As previously discussed, Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways is one of the books I derive immense inspiration from whenever the well runs dry. Also as previously mentioned, I discovered Dave Trott this year and have found enormous pleasure in reading his posts all over the web and his books.
In grokking about these books, I landed on an interesting correlation about both these gentleman: They’re really kind of the same.
Both Fletcher and Trott write in short, lively, easy to digest bursts of goodness. Both tackle a wide range of subject matter but always bring it back home to make a point about their field, either design or advertising.
The difference is that Trott deals in words and Fletcher handles the visuals. Both are all about ideas and connecting them to other seemingly unrelated ideas. Both explore the boundaries of creativity.
Both Trott and Fletcher should be essential part of any creative person’s library.
Today’s subject is not one you will read anywhere else. So pay attention.
A quick story: A few years ago I was in Abu Dhabi at a huge worldwide product launch event. We had spent months building the presentation and all the support material the product champion would need to go to market. Everything went off great. Customers were blown away. Other product champions came up to me afterwards and told me THAT was what they wanted me to do for them when they launched.
As with everything the company does, the launch accompanied a trade show. A stupid business practice, but that’s another story for another time. I worked the booth to bring people in and cover for the experts when they needed a break or were with a customer. After 4 days of this, I got to know a number of the people involved in the launch rather well.
The product champion was a tall, smart Nigerian, who also happened to be the best dressed guy I’ve ever known. I joked with him that if I ran into him at a swim meet that I’d be in my trunks and flip-flops and he’d still be in an Armani suit. He laughed.
Towards the end of the show, he was milling around and anxious. Wringing his hands. I asked him what was wrong and if I could help. He replied that because the launch was garnering so much attention, his boss adjusted his sales numbers. Through the roof. Suddenly all the success in the world had become a curse.
This is something few people talk about and no one wants to address. If you are truly good at doing your job and reach the top of that proverbial mountain, more often than not that is only the beginning.
Success can be a curse.
Generally speaking, you will get your next project or job because of something you did right on the previous one. There is no rest, no pat on the back, no attaboy! You’ve achieved your goal, now move on to the next.
I had a boss years ago who would say “Why do we always get the tough problems?” I knew what he was getting at. Clients came to us because they had particularly sticky problems and they needed someone to help them navigate through the murkiness and get to something great. It is never easy and rarely fun. In fact, sometimes it was damned hard.
But the point he missed was that clients kept coming back. No, we didn’t always get the plumb assignments; we’d get the hard ones that no one else seemed to be able to solve. And more often than not, we’d work through the design and deliver something fantastic. Then another hairy project would show up on the doorstep.
Cursed wth success.
The key is to take it all in stride. And to take it as a compliment that you are the one who is being trusted to do something very hard. I am usually a person who is all about the journey, not the destination. But when these hard problems come calling, to keep your sanity about it all you have to focus on achieving the goal. The journey itself will not be pleasant, although it will make a great war story later on in life.
But once you’ve reached that goal, don’t watch that homer fly out of the park. Run those bases, savor that moment and get ready for the next one. Everyone now knows what you’re capable of and will expect more. You’ll be cursed, and there is no other way you want to be.
(Sorry for all the mixed metaphors)