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I was once asked to explain the best bit of advice I’d ever received, to which I replied,
“Don’t listen to anyone’s advice”.
I wasn’t being facetious, I meant it.
Adland is a mad career.
Sure it’s fun and exciting and volatile but it’s also utterly, utterly stupid.
We talk about systems and processes and professionalism and testing but I don’t think there has been one genuinely epic – and effective – brand idea that has come from it.
Sure there are a bunch of things that have achieved a certain level of success – big levels of success – but epic?
Don’t think so.
The thing is, all the ideas that have infiltrated and shifted culture have come from the minds of the pleasantly mad.
Whether that’s Bernbach or Hegarty … Wieden or Kennedy … every last one of them achieved glory for who they are and how they think, not what system they followed or proprietary tool they created.
But now adland is trying to filter that all out.
The weirdos, the interesting, the opinionated and the mad are being consigned to the ‘where are they now’ dustbin, to be replaced by suit wearing sycophants, whose greatest achievement is resilience and persistence within their corporate structure.
And we’re letting that happen.
In our bid to try and find ‘shortcuts to success’, we’ve forgone trying new things – except for the odd experiment that’s done more for PR hype than intrigue – and we’re following a post–rationalised ‘system’ that is inherently flawed because we’re attempting to deconstruct what someone once successfully pulled off without ever realising so much of it had to do with who they were, the life experiences they’d had and where the world was at that given time.
Of course it’s not just us contributing to this situation, it’s also the clients.
The one’s who want an easy life … the ladies and gentlemen whose career strategy is to not deviate from the pre-existing corporate process so they can get promoted in 2 years as opposed to doing something amazing and reach greater heights even sooner.
The one’s who look at the price rather than the return.
The individuals who focus on what their board want rather than their audience.
The frightened sheep.
The tragic thing is whether it’s on the agency or client side, this passive progressive attitude gets results – at least in terms of career.
But what happens if you achieve success following someone else’s system?
What happens if you get a top job because you simply walked in another persons footsteps?
Sure, it might feel good for a while.
Sure, it might get you a bigger job within the next few months.
Sure, you can enjoy the lifestyle the money brings you … but what about when you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “did you deserve it?”
Without doubt there’s people out there – in that very situation – who would say “yes, I do”, but I’m not so sure that’s true.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that for a lot of people, that’s what they say to protect themselves from the truth, which this quote sums up:
“The reward for conformity is everyone likes you, except yourself.”
For me, the best job in the World is when you are hired for who you are, what you believe, what you’ve created or done.
It’s not about filling a seat or performing a role … it’s when you are asked to do what you do, regardless of the system or the process that surrounds the company.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think a lot of people feel this way – especially in adland – so the fact so many of us end up endorsing the results from whichever proprietary tool we are forced to use or that we subdue our personal beliefs and personalities in an attempt to ‘be accepted’ is only doing us – and the industry – harm both now and in the longer term.
Look, I’m not saying you can be a prick or blatantly ignore whatever you think is wrong – however I am saying that amazing rarely happens following someone else’s rules – so if you want to stand a chance of getting ahead, fuck anybody else’s advice and just go with what you believe is right because someday, you’re going to get fired anyway and you’ll feel much better if its because of something you did wrong than something someone else told you to do.
PS: Yes, I do appreciate this post could be read as ‘giving advice’ – but as I know no one either reads or accepts anything I say, it doesn’t really matter, does it!
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