Airbnb's Clarke reveals how 'mess' became her secret work weapon
A view from Holly Clarke

Airbnb's Holly Clarke reveals how 'mess' became her secret work weapon

Holly Clarke explains her link to Steve Job and Mark Zuckerberg and embraces her messy tendencies.

I’m a mess. My desk is a mess, my house is a mess and, quite often, my hair is a mess. Sometimes I feel like my life is a mess, cluttered with projects and ideas with no sense of where they will lead next. But people who give tips about how they manage to be successful seem to have everything sorted.

"At 5am, I get up, drink an organic wheatgrass matcha smoothie, meditate, then run to work while dictating my morning emails to Siri." This is not me.

"I knew I wanted to be in marketing ever since I saw the Apple ‘1984’ ad at the age of five." That’s not me either.

For a while, everything I read about becoming successful made me feel like a failure. I was losing big at minimalism. No matter how hard I tried to box it in, chaos always had a way of taking over. Until, one day, I stumbled across this Einstein quote: "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"

Well, if that guy was a mess, then maybe I’m not in too much trouble. I looked for other successful messy people and found three of the biggest guys in tech – Steve Jobs, Tony Hsieh and Mark Zuckerberg – were among the cluttered desk collective. I started to realise being messy wasn’t my Achilles heel, it was my secret weapon.

Having a busy head full of multiple projects and interests allows my ideas to mix together and inspire each other. Not having a life plan means I’m a happy generalist – constantly learning and interested in everything. Mess is my inspiration!

I’ve worked out how to harness the power of mess. I let chaos take over, but also factor in time to prioritise, curate and sweep out bad ideas. If you’re messy, go with it. Make it work for you. But, if you’re like me, you’ll need to accept your cleanliness standards are not everyone’s. And you might want to hire a cleaner before your mum visits.

Holly Clarke is the EMEA marketing manager for Airbnb