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Go on the offensive

Go on the offensive

Yet another gem from Gary Vee.

It was something he said in passing, talking about business and social media – It’s either you are on the offensive, going out there and conquering ground, or you are on the defensive, pulling back, trying to protect the little that you have, making excuses for why you can’t win.

And that is really a statement about life isn’t it? There are two options, two main ways of existing. It is either you are on the offensive or you are on the defensive. You are either conquering or being conquered, by life, by the unfair conditions, by other players, by your excuses.

It is the difference between those who get what they want and those who don’t. It is the difference between the warriors and the slaves. To get what you want, you have to fight for what you want. You can sit around waiting for an opportunity or you can go right ahead and create opportunity. You can be proactive, pushing your agenda, or you can be reactive, being at the whims of everyone else.

Too many times, we wait around for something to happen to us. We wait for the opportunity to fall in our lap, for the situation to resolve itself. We live as victims of our own lives. But we have the potential to be so much more.

It starts with the shift in mentality.

You have to move from the defensive to the offensive.

The key to possessing this supreme power is to assume the active mode in dealing with your fears. This means entering the very arenas you normally shy away from: making the very hard decisions you have been avoiding, confronting the people who are playing power games with you, thinking of yourself and what you need instead of pleasing others, making yourself change the direction of your life even though such a change is the very thing you dread. – 50 Cent & Robert Greene (The 50thLaw)

Sometimes things do fall in our laps. Sometimes we do get lucky. But…

Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Failure is not an option.

To be on the offensive means to be actively moving towards your goals. It means to do the work. It means making the product. It means building the platform. It means networking and connecting with the people. It means searching relentlessly for the job, and while doing so, doing everything you can to make a buck. If you can’t get the job, then you will be the job. It means being awake to the reality of the world and attacking it as it is.

To the warrior on the offensive, there is simply no excuse that will do. The problems are not problems, they are obstacles that will be removed, climbed over or dug under or chipped away. Either way, the only acceptable result is winning. You can let your problems stop you, or you can rise to be bigger than your problems. The choice is up to you.

They can take away your resources, they can take away your choices, they can frustrate you. But they cannot take your mind, or your will and resolve.

To be proactive, is to set a goal in mind, a vision, and act in direct relation to that. Steadily, consistently. It means to take initiative, by yourself, even when you are not prompted to. It means to start. It means to create. It means launching. It means drawing a line in the sand and planting your flag. It means claiming your territory.

It means being awake. It being keenly aware of opportunities. It means increasing the odds of your success with relentless effort. It means doing the things that will actually move the needle. It is going above and beyond the call of duty.

Not to say that you will succeed. You will make mistakes and you will fail. But you will correct them, and you will keep going.

Some mistakes will be made along the way, that is good. Because at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we’ll find the mistakes, and fix them. – Steve Jobs

Your efforts on the offensive will sometimes land you in hot water, you will run into brick walls and obstacles. You will push, and the world will push back. But if you keep on learning and pushing, soon the world will yield.

What’s the alternative?

Being on the defensive? Complaining about how hard things are? Being bitter about the way things are today and the state of the economy or the attention landscape? What good will that bring you except coddle your fragile ego?

There will be a time for being defensive. There is a time for everything under the sun. Sometimes you will be on the offensive, doing things and expanding your reach. Other times you will be on the defensive. But you can only defend when there is something to defend. Are you defending your empire, your home, the life you are creating or you defending your excuse?

The best defence is a good offense.

So, go on the offensive this week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Do something you have never done before. Take a bold step, put yourself out there, reach further than you have ever reached before. That is how you will get what you want.

Thoughts on Absa’s rebrand

Thoughts on Absa’s rebrand

Sometime mid-June, I was working with colleagues on a presentation that was going to Absa and we were confused about whether to use the Barclay’s blue or the Absa red as the basis for the document. After a bit of research, I found out Absa was actually going to be relaunching a brand-new look in July. I was intrigued to see what the unveiling would be, and yesterday, it was officially launched.

My first encounter with the new brand was seeing a tweet from Absa in the morning, I tapped the profile picture and saw the new red logo on white background. My knee jerk impression was ‘hmmmm, this quite the departure from the previous look’. It looks weird, looks a bit amateurish, slightly clumsy, but different and friendlier, a bit more accessible.

