“To walk down a path
where great men have
been is an honour itself,
for a few privileged men.
But to blaze one’s own trail,
unequaled to thee;
Is a tribute to greatness
that few men shall see.”—Anonymous
Two peasants were travelling down a winding road on their way to see the king.
When they approached the gates of the kingdom an army of foot soldiers bullied them and ran them off.
Then one peasant said to the other, “That is why.”
The next day, the two peasants travelled down the winding road again with hopes to see the king.
This time an army of horse soldiers rode up, threw stones at them and ran them off.
Then the peasant said to his friend, “That is why.”
The two peasants would not give up, so they travelled the winding road again.
This time the king’s carriage pulled up, and when the king saw the two peasants standing there in torn clothes, with cuts and bruises all over them, the king got out his carriage, walked up to the two peasant, put his arm around them and gave them each a gold coin.
As they walked back down the winding road, one peasant said to the other again, “That is why.”
When they were both back home sitting in their little huts, the other peasant asked his friend what he meant when he said, “That is why?”
The first peasant responded,
That is why they are foot soldiers, and that is all they will ever be.
That is why they are horse soldiers, and that is all they will ever be.
Before I write this I want to stress that I have the deepest sympathy for Holly Brockwell (read the blog here). I couldn’t imagine something more horrifying and sadder than losing someone so close in such horrific circumstances. I really truly feel for her, her family and her father for something truly devastating must have happened for him to feel forced to take his own life.
I don’t want to be rude, obnoxious or hurtful. I simply want to pose questions and to an extent play Devil’s advocate.
I too am an advertising creative. I understand the importance of putting a message across in a clever way, in a way that engages with people, in a way that speaks to people, in a way that conveys exactly what you are trying to say.
I don’t know the people who wrote the ad for Hyundai, but I can pretty categorically say that they would never write an ad like this with any malice or with true intent to offend anyone who has lost someone in similar circumstances. But, I’ll bet they feel awful now.
The point I want to raise, and this is not directly related to the Hyundai advert, is are we in a time in culture and society where we are now afraid of offending people?
I don’t know if the ad was meant to be funny per se, but I’m guessing it was meant to have a light hearted look on the situation.
I don’t know how many people watch Mad Men, but should they have been forced to cut the scene where Lane Pryce attempted his suicide in the same manner?
The sad reality is that there are awful situations all around the world. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people and unfortunately, suicide is one of those horrible things. It’s a travesty, don’t get me wrong, and I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine the unthinkable myself of someone that close taking their own life. But, is this cause to eradicate such happenings from our conversations?
I’m sure if I put some thought into it, I could find a very large number of adverts, TV series, films, lyrics or pieces of art that refer in some way to something horrible that someone else can relate to. And of course that’s going to be hard to take, of course it’s going to be horrible. But as I ask: bad things happen, but should resort to forgetting and never mentioning them again through fear of offending someone?
My grandmother recently passed away having suffered with Alzheimers for about 15 years. She was a shell. She didn’t know me or my brother, my Father or my Grandfather - her own husband. She lay in bed every day doing no more than breathing. That is not an exaggeration. It was awful. I went to visit my Grandfather the other week, a matter of weeks after the death of his Wife. We had the TV on. For the life of me I can’t remember who it was, but there was a comedian on. He made a joke about Alzheimers. I sat there for a second, expecting my Grandfather to burst into tears, to change the channel, to leave the room, to, well, I don’t know. But he didn’t. He laughed. It was a joke. The comedian didn’t set out to upset my family. He set out to make people laugh, in which he succeeded.
As I say, I feel incredibly sorry for anyone that has lost someone so close as their own Father, especially in such awful circumstances. This is not a blog about ridiculing the woman, or the advert. I simply want to ask a question.
Are we at a time where our work suffers through the overwhelming fear of offending someone?
I was sat eating dinner last night, plate on the edge of the sofa, TV on and so on.
The dog was sat next to me, staring at my fork every move it made. She was waiting for me to knock something accidentally off the edge of the plate, or for the moment I was looking away so she could pounce and take my chicken breast. She was waiting for me to lower my guard because she knew full well I was in charge, and if she stole my food straight off my plate whilst I was eating, she would be in trouble.
She was playing for the mistake.
