Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The worst assignment I ever got.

Sorry if I've told you this one before. I'm nearing 4,000 posts, and I might be repeating myself. Of course, this could also be an affect of my ever-advancing age. But in any event, here goes.

Some years ago I was in a very senior position at a very large agency that was consistently doing very good work. Despite all that, I felt that the assignments I was getting weren't good enough. I wanted bigger, more important assignments. I felt I had earned them and I went to my boss to ask for them.

Before I had even arrived back in my office, my phone was ringing. It was the leading account guy on the account who was calling to give me a new assignment.

That was fast, I thought, and I ran over to his office to get briefed.

The assignment was to create a whole raft of "deliverables" for Lou Gerstner's going-away party. (Gerstner was the CEO of IBM and widely credited for the giant company's turn-around.) I had to create posters, sing-along goodbye songs, ads and videos.

You're kidding me, I thought. An assignment really can't get any lower than this. Choreographing and decorating a party.

Except the CEO of the agency regarded it as important.

As did my boss and the head account guy.

As did the CMO at the client.

And just about everyone else that mattered at my agency.

And when all the bullshit work was done, and done well I might add, all those people were impressed.

Because I had taken something really lousy and come through.

I got nothing for my book.

I produced a lot of work I could never use.

But I had done things--taken the assignment seriously--that mattered to people.

And after it all was over, I started getting better assignments.

Which just goes to show you. Take every assignment, no matter how trivial and dumb, and take it seriously. Approach it like you mean it.

Because the worst assignments can lead to the best.

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