"Don't go crying stinkin' fish in your own backyard." That's what my friend Greg always said. About a year and a half ago, after 20 years of mostly fond memories and experiences enjoyed in the ad agency biz, there was a "Big Bang Theory" like explosion in my life. I lost my six digit salaried VP Executive Creative Director's position. Got divorced, lost a very beautiful home and property as well as most of what little investments I had. I then started (with two partners) a 35 person (recent grads and undergrads) "youth advertising and marketing agency." Times were lean (still are) and we had to close our office back then. And then I proceeded to sink deeper in debt and almost filed bankruptcy. There's more, but let's get to the fun part.
During our space and time we utilize on this planet, we all will face difficult experiences (I genuinely hope yours are few) but, ask yourself a "Fear Factor" type question—what are you made of?" Another friend, Rich, always preaches "It's not the incident that makes the person, rather, the incident only pulls out from within of what strengths that person held." Well, maybe just maybe, I can help you face that "Q" with your own self-made "A" (ya know-Q&A).
On a rainy, lightning bolt-filled night I found "Stormy" (pictured) and began to further "find" myself. I would like to share some of this stuff with you. I believe we all can learn how to be that "piece of art or clay in progress" with our professions and lives. I feel the two are deeply intertwined. It's how you lead your life as a whole.
Anyway, I would like to offer some tips from an (now retired) ad agency Art Director/CD. I hope that they help you down the professional and personal path you pave for yourself till that day when you're gone and "pushing up dandelions from below."
- Rejuvenate yourself. There are many options and areas to explore here. Your physical health is one suggestion, just be creative.
- Do a "good deed" for someone (c'mon, at least once a week). You'll be surprised how good that person may feel or even how good you might feel. These "good deeds" do have a way of boomeranging in strange ways.
- Try more often to really push your imagination. Be it doing something almost playfully childlike, or with the "same old, same old" procedures and minutes of your workday, time with your lover, moments shared with family, etc. P.T. Barnum once said, "Imagination is the elixir of life."
- A young (19) and aspiring film writer/producer friend (Frank) I just met said, "I think people should get back to the basic, raw ways of creating real hand-made-like work." I couldn't agree more. High tech is great, but you gain a different insight into a project when you sketch and cut and rip things into something. So draw on a wall, pair of old jeans, whatever! Use an old camera and shoot some old shipyard or gargoyles on skyscrapers (depending on where ya live). Pick up found objects and weld them (Don't know how? Learn.) OK, I could go on, but nuff said.
- Make the most of what you have! I feel that it's OK to be that "Jack-of-all-trades" and to be good at many things rather than the best at one.
- Optimize your experiences. When I traveled frequently, I truly wanted to soak up everything. I wanted to experience the local people, food, and countryside to the shores and mountains.
- An old ad veteran once told me when asked, "What one tip of guidance could he share?" He replied, "Whenever someone asks you to do something, do more than what was expected." Now he also said, in his gentlemanly English accent, "But, don't take a snack of a project and turn it into a sandwich of a meal." OK, weird yeah, but just read it all again.
- Finally, be the first to extend your hand and offer a firm handshake. Confidence of course comes when you are well rehearsed or prepared. By the way, I hug a lot (have for years with all my buds). When appropriate there's nothing like a good hug. They say babies respond in many positive ways later in life when hugged and kissed as infants.
To close (Finally eh?) this article, now at age 43, I run through the woods with Stormy daily, love motorcycles, carve detailed log beds, I'm working on a screenplay (It's about when I was a paperboy), paint art (I think it's art) and perform one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had. I now teach Advertising at Michigan State University. I try to instill in my students (amongst other things) that they soak up all they can during this wonderful time and to always use their imaginations throughout their entire existence.
Oh yeah, and go a different way home today.
Ted Nugent, Eminem, and David Regan. They're all Motor City natives. For 20 years, David worked for small-, medium- and global-sized ad agencies before leaving a prosperous ECD job at J. Walter Thompson to enter a classroom and begin teaching advertising at Michigan State University. Today, David professes there is more to life than advertising. There won't be a quiz later, but take notes.
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