Business vs Personal – A Handy Myth

“Are you traveling for business or pleasure?”

Two distinct categories, one distinct answer. In the airport, it seems that business and personal are segmented worlds. We’ve heard the following quote often enough to know it’s true.

“It’s not personal, it’s business.”

The line between the realms of business and the realm of the personal is firm and unwavering. There is calculated business behavior, and then there is chaotic human behavior, and never the twain shall meet.

“It’s not work if you love it.”

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This is where I get confused.

It seems that if professional decisions need to be made, business factors weigh heavier. But if professional motivation is a goal, the personal and business realms are passionately intertwined?

You’re supposed to put your heart into your work, yeah?

You should love and be proud of what you do for money, right?

This purposeful & paradoxical confusion between “business vs personal” is especially dangerous territory for marketers & advertisers.

How do marketers and their investors properly temper & balance their personal feelings, when arousing personal feelings in an audience to gain business benefits is the goal of advertising?

When the impersonal calculus behind business decisions meets the personal realm of the creative act of marketing or advertising, what are the people caught in the middle supposed to feel? How are they supposed to act and not take things too personal?

Content Custodians

Marketers start off seemingly cordoned from the business realms. Custodians of Content.

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Wandering the halls of your company’s assets, sweeping the files, checking for typos, cleaning up links, adjusting a footer, the pixelation of graphics, the tone/phrasing/shaping/size/hue/saturation, removing all the scuff marks from the floors of your content, wondering how to improve the shine of, and gain proper recognition for, the institution.

And so, when shareholders dog your idea, trash your ad concept, change the copy at the last minute, remain unconcerned with all of your input – how does a marketer not take this shit personally, especially when I’ve been up late at night polishing the trophy case and told to throw my heart into my work? You see how this could fuck with people?

How do you separate your marketing’s performance from your performance?

An idea marketers can use from the world of jazz & creative performance art, is that you don’t lose yourself in the song, you lose yourself in the craft.

When I am playing jazz on a stage, I focus on song form, meter, key centers, & then the existing interplay between the musicians. Where are we? What’s going on? How can I fit in? What can I accentuate? What’s required right now?

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We play the song all the way through, together as a band – we all individually add our parts and try to bring relevant and appropriate amounts of funkiness – and then we move on to the next song.

I don’t judge myself by the song, I judge myself by the unique interplay onstage during the song and the successful contributions I made therein.

If ice-cold execution of the band writ large, or your own perfect personal performance, or other people’s adoring reactions are the main focus, your focus is off and you’ve stopped doing your best work.

Your work is the delivery of the craft, not the product.

As marketers I believe we personally develop through the creative endeavors we embark on behalf of paying clients, not because of them.

The goal is to continually build your personal skill set regardless of the professional outcome. Because people will boo, they will applaud, they will cry, they will love you, they will hate you, you’ll sell millions, you may lose that much – and you have to be able to professionally handle all these various reactions, without taking things personal.

So how does this connect with the “business vs personal” myth?

“Business vs Personal” needs Disruption

The lie that there’s a difference between business and personal, when only people do business with one another, is a mental barrier worth overcoming.

Business is interpersonal, so the idea that there’s some separate world of behavior and norms actually creates the euphemisms & distrust of the business world, concurrently making meaningful relationships & personal contributions nearly impossible within it’s ecosystems.

The marketer considering the “business vs personal” dynamic, tasked with performing on the public stage on behalf of the brand, is therefore hindered on several fronts. Do they bring their personality to the marketing? Do they do what’s required, or what they think is right? Do they deliver something they are 100% proud of, or do they deliver whatever % required to get the check cashed?

There may be no clear answer, but I think if we dropped the pretense that there is a difference between the way we’re supposed to feel/act/behave in business and personal relationships, and embraced a few truths from the world of jazz & creative performance, we’d better understand dynamics that transcend economic logic and incorporate cultural and anthropological contexts, providing a much more useful and holistic perspective on business & marketing.

Then again, all this jazz is just my opinion….don’t take it personally.

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