What Color Is Your Belt?

No, this is not a mind-trick. It’s a way to think about sales, and life, and the endless art of doing what we do, but better.

In a sales session last week, the consultant asked if we knew why the black belt is black.“It’s the dirt,” he said, and mimed how hands tie a belt, over and over. “From the 10,000 times you’ve wrapped and knotted it.”

Nearly 35 five years into this business – my first 10 as a reporter and the next almost-25 a PR strategist – it’s easy to get caught in what I know, and stew over what I don’t. For me, the challenge – and delight – is uncovering the new, because it’s what inspires me and keeps me going.

At the same time, it’s easy to forget, or diminish, what we already know. Just maintaining anything resembling excellence demands continual, unswerving, practice. That’s always been true, but now so more than ever, because everything’s constantly changing.

Consider a news release. Its SEO optimized, socially friendly self had better drive traffic, downloads and shares – or it’s not hitting the bar; the raw product bears almost no resemblance to what passed as quality goods even 18 months ago.

All of us like to believe we pursue excellence, at least most of the time. And that’s all of us, not just those of us here at Corporate Ink. But excellence comes at a price – endless practice, along with never standing still. These things are at odds with each other, but that’s the new reality. Being only ‘good enough’ will marginalize you, fast.  And if you’re even a little bit unlucky, put you out of business.

We see it all the time: Good ideas with questionable development. Great ideas with uncertain markets. Terrific products with faulty leadership. Launch programs that don’t swing for the fences.

Getting to black means blunt honesty, as well as grace. And practicing what we know, until it’s ingrained in every strand of fabric. And then we keep turning to the future, because yesterday’s sweat and grime won’t be enough tomorrow.