The summer I turned 10 was the worst of my childhood – and the best of my adult life.
My parents forced me into an intensive English as a Second Language course, Mondays through Fridays, 8 to 10AM. I hated every second of it, swearing that it wasn’t necessary. And it wasn’t; I could have learned the material some other way. I just wouldn’t be fully fluent like I am today.
When I left Brazil for New York nearly five years ago, all I knew is I needed to be brilliant to justify the sacrifices my family and I were making. With an intense focus, I chased opportunities to push myself harder: spring and summer abroad in yet another new nation, and a senior semester writing my honors thesis while managing my own intern team. I graduated NYU with a piqued interest in advertising, though little formal training. Intense drive came to characterize my life’s successes, and I embraced it.
Recently, intensity met serendipity for me: I came across FAME, an eight-week portfolio building program at Grey, and was lucky enough to be part of its inaugural class. The program was designed as an alternative to portfolio schools, for ad world outsiders to explore the creative industry.
By now, I know that intensity can yield personal growth and change. It’s not everyone’s speed. But without intense commitment and hard work, talent and potential sit untapped.
As someone with no prior background in advertising, I quickly learned advertising could be a great home for people who thrive on intensity. Here’s why…
Your mind is constantly working on the idea.
The pressure is both a blessing and a curse: it weighs you down but it keeps you moving. With only six days for a campaign pitch, I didn’t have the luxury to procrastinate. The thought was always gnawing at me, even if a creative lightning didn’t strike right away. The tagline for one of my most well received campaigns came to me just hours before the presentation, but it wouldn’t have come at all if I hadn’t mulled the campaign over for days. Intense thinking was an advantage.
There’s little to no time to second-guess your ideas.
You must trust your gut and feel confident in your insight. There’s no use in wasting time wondering if someone will point out a flaw – either the campaign needs work and polish, or you need the courage to stand by it. I found that quirks in my work, which I feared would tear it apart, were actually part of their charm when framed in the right context. Intensity drove instinct.
Less build-up means less fear of failure.
By having a new pitch to focus on each week, I was able to quickly brush off the ones that didn’t land so well. There was no time to feel sorry for myself, only to figure out how to improve next time. Once I got in the groove of our campaign cycles, I gave up the notion of absolute perfection and stopped worrying about reaching an unattainable ideal. Failure is a necessary part of growth.
You learn to distill down to what matters.
With little time between classes to craft my campaigns, and less time in classes to present them, I didn’t let myself get distracted with fluff. Less really is more. The tighter the idea, the stronger it becomes. I stopped myself from tacking things on needlessly when I knew how precious my peers’ and instructors’ time was. Intensity drove focus.
You’re forced to develop new skills.
To execute my ideas, I had to get out of my comfort zone nearly every week: I animated nearly 100 frames (five times more than I ever had before), learned tutorials that I never would’ve paid attention to otherwise, and shot and edited a :60 spot in just over 36 hours. There was no time to find someone who already had these skills. I had to become that person myself. Clearly, I was capable of these accomplishments, but without the push, who knows when I would have tried?
Intensity can be its own reward, and my glimpse into the world of advertising showed me an industry where that could pay off professionally. We all could have done something else with our Wednesday evenings, and I could have learned these lessons some other, slower way. But unlike my 10-year-old self, today I know the value of immersing myself into a new pursuit. I understand that an intense pace allows me to learn exponentially faster than I would otherwise.
I learned that this is the rhythm I should expect from advertising – and that with the right kind of energy and mindset, I can keep reaping these rewards.