“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus!”
— Charles Bukowski
“Any chance you get to quote Bukowski, you take it.”
— Tiny literary snob who lives in my duodenum
The following column is a “navel-gazer.” A selfish, self-absorbed look inward at a life nearly-half-spent in advertising and marketing, navigating the ups and downs that many of you have experienced as well.
Let’s Get Deep
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work from home on a semi-regular basis. And aside from the sheer joy of being around my wife and kids more — even if I’m locked in our home office for huge chunks of time — it really makes you think.
There’s an old adage that says “Nobody, on their deathbed, wishes they had spent more time at work.” It is both logical and powerfully true. It’s also rather easy to ignore, in an era where more time spent working (at the office and at home) is demanded of you and even worn as a badge of honor.
Where am I going with this, aside from a headfirst dive into existential angst? (Nah, that’s my brother the psychologist’s gig.) But all this deep thinking dredged up a memory from college — one that seems relevant to readers of a website devoted to marketing careers.
What “College Me” Wanted
In Journalism 201, the professor had us write our own obituaries. Kind of morbid, kind of a stretch for a class not called Philosophy 101. For me, it turned out to be more than a writing exercise. It made me really think about life.
College Me actually had pretty realistic plans. I envisioned a career in advertising (because of my love of focus groups), rising through the ranks to a Creative Director position, then running my own agency for about 20 years.
At some point in the middle of my career, I’d start teaching advertising and communications at the collegiate level. You know, giving back and warping young minds and all. Naturally, I’d do plenty of pro bono work to actually help others.
What “Current Me” Wants
The funny thing is, Current Me is basically the same as College Me. (Aside from getting shorter, fatter, balder, and less able to consume mass quantities of beer.)
Sure, College Me didn’t foresee the various health crises and career setbacks. But he also didn’t include all the good stuff in our obituary. The beautiful, supportive wife. The amazing children. The cross-country move to a place that feels more like home than “home” ever did.
But if I can live out the obituary that College Me wrote — adding in the great family life and some additional contributions to my community and the industry as a whole — then I’ll be there on Deathbed 4000TM with a big old grin on my face.
What Does “Current You” Want?
Maybe you’re at a crossroads. Employed but unhappy. Unemployed and searching. (Actually, I’m truly hoping you’re employed and happy.)
We work in advertising. It ain’t brain surgery. It ain’t feeding the poor. And it sure ain’t always the best career for a personal life.
As silly as it might sound, I recommend writing your own obituary. You don’t even have to really type it out. Maybe type it out but delete it immediately after finishing it. It just might give you a new outlook on how you’re living your life and spending your time.
As for me, this has been a good reminder of the Big Picture. And when I’m gone, I want to leave more than a portfolio of hackery.
I’m off to give my kids an extra goodnight kiss.
Ever written your own obit? Was this column way too “think-y?” Share your thoughts in the comments below.
After a year of creative incarceration in Corporate World, your beloved Corporate Hack finally distracted the guards, outran the bloodhounds and scaled the wall to make his escape. Now that he’s back where he belongs in Ad World, he’s re-branded himself as The Inside Man...but he’s still having Ad-Verse Reactions.
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