“Love is never having to say you’re sorry.”
This phrase originated in the movie Love Story, but has since been modified, satirized, patronized and reorganized through dozens of movies, songs, television shows and other popular art forms.
And that got me thinking: I wonder if there are other things we never have to do? In business, in life and in love, maybe there’s an entire line of thinking based on this idea.
I’ve developed a list of seven examples.
1. Generosity is never having to keep score
I recently dropped my laptop. Right on the asphalt. Completely dented the corner of the screen. But when I took it into the Apple store, they were unexpectedly generous. First, the guy at the Genius Bar told me he once dropped his laptop too, but down an escalator. Second, he agreed to send my computer to the repair center that day. Third, he let me back up my data in the store before I went home. Fourth, they returned my computer to me two days faster than they promised. And fifth, they didn’t charge me a dime. No questions asked. I was speechless. Just when I thought Apple was all style and no service, they delivered. Just when I thought Apple was all hype and no help, they delivered. That’s the thing about generosity: It’s not corporate scoreboard. It’s not something you can choreograph. You just dance in the moment and respond to the now need. How are you giving yourself away?
2. Class is never having to apologize for transparency
The company 37Signals uses a company blog to foster a direct conversation between developers and customers. Not to shamelessly promote the website, but to solicit feedback on their user interface. That’s class. Not to bother people into buying from them, but to keep customers abreast on programming changes in real time. That’s class. And not to hawk the new software programs, but to explain the motivation behind the changes to their existing ones. That’s class. They also give virtual tours of their design process, display screen shots of the revised versions of new layouts, and even host streaming question-and-answer sessions between users and the founder of the company. That’s class. No wonder their users are so fanatical about the company. How much loyalty are you losing by being opaque?
3. Commitment is never having to discipline yourself
At a recent art fair, I had the chance to meet one of my favorite cartoonists: Paul Palnik. I shook his hand. I thanked him for his work. And I told him never to stop making art. His response was perfect, “I have no choice; it’s who I am.” Think Palnik has to discipline himself to draw every day? Not a chance. Because he's committed. And that’s exactly what happens when you decide to play for keeps: Commitment deletes distraction. No matter how slammed you are, there’s always time for the non-negotiables. No matter how overextended you become, you still create space to execute what matters. What if you made a list of a hundred reasons why you do what you do and kept it in your wallet?
4. Freedom is never having to bury your desire
I once worked for a client who blocked Internet use at their office. From everybody. And the saddest part was, they were a sales organization. And their 200 employees— most of whom were under the age of thirty—had no online access. Which I certainly understand from the perspective of productivity and security. Nobody wants their employees wasting time when they should be making sales. But these people are cold calling all day. Without online access, they can’t Google their customers, conduct research on their competitors or leverage social media as a listening platform. If you want your people engage at work, don’t let the feeling of formality keep them from communicating freely. Is your office a prison or a playground?
5. Confidence is never having to say you’re cool
If you have to tell people you are, you probably aren’t. And if you have to tell people you aren’t, you probably are. That’s what I don’t understand about social media: People are so insecure about their own value that they need to embed a graphic that points to the button that asks strangers to like them. I’m sorry, but popularity is not a substitute for truth. If you have to interrupt me with an e-mail that asks me to like you, we’re done. On the other hand, if you’re awesome, people will know it. Being amazing never goes out of style. Are you spending money trying to make people like you, or investing emotional labor trying to make the world better?
6. Love is never asking people to edit themselves
Several years ago, I conducted a workshop with the identity company, Brains on Fire. Since then, I have yet to come across another company that more epitomizes love. As their founder Robbin Phillips suggests, “Be famous for the people who love you and for the way you love them.” In my experience, the best way to love people is to let them express themselves. Without restriction. Without resorting to code. And without having to look over their shoulder. After all, nothing disengages people quicker than interfering with the expression of their individuality. Leave people liberated. Let them live their brand and stay loyal to themselves. Create a safe place where individual creativity can shine. Petition people to inject their personality into everything they do. What kind of love will you become famous for?
7. Creativity is never having to grow up
Instead, it’s about growing younger. It’s about “escaping adulthood,” according to artists Kim and Jason Kotecki. Reengage your playful spirit. It’s attractive, it’s relaxing and it’s more enjoyable to be around. Besides, there’s nothing that can’t be taken lighter. Even the serious issues. Second, build a reservoir of positivity. Say "yes" as often as possible. Especially when it would be easier, cheaper and more convenient to say "no." That’s where creativity lives. And lastly, build enthusiasm into small moments. Your energy is your greatest asset. Speak with passion or risk being unheard. Just make sure your energy is supported with truthfulness. Otherwise you're just passionately incompetent. How creative do people remember you as?