Trust, like DNA, is an integral part of our lives. We trust that the little green piece of paper with Alexander Hamilton’s face on it will actually buy us $10 worth of goods. We trust that citizens will obey the law—and that the people who make those laws have our collective best interest at heart.
Trust also plays an essential role in creativity. When I write a speech for a CEO comparing careers to aerosol cans (“contents under pressure” in both cases), I trust that he’ll at least consider the idea. And if he doesn’t like it, he’ll give me another crack at the speech—Draft Two.
But if he does like it (and he did), then maybe somewhere down the road, I’ll come up with an even crazier idea. And he’ll find himself giving a speech that opens with a business school-type case study—taken right from the plot of The Sound of Music.
Without faith in your writers? That’s a recipe for boring communications. You rehash the same old talking points in the same ways. Zzzzzz.
Now, I’m not saying to trust anyone with a laptop and a dream to write you a speech. Ronald Reagan used to love quoting an old Russian proverb: “Trust, but verify.” (Remember when Republicans mistrusted Russia?)
Trust and Alice Cooper
And that brings me to “the godfather of shock rock,” Alice Cooper. He gained fame in the 1970s for his outrageous persona; this year, though you may have missed it (I did), he mounted a presidential campaign.
Tim Ferriss interviewed Cooper’s manager Shep Gordon recently. Gordon told some entertaining stories of trying to drum up publicity for Cooper in the early days. At one point, he convinced his client to enter a stadium concert by being shot out of a cannon. Gordon alerted the media and the concert sold out.
Only problem: every rehearsal of the stunt flopped spectacularly,
and they were running out of time. The press would be covering the final dress rehearsal, the night before the concert.
Gordon says, “Now this is a time when most managers and artists would be choking each other to death.” But Cooper just asked, “Can you cover it?” And the manager stayed up all night thinking.
At the dress rehearsal, Alice Cooper climbed into the cannon as scheduled. But the cannon exploded, so instead of filming him flying across the stadium, the TV cameras showed him being loaded into an ambulance and sped to the nearest hospital.
A while later they announced that Cooper insisted on doing the concert the next night. Gordon says:
“We did the show with him in a wheelchair. And nurses, doctors, giving him plasma. Nothing happened to him; it was all a setup. But the front page of the paper was how great Alice Cooper was. What other artist in the world would come and do a show for his audience in a wheelchair?”
Gordon concludes: “So out of that failure came even a stronger bond.”
“Failures are almost more important than the successes.”
Failure and success “are tied so closely together in the creative world,” Gordon says. “You need to allow [people] to fail or they’ll never really win.”
Do you have the courage to fail? Don’t worry—not many people do. But you can discover more about it during my free webinar “The Courage to Communicate.” Wednesday November 30th at 8pm Eastern, 5pm Pacific.