Graduation and Innovation

Last week, my daughter graduated from Cincinnati Country Day High Schooland began a new chapter.  Which means I’m beginning a new chapter as well, becoming the father of a college student.

As the Chief Creative Officer (and Chief Storyteller) at Upstream 360, I feel like I’m prepared, because embracing change and being nimble and agile enough to pivot, is the name of the game, right?

But I was stumbling a bit to the Finish Line on this one, because I was reminded that my daughter was just 2 years old when I first met folks from Upstream in 2003.  

I thought: “Wait a minute.  That can’t be right. Where did those last 16 years go?”

So, time passes faster and faster, but the best part about innovation is with every initiative, we’re always looking to find the next challenge and it always seems to be just as exciting.

In fact, I’m often asked: “What’s your favorite project at Upstream?” and I always answer: “The next one.”

That’s because Looking Forwardis the DNA of Upstream.  And the DNA of college-bound daughters.

This was evident during a late-night conversation in which I was imparting fatherly advice.  It was utterly fascinating – mostly because a teenager was actually interested in what I was saying!  As we say in Innovation: There’s a first time for everything.

She and I both agreed that working really hard is actually easy if your heart is in it.  And besides, the harder you work, the more you get to do what you love – especially when the people you work alongside share your passion for what you do, and for what the late Al Davis called “a commitment to excellence.”

Meeting and working with amazing people isthe ultimate energy drink.  My advice to her was to surround herself with people who are as “invested” as she is.

Naturally, there will be bumps in the road – but just look at them as electives that will teach you what to do better next time.

The final life-lesson I shared was to try and have more fun than more stress . . . and to always use BOTH sides of your brain.  As CEO Multimillionaire Sidney Harman once famously said: “I want poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They contemplate the world, interpret it and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how it runs. Poets are the most unheralded systems thinkers and our true digital thinkers – they will be tomorrow’s new business leaders.”

In other words: You’re a poet, never outgrow it.

Mark Smith is the Chief Creative Officer and Chief Storyteller for Upstream 360, as well as the father of a teenage daughter.  He stays motivated by the twin powers of doubt and insecurity, while his approach to the work is making it legitimately interesting, shareable, and something people can connect with. 

Mark is also an author of the book Innovation Myths and Mythstakes, available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and coming soon on Audible.