by Anna Wybieralska Nov 28, 2017

Learn more about what you can do for yourself to be a better marketer.

Anyone who manages to floss their teeth once a day really ought to be considered mature, right?

According to Wikipedia, the definition of psychological maturity is "the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner". Of course, that definition is open to interpretation. Depending on the environment and the people inhabiting that environment, the options for acceptable behavior might be wide-ranging. One person's 'mature' is another person's 'childish'.

As with many career paths, including a marketing professional, there is a consistent struggle between fitting in by acting appropriately and the need to stand out. So what combination of qualities and experiences are going to produce an ideal individual? Who can at the same time blend with the group yet still demonstrate individuality and innovation?

I could make a list of many qualities that describe maturity. Basically pick any combination of words that mean wise, kind, and responsible and you've got yourself a mature cocktail. But maturity is about more than just words or personality traits, it's about character development and it's about self-awareness.

How do you know if you're mature enough for marketing (or possibly life)? Here are three ways you can check in with yourself and find out.

Pretty, pretty failure

Reading about failure is more interesting than reading about success. The worst-case scenario' coming true, and the juiciest part for all of us is actually what happens after failure. What is the fallout? Did they recover? Did they learn something? What's more, the scary combination of fear and hope continues to make stories of failure extremely compelling.

You're going to make a blunder at some point during your marketing career. What's even more inevitable, is that people are going to try to tell you that your failure is really a success.
What?

Failure itself has recently become prettified. We've tried to change failure from something painful into something cathartic. We've made it part of success because without failure first, your success isn't as sweet. As we've beautified and softened failure, the 'ribbons' of lost dreams and 'bows' of lessons learned help describe the complete and well-rounded definition of the failure. It isn't just about being strong. This is a combination of accepting the pain of failure while allowing yourself to re-frame the experience. It will then become something of value.

For example, you've heard many stories about success after failure. Here's one: Rovio, the makers of the extremely popular game Angry Birds were near bankruptcy and had already made 51 unsuccessful attempts before they found the formula that worked. They may have had a happy outcome, but for every success after failure story you read, you can be sure there is a story about failure that doesn't suddenly, finally have a happy ending that results in a million-dollar deal. Instead, if you look deeper, you're more likely to find the gritty details that describe someone clawing their way back from the brink of despair through a lot of unpleasantness before they reach a state of acceptance and move on. That story is the true hallmark of failure.

So, there's no need to avoid the reality of failure or make it something that you have to pretend to enjoy. You can recognize that it has it's place and value though and according to writer Carlin Flora. "Being humbled by life experience might, in fact, be a requirement for maturity." (Florin, Carlin. "The Tortoise and The Hype." Psychology Today Aug. 2015)

So chances are, if you've ever failed and lived to tell the tale, then you're well on your way to cultivating the wisdom and instincts that will define you as mature.

Forget your plans, but make sure you're still planning

"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." (President Eisenhower)

Let me be clear, planning is essential. It's the way you discover and defines what the goals, strategies, and tasks are that need to be accomplished. Planning is continuous. Plans, on the other hand, are what you've written down. They are the documentation that was created in a moment in time and they will need to be updated.

As Pam Didner writes in her book Global Content Marketing, "(...) don't fall in love with your marketing plans. Don't get frustrated with constant changes. It's all part of the game and that is especially true in a fast-paced, changing environment."

You've got to ask a lot of questions when you're in the planning process and those questions are new each day. Adjusting your opinions and actions based on new information demonstrates an ability to be responsive, flexible and adaptable, not just reactive.

So if you haven't already, start your next marketing meeting by letting go of yesterday's plan. Wave goodbye to your previous work as you calmly replace it with your new ideas, goals, and tasks.  As a marketer, you can be sure that an important sign of maturity is accepting the fact that your plans will have to be changed, day after day.

Decide for yourself what risk is or is not

A couple of years ago, I received a fortune cookie. Inside, written on the tiny slip of paper was the question. "Do you see every opportunity as a difficulty or do you see every difficulty as an opportunity?" I taped it to the dashboard of my car and I've glanced at it many times. I was reminded by its words that it's really my perspective and attitude at any given time that will influence my experience in a more powerful way than the physical circumstances of an event or decision I have to make.

You can use the fortune cookie phrase in many ways. In this case, just replace the word 'difficulty' with 'risk'. Do you see every opportunity as a risk or do you see every risk as an opportunity?

Sure, mastering the art of risk involves measuring potential outcomes in terms of benefits or losses. Mostly, however, it's from your personal point of view. Understand your viewpoint, understand the risk. A good way to understand this concept is to remember what it was like for you in school. It's guaranteed that for some of you reading this, the thought of putting your hand up in class to answer a question was something way too risky. Some of you were probably shouting out your answers right or wrong. You decided for yourself what was the risk.

Marketing is the same. Your personal and professional experience is going to strongly influence how you measure risk. The most mature marketers are able to both consider and supersede their own limitations. They can also seek relevant advice when making high stakes decisions.

I know how you might feel right now. Perhaps you're swirling in a mix of conflicting memories. In some, you're a glowing example of a calm, bold, humble leader. You're a shining example of maturity. In other memories, you just have a hazy recollection of literally crawling into your bed and pulling the covers over you to shut out the cruel, cruel world.

Fortunately, maturity is moving as a concept. It's also a skill you can work on like any other. Some might even say that being mature is overrated. The good news is, you get to decide for yourself what maturity looks like. You can decide what it feels like and what you think are appropriate actions in any given environment. So go ahead, make a plan to dance on your office desk today and eat an ice cream cone during the weekly meeting, what's the risk?

Anna Wybieralska

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