How close to the surface are your failures?

Tuesday night I guest lectured to an advertising campaigns class at Marquette University taught by Erin Napier. I talked about creative thinking and the creative process. I talked about my advertising career path, from college student to Copywriter to Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. I talked about Entrepreneurship. I shared my experience as Founder & CEO of  The Weaponry. And I told them about the time me and Danica Patrick filled a Motorhome with 1.2 million ping pong balls.

Q & A

I showed samples of the creative work I have created, and then I asked if anyone had questions. This is one of the first questions I was asked:

‘What was you greatest career failure, and what did you learn from it?’

Now I am all about learning from your failures. And I am all about turning lemons into  lemonade, like Ralph Lemonader. But I didn’t have an answer for this question.

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This is the class I spoke to at Marquette University. And everyone is still awake. I consider that a win.

It’s not that I haven’t made mistakes in my career. I certainly have. But what I recognized when trying to access my colossal mistakes file, was that I don’t hold my failures close. They are not raw and ready to be examined. I am not dwelling on them, stewing over them of kicking myself because of them. I’m not like that super pale dude from The Da Vinci Code, who was torturing himself with his power slinky. I quickly learn my lesson and move on, better than before.

Maximizer

When I read Tom Rath’s Strength Finders, and took the test in the book (which I recommend you do), it told me that I am a raging Maximizer. Which means I have no interest in analyzing things that went wrong in the past. I simply focus on what we can do from here.

My Biggest Failure Answer

The best answer I could give that Marquette student was that I was pretty sure I don’t know what my biggest mistake was. It was likely something I didn’t do, rather than something I did do. It was probably some path I didn’t take, or some Monty Hall door I didn’t open. I’ll never know where that would have taken me. And I’m not losing any sleep over it. #Zzzzzzz

Learn & Move On

Our failures should be like touching a hot stove. We should do it once, recognize the mistake quickly, file the lesson away, and move on. No dwelling or hand wringing. We just learn our lessons, and get back to life. #BackToReality.

Key Takeaway

Learn from your failures and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rank your greatest failures of all time. Instead, focus on your successes. Know what works for you. Remember what you did right. Repeat the positive actions. And pass that knowledge along for others to learn from too.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

Do you love your work as much as Jim Cantore loves thundersnow?

During the spring of my senior year of college I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company about an entry level sales position. They recruited college athletes, because they wanted competitive go-getters to go sell, sell, sell for them.

Wearing a suit I borrowed from my Wisconsin track teammate, Greg Gill, I did 2 rounds of interviews. The pay, bonus structure and the benefits all sounded amazing for a kid right out of school. But I had no passion for pharmaceutical sales. Or for wearing business suits. So I passed.

Advertising!

Instead, I looked for opportunities as a copywriter with an advertising agency. I got informational interviews at 2 agencies. I was then offered jobs by both companies. The pay was half what the pharmaceutical sales job would have paid. But the work excited me. So I jumped at the chance to join Cramer Krasselt, one of the country’s best advertising agencies, for $21,000 a year.

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Me and my man Lucian McAfee on a shoot at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility in Florida.

Just An Excitable Boy

I loved my low paying job, and it showed. I got my first raise 3 months later. I got another raise 6 months after that. And another raise 6 months after that. Then I got a promotion, and another raise. It was clear I was doing the work I was supposed to do.

 

Love Will Keep Us Together

The quick success and pay increases happened because I loved my work. I was all in on the work. Working hard as an advertising creative was extremely fulfilling. Many advertising creatives will say they didn’t choose the work, the work chose them. That’s exactly how I felt. Somehow the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like playing. And it still does today.

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Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…

Jim Cantore

I once saw a clip of Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel capturing the super-rare phenomenon of thundersnow on camera. According to a Royal Meteorological Society study (I read all of their stuff), this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of snowstorms in the United States. And only 6 occurrences are reported each year. In the video, Jim is about as excited about thundersnow as anyone could be about anything, ever.  Here is the clip:

Straight Outta The Upper Connecticut River Valley

Jim Cantore and I grew up in neighboring towns in Vermont. I am from Norwich. Jim grew up 5 miles south in White River Junction. I am super proud of the passion of my  fellow Green Mountain Boy. I wish everyone loved their work as much as Jim loves his.

Passion Powered

I recognize the excitement that Jim showed. Because I feel like that all the time. My enthusiasm for my work has made my entire career feel like, well, not work. My clients and coworkers can feel how much I enjoy the work I do. I think my enthusiasm makes me more enjoyable to work around. Granted, there may be a point of diminishing returns.

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That time me and Danica Patrick filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls for work.

Entrepreneurship

When I first launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I knew it would be successful. Because I loved the work, and was willing to do all of the hard work necessary to make the business fly. As it turns out the work has been just as fun as I thought it would be. Solving problems is fun. Developing ideas is to help my clients thrive is extremely fun. And I never tire of the demands of business ownership.

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Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found work you are passionate about yet, keep looking. Find that thing that makes you lose your mind, like Jim Cantore in thundersnow. Find something that make you pound the table like I pound the table when we have found another great idea that will help our clients win. Don’t settle for good pay, nice benefits and a safe existence. Energize yourself by doing something you really love every day.

Note: I first witnessed thundersnow while snowmobiling with my great friends Greg Gill and George Mort in Saint Germain, Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s like seeing lightning in a snow globe. It’s my favorite weather phenomenon.