When I was young in the business, like many people I suppose, I regularly presented better work than I was able to sell or clients were able to buy. But being a human, we tend to get ahead of ourselves. I would imagine my portfolio with all the things I wanted to be sold all laminated and pretty and ready to help me get a new job.
Of course, the best laid plans of mice and copywriters ang gaft aglay and instead of getting a new job, I had nothing to show for all my work, hopes and dreams.
Every once in a while, you find yourself dwelling more on what didn't happen than on what did. I guess you could say, in effect, your career might well be something that happens while you're bemoaning your career.
After 35 years in the agency business, I hear from a lot of people about the tough breaks they've had along the way. Of firings. Of long stints of unemployment. Or back-breaking freelance. Or soul-crushing permanent work.
Of not selling something you thought you should have sold. Of screwing something up. Of losing an account despite having done good work.
There are myriad reasons for broken steps on the ladder of life. You could get a new boss who wields a clean-sweeping broom. You could get new management at the client who brands you as being the "old guard." You could simply become without knowing it a square peg no longer suited for what's now a wrong-shaped hole.
I know a few people in the business who are nearly my age, or at least within a decade or two of my 62 years. Not one, even the ones whose shit didn't stink when they were 30 or 40 didn't have something happen to them that they wish hadn't. Everything that rises must recede, or something like that. No one is immune.
No one succeeds, in work, in relationships, in parenting, without a significant amount of failure that goes along with that success. Failure that can, if you're of a lugubrious mien, sometimes overwhelm your successes. You seem to notice the failures more.
The key to not succumbing to failure is not succumbing. The key to being who you are, to being all you can be, is being you.
It's ok to curse the fates and howl at the moon. It's ok to have a scowling visage and a surly disposition.
What's not ok is giving up. Not showing up every day and buckling down and doing your work.
In the words of Curtis Mayfield, you've got to keep on keeping on.
I guess, simply, when I look back, and when I look around me, I see and feel and live and breathe the scars and the wounds that all these years in the business have visited upon me and upon some people I know.
In a way we're all a bit like canvas sneakers. In time, with use, you get beat up a fair amount--probably more than your share. Once you have a few miles on you, there's no way of staying clean.
But you keep going.
For me, I work. I write. I do more. I raise my hand. And I work some more.
That's been working for me for 35 years. Amid all my fuckups and failures.