Thursday, October 7, 2021

It's hard.

Over the past few weeks there's seems to be a major resurgence of those stupid videos on Twitter and other social media sites where something is either cooked or built in about 90 seconds.

Some of these things that are cooked or built are somewhat complex. Especially if you have no innate facility in either building or cooking, if you don't have the right equipment or power tools, or if you occasionally make a mistake or two.

No, in these videos, the onions are always diced beautifully. Your oak is always measured and sawed to perfection. The phone never rings to take you from your task. And everything is always completed--to perfection--in just about 90 seconds.

This morning--up at 4 because of the queasy-stomached Whiskey--I listened to a long BBC report on the radio about the emergent Metaverse. To hear various charlatans lay out their vision of the future, in five years or so, the virtual economy will be bigger than the real one, everyone will be having the most glorious "experiences" in the virtual world, and we won't want to or be able to tell the difference between a Metaverse interaction and a real-world one.

What I've learned from more than four-decades of reading history is how much predictions about the future allow the person doing the predicting to excuse his terrible behavior. 

For thousands of years now, whole civilizations have been raped and genocided because some zealot had a heavenly picture of the world cleansed of non-believers and imagined the ever-lasting glow of Jesus or Allah or Hitler or Jim Jones prancing through a grassy field in complete bliss.

My behavior, the horrid logic goes, will allow my people their space in the heavens and that makes it all worthwhile. 

Lest you think this kind of attitude is rooted in the past, it prevails today. As a "civilization," we are blithely living through what Elizabeth Kolbert calls the Sixth Extinction, but it's all ok because the Koch brothers are making trillions as are Exxon, Rex Tillerson, Dick Cheney and a handful of other trillionaires. It'll all be ok. Besides--it's ordained--and when the world ends, all true believers will wind up with 72 virgins or 72 raisins whichever they're selling at the cosmic candy store at the moment.

The thing people forget is that it makes no sense to view the world--any part of the world--like it's as orderly as a recipe for a garlic-crusted baked ziti pie, or a bentwood coffee table you can make in about 90 seconds.

In the real world, the path to Elysium is as interrupted as a movie showing on a cheap-ass cable station. No one cares about what the viewer wants. It's more important to butcher whatever's being shown every six-minutes to earn advertising dollars from companies selling spray-on hair and Mesothelioma

Years ago, when I worked on IBM Watson, the client and the agency made a mistake.

We sold magic alone. We should also have been selling sweat. Because while magic can happen, there's usually a ton of work behind it.

Magic's sexier and could win you awards and acclaim.

But magic, like the aforementioned garlic-crusted baked ziti pie or a heavenly eternity, is an illusion. 

Working on Watson, I tried to remedy the misperceptions we created by trying to sell a campaign I called, "In praise of hard." 

Nothing in the world that's worth doing is as simple as a 90-second how-to video, or a 30-second spot, or a long BBC report on the splendors of the Metaverse.

Everything worth doing is worth working for. I can think of nothing, not even a breeze that is as easy as a breeze.

Even the most-perfect creature on earth, Whiskey, my nearly ten-year-old golden retriever, demands work. Yesterday she had me up at 3:15. Today, she let me sleep an hour later.

Too many businesses and way too many agencies refuse to accept this: work is hard. Results are hard to come by. And have to be sweat over.

At any given time I have six clients or twelve I'm working on. As adept and--almost magical as my magic fountain pen is--every word I write is built on my 63-years of thinking, reading, learning and writing.

I suppose I could hire a friend to stand on a ladder and shoot me undercranked as I write a headline or unravel a client's inscrutable mission. I wonder if our industry would be worse or better if someone had filmed Julian Koenig typing "Think Small," or Ed McCabe writing "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken."

And maybe some things do come in a remarkable electrical flash. 

But life, work and love are not if-then propositions. The best laid plans, as Robert Burns said, gang aft agley.

And even flashes of brilliance, no matter what we wish, are never easy.

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