How Do You Answer for Yourself?

Some Questions From an Aspiring Young Ad Man

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Recently a young man sent me a letter with a few questions that showed he was thinking seriously about his career. I thought I'd share our conversation with everyone because I believe his questions are of the type we should each be asking ourselves. Whether you agree with my answers, consider the questions. Offer your own answers. Maybe a young person can benefit from your experience.

Q1: What has been the guiding force when you've made career decisions?

A1: Two things:

1. A commitment to my principles. It's important that you have and use a moral compass. One day you may have the privilege of passing it on to your children.

2. A commitment to doing my best.

My commitment to doing my best goes back to my college days when I was studying under a great teacher, a former partner of the Creative Circus, Rob Lawton. Rob was a tyrant in the class, but we loved him. He helped us prove to ourselves we were capable of much more than we realized. Doing one's best means working harder than we think we have to. Whether it's a good opportunity or a mediocre opportunity, give it your all. I've seen award-winning work come from seemingly hopeless assignments.

Q2: Is there a plan?

A2: There must be a plan if you want to succeed at anything. From your letter, I realize that you have studied my agency as well as others. So you are looking for something in particular. That's a plan. As far as your career goes, have a long-range plan and intermediate goals within it.

Q3: Are there guiding principles at the core of your decision-making or is it more of a here and now process?

A3: Answer No. 1 answers Question No. 3, but the "here and now" may offer an unprecedented opportunity. Be flexible but take advantage of the unplanned. Just don't compromise your ethics.

Q4: What sort of things do you read?

A4: I read all kinds of things. In fact I continually have a topically diverse stack of books on my nightstand. I read a little from each every night. A few good books on the ad business are: "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!" by Luke Sullivan; "The Houdini Solution" by Ernie Schenck; "Perfect Pitch" by Jon Steel; and "Juicing the Orange" by Pat Fallon and Fred Senn.

Q5: Where do you look for inspiration?

A5: I've learned that everything has the application for a great ad, so everything we experience should be our inspiration. You just have to connect the dots.

Q6: Are there particular people you look to for inspiration outside the ad business?

A6: There are many who inspire me: those who have selflessly given their lives for another. Those who anonymously give to the needy. Those who use their talent to its highest potential. The underdog who never gives up and succeeds in spite of tremendous odds.
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