Keys to a Better 2012: Learn Skills. Be Challenged. Stay Fresh.

It's Easy to Feel Sadly Overwhelmed, But That's a Poor Excuse for Failing to Achieve

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What will you accomplish next year? Will you improve your agency's capabilities? Will you offer training to increase employee skills? Will you make improvements to your own skills? What steps will you take to rejuvenate your team to achieve the agency's primary goal?

These are questions that we all want to answer in the affirmative. However, the obstacles we face chip away at resolve. It's easy to believe we cannot make it over the bar because too many things are out of our control.

That's just a convenient excuse, and we dare not use it.

One way to avoid the trap is to look at what our peers are achieving. Do they not face similar obstacles? It is tempting to see our friends in the industry as having an easier time of it. Ask them to tell you about their great accomplishment, and I promise you will be horrified by what they went through to achieve it. Everyone has bad luck. Some pummel it into submission and win anyway.

If I'm going to hit my goals for 2012 , what do I need to do to get lucky? I offer these thoughts:

  • Improve skills. I've been creating ads for quite a while and have enjoyed some accolades for it. But it is dangerous to think that what I've accomplished secures future success. Our culture is in constant flux. Being ahead of the trend is the only way to make a trend. Plot your work to intersect with where the market will be, not where it is right now. Aim slightly ahead.

  • Develop new abilities. If I'm to improve my agency I cannot just be a creative director. Creatives in our industry tend to cheat themselves by not developing skills in business development and management. Don't do it. The better you are at the business side, the more hope you have to achieve great creative work. I know, it's boring stuff, but doing only what we enjoy isn't enough to help an agency succeed.

  • Recharge batteries. A funk can descend on you amid the daily grind. Becoming mentally stale, complacent or negative is tempting because it relieves you of responsibility for failure -- at least, in your mind. When I find myself giving in to the luscious pain of any of these, I become frightened. Accepting the status quo is the equivalent of a prison sentence. I avoid it by always having some project going on with potential. This type of opportunity doesn't roll in at the exact moment you need it. You must create it. Find a worthy cause and help out. Offer a friend with a small business your marketing services at a smaller price, in exchange for creative freedom. Bring a client a surprise idea they didn't ask for, free of charge. Whatever it is , get excited. Your enthusiasm will spread throughout your agency.

  • Find an advocate. I tend to personalize my work. If it fails, that makes me a failure. Fortunately, I have an advocate. My wife never lets me get away with negative thinking. She is empathetic, but she tells it like it is . When it comes to me wanting to feel sorry for myself, she lets me know that I have no right to wrongfully harm the man she loves. To succeed, you must have someone who believes in you. Though this person may not always be objective --after all, he or she's a fan -- the encouragement is what you need most to help you make it to the finish line.

    Bart Cleveland is partner, creative director, McKee Wallwork Cleveland, Albuquerque, N.M.
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