I was chatting with a friend that is a professor at a university trying to narrow the dissertation focus. Academia works in a much different way than the political, military, or business world in that you would think it would be the most open and free-thinking about the future of learning and "new." yet, the mindset of the organization is actually highly conservative. While the games and politics played are very similar to all organizations, but the flavor and smell of academia are uniquely different.
Looking at the mind maps, we somehow got on to a conversation about all the nonsense we as humans tend to overcomplicate life. We use new terms, buzzwords, and try to rationalize that putting lipstick on a pig is something new and amazing. We touched on sports and entertainment where it used to be people did their job and didn't need to do a celebration dance for getting a base hit, or a first down. I was flipping through the channels while watching the new York Yankees play. My sister in law had me do this in honor of my dad, who would sleep while watching his games, and Mr. P, an avid fan. Flipping channels, I got to something called professional wrestling and didn't make it very long when I thought, "prime time for this? What executive and/or viewership thinks this is good?" it was the first time I had to question live entertainment in a made for tv world.
Years ago, Feld entertainment and the WWF (I think that was Mr. McMahon's older company before he went public and became a billionaire?) tried to work together with the merch wing. I believe the sign of it being a bad idea was that they build the equipment, took it out of the garage on the road, and it burned up. (true story) So while I know the WWE isn't a giant business, it isn't tiny either. So watching the attempt of storylines and all the rock coming out…I came to the place I am with live shows today – there is too much hype, pyro, articulated overused lighting, and fluff being thrown over everything in the name of rationalizing higher ticket prices.
What about the fundamentals? Are these talented athletes? Sure they are. Are they ingesting loads of PDA's? I wager- yes! I still remember breaking out in a loud laugh at one of the executives in a meeting telling the staff the wrestlers all signed documents saying they didn't take any performance-enhancing drugs.
"that is like signing the state department form about corruption and having to work overseas in corrupt societies."
"You really think they take drugs?"
"do you think they are natural bodies and just eat Wheaties to get and look like that? and can stay at that level for years?"
Perhaps I am lamenting in the USA today, and it is also is a good thing for me to deal with in the rebuild after dad's passing. The world is getting increasingly more intertwined and complicated, and more and more hype and feel-good-itis and ethical, sustainable, and caring words are thrown out – while the people inside the country consume 25% of the planet's resources, produce 30% of the worlds trash, and have a crappy recycling reality. I still cringe when I see or read people back-slapping each other over banning drinking straws and not seeing the giant mountain of consumption behind them.
So the fundamentals issue was something I took to heart. I do these with prayer, fitness, and meditation. With the "ideas" we have been working on, it is a broad palette. I had to reel in the ideas to a place where we fundamentally had a process and system of what it was we did and can remain small, but leverage the insights with broader distribution and partners. While the rewards and tools at the disposal of larger organizations are really deep and wonderful – I think fundamentally, I am just wired for smaller teams that move fast.
My dad was a bit sad when I didn't accept the invitation to play football and attend Annapolis, west point, and the air force academy. While it would have been good for me from a disciplined mindset, I looked at the long term commitment at the time (I also realized how fantastic the education value each cadet gets is) and met with another friend who god only knows what projects he was working on. his assessment was this.
"mark, you will never be a general or some admiral. You are too forthright for all the games that have to be played. You might make it to major, but you will be on some special forces team that gets things done. you are the type that would spit on the general's shoes, and he would laugh and think it was funny."
In the perfect world, that is about where I fit in best. You have CEOs and high-level executives that have ideas and dreams to move and steer their companies. Busy people. While the fundamentals of the business are in place, you need new ideas to open doors for growth. While scaling is one way to grow, it limits the depth of who and what you can do.
perhaps that is why I am writing away to put what is the culmination of all the years of work into one fundamental company.
While I get frustrated with all the obligations of the process, the priority is useful in that it allows me to see beyond the specks…it only took a few years to see "fundamentals" are what you really need to do well.
Hype and fluff are excellent, and good pyro and FX are lovely, but only if it is applied to great fundamentals that work. If you have a bad cake, it doesn't matter how much frosting you put on it, or cute decorations. When someone eats a bite, they will go, "what a letdown, this cake actually terrible. why did I buy it?"
I spent years studying how to eke out a few more dollars with merchandising live shows all over the planet. It was a unique environment where you could literally change something and test it the next show and work on the customs and habits of various counties and what they liked and preferred – based on weather – temperature- building layouts and everything else. I still was amazed at what people bought, from the wealthy grandparents spoiling their kids with everything to the lower-income mom with that look on her face of "this is too expensive" and her wanting to give her kids everything, but she could not. I think that look bothered me the most with our shows, and the margins we could collect because we had, in essence, a monopoly with opportunity costs.
My fear is humans are moving farther away from being humane to all humans. It won't bode well for most people unless we somehow shift that we are a society and not all individuals just doing our own thing.