Why People Hire the Mediocre Wedding Pro Instead of You

It has nothing to do with price.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

There is a woman who has written more than 25 books and makes her living as a professional author and as a writing professor at a university. She was up for a prestigious literary award and everyone just knew she was going to win.

The evening of the black-tie awards ceremony came and, while the nominees were being announced, she discreetly pulled her folded acceptance speech out of her purse.

Another woman’s name was announced from the stage. The award was given to a young author who had recently published her very first book.

The veteran author nursed her grudge through the rest of the ceremony, cycling through jealousy, self-pity, and even anger:

That award was rightfully hers!

She had been in the industry for decades!

Who was this nobody who came along and took the award after just one book?

She hadn't yet paid her dues!

After the event, the younger author approached her, stuck out her hand in introduction and asked, "Do you remember me?"

The veteran author confessed that she did not.

The younger author replied, "You were my writing professor in college. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I took your class. You were the one who inspired me to pursue a career as a writer. Thank you so much – I feel alive when I write, I love my life, and I owe that to you."

The veteran author was taken aback and, of course, immediately felt guilty about nursing any animosity towards the younger writer. This person she had felt jealous towards only a few moments before was crediting her for her success.

When it comes to the wedding industry, there’s a lot we can learn from this story.

Yes, in paving a path for others to follow, you may end up losing a wedding, or an award, or a speaking engagement, or a TV spot to someone much newer to the industry than you. Focusing only on these occasional losses is where people miss the forest for the trees.

If you want people to appreciate that what you offer is better, that what you offer is actually good, the market needs to have more actually good businesses in it. It seems like you should be able to stand apart by being good when surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, but real life rarely works that way.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: everyone likes to think of themselves as having exceptional taste, yet mediocrity sells every single day.

Vocalists who have to rely heavily on autotune make the Top 40 all the time.

Mismatched, poorly made leggings were the one of the hottest must-have items of the mid-2010’s.

Millions of people are currently drinking celery juice to cure their diseases because a guy on Instagram with zero medical training said that a ghost told him it was a good idea.

Everyone wants what everyone wants because humans are pack animals and we associate safety with numbers. Mediocrity sells because it’s familiar.

So, if you want more people to want what you offer, at the level of expertise and taste you offer it, then you need to help ensure that the better options are what’s familiar.

You need more legitimately good competitors producing legitimately good work and showing it off. Sharing what you know and working to leave the industry better than you found it will almost always come back to benefit you in the long run.

Generosity wins.

The original version of this post was originally published February 2012.

How To Create An Award-Winning Business

Getting the recognition you deserve.

Wedding by    Marcy Blum   , Photography by    Cameron Clark

Wedding by Marcy Blum, Photography by Cameron Clark

Awards are given to the people who enter the award competitions.

This means that the winners may not be the best of the best who currently exist anywhere on the planet. The winners are typically the best of the people who submitted.

If you want to win an award, you have to enter the competition.

If you want to get more press, you have to submit more often.

If you want to be known as innovative, you have to show original ideas consistently.

If you want to be chosen for something, you have to put yourself in a place where people can see you in order to choose you.

The Oscars were invented to both legitimize and market membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – a trade association much like PPA, ILEA, NACE, or WIPA. 

Most awards are marketing, pure and simple. Marketing isn't a dirty word and it certainly shouldn't be an afterthought — it's what sells your art and puts your employees' kids through college.

So if you don't win this time around, don't get the press feature you want, lose a really great wedding to a competitor — revamp your strategy if needed and keep submitting. There will always be more awards and more opportunities, and they will always go to the people who show up to play.

Originally published January 2015

How To Succeed As A Mentor

Measuring what matters.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

There are two popular ways to think about mentorship. The first is to go into it intent on turning your mentee into your “mini-me.” The second is to view mentorship as helping your mentee become more of who they are.

While it’s flattering to hear someone say they “want to be just like you,” it’s better to use your strengths to draw out their own.

The people you mentor may not think exactly the way you do and may even disagree with you on key issues. They may look at the way you’ve designed your career or lifestyle and say, “good for you, but not for me” and only want help in certain areas.

Your role as a mentor is to help people think about things from a different angle, to ask smarter questions, to empower them to take risks, to release untapped potential, to allow your perspective to help shape them into a better version of themselves.

Success as a mentor comes not from producing copies of yourself, but in helping people flourish in their own gifts and talents.

Originally published February 2014