What Collecting Comic Books Taught Me About Business
Lessons from the likes of Batman and Superman are more valuable than you ever thought.
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I started collecting comic books as a kid growing up on my family's farm. The fantasy and escape of comics brought a little metropolitan excitement to my small-town surroundings. I started buying them and never stopped.
Today, my collection amounts to about 20,000 books spanning more than 45 years of the genre and encompassing not only the most popular characters -- Superman and Batman, of course -- but also some great-but-lesser-known comics such as the original superhero team from World War II and the Justice Society.
Believe it or not, my love for comic books is more than just fun reads and an escape from rural America. Over the years, the practice and discipline I've used to amass my collection has taught me many valuable business lessons and helped me immensely in my professional life.
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1. Do what you love -- even when others don't
Sticking with something pays off. I've been able to enjoy comic books throughout most of my life -- and they're much more sophisticated now than when I was a kid. There's a richer appreciation for something when you develop an interest over time. In business, that often means sticking with an idea you love -- even if others don't share your vision -- and staying committed until you find or convert believers.
Comic books were once just comic books, but now, TV, movies and online games are dominated by the colorful superheroes.
In business, doing the same thing the same way every time can lead to stagnation, whether in your job-skill development or your company's products. The comic book industry has had a couple of near-death experiences, but it's been resilient and evolved into new formats -- bringing in new audiences. Evolution means survival, for both people and businesses.
3. The team matters
Although I love many individual comic book characters, I love the teams the most -- the Justice League, The Teen Titans and others. The competition between individuals in comics brings out the best in everyone, and that's true for companies too. Hire and build a team you trust that will always fight for your company.
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4. Stay organized -- and do it digitally
If I wasn't organized and able to easily check the specific titles I already own, I could risk duplicating copies or wasting my time tracking down a title I already have. (My iPhone scans a barcode to load new comics to my database, and my entire collection is available at my fingertips on my phone, on my PC and in the cloud).
While everyone stays organized in different ways, we all must keep in mind a consumer's need to access what they want, when they want it, from any device. Today, being mobile-first matters. Smartphones are an ever-increasing part of the way we interact with people and brands. Mobile-first thinking is the way to go.
5. Focus matters
My love for comic books is a key part of who I am. And I couldn't have built my collection over time without putting the work, effort and focus toward building one. Similarly, at my company, we stay focused on our core competencies. And focusing on doing one thing well reaps far more benefits than putting work and effort toward trying to be good at several different things.
Discipline, patience and a sense of fun are all qualities that help me in both my business life and in my hobby. If you can follow your passion -- whatever it may be -- with vigor and focus, success will follow.