How Long Can You Go?

Extreme is good. Extreme is awesome. Extreme is profitable. But when your extreme behavior is inauthentic, rooted in a desire to get attention by whatever means possible, extreme is bad – very, very, bad.

As an entrepreneur, the last thing you want to be is ordinary. The best success stories feature innovators who played up their exceptional qualities, their quirky traits, their unique approach to business. They are memorable and we like them. We like them because they are different in a really extreme way, and because they ring true.

If you’re mugging for the camera (or the masses), trying to stand out for the sake of standing out, you’re going to get pegged. People will know you’re really not that weird. You’re just pretending to be different so people will buy your stuff. You’re creating a brand that cannot be trusted, and that is the kiss of death.

And if you’re using sensational crap to get attention you’ll never be taken seriously. Scandals sell, but unless you want to write a tell-all and retreat to a tax-free island, you’d better nix those gratuitous plans and burn the evidence. Ruffling feathers and raising eyebrows might get you on Larry King, but it if you take it too far, you’ll get crossed off the list. Permanently.

Long-term success requires authenticity and shock of all shocks, decency. When people think about going extreme they often lean toward being offensive, but there are other ways to go extreme. Don’t get me wrong. Offending some is part of the game, you know you are on the right track when some turn away. But you must NOT piss off your niche… your uniqueness and quirkiness will resonate with them, not offend them.

Take Princess Diana, for example. Princess Diana took good works to the extreme, dedicating her life to people in need. She visited people who were dying of AIDS and held their hand when others wouldn’t dream of sharing the same air with them. She busted her butt for terminally ill children, raising awareness and millions of dollars. Heck, she even walked on an Angolan minefield to draw attention to the need to ban anti-personnel landmines. Talk about extreme.

How about Anna Nicole Smith? She too constantly walked the edge of extreme. A minority of us were offended to the point of discounting her, but the majority of us saw her as just extreme enough to keep consuming her “brand” over and over. She evoked emotionally loyalty through pity, oddity and even perhaps jealousy. All of us felt something about her, because we knew deep down inside she was truly being herself to an extreme. And we all felt just enough for her to catch our attention and keep it. Anna Nicole was extreme, but not offensive.

Compare these two examples of genuine extreme to the actions of say, the “stars” of Jackass, or the latest sex tape, or the “guests” of The Jerry Springer Show. Sure they’re famous for a few minutes, but how does any of that translate into real, lasting success?

Weird may work, but offensiveness never does. Your business is not a limbo contest, where the one who goes the lowest, wins. If you try to go low in order to seem extreme, you’re going to fall on your ass. Guaranteed.


1 thought on “How Long Can You Go?”

  1. I think every entrepreneur is tested, at some point (and often more than once), on “how bad do you want it?” On those dark days… when everything is going wrong… I think we can give up or we can say “how bad do I want it?”

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