To Be Of Service

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It’s not about you.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard many stories over the years of people who are surprised after meeting me in person. Maybe it’s the moody picture at the top of top of Blog or maybe it’s because I don’t write (much) about my personal life, but people tend to be surprised at how friendly and helpful I am when we meet in person. Is it bad for a marketing professional to admit that they may have a personal branding issue? We tend to project our feelings on to a situation: particularly one that can’t give us any immediate feedback. We read Blogs, follow people on Twitter, like them on Facebook, watch a couple of their videos on YouTube and then make our own judgment calls about them. We think we know them. We don’t really know them at all. If someone has any semblance of a following, we’re quick to judge that they would never have the time for us or that they have changed because of it.

It’s not about you.

Every year around this time, I treat myself. I’m privileged to attend the TED conference and I take the week to not only soak in the many fascinating people (both on stage and in attendance), but I use those few days to be extremely selfish (a direct result of this is my lighter than usual Blog posting schedule). I use those days to not only listen for new ideas and to think deeply about how we’re all connected (and what we can do to make our world a better place), but I also spend the time to align myself back to why I do what I do in the first place.

It’s not about you.

"You can’t have a strong business without a strong community." It may be gauche, but I’m quoting myself. I said this over a decade ago. Long before we had any semblance of success at Twist Image. I spent my time giving a lot of my time away to both community and industry groups with the deep belief that if we can create a strong community, creating a strong business would be the easy part. I didn’t have much money or much time back then, but I still did my best to make our community a better place. I live by a very simple belief system and it can be summed up in four words: to be of service.

It’s not about you.

As an owner of a marketing agency, our business model is much more simple than how it is described on many other agency websites. You can talk about your services, about the awards that you win or how brilliant you are at thinking up new things, but the job remains the same: to be of service to the client. At Twist Image we act as an extension of a brand’s marketing team (in some instances, we act as the entire marketing team). We are there to serve. And while it may seem cliché, if we’re not taking care of our clients, someone else will. The thing is, that when you shout this declaration of service aloud, there are individuals who don’t embrace the sanctity of it. They may make incredulous asks that are self-serving and selfish, thinking that if a response isn’t given, then they can cry wolf ("see, Mitch didn’t give me any free advice… he’s so selfish!"). Silly, isn’t it? Being of service is not about turning marketing tricks for anyone and everyone that asks. When you are truly working in service of others, it is a very deep, powerful and subtle two-way street.

It’s not about you.

How are you of service? I’m not being judgmental here or looking for you to fill the comment section below with your resume of community service and good deeds. I’m asking you to take some time (like I did this week) to realign how you interact with the world around you. Yes, there are times when I’m selfish, mean-spirited and a little too self-involved, but I have the humility to know when I’m acting this way (and – more often than not – I’m not all that impressed with that version of me). TED is always a highlight of the year for me. It’s got little to do with the speakers and even less to do about being in a room with some very wealthy, famous and brilliant individuals, but it’s got everything with do with me and a moment of selfishness that allows me to give pause, think deeply and dream about new ways to be of service to you. And, in case you were wondering, you don’t need to attend TED to feel and think about this. You can get up (right now) from your computer, grab a Moleskine and your favorite pen and go to a library or museum. Look around for an hour or two and then find a quiet corner to start dreaming. Dream beyond you, your next promotion or the next quarter of business and start dreaming about what your community needs to grow and flourish (today and tomorrow). Grapple with the concepts and push yourself.

Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about us.


  1. Excuse me while I have two conversations.
    To Mitch – Thank-you for your continued support as a great friend, colleague, collaborator and mentor.
    To Six Pixels readers – One thing you may not know about Mitch Joel is his remarkably quick sense of humor. The guy is a hoot – yes, I said, a hoot! A drink-through-the-nose funny dude! Oh, and talk to him about music and you will unearth one of his other true passions.

  2. Mitch – When I finally met you in person (after a talk just before your book launch) you were patient, kind and generous, just like you are on this blog and the SPOS podcast.
    Guys like you and Seth and Avinash push me to think and poke and prod and question and figure out how I can add value and service to the world.
    Thank you.

  3. Just stumbled upon this post. It is the first one I am reading after returning from TEDActive. You are so right. It is about US and it is so inspiring to be with 600 people who feel the same way. (there were > 200 TEDx organizers at TEDActive)
    I am taking Susan Cain’s advice and having a little more contemplative silence before charging forward and inspiring the team to present the best TEDx event yet in Atlanta, my home city.
    Wishing you all the best and perhaps next year you will consider Palm Springs.

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