More than just the title of the Salt N’ Pepa’s classic that I did some SWEET dance moves to in high school, the phrase “Push It” has been the bane of my creative existence.
In fact, if I had a dime for every time I’d been told to “Push It” during the course of my career, I wouldn’t be doing the majority of my shopping at Marshall’s fine discount clothing retailer, where You Never Pay Full Price for Fabulous ®. I shop there a lot, apparently.
I get it. “Pushing it” is what makes good work, better. “Pushing it” also makes scientists, or innovators or philanthropists or anyone better, really. Except maybe that guy in charge of guarding the button to blow the world into smithereens. Not good advice for that guy.
“Pushing it” is what most successful people spend their whole careers doing. Going beyond the obvious. Driving themselves to come up with something newer or more insightful. Fine tuning and crafting what they’ve already done to make it more impactful.
I have heard this phrase repeatedly from several amazing, talented creative directors whom I greatly respect and admire.
And there are times when it has been just the kick in the butt I needed to send me into a quiet, rage-induced self-doubt spiral. No! I mean, into a brand new way of thinking about things!
But the rest of the time (99.2%), it just pisses me off.
Because telling a creative to “Push It” is non-specific. It is a request to improve things, without knowing the subjective and very specific idea of what would be funnier or wackier or more poignant or better in the mind of the person delivering the critique.
Plus, everybody has a different definition of “better.” Everyone’s version of the perfect poop joke is unique. And beautiful, I might add.
In my mind, when someone says “Push It”, it insinuates I have not “pushed it” to begin with. Now, I admit I can be sensitive about this, and those close to me are nodding too enthusiastically in agreement right now. Shut up, those friends. Because being told to “Push It” is a huge affront to someone who crafts every word they type. Seriously, even texts. It drives my husband nuts. This sentence alone required 23 revisions.
Now, I absolutely believe in the intention behind “Pushing It.” I believe that you shouldn’t settle, and that there is always room for improvement.
But telling a creative to “Push It” is the equivalent of telling a high jumper who can’t quite clear the bar to just “jump higher.” Wouldn’t it be more helpful to suggest he change his approach, or adjust his position, or… I just reached the end of my high-jump knowledge, so this is where that metaphor ends. But you get the idea.
In my case, I find I get the “Push It” comment because I am a rule follower. I like a solid creative brief, and the chaperone that shows up to many of the concepting parties in my head wearing a turtleneck and sensible shoes, insists I follow it. For instance, if I know the client has not bought something in the past because of a certain sensitivity, I avoid that landmine. I like things to make strategic sense and all tie up in a nice little bow. I am more comfortable thinking within a box than I am floating in space.
So to break out of this, I’ve realized I need to not worry so much. Tell my creative chaperone to chill the eff out and let me do my thing. Believe strongly in myself. Not in an infallible, cocky “I know better” way. But in the positive, confident way that reminds me I’ve done this before. I’ve been awesome before.
With this in mind, I’d like to suggest some alternatives to “Push it.” Something encouraging, not insulting. Motivational but not too foofy. This is a working list, but here are some quick ideas. (Could be sharper. Must revise this at least 17 more times.)
• Relax and give two shits less!
• Let it go! (may be taken)
• Encourage your mind to swim naked in an infinity pool of your own best ideas!
Sure, there’s not one stock answer. But it boils down to a simple nuance. To get a better creative product, don’t simply ask someone to “Push It.” Start by defining what better means to you, and show your confidence in their ability to achieve that better thing.
I know you can do it. I believe in you. (See what I did there?)