Mastering the Art of Transforming Nothing into Something

In a terrific article about learning the skills of “entrepreneurship”, Scott Adams (of “Dilbert” fame) describes his education in this way – “I had mastered the strange art of transforming nothing into something”. While that description is no doubt apt for many jobs, I think it’s a perfect description of what most of us need to do each day in advertising and marketing. We start with blank pages, empty marketing plans, bare flowcharts. And then must make concepts, ideas, and activity where there isn’t any, while the risks of failure are great.

So the answer is to “be entrepreneurial”. And while you hear this notion fairly often, what does it really mean? Well, here are few things, in my opinion.

Be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.
There are no rule books on what to do, no certain program or killer app, no right vs. wrong. Even doing it the way you did it before is fraught with risk, as things always change and no two situations are exactly the same.  But don’t be fooled by the fact that others may appear more confident and secure than you – they just appear that way. No one has it all figured out. Knowing this helps.

The difference between nothing and something may start out very small.
Don’t be put off by small changes at the outset. Your job is to keep it growing and moving in the right direction.

Have ideas and do stuff.
Action is the antidote to uncertainty and fear. So the only way to make the transformation is to try things. And you have to have the expectation that some, or much, of what you try may not succeed. That’s ok – learn from what works, as well as what doesn’t.

Leverage failure.
As mentioned above, much of what we do won’t perform up to expectations or goals. That’s fine, as long as you are constantly assessing why, and using it to figure out how to succeed next time.

Hate the void.
Be passionate, refuse to be passive, be inspired by possibility.

Measure the “something”.
Make sure you know what you want to achieve, and measure it relentlessly. Keep your activity driven on how to grow it.

With these traits and activities, we can all face our fear of the “nothing” and make something great. What do you think?


  1. Excellent post and inspirational. I’ve been writing again and the tips you offer can apply to my drive in that area. I’ve had some success with a few readings and showcases but often can feel incapacitated by doubt (what to do next?) This morning I decided to write. It felt good. Do what’s in front of you and let the results manage themselves seems like a good plan. Thanks for writing brother. Keep it up.

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