Friday, January 28, 2011

Bloom's deli and the first time I was fired.

In the crush of Manhattan snow, my wife picked up dinner last night at a deli around the corner from her office, a deli called "Bloom's." I knew the place well. 15 years earlier I had worked in the neighborhood and my boss took me to Bloom's to warn me that if I didn't shape up, I would be fired.

In any event, bagels from Bloom's got me thinking about being fired and the fear and joy that comes from it.

I was fired, the first time, for "insubordination." That's what HR called it, as if I needed any more reasons to hate HR. But I was being fired, I was a father with two young kids in New York City private schools, so I had to think about what was being said to me. I had to wonder if they were right.

The fact is, I've never stopped wondering if they were right. I remember two things that I said to the President of the agency that I suppose you could say were insubordinate. I told her that I believed the Federal Express "Fast Talking Man" commercial was the greatest direct spot in history though it had no explicit call to action or a phone number at the end. My assertion annoyed the shit out of her because it violated the shibboleth of best practices.

The other thing I did was say to her, "you hired me to be a creative director, but you don't let me create anything or direct anything." (She was more interested in having senior creative people go to meetings and coerce timesheets out of people.)

In any event, since that time, 15 years ago, I've always warned the people I report to, or the people interviewing me that I am insubordinate. That I don't do well with orders, rules or direction. Most people are taken aback when you tell them you are insubordinate. They smile a crooked smile and laugh uneasily, unsure whether I'm joking or not. No one has ever questioned me further about my insubordination. They're afraid they'll be considered insubordinate, I suppose.

The truth of the matter is that at its best, our business is meant to be about insubordination. It's meant to upset the dominant complacency of the human mind. In the words of Carl Ally, we're meant to "afflict the comfortable or comfort the afflicted."

That's all for now, except for this: dinner was delicious.


Anonymous said...

I was also fired for being "insubordinate". That assumed that creative was "subordinate" to traffic - a very upside-down agency culture. The trains ran on time, but there was rarely anyone on them.

geo said...

Insubordination is a bitch.
But it beats subordination.

bob hoffman said...

Entrepreneurship is the last stop on the insubordination train.

geo said...

Yeah, Bob. I don't know how to do that.