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What Vegas Taught Me About Picking Battles
By: Matt Shuford
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Blackjack is my game. I’m not a pro. And definitely not a high stakes player. But when I visit Sin City, there’s no casino game I enjoy more. Thing is, you’re not going to win every hand. And just like a creative getting pushback on an idea, you have to know when to pick your battles.
Put Your Pride Aside
The first time I ever played, I lost all the money I sat down with in a matter of minutes. My problem, which no one ever warned me about, was I let my pride get in the way. “Oh yeah, dealer? Go ahead, take my $10, but here’s a $20 bet. I’m about to win it back.” Hit. Hit. Bust. The casino now had $30 of my money in little under two minutes, and it didn’t stop there.
The game of pitching ideas to our clients is similar. Not every concept will be praised as genius, and when that happens we must determine if it’s truly a battle worth fighting. If our idea isn’t loved right away (in other words, if we lose), we can’t let pride get in the way. Saying the same thing over and over, or louder and with more passion, probably won’t change the situation at hand. Creativity is so incredibly subjective, and (news flash!) some folks might not love your idea. Your client may ask for changes or hate the idea altogether. But the question is, when receiving that feedback do you retaliate? Get defensive? Lose your cool? Don’t. Put your pride aside first. Then, determine if it’s worth the fight or if it is just a necessary loss that’s all part of the game.
Bet Big When the Count’s High
In blackjack, standing up with more money than you sat down with doesn’t just happen by winning more hands than you lose. It doesn’t come from betting big every hand. It comes from knowing when to bet big. Seen a lot of low cards come out lately? The count’s probably high, and your next round of cards could be favorable — bet big. And vice versa.
What am I getting at? Get a feel for your audience before throwing all your ideas on the table. If presenting to a marketing team that’s had a stressful day already, it’s probably not best to provide a solution that’s so far outside their realm of expectations. That’s not to say you should kill your awesome idea. But make sure the situation and your audience is of the right mindset before providing a solution that requires more blind faith in the idea. Getting an understanding of what you might expect from your client beforehand can save you a lot of headaches, heartbreak, and debate going forward.
Ask for Help
It didn’t help matters that I never asked the dealer what I should do, either. A lot of people believe that when in a casino you’re on your own. That’s just not the case. Ironically, some of the best advice can come from the dealers, who want to see you succeed — just like your clients do.
Along with knowing when to pick your battles, a former manager of mine always spoke to the idea of “massaging the relationship” between the client and creative. In short, build a rapport. Doing so can mean the difference between being perceived as an arrogant pain in the neck or an esteemed colleague. Often, the best way to do that is by showing your clients that you’re open to their ideas, too. Even if you ultimately hate what they have to say, showing that you’re willing to listen and respect their thoughts is something that can go a long way in gaining respect of your own. Asking for help doesn’t mean giving up or showing a lack of knowledge. It shows that you respect others enough to give them the two minutes to voice their suggestions, and your clients will respect you for doing so.
Cashing Out
Winning disagreements isn’t about about who speaks the loudest or carries the biggest stick. It’s a finesse game. And like blackjack, you’re not going to win every battle. However by putting pride aside, knowing when to push forward with your idea, and having enough humility to ask for help at times, you can come out on top more often than not.

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About the Author
Matt Shuford is an idea chemist. With a little over five years to his career, he's a driven copywriter and problem solver who takes pride in keeping things fresh, interesting, and intelligent. You can expect his posts to reflect those of an admirer and critic of advertising, life, and the relationship between the two. Feel free to contact him at his website or on Twitter

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