Monday, September 21, 2015

Perspective on "An overdue lesson in perspective"

Years ago, I stumbled across "An Overdue Lesson in Perspective." In it, Linds Redding wrote about what he called The Overnight Test. You do a bunch of ads, tack them to your wall, go home, and review them the next morning with fresh eyes. Your judgment is clearer. You see what's working and what's not in a way that you never could when you were in the frenzy of creation.

Redding had cancer. And in the essay, he gave his own career The Overnight Test:
[W]hat I didn’t do, with the benefit of perspective, is anything of any lasting importance. At least creatively speaking. Economically I probably helped shift some merchandise. Enhanced a few companies bottom lines. Helped make one or two wealthy men a bit wealthier than they already were. As a life, it all seemed like such a good idea at the time. But I’m not really sure it passes The Overnight Test.
I struggled with Redding's post for a long time. It was fabulously eloquent and deeply personal. I wrote several long comments, all of which I deleted. And what I finally posted was this:
My grandfather spent his working life pulling double shifts in a chair factory. Does that pass the overnight test?
My comment was never approved. Redding had died.

Advertising can be a frustrating way to make a living. Yes, I often wonder if my clients appreciate that I spend the majority of my waking hours trying to make them rich. Yes, I sometimes imagine what my life would've been like if I'd become a novelist or an entrepreneur or a spy. And no, I don't see my family as much as I'd like.

But give me a break. Ninety percent of the world spends 14 hours a day in a rice patty trying to stave off famine and starvation. Of the remaining 10%, a tiny percentage work in the blissful safety of white collar offices. And of that tiny percentage, an even tinier percentage get to come to work in retro kicks and hoodies and run around solving business problems with the funniest, coolest, most energetic group of people God has ever created.

I am lucky as hell to have this job.

And I'm irritated by the idea that human beings are entitled to careers that offers spiritual fulfillment. I get paid a fair salary plus benefits. In return, I make my clients rich and my agency successful. When this ride is over, will my career in advertising pass The Overnight Test? My grandparents are gone, but I can imagine what they'd say. "Quit gazing at your shoelaces. Get to work."

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