The Secret Formula for Success Is…

Earlier this week Brad Ruggles posted this funny video, How to Report the News, to his blog.  In it, Charlie Brooker describes and takes shots at the formula a lot of TV news stories follow.  Have a look.  (Pardon the F-bomb at the 25-second mark).

The video is hilarious.  But it is also eye-opening for me.

I never thought about the elements of a TV news story before.  But now that I’ve seen the formula, it makes TV news seem so disingenuous, so calculated, so boring.

I hardly ever watch TV news anymore, and this is probably at least part of the reason why.

Formulas are amazing and seductive…

We love to take things that are successful, analyze them, and condense them down into simple steps that we can follow to repeat those successes over and over without thinking.   I know I do.

I’m guessing you love formulas, too.  You clicked to read this post, didn’t you? 😉

That’s cool, because in many situations formulas are great.  It’s hard to find fault with 12 step programs, cookbooks, and instructions for assembling a kid’s bike.  (Though, my appreciation for the latter has been known to wane on Christmas morning.)

But in other areas of life formulas can get us in trouble.  The financial formula that worked so well for someone else can bankrupt us.  Copying someone else’s formula when it comes to things like music, web design, leadership style can make us look like cheap imitations.  Using a formula or “standard procedure” can leave other people feeling like nothing more than a number.

Repeating the same formula in your church service or business meetings can start to feel like watching an episode of Scooby Doo, where the plot is predictably the same in every episode and they “would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.”

So, when is it good to use a formula, system, or process and when is it not?  How do you decide?

6 Responses to “The Secret Formula for Success Is…”

  1. This is pretty funny, but at the same time shows the art of reporting. I believe it’s amazing at how we can see things like reporting as something that is easy and ordinary but are really scripted and practiced to precision. The easier something looks the easier it is to fool the rest of us.

  2. Hey Charles, thanks for your comment. Personally, I didn’t come away thinking reporting is easy or ordinary. What stood out to me is how specific the similarities are in news reports. That wouldn’t happen unless producers were intentionally copying each others’ techniques and then reusing their own techniques. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, which is why I’m interested to discuss it further.

  3. Great post Paul. Your question raises some interesting discussion points. I think the key is utilizing “formulas” or strategy to support your message without letting your message become part of the formula. Not sure if that makes sense or not.

    We all need strategy or proven formulas to help us become more effective at what we do but it’s easy to take a formula and just mindlessly repeat it without giving any thought to how to personalize it.

    Great post!

  4. Oh, most definitely Paul. I agree and I believe like most things that require teamwork and precision, techniques are passed down through the years, and what works sticks and what doesn’t get the boot. I always thought it fascinating at how much technique, skill, and formula is involved in a lot of the things that are supposed to entertain us. For instance, who came up with the best way to throw a football or shoot a basketball? I don’t know but the sport of basketball has evolved from shooting the “granny” shoot from the free throw line to shooting it the regular way. Like you said I don’t believe that it’s a bad thing that people borrow, that’s where innovation comes from. I believe the greatest people in their respective fields know how to borrow what works and add their own flare, unfortunately however everyone isn’t innovative. So I don’t think switching from the formula is the solution, I believe adding to what already works is. I just wrote a blog about that ironically. Also, I wasn’t insinuating that reporting is easy or ordinary, it’s just the opposite. My stance was coming from the fact that the techniques that they do use and hours of practice that they allocate to building there craft, I believe the end result is phenomenal at how “easy” they make it look.

  5. I don’t watch the news on tv for more than the weather, which I can get on my Iphone if I wanted.. Funny video for sure..

    Sadly many churches copy a “formula” and just copy what is working right now..Doesn’t matter if it fits their personality or situation.. Sad..



  1. 6 Ways Formulas Fail Us « Live Intentionally - February 5, 2010

    […] The Secret Formula for Success Is… […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.