Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Love and hate. And life.

The depressingness of "content" out in the world is enough to make me--already a cynic, a misanthrope, a contrarian--a thrower of social-media Molotov cocktails. I already block many people and companies that post such platitudes. When I see little embroidered inscriptions on my wife's athletic socks that say, "You go girl," I want to jump on a horse, grab a scimitar and ride like a Cossack through the world of dumb-dumbitude.

I am so sick of these banalities. The imperatives to "live your best life." Philosophies on coffee mugs or breakroom posters. I am so sick of fortune cookies posing as philosophy. The Oprah-ization of Socrates. The substitute of anything from macro-biotic food to macro-biotic thinking for struggle, that it very nearly makes me sick.

Primary among these spiritual solicitudes is the popular, "Do what you love."

As if life is that simple.

I'd love to be a 7'2" center and have Wilt Chamberlain numbers for the New York Knicks, but I'm a foot short of that height, blessed with more than my fair share of extra adipose and, like the great fighter, Roberto Duran, have manos de piedra, "hands of stone." 

I'd love to be a lanky long-distance runner, training at altitude with a set of abdominal muscles as neatly ordered as a German military platoon.

I'd love to be ensconced in a small Ivy League college, up to my pupick in tweed, publishing books on obscure World War II battles and writing important, universal tomes on the literature of oppression. I'd love to have a thousand sheaves of yellow legal paper with my lecture notes scrawled on them, and be followed around the leafy campus like I was the member of a boy band, not a jowly old intellectual with a universal field theory that no one else abides by.

I'd love all those things and more. I'd love to be Scrooge McDuck, swimming through a swimming pool of gold coins. I'd love to have the house between Jagger's and Mary Wells' on Mustique and have them over for conversation and card games as we watch the sunset. I'd love a trillion things and more and I will never have them, because this is life, not a motivational poster.

Of course, we should do what we love. We should love whom we love. Eat what we love. Wear what we love. Watch what we love. Drive what we love. Live where we love next to people we love. 

Of course.

But we must also remember, to do anything you love, you must also do what you hate.

Despire. Abhor. Can't stand. Hope-you-can-procrastinate away. Wish you could age out of. 

We have to do what we hate.

If you're lucky enough to have had a long career that you've loved, as I have, you have to do what you hate.

You have to go to fucking asinine meetings that always start late and are almost always led by a tin-pot ECD who likes the hear himself talk.

You have to always have late night stupid sessions to answer creative riddles or marketing muddles you had answered weeks ago, but now you have to bring other people along.

You have to listen to c-level poseurs strut on stage with microphones of self-importance getting the rank and file--and just the plain old rank, to cheer for them and their brilliance. 

You have to timesheet, nod politely, jump in and write the script for the piece of shit video to scratch someone else's ego itch that no one else could write.

You have to abide by the credit grabbers and pontificators and petty technocrats who decide that they're cool and you're not and do everything in their feeble power to make you feel like crap.

You have to do all these things you hate and a billion more, because that's life.

In fact, this mania about doing what we love might be the precipitant behind the downfall of both America and that advertising industry.

"I'm not wearing a mask."

"I'm not paying taxes."

"I'm not treating another as a human."

"I'm not doing the hard-work of brand-building."

"I'm not slogging away learning the product, listening to engineers, verifying facts."

Why should we? 

We don't love those things.

And we should do what we love.

The great Steve Hayden, whom I'm still lucky enough to be working with, once told me, "The secret to work is spending 80 percent on the 20 percent of work that you like. And 20 percent on the 80 percent you can't stand."

The secret isn't to ONLY do what you love, key is to get very good at grunt stuff, very good at the window-washing no one else knows how to do or is not mensch enough to do them. 

The homily that should guide us is not "do what you love." It should be do what needs to be done and do it nobly and without complaint. Do it well. Do it quietly. Do it because it's your duty and your honor and your meaning to do it.

I once heard this said about a certain lofty agency personage. "There's no turbulence at 50,000 feet."

The truth is, turbulence is life.

It's what we have to deal with.

How we deal with it is what makes us human.

Or as the Tennessee Williams' "Big Daddy" said in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof":

"You and Skipper and millions like you are living in a kids' world. Playing games, touchdowns, no worries, no responsibilities. Life ain't no damn football game. Life ain't just a buncha high spots.

"You're a thirty-year-old kid. Soon you'll be a fifty-year-old kid. Pretendin' you're hearin' cheers when there ain't any. Dreamin' and drinkin' your life away. Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game. Mendacity! You won't...

"You won't live with mendacity? Well, you're an expert at it! The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true, and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die."

Truth isn't fake ads and 700 awards and Cannes and multi-million dollar shoots and concocted case-studies and agency models that magically make the long, slow slog of work evaporate and turn every page of pompous powerpoint into a prescription for a rocketship to stardom.

We might want to do love we love.

But as a human and as an industry, we'd be better off doing what we do with love.

With a passion for sweat and struggle and rewriting and doing it right. With love of work. With love of helping clients who pay us and young people who want to make it. With a love of integrity even when we're doing something you hate.

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