Monday, February 7, 2011


The saddest and most pernicious emotional state in advertising, and I suppose, any other business is a state in which you live in fear. A state in which fear, fear of your boss, fear of being fired, fear of being found out, fear of fear itself, clouds your actions and turns you mean, little, spiteful and afraid.

There is a lot of fear in the advertising business because what we do is so nebulous. It's so easy to critique, so easy to accommodate, so easy to play it safe and compromise. Fear is a monster that destroys all it comes into contact with. Fear and good work cannot co-exist and when choosing between fear and having an opinion, fear inveigles better and therefore wins out 99 times out of 100.

The most fearsome thing to someone who is fearful is showing the world that they are fearful. So we become adept at hiding fear--or at least we think we become adept at it. The fearful are sarcastic. The fearful are judgmental. The fearful are loud. Worst of all, the fearful are bullies.

Fear eats the soul, but most people aren't afraid of having their soul eaten. They're afraid of something stupid like getting fired or not getting a promotion. They don't realize that fear and humanity cannot co-exist.

Fear makes all that comes into contact with it miserable. Or tries to if you succumb to it. Here's how Joseph Heller put it in his vivid opening of the novel "Something Happened."

“I get the willies when I see closed doors. Even at work, where I am doing so well now, the sight of a closed door is sometimes enough to make me dread that something horrible is happening behind it, something that is going to affect me adversely; if I am tired and dejected from a night of lies or booze or sex or just nerves and insomnia, I can almost smell the disaster mounting invisibly and flooding out toward me through the frosted glass panes. My hands may perspire, and my voice may come out strange. I wonder why.

Something must have happened to me sometime.”

I pity the people who live in fear. They are not living at all.


Tim Woods said...

For years I lived in fear in this biz. If you call that living. But I've been fear free for over a year. Lately I've slipped into some old bad habits. This shook me back into that place. Thank you for this, Geo.

Anonymous said...

In my old agency, whenever the doors were closed it meant the secretaries were getting fucked.

geo said...

Ah, Anonymous, the days of hot and cold running secretaries.

Joe said...

Thanks, this is great.