Brand unveilings never go off without a hitch, and true to form, I saw quite a few people ripping it to shreds on social media. Some people said it looked like a WhatsApp status. Others said it looked lazy or like no time was spent on it. The vitriol in some of those comments were…well this is the internet.

But first impressions are not always correct, and certainly the shock of change is real and takes time to wear off while we get used to it. So, after more exploration and inspection of the rest of the brand and its application, and watching the Absa/Intel drone show, and updating my banking app…I like it. I like it a lot.

Let me explain why.

To appreciate a rebrand, you have to understand its context. What happened before? Why the need for this change? To evaluate a rebrand, you have to understand the intent and what they are trying to achieve now. Does the execution do justice to the intention?

Absa’s Past

I thought Absa was a very old brand, but the company is only about 27 years old, with the previous iteration of the brand about 20 years old. Introduced in 1998, Absa had this this very straightforward, corporate, blue chip vibe. Absa was a conservative brand, like the old uncle. Not uncool, just serious and down to business. Everything you would expect from a banking brand in the past era.

Such a brand essence feels dated in today’s climate of technology and the internet. We are getting used to brands becoming more human, more sympathetic and friendlier. Brands are understanding that they can’t just talk down to their customers form on high. They have to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

The present banking space is dominated by the main 5 – FNB, ABSA, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Capitec. As far as innovation and brand excitement go, FNB has been leading the pack for a while. Unveiling exciting new campaigns, products and ways to bank. Capitec has delighted its customers with great features, fees and benefits. Standard Bank does a lot of brand activation activities and events, but nothing readily comes to mind around its actual products or services so the brand still feels a bit stagnant. Nedbank…I don’t know much about Nedbank, except that they have a deep green hue and seem more focused on corporate investment banking and wealth management.

(Disclaimer: I have been with Absa for over a decade and so I have interfaced with that brand the most. I put together this piece rather quickly so I haven’t done an exhaustive comparative on all the players in the space. These are my just thoughts and impressions off the cuff)

 

 

Sometime in 2015 or so, there were rumours floating that Absa was going to rebrand to Barclays Africa, and it was going to trade as that. Some rebranding efforts went underway, Noticeable in a new website and banking app. However, by last year, Barclays pulled out of Africa recently, reducing their stake in Absa. Absa shifted from a European-owned financial group to become a proudly African firm. For the first time in 15 years, they have the opportunity to chart a new course and offer a new narrative. Where would they go with it?

 

The New Absa Strategy

Absa tackled their rebrand process in an inclusive journey involving over 130 000 employees, clients, customers, consumers and stakeholders, collecting ideas from within as opposed to leaving it solely in the hands of top brass.

So, what is the result of this process? What is Absa’s response to its newly found freedom and this present banking landscape?

To drive growth by going more human.

At the core of the Absa strategy is growth. They want to increase revenue and regain market share, focusing on retail and business banking, corporate and investment banking, rest of Africa, and wealth management and insurance.

 

 

Looking at their strategic outlook, you can see 3 main priorities,

  1. Creating a thriving organization– focusing on culture creation, becoming people-centric, becoming customer centric, and empowering ownership internally
  2. Restoring leadership in core businesses– in retail, becoming the business bank of choice, winning in corporate investment banking, wealth management, etc.
  3. Build pioneering new propositions– superior consumer finance, a leading global payments hub and a winning transaction banking platform

In summary, be more people centric, regain market share, and create new solutions that match the new digital economy and climate.

With this in mind, let us look at the visual branding.

 

The new logo

For a logo to be deemed successful it has to be simple, scalable, memorable, versatile and relevant. In today’s landscape, brand touchpoints range from the big (buildings and billboards) to the tiny (the app icon on your screen). In addition to all of that, logos now also need to be responsive, shape-shifting and adapting to different scales without loss of recognition. I think the new Absa logo does fairly well in reference to those requirements. Although I would argue the previous logo collapsed better to its main icon, the stylised ‘A’.

The logo is circular. I like circular logos. They are balanced and self-contained, and generally iconic. They  work well in the digital/app environment. The broken circle motif is interesting, I’m not entirely sure the exact rationale for that, but it does lend a feeling of movement and is expandable into various brand applications. I think it really comes to life when it is animated. The broken circle in motion is a very digital native sign and speaks to the idea of ‘loading’.

