The most valuable lottery you’ve never heard of.

By now you all know that you didn’t win last week’s Powerball lottery jackpot of nearly $1.6 billion dollars. Sorry. And if you were like most Americans you were probably off by 5 or 6 numbers. I know how you feel. Because when I was 18 I had a lottery experience that forever shaped my perspective on this get-rich-instantly game.

It happened at my high school graduation. My classmates and I received our Hanover High School diplomas from our principal, the late, super-great Uwe Bagnato. As he handed us our diplomas we each handed him a lottery ticket. It was an exciting experiment. We all wondered how much he might win with 143 chances. (Don’t laugh. We scoured ten towns from two states to come up with 143 educatable kids).  Anyway, we imagined Uwe would become mega-rich, and we would be the last class to graduate under his principality. But when we discovered that he only won a couple of bucks, and would be back at work again after Labor Day, the lottery was forever dead to me.

Since graduation I’ve been betting on myself.  I have made my career as an advertising creative.  And we make our money through an ideation lottery, where ideas bounce around in our head like lottery balls, randomized for fairness.  And when our mental machinery cues those idea-balls to drop into our consciousness we either have winning ideas or losing ideas.

I love the odds in this game.  I stack them in my favor by absorbing the world around me through interesting experiences, reading,  human interactions and sweet tea.  What I like even better is that you can play the idea lottery non-stop. And I do.  For some it is nerve-racking to make your living in this manner.  That’s why so many creative thinkers burn out or switch professions.  But the ones that stick with it are often well rewarded.

The value of the creative lottery is summed up beautifully in one of my favorite quotes:

“More gold had been mined from the mind of men than the earth itself.”  -Napoleon Hill from Think and Grow Rich.

Napoleon, that is some powerful stuff.  But it’s a strange reality. Because I really don’t know where the ideas come from. Sure, sometimes the thoughts are mashups of two things I’ve considered recently.  And sometimes there is a strong logic chain the leads me to an idea.  But a healthy percentage of the time God just drops gold nuggets in between my ears, and for all I know I had nothing to do with it. I’m just smart enough to watch for them, recognize them when I see them and polish them enough to enable others  to recognize their value.

So the next time you watch those lottery balls mixing, think of all the great creative ideas formed in the minds of men and women that have turned them into millionaires and billionaires. I hope it encourages you to bet on your own ideas. And take it from me and Uwe, the chances of winning the lottery are far better in your head.

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50,000 reasons to take all your vacation days in 2016.

Right now millions of Americans are trying to figure out how to squeeze in the last of their remaining vacation days. Or worse, they are watching them disappear into the ether like the rest of 2015. According to a study by Oxford Economics the average American hits Dick Clark-Seacrest’s Rockin Eve with one week of unused vacation days still in their pocket. And when the ball hits Jenny McCarthy the vacation days disappear like gym goers in February.

This disturbing little study, commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association puts current vacation day consumption at the lowest point in the past four decades. And for those of you who don’t have a days-to-dollars calculator in your head, the result is 169 million days forfeited, amounting to $52.4 billion in lost benefits. Which means that your most valuable charitable contribution this year likely didn’t go to your church, the homeless or curing cancer. It went to your employer.

But there is yet a deeper problem here that The Perfect Agency Project would like to address. It’s the negative impact forgoing your vacation days has on your creative thinking. In fact, according to the National Science Foundation humans have an average of 50,000 thoughts every day. And if you don’t enjoy new experiences, read new books and meet new people you know what happens?  You have the same 50,000 thoughts day after day.  This type of stale thinking is career-threatening if you are a writer, art director, creative director, designer, strategist, developer, programer or marketer.

To enhance your creativity you have to add new fuel to the fire.  And the best way to do that is to take a day off and experience something new.  Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Meet someone new. Jump off something you’ve never jumped off. Scare yourself. Binge watch sunrises and sunsets. Visit a museum. Go to Burning Man. Because new stimuli create new memories. Which create new thoughts and new pathways. You will naturally incorporate all of these new thoughts into your work.  Which empowers you to solve new problems with more beautiful solutions.

So if you want to make 2016 your most creative and innovative year yet take your vacation days. It will freshen your thinking, expand your brain and make you a more valuable asset to your organization.  Oh, and if you do decide to jump off something you’ve never jumped off before make sure your mom isn’t driving by in her minivan. Trust me on this one.

 

 

 

Why your next hire should be an Imperfectionist.

To build a great business you need to collect great people.  But what makes people great, and thus collectable, is certainly a topic of debate. I am sure you have your own trait that you think makes you a valuable addition to an employer. You’re organized. Or energetic. Or creative. Or not easily bored.

I spend a lot of time interviewing candidates for our ad agency. And there’s one label I have heard more than all others. In fact I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard people proudly state, ‘I am a perfectionist.’ This proclamation makes me want to throw up. Because I believe that in an idea business like advertising perfection works against you.

That’s why I proudly consider myself an Imperfectionist. So what does that mean? It means I value progress in any form. I am quite comfortable dreaming up and then sharing half-baked ideas. Or writing a first draft and passing it around for a reaction. Why? Because unbaked and half-baked ideas are available faster than fully-baked. And often times a team simply needs a ‘for-instance’ to get moving in the right direction.

I enjoy sharing ideas that are still in a moldable state. They enable others to help form, modify and improve the ideas before they’re finished. As an Imperfectionist I embrace the process of creating, testing, learning and improving. I love working in an environment that recognizes the great value in being aggressive.

Today, speed is king. In the agency business we need to act quickly to help our clients take advantage of short-lived opportunities and to thwart threats.  This puts a premium on quick thinking and swift action. We no longer live in an era that rewards you for sitting alone in your office making sure your ideas or your presentations are bulletproof.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Once our team has determined a direction and we move into the execution phase, every detail matters. I will question the kerning, analyze the delivery of a line, and poke at a transition until I’m absolutely convinced we have it right. There is a time and place for this type of scrutiny.  And I believe it’s at the end of the process.

So find yourself more Imperfectionists. Explore more. Fail fast. And improve faster. It is the difference between doing and dreaming. Action and inaction. Talking and walking. It may not be the perfect approach for everyone. But it works perfectly for me.