My biggest lesson learned of 2023
👉 any my "cartoon secret"
This is the last of my “lessons from 2023” - and it’s possibly the biggest. it’s certainly the one I learned in the most different ways.
I’d like to explain it by talking about the little cartoons I use in my emails.
In all honesty, I started using cartoons by accident. When I first started on Substack I realised I needed thumbnails for my emails as they’re shown on your Substack home page.
I wanted something consistent to create a sort of brand. And coincidentally my friend Lee had been on a cartooning course and had started drawing mad scientists and motorbiking badgers to use on his website - and I’d been super impressed.
(Don’t tell him I said that though).
I was also in a kind of lighthearted mood at the time and getting a bit sick of how full of themselves and overly serious every so-called expert on Twitter and Linkedin was getting.
I’d had some success getting attention with some pop art images on my Linkedin profile and in presentations - so I thought “why not? let’s try a cartoon”.
Not being blessed with any artistic talent at all, I headed over to my Stock image site of choice, Depositphotos, and searched around for cartoons.
And rather fortuitously, I found an artist (ArtKatana) who had done a whole series of a hundred or so cartoons that were in a vaguely businessy theme.
So I bought and downloaded a huge bunch of them.
Today, whenever I write an email I just scan through my selection, cut them to the right size. Maybe add some text or an animation. And I’m done in a couple of minutes.
And believe me, people notice them. I get more emails about my images than practically anything else. Including one yesterday which prompted this newsletter (thank you Terri!).
The cartoons have gone from being something I did on a whim because I needed thumbnails for Substack to something people notice and remember me for. Perhaps even look forward too.
Now here’s the lesson learned.
A few years ago I wouldn’t have done them. I was too much of a purist.
I’d have said “sure, they get noticed and remembered. But they’re not linked with marketing or emails so they won’t create the right associations in people’s minds. They might remember you, but not for the right things. What you really need is something distinctive and memorable and associated with marketing or newsletters.”
I’d then have failed to come up with something that met those unrealistic standards and not done anything at all.
This year I really learnt the power of pragmatism. Of implementing something good today rather than waiting to implement something brilliant tomorrow.
I learnt the lesson many times, not just with the cartoons.
I learned a decent email sent today is infinitely better than the perfect email you never manage to write.
I learned that a fun weekend away in the UK is infinitely better than a perfect summer holiday overseas you never manage to book.
But not only that. Something good today often leads to something brilliant tomorrow.
Those “good” emails get better and better the more you write them. So eventually they become the perfect email you do manage to write.
You have so much fun on those little weekends away that it motivates you to take time out for the perfect holiday further afield.
It’s a lesson I’ve half-known for years. Something I’ve always nodded at and agreed with in theory. This year it really clicked.
It wasn’t just because of the cartoons. But they helped to drive the message home.
How about you?
Might you benefit from a bit more “good today rather than perfect tomorrow”?
PS there’s also a lesson in here about “mental availability” and standing out. I’ll come back to that soon.