The typeface is what I had the most problem with at first. Looks like a lowercase Ubuntu, with some adjustments, especially with the ‘s’. I’m just not a huge fan, the letters seem a bit bulky and overly rounded. I prefer more crisp, clean modern fonts, but I would imagine this choice does lend it a bit more approachability, a bit more mass appeal than a clinical look and feel. It is a friendly feeling font.

Like I said, the brand launched to cries of ‘lazy!’ And ‘my 5 year old daughter and her dog could have come up with this!’. But the fact that a logo is simple does not mean that the process to get there was simple. It can take hundreds of iterations and options to get to a final logo, and the success of a brand is not just about the logo itself, but how it is applied across all touch points. The new logo might be simple, (which is a good thing for modern brands) but it is also more dynamic with a wider range of application than the old logo, expanding to conversational brackets or even smiley faces.

Also they just launched WhatsApp banking  as well so if you think the logo looks like a WhatsApp status, maybe they just tryna tell you something…

Colours

 

 

Absa maintained the colour red, but a slightly different shade from the previous red they had before. I’m cool with that. There is plenty brand equity in the colour. Red has been synonymous with Absa. Previously chosen for its association with excitement and energy, now it has the added meaning of being an ‘African’ colour – warm tones and all.

ABSA has moved from just the plain red, to a wider range of hues keeping with the African theme and giving the brand more room to express itself. I dig it.

 

 

 

Imagery / Application

The introduction video shows us a glimpse into the visual style of the new brand. It is fun, it is warm, it is exciting, it is colourful, it is vibrant. The feeling of future facing optimism is palpable in the animations, the imagery and the song.

 

Slogans

With the new look, Absa has also moved from its ‘Prosper’ Campaign and now has two slogans.

The first is ‘Africanacity’ which they define as the ‘distinctly African ability to always find ways to get things done’ and the second slogan, ‘Brave. Passionate. Ready’ describes their new-found attitude.

I find the word ‘Africanacity’ a bit clumsy, but I do like the sentiment, and will probably get used to saying it if I just say it like 10 times in a row.

Absa also has a new purpose statement – ‘bringing your possibilities to life’. They want to help you make ‘what is possible real’. As you can see with the ad placement below, Absa is embracing the future, embracing technology with optimism, finding ways to help people get things done despite all odds.

 

In conclusion, I think the rebrand was done well. I like the new logo, I like the new look and feel, and I like the overall strategic direction. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, let’s see if the Absa experience lives up to the promise of its new brand.

What are your thoughts on the rebrand?

Success does not always look like success

Success does not always look like success

What do you think about when you think of success? Something big right? Like buying that house or buying the car. Hitting that number in the account or starting that family. Maybe it is bagging that degree, or chilling on a yacht sipping mimosas. Perhaps you more inclined to having a successful career or business as your benchmark for success.

Awesome stuff.

We work diligently towards the big moments, the time when all our work culminates in something tangible. We daydream of the championship moment, the winning second. We desire some pomp and ceremony, whether it is the celebratory party or the humble brag Instagram post.

And they are wonderful.

However, in between our beginnings and these moments of climax lie the long days and nights of work, of mis-steps, of dashed hopes, disappointments or just plain mundanity. We face the thankless work, and unexciting grind. In this vast swath of dirt, we also find some glittering gems, the small wins.

The big moments we crave, the ones that we look to and pin all our hopes on, they add up to a handful, a baker’s dozen at most compared to the vast ocean of the trickling sand of day to day life. And that is why we celebrate them so much. They are rare, they are hard won. They are huge, and they are wonderful, they come with the euphoric rush and make for incredibly Instagram-able moments.

But as soon as they come, they go. We rise high and then float back to earth and are off to the next thing.

But while we grind and work towards those moments, the process does come with some rewards. Cups of refreshing drink as we run the marathon if you will. Sometimes, success doesn’t look like pomp and celebration. Sometimes, success looks like progress.

It is in the slight differences between our ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics two months into consistently putting work at the gym. It is realizing you are now able to complete a task in half the time it used to take you. It is getting deeper into your craft and understanding it on an increasingly deeper level.

Success is not just the big moments, it is also the small wins. The ones we tend to discount because they are not marked with fireworks in the sky.

The small win encourages us. It lets us know that all the blood and sweat so far is not for naught. It reminds us to stay strong, it inspires us to take up more, and to tackle the areas we have slacked.

The small wins are worth paying attention to and celebrating, because life is not about the big break, it’s about the many tiny breaks that add up to something great over time.

Sometimes success even looks like failure.

