I’ve been thinking a lot about rule breaking recently. Not in the break the law sense, but in the breaking the perceived wisdom sense.
Like in the way schools don’t like you to. Schools want you to go through their system, following the rules, doing it the way it’s done. Not rocking the boat.
I did that.
Star pupil. Massive number of Grade A’s at O’level. The path was clear.
Until I dropped out of school 3 months into A’levels, and never went back. Doesn’t mean I stopped learning. In fact, I think that’s when I started learning.
Work rewards you for following their systems, although by now it’s called performance management. Do the work, be measured against their success criteria, be rewarded.
Until you work out their measures of success are not yours.
Make lots of money. Grow big. Make more money. Screw over your suppliers, because you need to make more money.
Until consumers work out that just because you’re the darling of the City doesn’t mean you’re their darling. They find someone else who they relate to better. Hello, House of Fraser, Toys R Us, and all the other old school “successful” businesses.
Why be a rebel?
I write for smaller businesses who, in general, are still close to their founder, or I work directly with their founder. The majority of founders are rebels in some ways. They want to do it differently. Even if it’s not a new kind of business, they want to do something different to the way it’s being done by others.
A small daily rebellion against the perceived norm.
Because they have an unswerving belief in their idea. Or at least 95% of the time. We all have off days when we wonder if we should have done what everyone else is doing.
Defining the success of your rebellion
There are lots of norms of “success” in our society. Big houses, big cars, big wardrobes, big bank balances. And there’s a set of rules for getting there. Work long hours, play the game, reap the reward.
But what if those are not your success measures or the rules you’re willing to run your life by?
What if success for you is live in the countryside, make a product you love, drive a battered old Golf and work with people who have similar values? Where does that fit in?
It doesn’t fit into the norms.
But if it’s right for you, that will feel wholly amazing and liberating.
The rebellion is on
The world is changing, and not every business is geared up to cope with that. What I love about smaller businesses is their nimbleness, their speed, their flexibility, their willingness to try.
These things are brilliant, but not if used without direction and purpose. That’s why that definition of success is so vital. Whether you call it mission, purpose or anything else, it’s the call to arms for your rebellion.
Your rebellion is you, your colleagues and your customers. Because your rebellion might also be theirs.
Why customers love stories of rebels
I’m not talking about lovable rogues or lawbreakers. There is a large difference.
These are stories of rebels who approach life with curiosity, with a different slant on things, a new perspective, something diverse from the norm, but completely authentic to them.
This is the power of your rebellion, and why it all links back to telling your story. Recruit to your rebellion. Telling your story will bring recruits who share the aims and beliefs. Be unapologetic in that storytelling.
Of course, your cause will not be everyone’s cause. And that’s ok. You’re not trying to make everyone happy. You’re aiming for your version of happy and successful. Those that are with you will relate to that. It will chime with their values, with what they are doing, or wish they were doing. For some, they will live vicariously through you.
Be their daily reminder of why it’s okay to be different
Telling your story, whether it’s through blog posts, Instagram images and captions, your tweets, that’s a customer’s daily reminder that different is more than okay. Different can work, different can be successful. And also success can be different.
Let’s face it, life can be a hard slog. You need a reminder of why you’re doing this. You need reminders of what you hold dear.
By telling your story, reminding customers what’s going on with you, then you will also get reminders from them. If you’re doing it right, then they’ll tell you that you are. They might tell you what effect you’re having on them. They’ll also tell you when you’re going off course.
Your success is their success
The tribe of recruits, fellow rebels, that have gathered around your business will have a common goal. Many of your success criteria will be their criteria too. Maybe not in the detail.
One of my success criteria will be that I’ve made my way back to the Dorset coastline on a permanent basis. We might not all end up fighting over the same patch of coastline, but you might have a similar notion, so it might resonate with you.
Hiut Denim are working towards making green jeans, the lowest impact pair possible. They’re on a journey. That resonates with me, as I work out how to live in a way that cares about more than more things. I buy into what they want to do, their ways of being successful resonate with me. And they tell me about those things regularly, in interesting ways.
You don’t have to be saving the planet
This might make you think this is all about very worthy things. I worked for The Body Shop back when Anita Roddick, one of the original rebels, was still involved. She did not set up The Body Shop to save the planet. She set it up to pay the bills. The bigger purpose came later.
I created lipstick ideas for The Body Shop. Not a planet-saving idea. But sometimes it saved a person’s day from feeling rubbish, to allow them to save their own bit of their own planet, big or small. It was still only lipstick but made in ways to hopefully make the customer feel good, wearing it or buying it.
Bray’s Cottage makes the best pork pies in the world. They save their fans from mundane, awful, mass-produced pork pies. Gower Cottage does the same with brownies. Richard Budd does the same with photography, saving businesses from dull, stock photographs.
You can still have your own cause, or it can be a big cause. Or it can be your slant on the big cause. It’s your rebellion.
Tell the story
I know, you wouldn’t expect a freelance content writer to say anything else but that, would you? Of course, you can be a silent rebellion of one, undertaking daily acts of solo rebellion. But the power is in the community, and you can’t build one without telling the tales.
Think about it.
Luke Skywalker would still be running a farm on a distant planet if storytelling had not intervened.
So, what rebellion will you lead?
* Fabulous image from Vanessa Witter, available to buy, signed by her, over on Etsy. This was created for the start of the rebellion, the Women’s March of January 2017.