It’s difficult. On the one hand, our creative impulse rebels against the idea of a universe in which everything is planned. For it leaves little room for anything new. For any innovation. The best you can hope for is merely something that’s new to you, but not really, truly original. And perhaps it is hubris to want to. Perhaps it is ego. But such an idea sucks the joy out of the act of creativity itself.
And yet, on the other hand, luck? Is luck our only other option? The utterly random, skill-less, arbitrary, aimless, accidental force that dictates that this person shall win the lottery and that this one shall get hit by a bus? That you, sir, shall have your house destroyed by a tornado, while your neighbor next door sips margaritas? Luck? The last refuge of the lazy, the talentless and dull? Luck? For if it’s all only luck then why bother? Why get out of bed? Why think at all?
So we live in an ambiguous middle ground – rebelling like a Miltonic anti-hero against predestination while at the very same time, chaining ourselves to the puritan work-ethic of our forebearers who would damn us to whatever hell they believed in if we even start thinking about “the L word”.
It is amidst this turmoil that we opened Andy Nairn’s very good Go Luck Yourself, a book that draws heavily on his experience as co-founder and strategist of Lucky Generals. A book which is subtitled “40 ways to stack the odds in your brand’s favour” and therefore opens each chapter with a different “luck” – lucky name, lucky place, lucky dog, lucky numbers, lucky rabbit, lucky bastards, lucky shot, lucky charm, lucky… oh, the luck feels endless.
Now if you know Andy Nairn and the work of Lucky Generals, then you know there’s bound to be more going on than just, well, you know. You don’t create award-winning work for Amazon, A-B InBev, Yorkshire Tea and others if there weren’t. And frankly, even if you don’t Andy Nairn, it would be remarkable if he managed to fill over 200 pages and only say “you just have to be lucky – like we were on this project, and this one, and this one”. (Indeed, if that were all the book was, one would think his partners might have told him that advertising to their clients that what they were paying for was just a crapshoot was probably not the smartest way to keep those clients paying, or to get new ones to do so either).
So yes, there’s more here than just that. There are tactics and insights and plans and even a few tricks that can help you be luckier (as it were), and therefore, better for your clients. What are they? Well, it would be unfair to give you them for free – not only because Mr. Nairn has spent a career learning them, but because he’s donating his royalties to an organization that helps working class kids break into creative industries. So you should really go buy the book for yourself, so they’ll get the money and make this industry better.
But I will divulge this: all of the advice ladders back to one thing which has nothing at all to do with luck – except for making any of it even remotely possible. And that is: time.
“One of the challenges that I have noticed today,” the late Jane Maas said in an interview here about the value of curiousity, “is that it’s more difficult to be curious because there’s so much less time. We didn’t have enough time then, but we had more than we do now.”
Time. Time to think, to let things happen, to notice things that have happened that no one is paying attention to. Time to let the truth of a thing sink into your stony little brain, time to let the unexpected happen. Or as Nairn says of Quincy Jones:
If there’s a common theme that pulls together all his diverse strands of work, it’s his practice of creating space for unexpected moments of genius to occur. He sums this up with a favorite mantra: ‘Leave 20-30% of room for the Lord to walk through the room. Because then you’re leaving room for the magic.’
You can’t do that, you can’t get as “lucky” as Quincy Jones (28 Grammys, an Emmy, an Oscar, a Tony, Commandeur de l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and de la Légion d’Honneur, multiple doctorates including one from the Royal Academy of Music in London, and on and on) without creating that space, without creating that time.
And we don’t. We hustle to generate creative that increasingly is simply the disposable product that media shoves in front of the voracious eyeballs of consumers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Creative for real time, for the present tense, as we speak. Because while you read these words, products launch, competitors innovate, salespeople make client calls, customers journey and purchase cycles gyrate – which is why we need something RIGHT BLOODY NOW IF YOU DON’T MIND.
Is any of it any good? Some of it, sure. Sometimes you’re, you know, lucky. Would it be better if there was more time? Maybe. And that’s the problem, right? In a procurement world, time is money, and everything is quantifiable. Will 15% more time give us 15% better work? 15% more clicks? 15% more sales? “Maybe”? Well in the business world, a maybe’s as good as a no, so…
But that’s the wrong question and why Andy Nairn’s book is so valuable. The right question is: will that 15% extra time give you a better chance to make something that is 1000% better? That changes people’s lives. That changes everything. That endures. That is the only reason to be doing any of this in the first place.
Yes. Yes, it might. Because it creates the opportunity for, as Q would say, the Lord to walk through the room.