To Be A Success In Anything, Practice Your “Stand Up” Routine

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Synopsis

Standing up isn’t simply a trait of those who innovate or lead. It is a human separator.

The past few weeks Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to stand up. Despite appearances, he has yet to do so – at least in a way that someone who wants to continue to revolutionize and lead into the future (as Zuckerberg says he wants to do) must. There’s been plenty said about this still young executive and his company’s repeated stumbles. But little has been said about what it means to stand up or why it matters so greatly, not just for Mark Zuckerberg, but for anyone with big dreams, big ideas, and a desire to have lasting impact.

It’s easy to confuse what Zuckerberg has been doing as “standing up”. As Facebook’s founder and front man, he’s issued a raft of public statements meant to explain and apologize for misusing the data of the company’s 2.2 billion users and misleading them as to its security. A week and a half after the latest data breech went public (an eternity for a $450 B public company to respond), he held a call with journalists to make more statements and to answer questions – tough questions that ranged from “How did this happen?” to “Do you still believe you are the person who should lead this company?” The following week, in a rare show of contrition, Zuckerberg swapped his trademark t-shirt for a suit and tie and submitted to two grueling days answering still more questions from Congress. In all of this, he apologized repeatedly, assumed the blame himself (eventually, after repeatedly throwing users under the bus), made lots of promises to change, and even offered a handful of reactionary fixes to the immediate mess. Isn’t all of this standing up? No. No it’s not. At least not in the way it matters most to those who want to revolutionize and lead.

Being creative, challenging the status quo, or being bold enough just to think outside the lines, are sometimes claimed as a protective mantle masquerading as standing up, while busily doing something quite apart from it. It’s interesting to consider how Zuckerberg has described how he thinks creating and leading work. For more than a decade and nearly all of its history, Facebook has followed a publicly stated mantra: “Move fast and break things.” It’s understandable why this might be attractive. It flaunts thought-limiting rules, the ones that can make us feel as if new ideas aren’t needed or are even banned. It promises speed where established ways can often slow us down. Such a mantra even seems to promise reward. And when you consider Facebook’s incredible reach, to a full third of the planet’s human population, not to mention its mindboggling creation of wealth, “move fast and break things” can even appear justified. That is, until things go wrong. Then what? 

When users who trusted you implicitly are repeatedly deceived or intentionally manipulated over years, not weeks or months, does that continue to justify this unaugmented maverick view of standing up? What about when national elections are manipulated by a mantra that not only fails to prevent such things, but could also be said to encourage them. After all, if it’s okay for Facebook, why not for everyone else?

In truth, standing up means something far greater. And anyone who has ever had a creative idea has a keen sense of this. Just being willing to step out of your comfort zone, beyond the borders of the known and into the new as creatives by definition do, requires a form of standing up. Yet once you’ve done so and seen things in a new light, you must stand up in yet other ways in order to share your ideas. You have to stand up and strengthen your spine once again when the pushback comes (as it always does). Asking for help to make your idea a reality obliges standing up too. And on it goes.

The fact of the matter is the need to stand up never ends. It’s more accurate to say it evolves and expands. As it does so, a good and impactful stand up routine necessitates that the act not be a solo one. Especially when your ideas land value, increasingly you must learn to share, to yield, and to listen, something quite the opposite of what founders like Zuckerberg often believe they’ve earned the right to do. 

One of the key evolutionary benefits we humans gained when we first stood up all those millennia ago was the ability to open up our view and to see far out into the yet to be and the possible. That advantage is lost, however, if your mode of standing up has a single gear and relies on a “I can do what I want” attitude. Standing up isn’t simply a trait of those who innovate or lead. It is a human separator. It’s the very thing that led us down a path apart from our closest primate relatives. Failing to recognize this is also the very thing that can set that process into rapid reverse. Even thousands of “likes” won’t change that.

 

Larry Robertson is the author of two award-winning books: ‘The Language of Man. Learning to Speak Creativity’ and ‘A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress’. He’s the founder of two ventures, one for-profit and one non, and a highly respected thought leader in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, advising individuals and organizations across a broad spectrum. Larry is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a former Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Article Featured Image: Mark Zuckerberg seated before the combined Senate committees and the press. The image is a screen shot of Zuckerberg’s appearance before the Senate committees via the feed offered by C-Span and is used here under The Fair Use Doctrine. 

Tags: business, creating, leadership, robertson

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