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June 26, 2002
Talent is Overrated

There it is. My attention grabbing headline. I was told by a college professor once that was the primary job of a headline. Actually, someone else from class told me. I overslept. But maybe I'm undermining my credibility here. I was about to say work ethic is more important than talent.

Or at least that's my opinion. I can think of a bunch of stuff that I'd rank higher than talent. But work ethic, I'd put that first. Give the same assignment to two teams and which one inevitably does the best work? The one that works the hardest. Am I stating the obvious here?

True, there are people who can crank out award-winning lines or layouts in half the time of the rest of us. But without the work ethic, that talent gets wasted. And doesn't that just piss you off? To see someone who could set the world on fire if they worked at it. And they don't? Meanwhile the rest of us grunts are busting our ass just to keep from embarrassing ourselves. It sucks. Now, I've never met Bob Barrie, but in my mind, he's not only talented, but he's also the first to arrive, last to leave, or both. And if he's not, don't tell me. I need it to be that way. Need.


And then there's attitude. Or lack of. I know there are agencies where big egos get appeased or in too many cases, rewarded. I just don't want to work at any of those places. Hell, we spend too many hours trying to get it right to surround ourselves with jerks. Clarke Goward, and this is my only shameless plug, is like a family. I don't mean we always get along like the Brady's, but we treat each other like people. And that, as much as anything else, is the reason I like to coming to work each day.

Along those lines, there's the ad school attitude. I'm not going to be the guy who bashes the ad schools, since I went to one myself. But I can say this. If you're expecting to step out of ad school into a national TV campaign, you're not. Most likely you're going to have to do the crap no one else wants for a year. Or two. And the reason you're going to have to do it is because the person before you had to. I didn't say it was a good reason. If you think this sucks, it does, but keep it to yourself. Nobody will have any sympathy. We've all been there. Keep your head down, work hard, act humble and when someone throws you a bone, make damn sure you prove what you can do with the opportunity. I know this sounds discouraging, but it makes you appreciate the opportunities even more.

If you're lucky enough to work on a great account from day one, remember you'll be surrounded by the people who made that account great. I'd bet that your attitude won't go over big with them either.

But hey, if you're already a jerk, you're comfortable with it, and you don't plan on changing, just ignore this. You just better be damn good. And be damn good someplace else. We're too small an agency to deal with it.

Luck. No one will ever tell you they got a shelf full of awards with luck. But I know I've been lucky. Maybe I was walking down the right hallway when a CD with a great assignment was looking for a warm body. Maybe I've worked with art directors who carried me. Whatever. All I'm saying is, you get lucky a few times and people start throwing good opportunities at you. So what, that means now you're more talented than you were when your book was full of bank ads? I don't think so. Keep it in mind. Because once you get your foot in that magical door, you've got to work hard to keep it there. Or some other lucky bastard will come along. I know what you're thinking, you've got to make your own luck. Create your own opportunities. I'm in total agreement. See the paragraph above on work ethic. Just don't talk to me about talent.

Then again, maybe I'm just bitter because I'm the grunt who has to work at it. Maybe it comes easy to you. Maybe you're that talented.

Like my Mom used to say, talent and a token will get you on the bus. It's all what you do with it.

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Boston is full of wonderful history, character, and places, including a small but mighty shop called Clarke Goward. Associate Creative Director Tom Kelly is one reason this little agency holds its own. Other than the elusive Clio, Tom's work has been recognized by all the award shows. In addition to being a talented creative, Tom is also one heck of a nice guy.

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