40,000 pairs of shoes

One of my dearest friends just so happens to work for corporate Macy’s. You know, the one that does that New York Thanksgiving parade . . . yeah, that Macy’s. I’d be starstruck if she weren’t on my speedial. She’s an inspiration and a friend I cherish.

A perk of her job is getting to meet famous designers. Kenneth Cole, for instance. She got to hear him tell a compelling story about the launch of his business.

Back in the 1980s, Kenneth Cole wanted to showcase his new line of shoes during Market Week at the New York Hilton. He wasn’t able to afford a hotel room or show space, however. So Kenneth thought outside the box and inquired about trailer space down the street from the event.

He learned that trailer space was only granted to utility and production companies.

Rather than stop at the roadblock, he changed his approach. He renamed his organization “Kenneth Cole Productions,” and he applied for a permit to film “The Birth of a Shoe Company.” Really.

40,000 pairs of shoes were sold in two-and-a-half days.

Forty thousand pairs . . . that’s eighty thousand shoes.

And if he hadn’t approached the problem creatively, he would have sold zero.

We can’t afford not to get out there.

Here’s the kicker. He didn’t change his business name back to Kenneth Cole after the initial event. It’s still Kenneth Cole Productions, as a reminder to him and his staff that creative thinking is critical to success.

Sometimes, at the end of a long day, my head is cluttered and I could submit my brain for the next episode of Extreme Hoarders. There’s just so much going on and it’s tempting to take the shortest route from A to B. It’s tempting to simply check in and out, complete the status quo and move on. It’s tempting to stop networking and rush through easy jobs. But you don’t build excellence by faking your way there. You don’t build creativity by just doing what works. Right, Kenneth?

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