Friday, June 3, 2022

Heraclitus, Rob, Geno and me.

My good friend Rob Schwartz, Chair of TBWA New York Group, was on Gene Schellenberger's "Breaking and Entering" podcast. I listened to it yesterday as I took a train into the city from wherever it is I am living these days. You can and you should listen to Rob and Geno here.

Geno's podcast, as its title implies, is about getting started in the advertising business. How people like Rob broke in.

Rob sent me and Geno a note. He suggested I might be a good guest on Geno's show.

But then I got to thinking. 

I never broke into the industry. 

That is, I'm still breaking in.

As Heraclitus reputedly said "You can never step into the same river twice." If you're lucky, smart, hard-working, resourceful, a little bit daring and lucky, every day in life is breaking in. Every day is entering something new. Stepping into a new river.

Our job is to NEW.

To new-ize.

To make people who are bored look at something in a new way.

Not just people watching our commercials. Brand managers and CMOs who are bored with what they do. 

Our job--the very essence of our job--is to break into and enter people's brains.

However you did that yesterday, you have to find a new way to do it today.

You have to find new ways to twist words. New ways to create images. New ways to look at old things. New ways to reach people. New ways to get noticed. New ways to collaborate. New people to work with. New media to conquer.

Also, your world changes every day and you have to find your way in it afresh, every day. 

If you told me on January 13th, 2020 that I'd be fired from Ogilvy the next day (the day after being warmly hugged by Ogilvy's CEO Emeritus) I'd have said you were crazy. If you told me I'd be running my own multi-million dollar agency pretty much by myself, I'd have laughed at you.

I had to break into and enter new phases of my life and my livelihood.

In life, we have to learn--every day--how to distinguish between signal and noise. Signal is the meaningful information you're trying to find. Noise is anything that distracts.

We also have to learn--every day--how to distinguish between complacency and meaning. Complacency is doing things you've done before in ways you've always done them. Meaning is taking what you've learned from previous experiences and finding new and unforeseen ways to apply your knowledge.

Most people I know in the business, whether they're 30 and quickly on their way up, or 55 or 65 and finding new paths, are forever looking. Looking for something.

Before Covid my wife got tickets for us to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Beacon Theatre. Seinfeld has a net worth of almost one-billion dollars. 

But he was out on the stage of the Beacon working. Working on new material. Working on new ways to reach an audience. Working working working.

Working to rage against the dying of the light.

I don't know Seinfeld but I imagine if you asked him about what he does he would say a few things.

1. He's still scared when he goes in front of an audience. He still fears failure.

2. He still needs to succeed and to prove it to himself.

3. He's still breaking in--whether it's material, technique, something.

I think that's true of most everyone I know. Whether they've been a successful lawyer for 40 years like my brother or a successful psychiatrist for 40 years like Dr. Lewis.

We're all just starting out.

Every day.

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