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Is Creative Fulfillment in a Career Possible

‘Advertising began as an art,’ (Rosser) Reeves noted, ‘and too many advertising men want it to remain that way — a never-never land where they can say: “this is right, because we feel it’s right.”’

Actually, said Reeves, advertising is a science like engineering, with some incidental esthetic potential but essentially a tool, an instrument of commerce firmly grounded in practical matters. []…] At all costs, admen should avoid ‘the most dangerous word of all in advertising — originality,’ an esthetic conceit deadly to maintaining a proper USP (unique selling proposition).

[…]

Like Rosser Reeves, he (Marion Harper) denied that advertising was an art not because he meant to denigrate advertising but because he had some sense of what real art amounted to. ‘What the audience receives from advertising is all-important,’ he explained. ‘This is not the character of the creative arts, in which the artist’s inspiration is paramount, and in which there can be indifference to the audience response.’

Stephen R. Fox


Still reading this great book on the history of advertising. Still finding so much of my current churnings in it.

Is it possible to be creatively fulfilled and support a family + live responsibly?

I struggle. I think I might, essentially, be a publisher. A publisher is concerned with numbers and eyeballs and moving product. A publisher is concerned with getting the damned thing out in time… whatever the damned thing my writers happen to be writing.

I used to fancy myself more of a creative. Almost an artist, but that’s, like, a heavy word, man. I used to dig and write or make videos like this one just for the hell of it. I used to create websites for fun.

That stuff was fun because it was new. Or because it was lewd and inappropriate. There’s always lewd and inappropriate in a pinch.

Now that stuff’s not new. I’m building a company and supporting partners and customers and there’s this big mess of people who could receive enormous value from the thing we’ve made and I should get this in front of them in a language they can easily receive and if they have different standards from me, different senses of humor and different experiences to draw from, well then I should meet them in those places rather than insist on them learning my own.

This is what it looks like to grow, to get big, to succeed.

Don’t wallow in your whiny artist-isms about “digging” and “the truth” and “what feels good right now” and all that immaturity… don’t be so conceited.

Do that on the side. In your spare time.

Rosser Reeves, quoted at the very top, the villain of 50s advertising (responsible for several of the largest successes) WROTE POETRY ON THE SIDE. Wrote a novel. Put together the first team of chess players from the US to tour Russia. He wrote a short story that was included in a book called The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (11th edition).

Is that what we have to do? Keep our art separate from our work/career?

Is there a sane and sustainable way to mix the two, or do they necessarily pollute one another?

The two quotes above, both from admen in the 50s, point in one direction. My own success points in another. (It was fucking about and exploring that brought me to any success I’ve found… not calculated strategy or an enterprising point of view.)

Here’s one image I find helpful.

I’m a big fan of Louis C.K. I love his comedy. I love his rambly path to success. And I think I’m learning to see the calculation in his (and other successful comedian’s) act. And the one image I have that helps me hold this question in balance is this:

I picture Louis C.K. as the head of a newspaper company. He’s every yelling, cigar-chomping guy in every superman comic or movie about a newspaper. He normally says things like, “This is shit!” and “I need that piece YESTERDAY, Scott!” He’s that guy, except he’s Louis C.K.

One day I break down in his office. “I got into this racket to tell the truth,” I scream. “But all the people seem to want is this bullshit we keep selling them!” The anger gives way to a kind of creative brokenheartedness. Louis recognizes it. He sits down behind his desk, opens the top drawer, hands me a cigar, lights it for me.

“You know how long I’ve been here, kid? 28 years next month. Here’s what I’ve learned: you’ve gotta give them what they want. Appeal to their shit nature, cuz it feels good to them, to push those bruises and pick those scabs. They love it. Get good at that shit, kid, cuz you gotta give them what they want… so they’ll read enough to find what they need. Surprise them with it, their gross reality, OUR depravity and selfishness, the ways we all fool ourselves, you gotta wrap it in shit so they’ll stick around long enough to maybe, just maybe get a nugget of truth in there… between the shovels of shit. I need your next piece on my desk by 3pm. Get out of here.” That last bit said with more than a little father-son fondness.

There’s a little glimpse into one of my sick fantasies… and one of my current struggles.