Shekinah is now an award-winning artist, but she first burst into our collective consciousness when she came second place at Idols SA in 2012.

So, it’s not necessarily about the win or loss, it is about what you do with it. Sometimes failing can be the best thing, because it can have the seeds of your breakthrough. Many successful companies and products have their roots in failure. Twitter pivoted from a podcast subscription network called Odeo to what we know it as now. Tesla probably exists now from soil made fertile by Better Place’s failure.

Thomas Edison said that Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. In the same way success doesn’t always look the way we think success should look. Our focus must remain on doing the things that count, maintaining the action that increases the odds that we will get what we want.

Just do it

Just do it

Fuck your gonna

– Gary Vaynerchuk

That was the closing statement of one of Gary’s videos I watched the other day.

I really hate to reference the same person twice in a row on these blogs. But Gary is dope af, and at this point, I am writing these just before I post them, so they are more snap shots of my mind at the time of writing as opposed to pre-determined topics which I do sometimes. For the first time in weeks, I’m organically inspired to write.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about action. And last week, a few things happened to reinforce those thoughts as something to explore further. One of the things was watching the abovementioned video. Then there was a statement Thuli made during our Monday huddles with CREA8, something along the lines of ‘you have learnt enough and talked enough, it’s time to do’. Then one of the many mails I get from Tai Lopez was on the danger of self-improvement as a placebo for action.

Self-help is a huge billion-dollar industry. And these days, it seems a new self-proclaimed guru pops up every 24 hours. There is always a new course, a new book, a new mastermind, a new Instagram account, a new magic bullet.

Once you get hit with your first taste, the book that changes your perspective, the speaker that fills you with the powerful hope that you can indeed do anything you put your mind to, it is easy to become an insight junkie, forever searching for the next idea, the next revelation or epiphany. The one that will change everything and transform you radically.

The dopamine hit we get from learning new ideas can get us addicted in non-productive ways.

Learning is crucial, and sometimes it does takes one moment, one insight to kick your ass into gear and truly change everything. It can be the glowing embers that light your life ablaze. But it is also easy and dangerous to get lost in the vast vortex of self-improvement and mistake insight for change.

Don’t equate the belief that you can take action with actually taking action

– Nelson Quest

Knowledge is potential power. Action makes it real.

Learning is easy, it makes us feel like we are doing something. Doing is hard. It isn’t sexy. It takes relentless commitment and hard work. It takes sacrifice. It means killing your old self and letting the new emerge.

Self improvement is masturbation. Now self destruction…

– Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Before this week, I have been pondering and occasionally lamenting to whoever would listen that I seemed to have lost interest in reading for a while now, maybe for about 2 months. Which is weird to go through for me, but also not too unexpected as I am the type to cycle between extremes.

So, I haven’t really read books in a while. I was busy working my way through Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, and Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA, and I just stopped cold. Sure, I got quite busy and consumed with finishing off client projects, and then I burned out and then had to rest and spend the recent two weeks finding my way back. So that’s probably the real reason.

But I’ve also mentioned on this blog, now and again, the general feeling of being over reading, and listening and absorbing and studying. I’m tired of learning, now I just want to do.

And that is what your study must birth, a desire and a bias towards action. Too many times, our learning just stays learning. But as faith without works is dead, so is education without action.

You just have to do. You have to taste the berries, as Gary would say. You won’t know what they really taste like by reading about it, listening to podcasts about it, watching YouTube videos about berries, what they taste like and how to taste them. It is fine to learn, but at some point, you just will have to pop the berries in your mouth and sink your teeth into them.

It is only then you will know the burst of flavour, the ensuring sweetness, the crunch of the seeds between your teeth, and the awkward but necessary task of spitting them out. The description of the experience, no matter how profound and detailed can never compare to the actual experience.

And that is what we must do. We have to do.

But where to start, you ask? Start from anywhere.

How to start? Start by doing it badly.

Just start.

Even when you fail, and you will fail. Start again. Start as many times as you need to.

Each action teaches you in you a way you could never learn from books. It is visceral, it changes you physically, it seeps into your bones. It gets wired into your brain. Learning expands your awareness, but it is action that transforms you.

Sure books can guide you, but your heart defines you.

– Jay Z (Beach Chair) Kingdom Come

Sure, the books are important. Learn all you can. It shows you what is possible. It cuts your learning curve and can help you avoid some mistakes. There is no need to re-invent the wheel unnecessarily. It is important to learn from the people who have gone the way before you. It is key to stand on the shoulder of giants and leverage the experiences of your predecessors.

