Many years ago, I led the re-design effort for the agency.com website (not the current design). Now, if you’ve ever worked on an internal project for your company (non funded) you’ll immediately understand why I chose this headline. I was digging through some of my files and I came across this graphic. At first, I didn’t even remember why I had this. Then it all came back to me. I chose a theme for that whole project that was inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” quote.
“ ...The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,...”
I used this graphic in my team e-mails to remind ourselves that the odds were against us—but we were stepping up for a valiant cause. It was worth the fight. None of us were happy with the existing Website and everyone in the agency was complaining about it. We were even embarrassed by it. So our office decided to do something about it.
A small group of us undertook the task of re-designing the Website. In addition to working on existing clients and dealing with decision by committee. We were bloodied by late evenings. We were bruised by compromise. We were wounded by being our own worst enemies. But in the end, we successfully launched a Website that was far better than it’s predecessor. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t everything we wanted it to be. But it was solid, and we beat the odds. We launched a much improved site in spite of ourselves.
We would no longer be called “cobblers children”.
As I look back at this visual—I’m tempted to think about what a silly gesture that was. I mean, who the heck creates headers for their e-mails anyway? Especially ones that include Gladiators. But the more I think about it—the more I realize that it wasn’t a wasted gesture. That image reflects exactly how I felt at the time. It reflects how I wanted my team to feel. It reflects an attitude.
We were going to choose to fight.
Sometimes that is what it comes down to. It’s us against something. Maybe that something is unproductive politics. Maybe it’s mediocre work. Maybe it’s apathy. Maybe it’s that deadline. Maybe it’s a lack of leadership. We make choices every day. We choose to fight in what we believe in—or give in and get through the day, so we can go home to our comforts. But what if we fought that good fight? If we got good and bloody, fighting for something we believe in? What if we challenged our clients and fought for their customers? What if we defended our work the same way mythical knights defended fair maidens in fairy tales?
If we stop fighting then we stop believing. If we stop believing, then pretty soon—we stop living. So never stop fighting.