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.

Show up.

February 9, 2010

Working with other creative people is why I chose my career. Add working with some of the best creatives, judging some of the best work in the U.S. – it’s the makings of a perfect job.

My trip to Virgina Beach was one interesting event. Mostly due to the weather. It snowed almost a foot the weekend three other talented people and I were asked to judge their 2009 Addys. It also made for interesting travel. At one point, due to flight delays and over-booking, I had to board a plane by walking up to it via the tarmac.

The creative WOW was left to a few, as always, but what was more telling was the work… that wasn’t even close.

I guess it bothers me when some people call themselves creative and they don’t even understand the groundwork for what it takes to be good, let alone great. I’m talking about just getting the rules of graphic design and good ol’ advertising strategy down. We were judging the Addys right? I’m just sayn’.

I enjoy coaching people and their creativity. Especially when THEY define what is great and at the very least, good enough. That’s because they know how to set the bar is for what is great. Not because they just do know, but because they learned something along their journey of creativity to actually want to be talented, not just to be “creative”.

They show up ready to do what’s necessary to do great work. They seek out others who inspire them and see the things they are creating. They look for mentors from whom they can learn from. They find others who challenge them and they challenge others. Quite simply, they give a shit. And these people aren’t always in the creative departments of where we work, they exist everywhere. From owners of companies and CEO’s to Marketing Directors and Account Executives, we’re all responsible for “great”. It’s the difference of whether or not you show up and work hard at what you believe you can achieve and what you can accomplish with others.

Are you “being creative” or are you a “creative being”? Everyone has the capacity to create, and to judge what’s “creative”. But just because you’re standing next to the President doesn’t make you the VP. In other words, just because you ran an ad doesn’t make you creative, let alone a creative great. It takes more than osmoses to actually understand how to be really good. It takes effort, you have to be obligated to it.

Talented people work hard at their skill. Their work shows it. It’s obvious. And it stands out against work that, well, doesn’t show up.

On Fire.

February 6, 2010

I tend to watch programs on the Discovery channel. I think it’s because the commentary is inviting and not harsh like the news or most TV drama shows. The other evening I was engrossed in a show I usually watch called, “The Naked Planet” that was explaining how a meteor enters the earth’s atmosphere and it’s impact on the planet’s surface. What I discovered was that meteors, in this manor, behave almost like the mind when developing creative ideas.

A meteor is a piece of rock or ice that travels in space which is pulled by the gravity of a nearby planet or moon. It becomes incandescent as a result of friction and appears as a streak of light as it enters the atmosphere of that planet or moon. See what you can learn from watching the Discovery Channel? So how does this relate to the creative process? The answer lies in what happens to the rock and ice as it travels to the surface .

This meteor gets really hot as it fights the atmosphere of earth traveling at thousands of miles an hour. It pushes through the gases of space and it compresses the air so tight that the heat literally peels away the material from the meteor and it burns away, thus causing the trail of light that we usually see. Since childhood we refer to these as “falling stars”. That sounds much better than a burning rock traveling at blistering speeds headed right for your backyard.

The most important part of what happens to the meteor is that it ends up being a fraction of its original mass and sometimes is nothing more than a pebble before it reaches its destination. Now plant this image I just painted for you in your head and think about the creative process. As you develop ideas you get excited about them, you get fired up, and then you start to peel off the layers of that idea until it becomes this nugget of creativity of unmeasurable power.

Finally, this meteor – even the size of a pebble – hits its destination with such impact that would destroy entire cities. Think about that. A huge idea, narrowed down to a powerful creation, on target, on strategy, reaching its audience with such an impact that causes a result that is so explosive that everyone notices. That, my friends, is called an idea on fire.

And why would you want to stop that?