Don’t be afraid.

February 14, 2010


I just finished judging the student Addys here in the middle Tennessee region. For those of you who don’t know, this region leads the nation in entries and the number of schools that enter. That said, it warms my heart to know that there are some real teachers out there that give a shit. Horah to those that coach and mentor young aspiring creative thinkers who dream of being talented. The collection of work proved it. Here is some of it.


James Button – photographer/Nossi College of Art


People are born creative. It’s society and conservative teachers that lead us to believe that creativity is something only meant for those who want to struggle through life. Not true. Sure it takes effort being creative and you do have to show up everyday (read my last blog post “Show up.”).

The work was impressive which made it truly difficult to decide from so many entries. From illustration, photography, advertising, copy writing to graphic design, packaging and digital development, these guys can hold water to actual agency work. To those of you who aren’t challenging yourselves in the market right now – look out.

And this is a good thing. Infusing new talent, aspiring not to beat you out, but who seek to challenge you and want you to challenge them is how “staying fresh” is supposed to work. Yes, you have something they don’t: experience. They’re craving it. Let them in.  Collaborate with them. Learn to bridge new frontiers in design and technology with them. Hire an intern if you can’t afford to pay a new salary. Interview and hire those who are testing their own creative growth and actually want something from you. Then give it to them.

There is a catch though: you have to be committed to their growth. But you already know that, right? You’re already growing your own talent, right? And you’ve already given them tools and the freedom to know how to grow it on their own, right? Because you know that’s how you get to a level of consistent company growth that produces great work, right?

It’s simple. Fear kills creativity. Don’t be afraid to say to people, “That’s not good enough”. Interview hard. Don’t be afraid to express and implement your philosophies of personal growth and insist on collaboration with the talent you have and with others, introducing perspective and objectivity into the work. Hire people that are better than you. Always. What should be motivating is that someone is doing better work than you because it forces you to step up your game.  Just make sure your competitive heart is humble and fair.

I always enjoy working with young talent.  It reminds me of why I started in this business – to find purpose and  to make a difference. And more importantly, when I work with others who share that same ideal, we can make a HUGE difference. As long as we’re not afraid.

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