But don’t let preparation become procrastination. There is a time for everything under the sun, you must embrace the time for action too. Even with your heart pounding in your chest, the sound of blood rushing against your eardrums and the butterflies in your stomach, you must move forward, run across the board and jump…

You must do.

And you will do.

For a while, you will take action, and you will get punched in the mouth. Some of your plans will go off brilliantly. Others will fail miserably. Most of it will be met with deafening indifferent silence. But you will do. And that ‘doing’ will teach you even more. You will confirm some theories and be forced to relinquish others. You will learn even more about yourself.

And after all that doing, you will take some time to rest. You will pull back to evaluate. You will have changed; your mind will have changed. You will tweak your strategy a bit, you will go back to studying to learn even more, to go even deeper. You will have new questions, new challenges. You will need more wisdom, maybe some unlearning and re-learning. And then you will rise up again and re-enter the arena. You will take another crack at it.

And so, it would go, learning and practice, education and action. Sometimes concurrently, sometimes one after the other in a continual cycle, each giving rise to and feeding the other.

Until you get what you want.

Be patient, it always takes longer than you think.

Be patient, it always takes longer than you think.

If there is one thing I’ve come to see over the years of working and living is that generally, things tend to take longer than you think and certainly longer than you’d like. From small things like the design jobs I work on, to the bigger long-term projects, they can seem to drag on and on, and then life gets in the way and you lose focus.

To remain focused and consistent in the face of a seemingly unending struggle is sometimes a herculean task. But it is one that must be handled if you will succeed. Because that is part of the dip, that long chasm between desire and fulfillment. It is a battle, it is war.

There is a quote I often mention to my friends, that ‘the work belongs to you, but the results belong to God’. It is an admonishment and an exhortation to focus on what you control.

You can’t control when certain things will happen. You can’t control when that deal will come through, or if it will come through. All you can focus on is doing everything that is within your power – preparing, poking holes in your strategy and fixing them, making your case stronger, improving your art, improving your marketing and persuasion. You just have to do all you can, patiently waiting for your turn, ready for the moment Lady Luck smiles on you.

But where does the line fall between being patient and wasting time? It is a tough one for sure. Your being patient with your situation might mean that you are not being proactive enough or doing things that will move the needle forward towards your aims. But sometimes the right and hardest thing to do is nothing. Sometimes all you must do is wait and let the situation resolve itself, let the weather pass, let the opportunity present itself. Other times you must take initiative.

Whatever we choose, whatever the right action to be taken, it is important to remain vigilant. Because if you lose sight of what you are trying to achieve, if you begin to drift, you will soon enough find yourself caught off course and unawares. Be patient but stay vigilant on the goal.

There is the parable in the bible about the bridesmaids and the oil. The entire party is waiting on the groom and he takes forever to arrive. But eventually he does, and when he does, half the party has burned through their oil and can’t light their lamps. The other half were vigilant and better prepared with extra oil and were able to continue with lit lamps into the celebration because they remained goal focused even in the midst of a severely delayed plan.

And that is a form of persistence, not merely of action, but a keen presence of mind.

What do you do when you are blocked? When you are stopped, and all you can do is wait? What do you do when you are forced to take a break? When even though it’s all you want to do, you just can’t move forward yet? Do you give up and lose steam, or do you lean in and use this gift anyway?

Ryan Holiday shares Robert Greene’s distinction between alive time and dead time. The difference between the two is what you do with it.  What do you do with your waiting time? Are you passive, letting your skills atrophy? Do you lose your momentum, or do you find some use for the time you have? Do you keep studying and honing the skills? Do you keep learning? Do you keep preparing, do you stay sharp?

Gary Vaynerchuk has the mantra of ‘Macro Patience, Micro Speed’, it is an incredible encapsulation of a deep-rooted truth, that in the long run, things just take time, that’s why you have to take the wide view, the macro view. But in the day to day, you have to act, you have to hustle, you have to be vigilant. You have to stay hungry and motivated.

That is the dichotomy, the paradox. To make haste, but slowly. To do all you can do today, and this year, but knowing that your dream might take months, or years or decades. In all that, you must play the time, you must keep on working towards the goal. It is a long-term commitment to perpetually being excellent in the short term. It is not easy, but it is necessary if you will get what you want.