Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Robinson Crusoe on Advertisng.

I get a lot of calls--mostly by email--from friends of mine who seem to be unhappily wallowing in some advertising job or another. They turn to me for advice or a soft shoulder. I suppose because I have nearly 30 years in the business and over 30 years in fairly intense therapy.

Last night I began reading a book called "Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth" by Katherine Frank. Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" is not only widely regarded as the first novel ever written, it has also remained popular and influential since it was initially published in 1719--almost 300 years.

One of the things Frank points out is that the survivors in survivor tales like "Robinson Crusoe" react to their condition in one of three ways. One: They despair and sink deep into gloom and inertia. Two: They are educated by and adjust their belief system and living styles to their new environment. Three: They attempt to reconfigure their new environment to look and behave like their old environment.

I think we in the agency business have the same three options in our work life--really two if you count out depression. We can sink into despair when facing a shitty environment. We can cower and turn off. We can embrace our environment and make things "work." Or we can attempt to alter the agencies in which we toil.

Crusoe, of course, turned his desert island into a small, rustic replica of 18th Century England. He recreated his own world--one he was comfortable in--off the shores of the Orinoco. We can, further, debate which is the right course of action: despair, adjust or reshape. And each response depends on your personal strength and the agency you work in.

Depression, inertia is never a good choice. But as to the other two, molding yourself or molding your environment, you have to have to take a long hard look. Are their people to learn from. Is there honesty and integrity? Is there a willingness on the part of the agency to learn?

These are the tough questions I believe smart people have to ask themselves every day. And I don't have an answer here. The fact is, I've made as many smart career decisions as dumb ones. Or better, a smart decision is usually 51% smart and 49% dumb. Whereas a dumb decision is usually 51% dumb and 49% smart.

I guess, in sum, it's not the decisions you make as much as how you grow having made them. I'm making less money--substantially less money--than I made six years ago but I suppose I am happier.

Of course, I've had 12 jobs in 28 years.

Maybe I'm the last one who should be giving advice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Are their people to learn from." Shouldn't it be "Are there people to learn from?"