I work as a writer in the advertising industry. Have done for more than twenty years. But for a long time, I haven’t been happy with my career. Or myself.
I’ve looked at writers who work in literature and movies and always thought of myself as inferior. Not a “real” writer, but a writer who quite obviously and clearly sold out to the corporate dollar.
But I never did anything about. The money was too good, and it’s all I know. That’s what I’d say.
Throughout that time, I’ve been surrounded by people who love advertising, love the awards, love the money, and have no understanding of what’s important in life. As the saying goes, “you are who you associate with.”
So, I’ve always had an underlying unease about what I do. And it’s affected who I am at work, and more importantly at home.
I’ve been depressed. I’ve been moody. I’ve been angry. I’ve cried. And cried. And cried.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Harden up, for God’s sake. You were depressed about getting paid well to be creative?! Get a grip.”
And absolutely fair enough. I had the exact same thoughts. I’m not dodging guerrillas trying to kill me because of my religious beliefs. I’m not a teenage girl afraid of being raped by gangs. I’m blessed to live in Australia, where there’s lots of work, lots of money, amazing weather, open space, beaches, and thousands of other things to be thankful for.
That all makes total sense. But life isn’t about things making sense.
Life is about things that don’t make sense. Because the human brain is thirsty for growth. To be challenged. To do something that’s fulfilling.
To state the bleeding obvious, our brain is what separates us from every other species on the planet.
It’s what drives humans to climb mountains while a koala is happy chilling in a tree getting stoned on gum leaves. Or why humans invent and harness electricity to build civilisations whilst mosquitos can’t help but attempt to suck the blood out of us, no matter how many of their relatives were squashed by humans.
Our brain drives us forward to seek the next thing that means something greater than just getting by.
And my brain was stuck in a sort of purgatory- hardly growing out of being a teenage boy.
And I knew it. I knew what I was complaining about was completely trivial. But that didn’t help.
I’ve chased a new job every few years, always hoping to find something that would satisfy.
But none ever did.
At one place, I’d have good work hours, do work that I considered average, and be miserable.
I’d go to another place where I’d win lots of awards, but recoil at the politics, back-stabbing and insane, unhealthy thirst for metal objects from the south of France.
Then, figuring that perhaps that working in a big multinational was the cause of my self-loathing, I moved into a small agency and hoped that would be the cure.
Well, that didn’t work either.
Through having an extended period where I didn’t have work that felt fulfilling, I decided to make a change.
To start to make all of those ideas I’ve never done anything with. To randomly make contact with people I admire. To go out of my way to be relentlessly positive in all my actions. And to just go and do stuff.
Stuff that makes me happy.
Not to win awards. Not to make money. Just for the enjoyment.
And wouldn’t you know it, life is about twenty times better now.
I don’t work in an office anymore. I just freelance from agency to agency. Working with super clever people who seem to like me for who I am, and what I can do.
I do work for charity clients who appreciate what I can do. And I appreciate the amazing stuff that they do.
Some days I go to a library and achieve more in three hours than I used to in three days. Other days, I sit by a pool and work.
I see my kids so much more. If I need to pick them up at three from school I do. Then I play with them, make them dinner, and appreciate all the little things that make life worthwhile. You know, all the free stuff- like tickles, rainbows, laughs, staring contests, and finding out what three things they did each day that were great.
As a family we go on long weekends. We are healthier. Happier. Better.
I finally appreciate how bloody lucky I am. What an amazing world we live in. And what an incredible time it is to be alive in.
I wish I’d known this years ago.
I’ve met wonderful people like Tom Whitty, managing editor of The Project. Someone making a real difference in the world. He’s rad. We talk about having obscure Indian Pale Ale’s often. One day we actually will. Maybe Sunday.
I found out that the designer from iconic design agency tomato John Warwicker, lives in Australia. So, I just emailed him saying he was awesome. And he replied, and I hope to work with him real soon.
I messaged one of my favourite writer’s Shea Serrano for advice and he replied. And told me that the stuff I was doing was “dope”. Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.
One of my favourite ads when I was younger was Nike “Tag”. So, I saw Kash Sree was on Linkedin and told him he was a bit of an idol. He replied. He is awesome.
I emailed the head of marketing of MONA, Robbie Brammall, with some crazy ideas. And he liked them. And now I’m doing stuff for MONA. Yes, freaking MONA.
I talk to unheralded genius poet Darby Hudson, who some day soon will be heralded genius poet Darby Hudson.
People like Emma Hill from the Shannon Company, Nicole Mandile from McCann Melbourne, Andrew Shostak from Stratosphere, Paul Taylor from M&C Saatchi, Shane Dawson from Gemba, and others have taken a chance on me, and I’ve had a bloody good time coming up with good stuff for them.
If I feel like writing an article that’s a bit long and indulgent, I do.
Hopefully soon I’ll have a book made. And I’ve got some charity stuff that could make a positive change to Australia. I’ve taught myself to do handstands! And I’ve got all sorts of other things cooking away that mean something good.
Seriously, there is so much good stuff going on. You just have to put up your radar and collect it all.
Reach out into the night sky and you’ll catch stars, I promise.
So, am I actually the happiest person in the world?
Well, I feel blessed in a magical way I’ve never felt before. And just by saying that I am, makes me feel like that’s what I am.
It’s made me realise how easy you can trick the mind. Say what you want to be, and the world starts to make it happen.
Just as easily, say that life sucks and that you’re too busy, and life WILL suck and you WILL be too busy.
So, if you’re feeling down, trick your mind into thinking that life is awesome. If I can do it, you can too.
Now, I already know my next mission. To see if I can use the word “I” less, lest I come across as an egomaniac narcissist!