Sunday, February 12, 2006

Outside The Box? There Is No Box--My Business Role Model

In business, I think all of us look for someone to pattern ourselves after…

…a business “role model,” so to speak.

Well, for this Monday morning blog entry I thought I’d tell you who my business role model is.

But before I go into who it is, let me tell you what I look for in a “role model.”

I look for 3 qualities.

#1 I look for people who break the mold. I look for people who you would have trouble labeling and putting into a neat little box.

#2 I look for people who are able to succeed in totally different fields. This one narrows down the search quite a lot. But most of the people that others look up to tend to be good at one thing and one thing only.

Not me.

I firmly believe that to succeed in anything you should be able to look outside the norm—to go beyond the boundaries we create for ourselves.

Especially in marketing…

…you need to be able to see breakthroughs everywhere. In fact, one of the most successful pieces of copy I have ever written was inspired by a book on fishing. (the explanation for that is for another time).

#3 I look for people who DON’T MAKE EXCUSES. .

In marketing and in life, the excuse-makers are endless. But people I admire throw out their books of excuses. You screw up? Find out what you did wrong and start over.

That’s it! I lived in South Korea for 6 years, and the attitude there is who gives a rat’s behind whose fault it was. They just want the problem fixed. I happen to agree.

So, without further ado, who is my business role model?

It’s not Trump, Napoleon Hill, or any of the usual suspects.

It’s none other than…

…Wallace Stevens.

Okay…you might be wondering who Wallace Stevens is.

For those of you who don’t know Wallace, you’ll find that he is one of the 20th century’s greatest poets.

No poetry anthology will omit Wallace Stevens—not one.

But why is a poet as my “business” role model?


Because Wallace Stevens wasn’t just a poet. He was also a lawyer and highly successful businessman who was named vice president of Hartford Accident and Indemnity.

In fact, many of Stevens’ business associates had no idea he was a famous poet.

Stevens didn’t even start writing poetry until after he finished law school. He didn’t publish his first book of poetry until he was 44, and to top it off Stevens wrote some of his best poetry after he turned 60.

All the while he moved up the corporate ladder. He made no apologies to poetry critics (who probably thought he should be starving) for wanting to make money. And his business associates always held him in the highest regard for his business sense.

A world-class businessman and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Not a bad combination

That’s my business role model. In this changing world, we need to stop trying to put people and our markets into neat little boxes.

I’d rather be a Wallace Stevens who did what he wanted and was pretty damn good at being both a businessman and a poet. And neither his art nor his business suffered from his devotion to either one.

That idea might be foreign to most businessmen or English majors, but Wallace Stevens shows that you can achieve anything you want to achieve if you are willing to accept that the "box" we put ourselves into does not exist...

…and once you realize that the “box” does not exist...

…anything is possible.

To Your Success,

Carlon Haas
P.S. If you’ve never read any poem by Wallace Stevens, read The Snow Man. And remember the guy writing it was no mystic, but a well-grounded successful businessman. It’ll blow your mind.

I highly recommend:

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Vintage)

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