Many years ago, seven words pounced on me. Perhaps unexpectedly they weren't from a quotes website, a perfunctory press ad or some wise soul. Instead, they resided in the pages of the novel, Platform, by Michel Houellebecq:
"Anything can happen in life, especially nothing."
As is the case for the best prose, the quote is many miles from a snappy, longevity-free soundbite. It is but a tassel of the novel’s rich, rich tapestry of abundant characters and plot and invention. Yet its knottiness gets to the nub of a saying – anything can happen in life - and spins it. Once I’d decoded the gyrations, it stuck with me and has been an invisible mentor ever since.
Because whilst over-indexing on negativity, it keeps open a chink of light, a slither of positivity. Conversely, it exposes blind optimism for what it is. To achieve goals, you need audacity, courage, proactivity. Even then the chances for success are seriously slim.
It’s the gentle squeeze on my ‘creative director’ arm when the stakes are insurmountable. When we have too many ideas without enough due diligence. When there’s the tiniest risk of dithering and indecision, we need to step back, rethink, go again. When the possibility of ‘nothing happening’ is therefore palpable.
More than that, it’s the parental push of encouragement when the stage seems scary. When watertight thinking bolstered by gut instinct and complete confidence in the delivery means there’s hope for something daring but (can) doable. Let’s throw weight behind it, make a collective scary leap from our comfort zones; limit with every fibre of our beings the chance of ‘anything happening’ over ‘nothing’.
And the few times I’ve made significant pivots in my professional life, it’s absolutely the prism through which I’ve made the tough call. What if I don’t do it or find excuses to bottle doing something bold? Definitely nothing.
Matt Davis is co-owner and executive creative director of Red Brick Road