How many business cards have you collected over the years? A handful? A hundred? Enough to wallpaper the bathrooms of every house on your block? Even if you’re not involved in “Business,” chances are you’ve received a number of business cards over the years, from the auto mechanic to your neighbor who sells Mary Kay.
Most business cards are, frankly, forgettable.
Why? Because they all look the same. They blend in.
You see, when business cards are born, the first thing their creators likely consider is, “What do business cards look like?” Of course, this question is asked and answered on a subconscious level. It doesn’t have be voiced or heavily belabored because everyone already knows what a business card looks like. It’s a 3.5″ x 2″ paper rectangle with somebody’s name, place of employment, and contact information printed on it. The designer’s job is to make it “stand out” by cleverly mixing up the paper stock, colors, graphics, and fonts.
But what is a business card, really? Isn’t it just a tangible object that you can give to a prospective customer so they (or their friend) can contact you if they need what you (or your company) sells? Obviously, the more memorable this object is, the better, as making a lasting impression is always better than being instantly forgotten.
You’ll notice that nowhere in the above definition is any mention of shape, size, or type of material. The common conventions listed above — it must be 3.5″ x 2″ — are rules that don’t exist.
If a child were tasked with the job of designing a business card, the results would be much different. (Paper is too flat — let’s make it out of LEGOs!) Kids aren’t tied down by what a business card is supposed to look like, so they have a greater chance of breaking the “rules” and coming up with something truly remarkable and — gasp! — more effective. The images accompanying this post are all business “cards” designed by people with a very childlike mindset. (See more here.)
If you don’t happen to be a graphic designer, you might be thinking to yourself, “This is all well and good, Jason, but what does this have to do with ME?”
Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a recent graduate looking for a job, a project manager, or a retired accountant, you are living by a set of rules that don’t exist. But don’t feel bad, because it’s normal. You operate much of your life on auto-pilot. Normally, this is a good thing, as it makes things more efficient. You don’t have to waste time every day wondering, “How do I get to work?”
But one disadvantage is that you lack a beginner’s mind. Like a business card designer, you are subconsciously operating with a stock answer to the question, “What is this supposed to look like?”
What is my daily routine supposed to look like?
What is my resumé supposed to look like?
What is our conference room supposed to look like?
What are my retirement years supposed to look like?
If I asked you a similar question about an aspect of your life, you’d probably have a certain set of conditions — or rules — from which you’d automatically begin. From there, like a designer adjusting fonts and colors, you make certain adjustments based on your own preferences, priorities and passion. Perhaps you’d batch your errands, print your resume on fancier paper, paint the conference room walls, or spend a little more time volunteering in your down time.
The tweaks and adjustments are fine, but my challenge to you is: what if you took a step back and blew up your answer to the first question? What if you blew up the rules that don’t exist?
Where is it written that a mother’s job is to endlessly chauffeur her kids to practices, games, and recitals every day of the week?
Why do we assume that resumés need to be printed on paper and be formatted according to common conventions?
It it always necessary for conference rooms to look so similar? Do they even need to be on-site, or even inside?
Who ever said that retirement can’t be used to launch an even more ambitious, passion-filled project that makes a bigger difference than anything you ever did while you were “working?”
Here’s the deal. You have a lot more control of you life than you probably realize. Your life can be less stressful, more fulfilling, more productive and more fun…today. Believe me or not, but it’s true. The trick is to spend some time questioning your assumptions.
Right now, at this moment, ask yourself this question:
What is my life supposed to look like?
Now let me ask you:
Really? Says who?
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