Let me rephrase that. The other night, I had a Zoomtini with a friend who became a client.
We've been friends for about ten years--a considerable, but not extraordinary length of time. However, during those ten years, we survived more than a few agency battles together. The sort of late-night, high-stress affairs that fortify trust and strengthen friendships.
Last night we raised an elbow to some work we're doing together--to both the integrity of the work and the cohesion of the group that's come together to make it and build it and place it.
It's a good feeling when this happens. It's like crossing the finish line at a marathon. You might stink. You might feel like shit. But you stuck with it and you did it.
When it's good, work can be like that.
Our chatter, of course, wasn't guided by any agenda. We had business to talk about. But it was really more a moment to take a breath and exchange thanks for giving each other our best.
We also talked, of course, about the agency world. We're both on the other side now--away from the sturm und drang of the mainstream of the business. And being out, it might feel a little bit like escaping from a cult.
"You know what gets me," my friend said at one point, "I'm sitting in a client seat now--not an account guy seat. And when I hear agencies thanking clients for being brave--it makes me sick."
I laughed. Brave is a fire-fighter. A soldier. A father consoling a kid who's been somehow rejected.
"Look," he said, "I have an imperative drive my company's business forward. That ain't being brave. That's called doing my job. I don't need pandering to do my job. It's my job. Don't condescend me."
"When I was a kid," I told him, "I was a cashier in a liquor store in downtown Chicago--right off of Rush Street. A wealthy older couple came in and bought a couple of cases, expensive stuff--they must have been having a party that night.
"I didn't even think about it, I carried the cases out to their car and loaded everything in their trunk."
"Yep, that's right," he said.
"The old man reached into his wallet to give me a buck. When you're making $3.50 an hour, a dollar tip ain't bad. But I turned it down."
"You refused the tip?"
"Yeah." I said, "Like you don't like to be called brave, I didn't like the idea of being rewarded for doing the right thing. It's not about a dollar or a dais. It's about doing the right thing. It's about knowing you did the right thing because it's the right thing to do. That's always been my imperative."
Maybe that's antiquated, that sort of thinking. Maybe all that integrity crap is just bushwa that gets people to work harder, so the rich get richer.
But work, whether it's curing cancer or creating ads, is about work. It's about how you conduct yourself. It's about trying, cursing, sweating, battling, re-doing, re-re-doing till you get something you and the people who pay you are pleased with.
It ain't about being brave or winning awards. It's not even about Mammon.
It's about doing what you say you're going to do.
Then doing a bit more.
And a bit more.
Nothing brave about it.
It just is.
And here's to you, client/friend.
Until we Zoomtini again.