I had a nice conversation with my eldest daughter this morning. It's always nice to witness cogency and intelligence before 8AM.
Sarah is 24 and a first-year Doctoral student going for her degree in Clinical Psychology. Her university adeptly seems to mix course work (theory) with clinical placement internships (practice.) Accordingly, Sarah is challenged with, say, learning something in a classroom on a Monday and then bringing that learning to bear with a client on a Tuesday.
It's a pretty grueling regimen. And Sarah, who is what some might regard as a 'Drama Mama' often feels the effects of her 70-hour work weeks.
There's not much I can say to her when she's feeling downtrodden. I usually just try to get her to take a step away from the ledge.
What I said to her this morning though seemed to work. It made me think, too.
"Essentially, you're learning a new language every term and forced to speak that language in your clinical placements."
She sighed heavily and (for once) agreed with me.
Then she asked, "How do you do it at work when you pitch a new piece of business? How do you know what makes a bank or a car or an air-conditioning unit 'different and better?' How do you know about the 'style' of the companies you're pitching? Do you hire category experts? I guess what I'm asking is, 'how do you learn their language?'
I took a deep breath.
"Well," I answered, "everybody wants everything in a rush. So, often, especially on pitches, we don't learn the culture of a company, their language. We speak in broken phrases. We emulate patterns we learned from other clients. Or we seek a universal language, an advertising 'Esperanto" I call 'Cooleranto.' We just try not to do something true, but something cool. We take a Berlitz course in our clients. We can find our way to a hospital or a toilet, but not much more. I think that's why most advertising sounds so phoney."
Thoroughly depressed at that point, I told Sarah I loved her and was proud she was pursuing her dream.