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Best Behavior’s Three Levels of Exposure

Rule 4: Expose yourself.
At Best Behavior, we keep all our cards out on the table. No secrets. We believe in total transparency with each other and with our clients. An open dialog with lots of listening is key to doing great, collaborative work. We continually expose ourselves to creative inspiration, new ideas, and different points of view. We are what you see.


During the past few weeks of “21 Days of Best Behavior,” we’ve already talked a lot about clear, effective communication being the king of our proverbial castle, with tools like Dropbox and Basecamp being our knights of the round table, and…well, you get the idea. I’m going to stop this metaphor before I take it too far (so many drawbridge/moat references to make but so little time).

Think about the worst thing. THE WORST THING. Maybe you’ve already lived it. Maybe you’re going through it right now – it’s the 3am wake-up call from deep within the recesses of your mind and it’s saying: YOU are an imposter. You aren’t good enough. Everyone around you is super talented and came to their good fortune because all of the forces of the universe aligned and gifted them a golden unicorn. But YOU, who is putting in all the work and learning all the things, nobody cares about what you’re doing. Oh, and we’re all on a train ride straight to the side of a mountain. The Wreck of the Old 97 is basically a tale of your life, and you’re still in the middle of the book. That sounds harsh. And it is. But it doesn’t have to be, and that’s where “exposure” comes in.

Exposure comes in three forms (in order of me being interested in the doing of them):
1. Mutual
2. Ambitious
3. One-sided

Mutual exposure is all about shared opportunity. Much like a wise robot once said: See a need, fill a need. This is the nitty gritty (Dirt Band notwithstanding). Find an organization that has a mission you believe in and serve. That may be through active engagement (planting and maintaining a community garden, for instance) or teaching a class built around your skill set to the local YWCA. It can also involve grown up stuff like serving on BOARDS. I’m of the firm belief that I don’t like to bitch about something that I’m not willing to do something about. Thus, my time is spent with the best radio station in the universe, WDVX, and a life-altering after-school program, Community School of the Arts. I have learned an incredible amount and met people from all walks of life with different skills; and I’ve learned to appreciate those skills (especially the skills I don’t have…of which there are many). It’s also a great opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and dig into issues that are waaaaay outside of your comfort zone.  

Ambitious exposure can be the toughest to pursue, because this one can bring the most pleasure…but also has the potential for the most pain…AND has the potential to become mutual. This is the “putting yourself out there” kind of exposure that puts that imposter voice in your head to the test. All the paintings in your basement aren’t doing anyone any good, and all the best of intentions lay dormant without execution. If your fear is public speaking, then visit a Toastmasters meeting and conquer your fear. If  you have a service you’d like to offer, then talk to your best customers and ask them if it’s valuable. If you want to get in the habit of creating long-form original content, then jump in and do it every day for a month (or for 21 business days…at least.) Ambition isn’t a bad thing; it’s what gets you up early in the morning and keeps you hustling long after everyone else has gone home. It helps you pursue your dreams, whatever they may be. Knoxville’s “Urban Guy,” Alan Sims, and I had a great conversation about this on our all new podcast (which you can hear this Thursday!), and it turns out that the secret to success often looks like hard work and ambition…and getting up early. 

Ambition isn’t a bad thing; it’s what gets you up early in the morning and keeps you hustling long after everyone else has gone home.

One-sided exposure can be THE WORST. If you are a professional “creative” then you have been, and will be for the rest of your days, tempted with EXPOSURE (or what the AIGA calls out as “spec work.” This will be “great in your portfolio” is something you will hear forever. Go ahead and tattoo it backwards on your neck so you can see it every morning. We can all die of this kind of exposure, and much like frostbite, you can lose a finger. If you are presented with an opportunity for “exposure” of this kind, ask yourself two questions before you sign on the dotted line: #1. Do I believe in this organization? Please notice I said organization – maybe a worthy non-profit that fits your values and needs the right kind of help. That help can be a logo, a lawn mowed, or accounting advice, but it should be a cause you believe in. If it’s a business that is out to make a profit (we all know well that exposure doesn’t pay the electric bill) then the friendly exchange of dollar bills is how things should work…Which leads us to question #2: Can this be turned into mutual exposure? For instance, if you’re going to do work with a non-profit, learn who is on the board (or better yet, if you really dig the mission, join the board), and make sure they know the value (in literal dollar terms) of what you’re providing. More often than not, your contribution is appreciated and can serve as introduction to some really amazing people that are also willing to spend their time and resources on things that they believe in.

In a recent blog post (well worth reading the whole thing, btw), design world legend and personal hero, Debbie Millman had something to say that really stuck with me: “I believe that the act of being courageous—taking that first step—is much more critical to a successful outcome than the notion of feeling confident while engaged in the process. Courage requires faith in your ability before you experience any repeated success. Chances are, from the designer to the juggler, to the lawyer, we all look around and feel like imposters some of the time. So, lets muster up the courage to fight back and “expose ourselves” to new ideas, new experiences, and new adventures. Is there something that you’re not doing that you KNOW you should? Lemme know, and we’ll talk about it in an upcoming post or podcast. Until then, don’t keep yourself a secret, stay open to new ideas, and focus on what kind of positive contribution you can make.

Chris McAdoo
Founder and chief exposure officer

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