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Curiosity Killed The Cat, But It Built The Digital Maker

An exploration into the shared ingredient among all SXSWesters

Our agency is no stranger to the spectacle of SXSW.  Only a few people have really heard some of the experiences we’ve been a part of – and my usual response on requests to share is, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”  The festival that is part learning and working amongst the industries best is just as equal a hustle-all-day, grind all night party where hanging in the hotel room is just not an option. The funny thing about it is, if you don’t know what you’re doing you’re completely caught up in a moment of sensory overload.  You’re missing one of the most obvious and important things to building your agency and the talent you have.


As I sit in a session with Sheldon Monteiro of SapientNitro, he begins to talk about how you can grow amazing talent rather than stumbling across it.  I’ve always been a believer that people have “it” or they don’t.  Now I’m thinking, “What do all these people in this room, at this festival, have in common?  What do all the people that work in creative industries have?” Having unreal potential is great.  Always being the smartest person in the room is cool.  But everyone in this room shared an unbelievable curiosity to learn, to make their experience, their work, something that could never be replaced.  The speakers have that same curiosity we do and it’s what’s taken them to the places they’re at professionally.  All these festival-goers (a.k.a. marketing professionals) share that commonality.

Wait, Are You Even Qualified To Write This?

Ah, yes.  Qualifications.  You really don’t have to believe a thing I say.  I’m not a behavioral psychologist.  Matter of fact, I hold a B.S. in Sports Management from UMass (go Minutemen).  I still play in pond hockey tournaments with my friends and I’ve received zero Nobel Prizes.  There are some things I’ve picked up on over a career in digital marketing, and by spending late nights chatting with top folks in the industry at a local watering hole or at SXSW.  So I’ll share some of those things, and know that these are things that the best in the industry practice.

Curiosity Builds Game Changers

Let’s get into what builds curiosity.  The building blocks for game changers are premised on three simple things.  Things that are easy to consider and easy to master.  They’re also easy to pass by.

Passion – Maybe It’s For Suckers?

Passion is for suckers.  That’s a tough thing to say, because I have so much passion for what I do.  But if I were following my real passion I might be a broke ski bum out west.  So I continue to focus on what I’m good at.  Cal Newport talks about this in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Focus on what you can offer your world he says.  Everyone in attendance seemed to understand that they needed to master the things in their world that they’re skilled at, not passionate about.  One thing I may disagree with Cal on is that passion can be associated with your skills and talents.  Maybe it isn’t for suckers. It is just a different concept than he explores.  Be sure your skills and the work you’ve chosen match each other – if you’re an agency, put the right person on the job based on the skills they have – you’ll get the greatest results.

My Rap Album Would Be Titled, “Redefinition”

Anyone that works with me knows that I have an unruly set of standards, and that our work as a team should always be so good that it turns heads worldwide.  But I have to balance that mindset, that passion, with being a good teammate and colleague. So I’m sitting here and Jeremy Coleman from Vail Resorts starts talking about his journey, and talking about his high set of standards. I’m thinking to myself, “This is me.  How does he maintain that balance?”  He shared one practice with the group – he came in each day and worked on redefining something about himself.  Through the course of that redefinition he became a better professional, better teammate and better person.  Start small, because this is a tough step.  But make it part of your plan.

Don’t Be Scurred

Nothing comes from no.  Say yes.  Take risks.  Be vulnerable.  Allow yourself to be open to failure.  I’ve noticed that my best work comes from the biggest unknowns.  It’s those moments that bring curiosity out of you and your team.  It’s not always comfortable, but we get paid to work not to lounge.  From this commitment you are able to build skills that are rare and valuable, because you’re asking for the opportunities.  In our industry that is a necessity.

What’s In A Digital Marketer?

These three things are what build not just a great digital marketer but a professional to be reckoned with.  Sheldon and Jeremy called these unicorns.  Curiosity is a powerful thing, and something that everyone on your team must have.  If they don’t… well, I’m not in HR so I’ll leave that there. Get down to SXSW if you want to test the limits of your curiosity.  You won’t be let down. Oh yeah, if you make it there, try these places out too:
  • Everyone will tell you 6th Street, but take a walk to Rainey Street
  • Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
  • Tableside guac at The Iron Cactus on 6th
  • Take a late night pedi cab over to West 6th
  • I missed out on a Willie Nelson show at the local rodeo – don’t miss out
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