I majored in English in college because I love words. In terms of a job, I always wanted to be a writer or a copywriter in advertising. As college came to a close, I went to advertising fairs and agencies and I met the people in the industry.
I changed my mind.
Almost everyone I met was a well dressed and super slick version of a used car salesman. I grew up on Nike ads that were fun and creative. I always appreciated the writing and direction of those spots and wanted to try my hand at it. So, I kept the faith in the profession despite meeting nothing but shallow and materialistic zombies.
Sadly, I learnt that it is extremely difficult to express yourself creatively in advertising in the U.S. Eventually you can if you get promoted enough but your input is worth next to nothing at entry level. While I thought it a creative atmosphere where people went into the office and riffed, it was more like math, it was all formulas. The boss would give you your homework as in “We need a 7 to 10 word blurb about a tire. Three of the words have to be “grip”, “safe” and “protection”. You have to come up with the most effective combination of these words including your own FOUR TO SEVEN words.” Not too much room to let your imagination go wild…
But, I still believed. I thought if I could somehow get my foot in the door, I could do this. However, one meeting convinced me that I didn’t want this anymore. The man was in his fifties and a mutual friend introduced us. He had been in the business for thirty years. I was certain I was about to firmly plant my size 14 in that industry doorway, but as they say, fate had other plans.
I walked in with my resume. He motioned for me to sit down. I tell him that I love words et cetera. He says to me, “If you love words, then you should be a writer. Don’t go into advertising.” I launch into a hard sell about how it’s been my dream and all that but he doesn’t bite. He listens to my pitch with a bored expression and then says to me “I have one question for you. Answer this question and if you still want to be in advertising, I will try to help you out.” I agreed and awaited the question excitedly.
This is what he said to me.
Imagine that tomorrow you wake up and you are gone. Wiped off the planet. It’s like you were never here. Nobody even remembers you. Earth is now “Planet X” because you have been crossed out.
Now, imagine an alternate scenario where tomorrow you wake up and you have been blessed with the power to transform everything on Earth. All your efforts are amazingly successful and all that you touch blossoms. Let’s call this Earth “Planet Y” (Y for You because this is YOUR planet).
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLANET X AND PLANET Y ?
What do you want the difference to be ?
I owe that ad man thanks because he reminded me that life is too valuable to spend it doing something you don’t care about. All of us are already on our Planet Y. Like Little Miss Sunshine‘s brother said, “Do what you love and f*ck the rest.”
“Give a man a job he loves and he will never work a day in his life.”