pushing yourself is being honest. Are you doing your best? Are you giving your all? Often, we confuse motion with action and being busy with being productive. You know what it feels like when you’re really bringing it — when all cylinders are firing and you’re making some serious progress. Push yourself by asking, “Can I do more?” And if the answer is yes, do it.
2. Push the envelope. This origin of this term is from aviation where the envelope is the upper and lower limits where it is safe to fly, not a physical envelope that you mail. (Who knew?) Its message invites you to challenge yourself to exceed limits, to innovate, to go beyond. So stop playing it safe. Push beyond your comfort zone. If you’re only presenting ideas you think your client will like — and not products you know will work — you’re in that danger zone of conformity. Shake off your tendency toward the same old, and shake things up by venturing beyond your personal boundaries.
3. Push your creativity. You got into this business for a reason, and it wasn’t because you get to set your own hours. No matter what you do, you could be doing it in any other industry, but you chose this one. (Okay, maybe it chose you. But you stayed.) You are here because you’re creative. And while creativity is not a finite resource, it is a precious one. If you aren’t flexing your creative muscle, it will weaken, resulting in the dreaded mental blocks we’ve all experienced. But just like physical muscles, your creativity can regenerate with a little effort. Go on a field trip. Take a cooking class. Start drawing again. Experiment with video. Observe others around you pushing beyond the norm and give it a shot.
4. Push back. This is the hardest for the avoid-confrontation-at-all-costs folks in the audience, myself included. But for many, it’s the most important. If your client, boss, or colleague has an idea and you know it simply will not work, trust yourself and have the confidence to say something. Will they always listen to you? No. But they’ll respect you for having a stance. When you don’t speak up and offer your opinion, you deny others the usefulness of your perspective. You don’t have to be a jerk. You don’t have to be pushy. But showing that you are someone willing to stick your neck out and holding your ground boosts your value and credibility. Worst news ever, I know.
5. Push away distractions. Think about all your interactions in a day, all the emails, tweets, Facebook notifications, LinkedIn updates, calls, missed calls, instant messages, and texts. I have 179 recipes saved on Pinterest, and I don’t cook! We all know that today’s constant connection is counterintuitive, disruptive, and downright destructive to our productivity and creativity, but most days, we let it continue. Do whatever you can do stop it. Put up a mental or even physical “Do Not Disturb” sign. Find moments where you sign out of your email, log out of social media, send calls to voicemail, shut your door, hole up in the conference room. Anything. Inspiration can find you at any time. Don’t let a push notification jump in front of it.
It isn’t easy to take a hard look in the mirror and assess the strengths and weaknesses of ourselves or our businesses, but it is necessary for progress, growth, and success. We are living in a remarkable time, and this industry is brimming with possibility. We just have to push through all the things holding us back and look for the many ways we can create and contribute.
How are you going to make a difference? How are you going to push it - and push it real good?
Aubrey Collins is the Director of Marketing and Communications at MediaTree, the leading supplier of branded digital entertainment cards. She fell in love with the promotional products industry in 2011 and has vowed never to leave since the moment she walked by the Moleskine booth at her first PPAI Expo.