Archives for posts with tag: growth


When my father died a few years back, I spent a long time reliving the past. Many days were spent re-imagining my past. See, I didn’t speak to my father for 15 years. I had opportunities to do so, I knew his phone number, his address, I even stood in front of my old home in Germany 10 years ago but I couldn’t bring myself to ring the bell. I was imagining a past where I rang the bell, picked up the phone and dialed.

When I stopped imagining a different past, I moved on to rationalizing, explaining and finding excuses why I never did what I should have done. You know “My childhood” or “He was supposed to take the first step”. I tried to externalize what was going on, and make it about this or that, as if somehow I hadn’t made the decisions all along.

What is past is prologue – William Shakespeare

We do our best. Until we know better. Focusing on what we should have done, doesn’t change the past.

I write about failures, innovation and taking risks a lot. I know it’s the right thing to do. I know this is the only way to survive in this hyper-competitive world. Still, my heart is not always in it. It’s so much more comfortable not to grow. Actually, I want to grow. But I just want the end product, not going through the process. It leaves me in uncomfortable situations, makes me feel less at home in my skin. I do have to accept that I know nothing while knowing so much and then start all over again, learning, figuring things out, trying new paths, falling down, getting up and experience those new skills to become part of my natural self.

The real challenge is to live with uncertainty. We want to know that if we’re trying something new, it’ll actually work. We know the past. We study the past. We know everything about it, what went wrong. What went right. We can’t study the future. The future is about the unknown. We don’t know if we try something, we’ll be good at it. We might suck. Or become the best in the world. No guarantees, no guidebook, no maps. Maybe we just fail in new ways. Who the hell wants to fail again? My ego might get hurt. People might look down on me. Consider me a failure.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past – Thomas Jefferson

We’re living in uncomfortable times. Everything around us screams “change”. Every sign tells us doing business the way it was done the last few decades doesn’t work anymore. The whole culture pokes and tells us to start doing unknown stuff. Still, we tend to think “What if it doesn’t work out, why not stick with what we already know? It doesn’t work that well anymore but it’s doing okay.”

We love to stay in the place we know. It’s so much easier to keep doing the thing we know to do. We are good at rationalizing these choices. That’s why we find all sorts of excuses: “Let’s not be the first to do it. Let others make mistakes first and we learn from them, just to do it better.” There are some good arguments there, no doubt. In the end, these excuses are just there to mask the fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear to face discomfort.

Discovering new ways and new opportunities is risky. We need to put down the comfort food, throw away the pillows, the padding. We need to suck it up. Start the hard work of learning new skills, experimenting with new things. We don’t know if we will succeed. There are no guarantees. Waiting, holding out will not change the present. You know what choices you have to make. Gather the courage and do it now.


I was at a conference a few months ago. After we discussed the state of the industry and other earth-moving topics, things suddenly got real and we were talking about our dreams and aspirations.

It was fascinating to see that dreams fall into two categories:

  • The achievable ones: A promotion or two. A bigger house. Comfortable life.
  • The big ones: Found a company. Work and live overseas. Start something that changes the world. Stop world hunger.

In our youth, we tend to focus on the big dreams: Astronaut. President. Curing cancer. The older we get, those dreams tend to disappear and we move on to the achievable goals: 5% pay increase. A trip to Europe. A new car.

We need to dream big until the last breath we take.

It’s important to take care of the fundamentals: Pay your bills, feed your family, stay healthy, build a nest egg – the no-brainer stuff. And, I’m not advocating to quit your job and start touring as a rock musician at the age of 56.

  • Mary Wesley wrote her first novel at 70.
  • Joseph Conrad didn’t speak English until he was 20 and published his first novel when he was 37.
  • Michael Haneke directed his first movie when he was 47.
  • Japanese dancer Kazuo Ohno performed his first recital at age 43.

Age shouldn’t determine the size of your dreams. Your imagination should.

Brands need to dream bigger.

Typically, brands desire yearly growth of 3-5%. You improve efficiencies (1%), improve the marketing mix (1%) and increase the price incrementally (1%). Task done. Rinse and repeat next year. And the year after.

Why not ask for 15% growth? An audacious goal like that will change your company. It will change everything you do because you can’t focus on incremental innovations. You need to focus on disruptive innovations. Apple didn’t make the phone better, they change the idea of a phone. Zipcar is not only a great service, it changes the idea of car ownership.

Dreaming big gives you sufficient space for innovation and disruption.

How to start dreaming big.

I would have never left a comfortable job in German to move my whole life to Los Angeles without the support of friends. They told me I could make it. I would have never started a business with the moral support of my wife. She told me that I could make it.

If you see somebody with a special talent, written “bright future” on their forehead: Tell them they have the right to dream bigger. When your client talks about 3% growth, tell them they have the right to dream bigger. And, when you lament the loss of your big dreams: Give yourself the right to dream big again.


Marva Collins started in 1975 Westside Preparatory School in Garfield Park, an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago. She took these inner-city kids who had failed in public schools and started to treat like geniuses. Some of her students had been labeled  as “retarded” or “learning disabled.” Early in life, these kids had lost their enthusiasm and lust for life.

These “disabled” kids soon started to read Tolstoy, second graders recited Shakespeare and heated discussions about Kipling were common.

Marva Collins believed people’s qualities are not carved in stone.

This fixed mindset leads you to believe that you will never change. That’s the reason why you think you can’t draw or sing. Somebody told you once that you can’t do certain things, that you are the way you are for the rest of your life. As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges. They become afraid of not being smart. If things get too challenging – when people don’t feel smart or talented – they lose interest.

The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience. This belief creates a passion for learning. Why would care to prove to the world how great you are, when you can get better? Why try to hide flaws when you can overcome them? And why go for the stuff that worked in the past, instead of trying new experiences?

So, does your brand have a fixed or growth mindset?

Is your brand focused on validating itself all day long? Extremes like Enron and Lehman Brothers come to mind. The newspaper and music industry. Detroit. The graveyard of formerly great companies is littered with brands that had a fixed mindset. They never changed, never the let air in, adjusted to changing times way too late.

Brands based in a growth mindset communicate possibilities. They stand for innovation, they believe in human potential and development, stakeholders are trying to help each other. They embrace failures and cherish learning experiences.

Your company needs to overcome the fixed mindset.

Many successful companies develop fixed mindsets. They refuse to believe that a company with people less talented and not as smart as them can ever have the ability to surpass them. They still believe that attention and market share can be bought. They refuse to push, stretch and confront their own mistakes and grow from them.

They can change and overcome the fixed mindset.

Or they’ll die.

(The inspiration for this post came from “Mindset – The Psychology of success” by Carol S. Dweck, PH.D)