“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean shit. It’s what you do consistently.”

Tony Robbins


This interview was so good it makes me question the beliefs I carry about these two guys (this quote from an interview Tony had with Tim Ferriss). A couple hucksters? A couple gurus? A couple douchebags dropping facts about investment, NLP and “neuro-hacking?”

I don’t know what I think anymore. Maybe the conversation was perfect promotion. Maybe it was genuine. A girl can hope, can’t she?

“This being so, so what? ”

Zen Something-r-other via Jerry Colonna

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jelaluddin Rumi

Joseph Campbell on the Not Striving Moment

“There’s a wonderful moment that comes when you realize, ‘I’m not striving for anything. What I’m doing now is not a means to achieving something later.’ Youth has always to think that way. Every decision a young person makes is a commitment to a life course, and if you make a bad decision, that angle, by the time you get [older] you’re far off course. But after a certain age there’s no future, and suddenly the present becomes rich, it becomes that thing in itself which you are now experiencing.”

Joseph Campbell

Bill Murray on Secrets About Living

“I think the only reason I’ve had the career life that I’ve had is that someone told me some secrets early on about living. You can do the very best you can when you’re very, very relaxed, no matter what it is or what your job is, the more relaxed you are the better you are. That’s sort of why I got into acting. I realized the more fun I had, the better I did it. And I thought, that’s a job I could be proud of. It’s changed my life learning that, and it’s made me better at what I do.”

Bill Murray

“Work does not have to destroy us. Work can be the way in which we achieve our fullest self.”

Jerry Colonna

Jerry Seinfeld on Marriage

“You don’t do what’s right. You do what makes the other person feel good.”

Jerry Seinfeld


The next line is, of course, “and the first step of that is lying.” This is a real good summary of marriage, though, and a thing I’d do well to improve on in my own marriage.

Depression’s Insights & Laughter’s Forgiveness

“I would call this condition clarity, not depression; humor and depression are two different, but not mutually exclusive, responses to it. I know we’re told to regard depression as a disease, its victims no different from people who succumb to cancer or diabetes. But because it’s a disease whose symptoms take the shape of ideas, it can get hard to parse out pathology from worldview. The Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert once told me that ‘there are people who have no delusions; they’re called clinically depressed.’ Depression’s insights aren’t necessarily invalid; they’re just not helpful. Depression uses clarity as an instrument of torture; humor uses it as a setup. Comedy tells us, ‘But wait – that’s not the good part.’ Depression condemns the world, and us, as hateful; laughter is a way of forgiving it, and ourselves, for being so.”

Tim Kreider via Kleon

Slomo on the Most Absurd, Stupid Way to go Through a Life

“I reckon what I’m talking about is my experience in the middle part of life. The large part is a grinding affair, working away, having a family, making the whole thing happen and, at the end of it, most people are pretty worn out. They don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in anything beyond this ephemeral existence that we’re in now, their attitudes are cynical. They’re what we call “assholes.” And I was one of them.

It occurred to me one time when I was driving to work — I had a lot of reports to dictate that day — that I was still shoveling shit. Which had been the way I started my life on the dairy farm. If I look back on it, I’m just thinking, “this is the most absurd, stupid way to go through a life that a person could ever dream up.” But we’re all being pushed on to do this. And then I had the opportunity to stop.”

Slomo


Sensational video. Don’t know how they make it hit so well, but it does. Go. Watch!

Frederick Buechner on The Fearsome Blessing of Hard Times

“The fearsome blessing of that hard time continues to work itself out in my life in the same way we’re told the universe is still hurtling through outer space under impact of the great cosmic explosion that brought it into being in the first place. I think grace sometimes explodes into our lives like that—sending our pain, terror, astonishment hurtling through inner space until by grace they become Orion, Cassiopeia, Polaris, to give us our bearings, to bring us into something like full being at last.”

Frederick Buechner

Maya Anglou on Legacy

Oprah: What will my legacy be?

Maya Angelou: You don’t get to decide what your legacy is. That’s not up to you. So do your work.

Recounted by Tom Shadyack

David Foster Wallace on the Value of Education

“[…] this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.”

David Foster Wallace