I won’t lie. Today was not a banner day at the office. I’ve been struggling with a couple super tough briefs. (I guess that’s why they call it work.) I’ve no doubt we’ll crack it. I have never missed turning in a homework assignment and I’m not about to now. But until I do: pain.
My workload has necessarily interfered with my ability to create a fresh post for this blog. That is rare for me. I beg your pardon.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially frustrated I make a gratitude list. I know it sounds corny but it really works. In times of stress I can forget how good I’ve got it: a healthy family that loves me, a good job in a fantastic city, a clear head and fit body and on and on. So many blessings! I feel better already. You should try it.
On that note, last week I rode my bicycle to work. I live in Mill Valley, which is about 15 miles from my office in San Francisco. The trip isn’t easy but it’s well worth the effort. The hilly ride comprises some of the most breathtaking (literally) scenery in the world. Coming home that evening I stopped along the iconic Golden Gate bridge and took these photographs.
And so how can I not feel like the luckiest man in the world?
For an internal agency thought piece, I was asked to provide words of wisdom to me as a 22 year-old, just starting out in Adland. Others in gyro management were asked to do the same. These pearls would then be circulated throughout the network. Mostly just for fun.
But lessons are lessons and this seemed as good as way as any to give and receive them. As part of the exercise we were also asked to dig up photographs of ourselves from that time period. This is harder than you might think, especially if you, like me, were 22 before the advent of digital photography. It’s amazing how few photos I have of myself as a young man. I found the above winner and reluctantly submit it for your amusement.
Therefore, my first piece of advice: take more selfies! Kidding. Besides, I know you’re doing that anyway. So, other than telling my 22-year old self to buy gold coins and stock in Apple what would I suggest?
First thing: Be curious. Do not shirk learning in favor of seeking pleasure. Better said, seek pleasure from learning. Then, figure out what you’re good at and become really good at it. You might not achieve greatness but you won’t suck either. Thankfully, despite my careening ambition I carried my childhood love of learning into adulthood. I also chose writing as a “path” and, despite all manner of distractions, never stopped doing it.
The harder question: What new advice would I tell my younger self?
For starters, I’d tell me not to be so uncomfortable not knowing something. “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer, especially if it’s the truth. As a young man, I thought I knew so much… that I was hard wired for being right. I was wrong. Curiosity is a great virtue. By definition that means having questions. Not answers. Amazing how long it took me to figure that out. So, to all the 22 year old creatives out there (and anyone really) my biggest piece of advice is to ask bigger questions.
Here’s another. Stick with the winners. At work (or anywhere) seek out people who have a gift, be it a skill you covet or even a big heart or both. Chances are they will not be unwilling to share.
This may come off as superficial but a great piece of advice I’d give my younger self is to dress better. Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, wearing sweatshirts and faded jeans every damn day is not a key to success. Working in a creative department has always meant come as you please but I bet I would have been taken more seriously and sold more work if I would have looked a bit more put together. Probably would have had more dates, too.
Finally, I wish my younger self had been nicer. Like a lot of twenty-somethings in advertising (then and now) I was, at times, a sarcastic and overly competitive SOB. So unnecessary. Begrudging my fellows to get ahead was foolish at best and likely a detriment. Working at a big agency, as I did, created tribes. We often competed on briefs. I’m all for healthy competition but I could have done without the snarkiness.
Alas, I doubt I would have listened to older and wiser me. Some things must come the hard way. Karma is real.
I have not watched a single episode of Mad Men this year. Last few seasons I watched every one. I wrote about them on my blog. I Tweeted. I shared.
Why no interest this year? Maybe I’m too busy –a new home, a new job. But I had those things last year and they were even newer. Besides, the show is on Sunday night. With DVR and Internet, I could watch it whenever I want, anyway. That’s how I found time for The Walking Dead and Party Down.
Too busy is not the reason.
Frankly, I think it’s because I don’t care anymore. Better said, I lost interest. I moved on. Moreover, I have a hunch a lot of other people did too. I don’t know the ratings. But I’m willing to bet they are down. Maybe even way down.
What causes that? I wonder if there’s a psychological reason. I wonder if it’s a marker for something in the zeitgeist. Could it be the anti-hero as portrayed by Don Draper is fading from fashion in popular culture?
It’s possible we’ve had enough of melancholy and dubious motives. Are we over the beautiful downer? The Zenith may have been Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight.
After considering that character, to say nothing of Heath Ledger’s Joker, what comes after? And so Batman has given way to a rowdier bunch of heroes. Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are ambivalent studs but their moral compasses are a lot more aligned than Batman’s or Don draper’s. I suppose Tony Stark has some issues but still…
My hunch are shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad and Mad Men have run their course. We may be entering a period where we want more ‘together’ heroes. Let the bad guys be riddled with doubt and pain.
It will be interesting, then, so see how the latest installment of Superman fares, Man of Steel. Director, Zach Snyder recently was quoted saying “Superman must be taken seriously.” Maybe so… Having seen only the trailers, I think Clark Kent won’t be vexed by the dark side; rather I think his problem will be hiding his super powers in a world that desperately needs them.
That’s a very different dilemma than Don Draper’s. The titular ad man wants to be a better person but keeps slipping. While I most certainly can relate I’m just not in the mood for it right now. Are you?