Sami McCabe shares his strategies for maintaining focus.
Clarity Founder and CEO Sami McCabe launched the global marketing communications agency in 2012 with the goal of using technology for positive change. McCabe’s career has seen a range of entrepreneurial ventures, including a PR firm, marketing agency, internet platform, and video content production company.
Through his work, McCabe recognizes AI’s potential to reshape how we work, have fun and conduct business, among other things. The founder’s expertise lies not only in recognizing the challenges but also in embracing the opportunities that lie ahead in the world of communications.
We caught up with McCabe to get his take on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
Agency life is extremely challenging: no two days are the same. You have to learn to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. With that in mind, the book I frequently recommend to my colleagues is Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way, which gives a fantastic introduction to the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. To be a good comms professional, you need to be a good Stoic. This philosophical framework gives you simple tools to remain calm during the storm by focusing on managing what’s in your control and, ultimately, turning challenges into opportunities.
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
In our hyper-connected world, it’s incredibly difficult to carve out time to do ‘deep work’. We’re constantly interrupted by information and messages via multiple channels, apps and devices. This makes accomplishing meaningful work incredibly challenging especially if, like me, you’re something of a dopamine addict and you can’t resist checking your iPhone every 10 minutes. I don’t judge myself (or anyone else) for this habit: the big tech companies are spending billions of dollars to capture our attention and we’re powerless to resist.
I now have multiple tools to help combat the constant demands on my attention and carve out time to do the ‘deep work’ my business needs from me, and that I find most fulfilling. These include a timed lockbox for my phone, the Freedom app which restricts access to distracting websites and apps on my desktop (including email) as well as relaxing classical music that helps me focus on one particular task.
What excites you most about the future of communications?
AI is going to change literally everything: the way we work, the way we have fun, the way we do business and the way we govern countries. In this coming environment of constant, seismic change, I believe communications has a pivotal role to play in helping humanity understand and navigate the tumult. I’m excited to play my part in what I believe will be a huge and ultimately positive technological paradigm shift for humanity.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
I think we face some real challenges with the exponential rise in mis-and-disinformation. The advent of AI – and especially AI-driven deepfakes – is extremely concerning. With mistrust rife across our media, politics, corporations and institutions, the impact of ubiquitous AI-generated mis–and-disinformation will only compound the problem and lead to a more polarised society. Trust and authenticity will therefore need to be the comms professional’s number one objective. Collectively, the comms industry needs to adopt a more innovative approach to develop the solutions needed to counteract the coming groundswell of distrust.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Overcoming my natural shyness in the workplace, which I think is the result of a crippling case of imposter syndrome, is a daily work-in-progress. I don’t think I’ve overcome it, but I hopefully do a better job of masking it than I ever did. Having a strong support system both personally and professionally has allowed me to navigate those challenging moments, while holding space for gratitude and celebrating wins (no matter their size) has helped to keep my imposter syndrome in check.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Most days I think about Anaïs Nin’s quote: “Life expands and shrinks in proportion to one’s courage”. I think there’s an answer to most questions or problems if you meditate on this principle. It applies equally well to the trajectory of one’s business life as it does to one’s personal life, and has inspired me to embrace change and take fearless action.
Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.