Work hard; be good to your mother

When I lived in Australia there was an ad for Pizza Hut that ran about 5 times a day for over a month. It featured Dougie the delivery guy — always on time, always courteous, always immaculately dressed. As he hands over the pizza and gets his money, he asks, “So… how’s about a tip?”

The customer thinks for a bit, starts closing the door, and then says: “Work hard; be good to your mother.”

No, you’re right, it’s not a very funny ad. Nevertheless the words have stuck in my head for over a decade now. Because I realise that in life, as in business, these might be the only two non-negotiable rules we all need to adhere to in order to be successful at what we do. Work hard. Be good to your mother.

Work hard

I recently made the mistake of using the hasthag #leadership in a tweet. I immediately got 5 auto-follows, and they all fit the same profile:

  • Their bios all had some version of the term “leadership coach” in it.
  • They all had more than 20,000 followers, and they followed almost exactly the same number of people themselves. (This is, of course, because they auto-follow everyone who mentions the word “leadership”, and automatically unfollows that person if they don’t follow back in about 3-4 days)
  • They all tweet excessively, usually through API’s that generate random “inspirational” quotes every few minutes.

They basically automated their social media presence, and fine, that works for them. But that doesn’t inspire me. Mitch Joel says the following in a brilliant post called Wanting Something:

In the end, the majority of the answer is not about the talent or the ability to pull a thought together, it’s about the commitment. The blank screen does not care… it’s agnostic. If you write, good for you. If you don’t, good for you. That being said, if you keep at it… If you use these platforms to think deeply about what you’re about and why you think your industry is the way it is, then slowly over time you’ll find your groove and your talent will shine. Sadly, most people want it fast and easy. That’s good news for those who are truly committed to it, because they’re the ones who actually get what they want.

Or, as Dave Duarte says in The Ultimate Social Media Strategy is Not Having One:

Ultimately, social media is not just a set of technologies to be mastered, it is a cultural reality to be engaged with. It promises to expose the corrupt and reveal the extraordinary, and if nothing else it is guaranteed to keep us on our toes. It is chaotic, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. So the best social media strategy, then, is not a strategy at all, it is to be purposeful, ethical, and transparent and let our communications and behaviours flow from that.

Those are the people I admire, and the ones I want to follow on Twitter and in life. The ones who show up every day, work hard to get better at what they do, and don’t look for shortcuts.

Be good to your mother

Well, not just your mother, but everyone around you. Be nice. There really is no excuse to be rude to people on Twitter or elsewhere on the web. But of course, you only have to spend 2 minutes reading comments on YouTube to give up the dream of a civil Internet forever.

In a great post on commenters online, Dmitri Fadeyev quotes the following Thomas More passage from Utopia:

Ther’s a rule in the Council that no resolution can be debated on the day that it’s first proposed. All discussion is postponed until the next well-attended meeting. Otherwise someon’s liable to say the first thing that comes into his head, and then start thinking up arguments to justify what he has said, instead of trying to decide what’s best for the community. That type of person is quite prepared to sacrifice the public to his own prestige, just because absurd as it may sound, h’s ashamed to admit that his first idea might have been wrong””when his first idea should have been to think before he spoke.

If only we could follow this rule before we reply/comment, the web would be such a nice neighborhood. Sure, it would probably be less interesting as well. And maybe I’m getting old, but I’d actually prefer nice at this point.

By the way, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticize where it’s appropriate. It just means we should be respectful when we do it. As Mike Monteiro says in Giving Better Design Feedback:

Good feedback is not synonymous with positive feedback. If something isn’t working for you, tell the design team as early as possible. Will they be hurt? Not if they are professionals. A good designer will argue for their solution, and then will know when to let go. By all means, be respectful, but don’t hold back in order to spare an individual’s feelings. Taking criticism is part of the job description. The sooner they know, the sooner they can explore other paths.

So make this your motto for a week or two, and seek out those who do the same. Who knows, maybe a nice Internet is out there after all.