#TBT: To Be or Not to Be

Happy #TBT. To celebrate, we’re sharing an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: To Be or Not to Be.

We’ve talked about organizations with long and storied histories on the verge of potentially catastrophic change.

But as you might know, I see this time in our history [circa 2010] as not merely an especially nasty recession, but what I have been calling a ‘frame-breaking’ or a ‘remaking.’ I quoted Jeff Jarvis a few weeks ago as saying that we’re moving from the industrial age to “whatever comes next.” But that’s cool with me because I’m a future-oriented person, eager to see what’s next.

Maybe that’s naive. After all, in 1935, “what’s next” was pretty freakin’ awful. Maybe those who look to an unknown future with a certain amount of dread have the right idea. After all, what do we know about it?

When Hamlet contemplated taking the revenge his father’s ghost demanded, he was ready to spring into action until … he realized that he had no idea what would happen when he made that leap. Taking action would be easy, he said, if only we knew what was coming next: “Ay, there’s the rub.” In other words, that’s the problem.

Please continue, Sweet Prince:

“For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?


“The undiscovered country” Hamlet talks about means, for us, the future economy. If you’re in the live entertainment business today, the question you face is whether the “dread of something after the death” of our current economy “makes you rather bear the ills” of decline “than fly to others that we know not of.”

Seth Godin recently said, “We need to get past this idea of saving [things like newspapers, the record industry, etc.], because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.”

I’d add that the only people who should be in the business of saving the past are museums.

The 20th century is dead and gone. The body isn’t even warm anymore. The opportunity to cling to its fading past expired in fall 2008.

So the question is to be or not to be. To be vital and relevant in our time, or not to be. To be one of the people who lead our industry to a new place of prosperity and prominence or not to be. To be a builder of that “undiscovered country,” that “whatever comes next” or not to be. To be standing when this is over or not to be.

That’s the question.

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