Bad Times Give Me Hope for Industry's Future

I Don't Long for Crisis, but I'm Happy With Our Response

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
"Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you?" the alien asked.

The government official fearfully nodded.

"You are at your very best when things are worst."

John Carpenter's movie "Starman" wasn't a big hit at the box office. You can find it in the $5 bin at Walmart. But, in my opinion, the aforementioned line makes the movie a classic because it reveals the truth about when we reach our greatest potential: bad times.

From the simple courtesy to the saving of a life, we humans seem to do our best when things aren't going so well. A plane crashes in the frigid Hudson River and common people rush to save others. Someone loses their job and while they are looking for something new, they volunteer to help feed the hungry. A person in a drive-thru pays for the coffee of the car behind him and hundreds behind follow the example. This type of selfless behavior happens every day in this country. People are good more than bad. When we are all hurting, many look to relieve others before themselves.

I believe our current hard times will result in America being a better country. I'm not giving in to the notion that we are all a bunch of self-indulgent brats who believe the world owes us something. I believe most Americans will take this opportunity to use their moral compass and do the right thing. This applies to our profession as well. Perhaps this is the opportunity we've needed to earn a little more respect.

We all have friends and probably co-workers who are victims of this economy. It is painful to see it happen, but it creates an opportunity to evaluate priorities, relationships and one's individual performance. Whether we are working or not, an objective evaluation will surely reveal some room for improvement. If we are still working, we should put that evaluation to work for our clients immediately.

Every Friday afternoon my creative department has a session we call "Creative Therapy." It was designed to invigorate us creatives by observing the best work going on in our industry, discussing how to improve our own work and celebrating our accomplishments. The last time we met we began to talk about how bad things are, and our conversation soon turned to the challenges our clients are facing. We discussed how important it is to be as effective in our work as possible. We acknowledged that our value to our clients went far beyond our creative inventiveness. All agreed that we not only could weather this economic storm, but we could come out the other side of it better than before.

Of course these are things we should think about in good times too, but too many times we focus more on ourselves. We focus on our "art." Our conversation was the result of a bad situation. My staff realized that their own needs might not be as important as someone else's and they wanted to help. I was proud of that moment. It gave me hope for the future of our industry.

I don't desire bad times as an opportunity to improve. I would hope that I strive to improve even during the best of times. Bad times offer plenty of opportunity to be better at what we do. Bad times offer a choice between looking out for oneself, or for the good of others. My optimism in we humans causes me to believe most of us will choose the latter. If we hold true to what is best in us, we will make not only our industry a better one, but also our world.

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