Lessons in (brand) maturity from Streisand and Roosevelt

Lessons in (brand) maturity from Streisand and Roosevelt

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Wading through Barbra Streisand’s exhaustive 900-plus page biography, My Name is Barbra, I didn’t expect to stumble upon a lesson in maturity that applies to organisations and how their brands store value.

In chapter seven, Streisand recounts her audition for the movie Funny Girl. She was trying to convince the director that she could also play the older Fanny Brice and called her acting teacher, Allan Miller, for help.

“As we were talking Alan’s eyes landed on a picture hanging near our heads. My Rembrandt print of A Young Woman Bathing and he suddenly asked,

“What about her? Does she seem mature?” 

I looked at the picture and said, “I think she’s kind of young, actually, in her twenties.” 

“But she still seems mature, doesn’t she?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, just describe what she’s doing.”

“She’s dipping her feet in the stream and lifting her skirt so it doesn’t get wet. 

“That’s right. Is she doing something else? Waving her skirt to make a breeze or looking around to see if anyone is watching?”

“No, she’s just dipping her feet. Quietly.”

What he was getting at was the word quietly. She’s only doing what’s necessary. Now I knew where he was going with this. I made some kind of gesture with my hands. And Alan asked, 

“Do you have to wave your hands around in order to tell me you understood?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. 

“Do you really need to shake your head as well?”

“No.”

“Well, there, now that’s it. You sound very mature to me.”

I understood the point he was making. It’s about simplification—actually, it’s about doing only what’s required and nothing more. So, basically reducing that. It’s the absence of movement. When you’re older, you’re not hopping from foot to foot like a restless teenager. You’re not gesticulating as much.

In this instance, the opposite of maturity isn’t immaturity; it’s a kind of unfettered exuberance.

Exuberance is also an attribute of new businesses. Translate Streisand’s gesticulating to an enterprise creating unnecessary complexity by spattering new product ideas, upending its positioning on a whim, and impatiently cycling through looks and logos.

New businesses are still working things out. People might think, “This is what we care about,” or “Here’s how we’ll do things.” Then, those ideas run into the reality of doing business every day.

Before you can say ‘the way we were’, you’ve traded them for something more relevant or a reality you couldn’t escape. And now it’s time to keep moving. Pivot. Adjust. Take a different tack. Shift again.

Peek at any of the early pitch decks of now-enshrined start-ups to see a lot of early hand-waving and frenzied over-promising. This contrasts with the mature positions they now inhabit as established players.

Then, with maturity comes the ability to consider, absorb, and reflect. Streisand’s essential point is about pairing back movement, simplifying to convey what’s important without dressing it up. Finding clarity and economy in an essential activity.

Achieving maturity mostly comes with time. However, it’s not always the case. And I’ve seen early-stage organisations wiser and more together than enterprises that have been around for many years.

The word’s roots are from Middle French maturite or directly from Latin mātūritāt, meaning ripeness or full development. This, perhaps not coincidentally, aligns with how Eleanor Roosevelt speaks about maturity in her book You Learn by Living. She describes real maturity as “self-knowledge. “One must be willing to have knowledge of oneself. You have to be honest with yourself. You must try to understand truthfully what makes you do things or feel things… this self knowledge develops slowly.

Combining the lessons of Streisand’s audition and Roosevelt’s quote offers a richer way of thinking about maturity. Embracing it is good for an organisation and a dependable path to accumulating value. Even if stillness and self-knowledge lack the zing and frenzy modern pundits associate with progress and success.

A grounded sense of self will help steer the everyday demands of people’s work so they stay on course. Well-thought-out promises, made with care, avoid potential risks if they get broken. Enthusiasm is harnessed to deliver a consistent experience for workers and customers alike. And all combine to accumulate value reliably.

So, how often do you step into stillness, do what’s required without frenzy, or spend time understanding what’s important and how to put it to work?

Thanks for reading.

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