The most important thing in any profession is to know when to embrace change or in some professions, call it a day. It got to be really difficult to change or end something when you are at the top. You don’t see it happening that often. Hundreds of companies and products go extinct and become less relevant respectively because they are not able to change. A sports star, an actor or a show normally comes to an end after a dip following the peak. The reason being it takes some real courage to take a bow and walk away when you are number one.
Continuing my obsession with Seinfeld, Jack Welch wrote in his autobiography that he offered Jerry Seinfeld some insanely large sum of money to do just one more season of Seinfeld which Jerry Seinfeld happened to turn down. If you see the interviews of creators and cast of Seinfeld discuss the ending, Jerry Seinfeld and others mentioned how burnt out they were doing it for nine straight years and how they thought they have done it all and so on. But the key thing behind the decision was that Jerry Seinfeld wanted to call it a day when people wanted just another season or episode. He wanted people to cherish it without getting bored with it.
I believe it’s a gift to know when to embrace change or call it a day. A few years back I saw a stand-up show by Jerry Seinfeld. The show ended right when everyone thought he could have gone a bit longer. Jerry Seinfeld explained his thinking in an interview with Charlie Rose. Charlie Rose asked him how he decides when he is done. Seinfeld’s reply was simple: I call it a day when I feel that the audience want to listen just one more joke. That’s a great sense of timing. Every person walking out of the show thinks its been great.
To know when to end it is as important as anything else. Nothing can persist forever. Everything has a life. This has a direct correlation with change as well. To know when you have to change gears and refocus or to understand when your product needs a complete overhaul is very important to have a long-term and sustainable success. Time never stops for you and there’s always someone waiting in the wing to fill the void you may create. Know when its time and go for the change.
I have been a die-hard fan of Seinfeld ever since I can remember. After seeing behind the scene footage and commentary in Seinfeld dvds, I believe there’s so much one can learn from the way this sitcom was done for nine great seasons and arguably turned out to be the best television sitcom ever.
Stick to the basics. As claimed by the creators of the show, Seinfeld was a show about nothing. That was the core of the show. No extraordinary event, no great happenings…pretty much nothing. Just your normal everyday things that anyone and everyone can relate to because you have experienced it one time or the other in your life. Everyone has waited in a restaurant to get a table while being damn hungry, everyone has parked a car in a big parking lot and had no idea where it was and everyone has been to a random party with disaster written all over it. It is an awesome achievement to carry this on for 180 odd episodes. There are two great lessons here. First, know what you are good at. What people look up to you for. What is that thing that is getting you captive customers. And second, stick to it. Unnecessary diversions and extensions will not help you. Stick to your niche, stay close to your basics and be awesome in that.
You do it when you are 100% sure you got it right. Creators of Seinfeld mentioned time and again how they wrote the complete show, shot parts and pieces of it, then realized that it’s not as funny as they expected and went on to do it all over again. You cannot be the best till you believe you cannot be any better. Lesson: In the big things in your business, or for that matter in your life, you get one great shot. Get it right. Don’t rush into making decisions. Don’t be scared to cut the losses. Coming out with a product when you know it is the best it can be at that point in time. On the flip side, don’t wait for ever. Take the plunge, you will know when you are there.
Rituals are important. Cast of Seinfeld recalled some rituals that just became too important not to be done. Whether it was the huddle they formed before every show, the few minutes of stand-up Jerry Seinfeld did to warm up the audience or the 2am dinner they had after wrapping a show. Lesson: Rituals give a sense of continuity. They make you think of the origins and look forward to something. They make you remember how it all started and give you energy and self belief to persevere and be successful in your endeavors.