The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Class creates change. Hype creates headlines.

I work in an industry that loves to make big deals out of everything.

Literally everything.

And yet, how many of those things were still being talked about a month later?

Or maybe a week?

Or even the next day?

The reality is that for all the work that claims to be revolutionary in its thinking/execution, the reality is few seem to be.

And the same is with agencies.

While it is difficult, the reality is any agency can hit the ad jackpot at least once in their life.

Maybe it’s a Super Bowl spot … or a Cannes award … or just something utterly, utterly brilliant/fun/funny/emotional … but for me, the true test of greatness is not about having done it once, but having done it on a consistent basis.

I don’t mean in terms of getting a headline in the industry press – however nice that is – I’m talking about capturing the mood and imagination of a nation.

Years ago I met someone who kept telling me about the time they ‘achieved something big’ in their career.

What they were talking about was admirable and certainly worthy of feeling proud about, however this thing was 15 years in the past.


Don’t get me wrong, the person in question should absolutely feel they achieved something few do because they did … but if you are living 15 years in the past, you’ll never be able to move on into the future.

And that’s why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was to always be known for something in every job you have.

It doesn’t matter if you did something amazing over a decade ago, be known for having done something good things in the present.

Whether I have done that is questionable, but that advice has meant I have always gone into new adventures with the desire to make a difference. That should sound obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people try and live off their past.

So for me, it’s always about trying to find something I can improve, impact or instill … something that will last longer than my time there.

Now I appreciate you can easily fall into some post-rationalisation of achievement, because – let’s face it – when you’re judging yourself you’re rarely hard on yourself, but most people accept nothing worth doing comes easy so if they see you as having consistently done positive things wherever you have worked, it not only separates you from the lucky ‘one-off’s’, it lets you look at your career in terms of what it can still be, not just what it was.

18 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Brilliant advice. Was it Jaques or Hill who gave that to you?

Comment by George


Comment by DH

Both. But Jaques said it in the way I’ve written about it.

Comment by Rob

Excellent advice Robert. I am happy to concede this was all Mr Jaques work.

Comment by Lee Hill

To be fair though Robert, there have been people in the ad industry who have been able to coax out a decent career based on something they did in the past. But while they think they are still top of the world, the industry is pushing them slowly to the exit door. Great advice in a great post.

Comment by George

Yes, you’re right. Adland rewards past glories with better jobs and pay and then keeps wanting them to repeat the result immediately. The problem with this is multiple. It ignores the amount of people it took to make that greatness happen – including the client. It ignores the time it took to make that greatness happen. It forces everyone to move forward by living in the past. It works for everyone short-term but even if they pull it off again, it’s rarely achieves the same impact unless you’ve moved things forward, which is why the advice I got was so important to me.

By all means be proud of what you’ve achieved but leave them to history so you can get on with writing your future.

Comment by Rob

Your time at wk has left you with the ability to write everything in nike headlines.

Comment by DH

I know. (I did think of responding to this in a swoosh slogan, but luckily for you, I couldn’t think of one)

Comment by Rob

Freebies are given, never earned.

Comment by John

You must be right because you’ve still got a career and you’re only known for swearing, bad fashion and blagging.

Comment by DH

Guess this is why wieden are still at the top of their game when most past powerhouses are not. They see every campaign as an opportunity to push them forward where others focused on keeping things the same. Also known as independence VS holding company sellout.

Comment by DH


Comment by Pete

Nailed it.

Comment by Rob


Comment by DH

We all know someone who is the person you’ve described. We should direct them to this post because it’s so true. The last paragraph is particularly good.

Comment by Pete

I’ve never done anything of note.

Comment by John

Isn’t commenting on here worthy?

Oh who am I kidding.

Comment by Rob

It’s only worthy if you’re talking in terms of a prison sentence.

Comment by DH

Leave a Reply