Yesterday and the day before there were, at least for Ad Aged, quite a lot of comment activity on a particular post of mine. Much of that commentary centered around the notion of fear. As in, you should be afraid of speaking your mind to superiors because you'll be crushed like a gnat if you do.
Though I have as many if not more neuroses than most people, I am blessed (and cursed) with a big mouth and, I think a concomitant lack of fear. Sure I get nervous that my work isn't good enough and at times am timorous to show my work. But somewhere along the way I overcame my fear of "superiors." I've always reckoned that they paid me for my mind and my insouciance. Though it troubles agency organizations at times, I have pretty much always been somewhat fearless.
Steve Hayden, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy has always said, "All power comes from the barrel of a client's gun." So perhaps the key to fearlessness is forming the sorts of relationships--relationships based on trust that allow you a certain amount of internal impunity. I have always served, not catered to, clients. Fought with them over the course of their business. Been blunt and at times caustic when I think they're doing something boneheaded. This course has always served me and serves me today.
Fear is a cancer. And if you live with fear, like a cancer, it will kill you. It's that simple. I've been at 10 agencies over the last 26 years. Only a couple were "Fearocracies." Those two places I left as soon as I was able (FCB and Momentum.) I wish the denizens of those Houses of Usher the worst of every Yiddish curse ever, delivered by my mother without makeup.
So to those people who live their careers afraid to argue or challenge creative directors, upper management or client, I suggest you find a different profession. Accountancy. Sales at Saks. Teaching middle school.
My biggest successes, such as they are, have always come from speaking my mind. What's the worse that can happen? If I get fired, I didn't belong there anyway. I've been fired twice in my life. Sure there were moments when I cried into my hands--but more moments where I got introspective, figured out a plan and moved on.
And living as a coward (because if you live in fear, you are a coward) is not at all living.