Thursday, 5 March 2015

Being Bright is Not Enough

A lot of my compatriots (read: competitors) trying to come up the rungs – or just get on the ladder – in advertising have a flaw. I know because I also have it. A belief that you are smarter than everyone else. That you don’t have to work as hard. That it can all be effortless for you.

That thought is your single biggest enemy.

It makes you lazy, it makes you superficial. And it makes you lose.

Contrary to popular opinion – and as I’ve said before – good ideas are not that rare in the world of advertising. And smart people are not some rare commodity.

Being smart is not enough.

Even if you truly are an exceptional brain, you have to work to get ahead. No one wants to pay for how gifted you are inside your head if you can’t translate that into results in the real world.

So what’s the real answer?

Being thorough. Being really thorough. Being so thorough it’s boring.

Being thorough is not sexy. But it’s the only way to do well consistently. I had a great teacher at a past agency who drilled into me the difference between good work and great work – not raw cleverness and sneaky ideas, but being thorough.

It might be the single most important quality to learn for any junior member of an agency.

Why? Because it’s the ability to anticipate and fix problems before they become problems. It’s recognition of the need to be humble, to go the extra mile, to support the team. It means always being prepared; to be an expert in any subject on demand, not just willing to do extra research but actively pursuing that knowledge.

From my own experience, I can say how important this is. I used to be nervous about speaking in front of people.

(I mean I still am, but I used to be too.)

I found a way to get past that fear though, and actually present with very little nervousness. How? The 11 Ways of Being a More Effective Speaker Through Yoga? No. Being prepared. Why would you be afraid of speaking, of questions, of making mistakes, when you know the answers? When you’re completely prepared it really limits your ability to mess up.

You might think you’re a good speaker – and that you can freewheel enough to get away with any lapses. You can’t. You will get found out. And there are far fewer second chances in business.

Here’s a strange – but fitting – analogy. Thoroughness is like the difference between flowers in a vase and a flowerpot. Both look good, but only one has lasting power. You need a strong base of hard work and dependability in order to do the exceptional.

It’s nice to be brilliant. If you can combine that with consistency you’ll be on to a winner.

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