PROMOTE OR INSPIRE: which will you choose to do?

Casey Neistat at the STORY Conference watching one of his videos from behind the on-stage podium. PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremiah Warren @jeremiahjw

Casey Neistat at the STORY Conference watching one of his videos from behind the on-stage podium. PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremiah Warren @jeremiahjw

I had the opportunity to hear from Casey Neistat last Friday at a conference in Nashville. I was aware of Casey, but not fully dialed in to his body of work, his life story, and certainly not his telling of leaving an HBO series to focus on creating no-frills YouTube videos.

He was funny, engaging, and even a little brash but in a charming kind of way, and this video about bike lanes in New York City seemed to perfectly punctuate who I thought he was.

And then he chose to show us a vastly different video.

One that made me pause and ask:

What do we really want to convey to our audience?

Or maybe the better question to ask is:

What are we afraid to share with our audience?

In this age of story, products and services are becoming less interesting on face value. Yet the words on the wall – mission, vision, values – those things we say we stand for and that matter most, too often serve as business prerequisites rather than ideals to live out every day. It begs me to want to ask:

To the nonprofit, how are you serving your audience beyond the dollars of the coveted donor?

From the toothbrush maker to the business incubator, how are you really making lives better?

To the inspirational speaker who shares the remarkable experiences of others, will others point to your experiences as a source of inspiration?   

To the CEO and the chief marketer of AnyCompany USA, are you willing to break the rules? Will you give people a powerful reason to believe in you – not because the marketing is stellar and the plea suggests it’s worth the risk, but because you’ve continually taken the risks to prove you’re worth it?

To all of us who are confined by the built-in metrics of the tools we use, and fear to step out and do things that aren’t easily measured, isn't it time we swerve outside of the lane we’ve been traveling?

These are not criticisms of what we've done, but challenges to all of us about what we might consider doing differently. Each day we have the opportunity to promote our work. We also have the opportunity to inspire others through the work we do. The choice can be as subtle or dramatic as we see fit, but the choice is our ours.

Kudos to Casey for the having the audacity to lay out a vision that inspired before it promoted, and that cut against the grain of conventional wisdom. And kudos to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation for making the right decision. Film trailers are to be forgotten, but the way we impact and inspire others through our intentional actions... that's worth remembering and, every now and then, becomes the stuff of movies.