Friday, April 21, 2023

Pains and Needles.

Lately, I've been busier than a knife sharpener at a mohel convention and also lately, I've been speaking to a lot of friends and colleagues who are looking for work.

As disparate as these two things are, I'm finding they go together. 

Let me explain.

The other day, I was speaking to a colleague--a former boss, actually. I'll call him, as Kafka might have, X, you know, for anonymity's sake. 

X had risen to nearly the highest heights in three or four different agencies, but is now on the other side trying to scale the mountain again. I don't know what he said or how he said it, but somewhat from out of the blue I asked X an unexpected question.

"You're a middle child, aren't you?"

X fluttered his eyelashes at me. He was baffled by my question.

"Yes, I am," X answered. "How did you know?" He might have stammered.

"I just did," I said. "I am, too."

Clearly, I had seen something in X that reminded me of me. Something of the underdog--that we were never the primary focus of our parents, so we always had to fight for attention. We always had to be loud, or we'd have been ignored. 

My mentor and ex-boss, Steve Hayden, taught me that. Steve believed that the best ad people are second children or third or last. We were always an after-thought. We learned from an early age to stand on a chair and holler. It was get attention or rot.

Back to being busy.

I had a presentation today where I showed the client about 25 ads. 

That's a lot of ads. Even for me.

Again, not being heard as a child--which was clearly detrimental to me in so many ways--turned into an advertising positive.

I am able to write 25 lines on a single theme--on a positioning or a brief--because it might take a neglected child 25 tries to get heard once.

I couldn't just say, "I'm bleeding, Freddy hit me," 25 times the same way. I had to learn to shake things up so I'd get noticed. My birth-order and emotionally austere, even cruel, parents--were a real liability when I was a kid. 

As a grown-up, I learned to turn those minuses into pluses. 

I think everyone has a fairly long assortment of minuses in their corpuscles. Some endogenous. Some exogenous. Some from using words like endogenous and exogenous.

There's no pill or therapeutic technique or HR protocol or 9-week-training program that can cover them all. If you're just a fucking neurotic mess, you won't get a week or even a day where the world claims they're celebrating your infirmity.

Mostly all you can do to compensate is work a little harder. Work your way through issues. Talk yourself away from the ledge and try again.

There are plenty of nights I curse the gods for not having had loving parents or even liking parents. For having had to raise myself the best I could, like a Dickens' character sans benefactor, being shaken upside-down by Magwicg in a cemetary. For having to fight like a mongrel for whatever emotional table scraps I could beg.

But then I write 25 ads.

And maybe 25 more.

It ain't the same thing as feeling loved. But I can do it. I've learned to get attention.

It's a living.

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