Some people don't like me on Fishbowl (it's like anonymous Facebook, for advertising). They don't think I deserve what I've achieved. That my portfolio "isn't good enough to give advice." That I've been handed everything on a silver platter. That I simply talk myself into an agency or a job. Even some people I work with.
They're not happy with me. And that's ok.
I mean, they're right, to a point. I can talk. I'm right up there with Vince Vaughn in Swingers. But they're wrong about everything else.
See, the reason it looks like I'm handed everything, the reason why it seems like everything is easy for me is because I've very carefully picked what I do. Because I've had a single goal in my career…
What makes me happy?
You see, success in the ad industry has seemed pretty clear: work on big accounts and win awards. But it took me a while to learn, that's so foolish and one-dimensional. There are countless ways to be successful in your career. And ultimately, it's about happiness. What do you want to achieve? What's your end goal? What will make you happy?
If you could have any job, why would you be doing that job?
Me, I figured that out. And because of that, I've loved what I've done. I'm over-the-moon about the work I create. I've loved being at the agency I'm at. And it's only because I've known what I wanted.
How to Know What You Want
There's this movie, Office Space, an amazing cult comedy based around a character that hates his job. But in a roundabout way, he figures out what he really wants out of life. They ask a question: if you had a million dollars, what would you do? One of the guys answers, "Nothing." Okay, he missed the point...which is, if you didn't have to work, what would you choose to do?
It's a cliché way to figure it out, because chances are, none of us are so independently wealthy that we'll never need to work (though, I wish good luck with that).
But let's change the question: if you could have any job, why would you be doing that job? There's a specific word in there: why. It's not just about what job, but why that job.
Personally, I got into this industry, because I saw the ability to innovate. To use my creativity to make things that just didn't exist before. To talk to people in unique and interesting ways. So, every agency I've worked at, every project in my portfolio, every move I make (🎶every step I take🎶) has been towards that goal.
It's my North Star. So what's yours? Why are you doing this? And don't just say, "Because it's what I'm good at" or "Because I'm paid to do it." There's a deeper reason.
Here are some totally legitimate (even if some are superficial) reasons for why people are in this industry:
- Public recognition (making work that others recognize)
- Industry recognition (get awards)
- Affect culture on a global scale
- Connect with people individually
- Make money
- Avoid a traditional office job
- Make something new (innovate)
There are so many more reasons out there. The question is, what's yours? Why are you doing this? Why do you want to?
Unapologetically Aiming for Happiness
Once you know why you're doing this, it's insanely easy to know what you need to do. There are some people that are in this industry because they want stability. (And believe it or not, marketing is pretty stable; it'll always be around, in one form or another, as long as people are selling things.) And so, they make their choices based on stability: finding an agency that doesn't lose clients. They may sacrifice the risk-taking creativity that others pursue, but that doesn't matter to them. They're happy because they got what they want.
Then there are others, who don't care about stability. Who will do anything they can to get at the most boundary-pushing creative shop out there (probably W+K right now). Well, to do that, it'll require pushing themselves, working towards that goal, moving, and making other sacrifices. But, that doesn't matter, because (hopefully) they'll get what they want.
The only person whose opinion of you matters, is you
The point is, there will be upsides and downsides to your choice. You may miss out on money, because you're looking for a work/life balance. You may miss out on a title bump, because you're pursuing an in-demand agency. You may find that the thing you're aiming for comes at the cost of something you thought was important, but really, isn't as important as your North Star. Others may think you're a failure, because what you're doing doesn't seem successful to them.
Fuck 'em. None of that matters. All that matters is what you want. What will make you happy?
Stop Feeling Pressure
I knew, as I became more of a public persona, that people would slam on me. They'd criticize me. They'd claim that I was a "failure" because I wasn't aligning with what they felt was "good enough" or "successful" for what they believed.
But that's fine with me. Because I know what I want. And I'm getting it. I've chosen agencies, projects, paths to take in order to get to that point.
Your happiness is your success. Don't chase down what others think you should. Don't pursue what the industry defines as successful. Be the top creative at the most awarded agency in the world. Be the production artist at a 5-person shop in the Midwest. It doesn't matter, as long as you're happy.
Because the only person whose opinion of you matters, is you.