I happened to be watching Bayern Munich vs Barcelona at the time. The same is true in football. A ball is coming over the top, you’re the shorter player. The man in front of you is far taller, and stronger. You’re not going to win the header. Do you foul him, or do you play for the mistake. Step back, let him take the ball, and stand off until he messes it up.
In life, when you’re number two sometimes you can can’t win by competing. But you can win by not competing. If the dog had jumped for my plate, she would have been locked in the kitchen and wouldn’t have eaten. If the smaller player went for the header, he wouldn’t win it, and he’d be outmuscled and probably out of position.
If you can’t win, sometimes it’s best to let the other person play and wait for them to make their mistakes. Then you can grab that bit of chicken that you’ve been eyeing up, or make the tackle as he fumbles with the ball at his feet. Focus not on being better than them at what they are good at, but look how that’s a weakness, and how you can capitalise on that weakness.
“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact; and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”—Steve Jobs
"Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer." - Rick Pitino
"Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer." - Rick Pitino (US Basketball Coach)
That is not be the best at everything.
That is not try and be good at everything.
It doesn’t take long to work out what we’re good at and what we’re not good at. Focus on what we are good at, and everything else should fall into place. It is impossible to succeed in everything. No one is superhuman. But those who you think are have only succeeded in a very narrow line of work.
This is why schools and the education system full stop is backward. They try and make us better at everything we’re not. They forget what we’re already showing promise in. We’ll only get better at that. Lets make the child better at maths, or english, or art. They’re not very good at that at the moment.
Let’s see what the child is good at from an early age.
Be it english, maths, art, dancing, singing, football. Whatever it is. Stop trying to make the child average at a collection of things. Make them excellent at whatever they’re already good at.
Oscar Wilde wasn’t talking about advertising. I will.
In advertising, too many people think that ‘creative’ is the process of making an idea look pretty. Wrong. Creative is coming up with the idea. And an idea is what sticks in people’s minds. Not the artwork that accompanies it.
A good idea, whatever it may be, is transferrable over every media, in every country, and understood by everyone that is meant to understand it. That (loosely) is my definition of a Big Idea. So, as you can imagine, in my opinion, there’s not too many around. And certainly, defining any concept you come up with following a brief as The Big Idea is ludicrous.
A good idea will stick. A good idea is far more creative than making it look pretty. A good idea is what sets apart fantastic advertising with pretty advertising.
I wasn’t alive. But I can only imagine the incredible feeling that must have surged around the world on that day. We had successfully taken man off Earth and on to the moon. And even now, 12 men have only ever had the privilege of setting foot on the moon. But a hell of a lot more helped, and were responsible for getting those 12 men there and back safely. Neil Armstrong can by no means claim all the credit.
Before the Apollo 11 launch, some reporters were conducting interviews at NASA HQ at Cape Canaveral. A cleaner was walking towards them, broom in hand. The reporters thought, why not get some footage from him.
“So what’s your job at NASA?”
“It’s my job to help put a man on the moon.”
Think about that. It’s the cleaner’s job to put a man on the moon. Yeah right. He’s a cleaner. His job is to make sure the toilets are clean, right?
We are all vitally important to one another’s successes. And failures.
Never look at yourself as just a cleaner.
Instead look at yourself as part of something great, even if you aren’t the face of recognition after it all.
In life, we’re always making decisions. Decisions define the path we choose. Door A or Door B? When I was at school, I had to make an awful lot of decisions. Decisions that apparently would define my life. What subjects do you want to choose at GCSE? What about A-Level? What Universities do you want to apply to? Which offers will you accept? And in the middle of all of these was a load of smaller decisions to make. Day to day decisions. Decisions you were told make no difference to your life. What should I have for lunch? Should I tuck my shirt in or leave it out and get told off?
Where am I going with this?
Well, I have always been told, and somewhat believed until recently that some of the ‘bigger’ decisions would define your life. Life lesson, no they wont. You define your life. The GCSEs I took, the A Levels I took. They mean nothing. But still I was told that I was closing doors in the future. No, in fact, I was told by some that by not choosing ‘proper’ subjects, I was slamming doors closed in front of me. Throwing away potential.
I’m glad I ignored them.
There are very few decisions that will define your life. Because remember, there are an infinite number of decisions coming up, so you’ve just taken a scenic route perhaps?
In life, you can do and achieve anything you want. Anything. If you work hard enough, both in your chosen field, and hard enough at ignoring all the people that tell you can’t do it.