Do you know or remember the song MacArthur Park?
The laconic Irish actor, Richard Harris, who played King Arthur in Camelot way back in the 70’s sang it. He had to employ an army of sopranos to sing the closing chorus because there was no way he was going to meet those notes. Ever. The lyrics are crazy.
MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll neeeeeeeever have that recipe again. Oh nooooooooo.
It is a beautiful, melodic, and completely nonsensical song described in Wikipedia thus: ‘Although it was a commercially successful song multiple times after it was released, MacArthur Park used flowery lyrics and metaphors (most famously, lost love being likened to a cake left out in the rain) that were considered by media such as the Los Angeles Times to be ‘polarizing’ and ‘loopy.’
Sweet green icing
The composer, Jimmy Webb, said about writing the song, ‘back then I was kind of like an emotional machine. Whatever was going on inside me would bubble out from the piano onto paper’.
As an entrepreneur or business owner, have you experienced exactly the same feeling? Whatever is going on inside your creative head just bubbles out as another Brilliant Shimmering Offer (BSOs)? Just like sweet green icing with an after taste just as gross!
Did it take forever to bake? Soggy, sticky, and a mess, was it carelessly abandoned like poor Jimmy’s lost love? Any chance you can, or even want to, find the recipe again?
Baby, BSO’s or pivoting
Recently, I was chatting with a business friend about the value of my offer.
As we talked, he offered his advice. ‘Don’t be resigned, and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, or get sucked into looking for more BSOs,’ he warned.
I thought about it and realized I wasn’t going to do any of those.
Resigned is how you feel when you’re doing something you don’t want to do anymore. You’re looking for a way out. You feel stuck. Done that.
Throwing that poor baby out with the bathwater means starting out all over again. Done that too.
Getting Siren-called toward another Brilliant Shimmering Offer? Many times.
Pivoting? Changing axis and swivelling in a different direction? Yes. ‘But this time’, I said, ‘it’s different because it’s pivoting on purpose, and in principle’.
Loopy or principled?
As evocative as MacArthur Park is as a song, its sentiments are ‘loopy’ just the same.
Too often the investment we put into pivoting – a new direction, a new offer, or a different business – is just as loopy, when it’s not underpinned by purpose and principle.
We run our businesses by principles or immutable laws. An over-arching purpose governs them. Processes and behaviors that dictate the culture of what we offer support them. All our positioning statements originate from them.
They determine why and for whom we work.
The mistakes our clients make before they work with us will be because they haven’t adhered to one or all of the principles by which we operate. That’s what makes our offer appealing.
For example, clarity is my first principle. If a client is suffering Multiple Possiblity Disorder (MPD) or is uncertain of what their best business model is, they need clarity, as its absence will cost them dearly.
Paying a king’s ransom for a website that fails them is a mistake too. It says they weren’t clear about their online intentions to begin with.
The business cascade
I’ve come to think of a sound business eco-system as a cascade.
First – clarity
It starts with this hard work of clarity. The opposite of spontaneous, sweet green icing flowing down, top of mind, bubbling-out thinking.
Although, very often people find it easier, even when it’s sticky, to live in creative and spontaneous chaos, because clarity is confronting and hard.
Clarity is rarely a priority. Which is surprising given you can’t achieve much of any worth without it. Without clarity, you can’t clearly define and own your purpose, consolidate your intention for getting something done, or get to grips with your principles.
Second – purpose and intention
Much of eloquence has been said about doing business on purpose. Still, it’s surprising how few people can articulate exactly why they do what they do for whom.
It’s hard, digging that deep.
But purpose is life-guiding. If you can say ‘I believe that . . .’ and you do, it’s extraordinary what you’ll accomplish under its banner.
Then when you link an intention to your purpose, it compels action toward achieving your desired reality. Clarity of intention fans the desire to act, because it informs exactly why you do what you do for whom.
Third – principles
If your purpose is the roof of your business temple, the pillars that support it are your principles.
Here are some examples of principles at work.
A Pilates trainer I work with, Katrina Edwards of Aligned for Life Pilates, has as her first principle, rapport.
Nothing she does, from the moment she starts a dialogue with a potential client, to working with them to achieve their physical and mental outcomes, can happen without engaging in a deep and continuing rapport.
Rapport extends to her staff, students and the public. It guides all her business’s communications. When she talks about it, she lights up. There is no end to the content she can generate around this principle. She cannot deliver her best work without it. Nor can any of her staff.
This is different to values. A principle like rapport would inform the values by which she and her staff implemented it, such as listening, consideration, best practice etc.
The charity I founded, CreateCare Global to help suffering orphans has as its first principle, creativity. We are creative in everything we empower or facilitate others to do, the changes we enable, the stories we tell, and the compassionate responses we make.
With principles like these in place, every thought and action builds toward it from product development to partnering with others, from getting it right online to positioning and telling stories.
You can see how if you pivot, based on your principles, you’re not diverting energy, but building on what you have already established as a rock solid foundation for any new new offer.
Based on such an ecosystem, opportunities will trip over themselves in the rush to reach your door first. People, events and experiences will keep intersecting with you, your purpose and intention.
Indeed, this is exactly what has happened to many of the people I have worked with who have established a purpose and the principles that support them.
When you pivot in principle, it’s not a loopy investment.
We have recently pivoted, but on purpose and in principle. I look forward to sharing this event with you soon.
We feel reasonably assured that nothing will melt away in the dark or be carelessly left out in the rain. No time and no recipe will be lost. No sweet green icing will flow down*.
We’d love to hear from you about your pivots – what worked and what didn’t. Please tell us your story in the comments.
* With thanks to Richard Harris and Jimmy Webb, for years of teenage girlhood spent mournfully mooning over these lyrics, trying desperately to make them fit to whatever painful boyfriend episode I was undergoing. And apologies to my readers for continuing to contrive a meaning from them in an otherwise sound business discussion. It just, like, kinda bubbled out!