59 Days Later

Last week, part one of my #TGAA wrap up was a rather lengthy blog about one of my main takeaways from our journey. Well, as I mentioned, there were plenty of other lessons too. So, here are 8 more crucial things I learned along the way. While I won’t go into as much detail about these, they do carry the same weight in my eyes.

2. The career you have may not be the one you’re destined for.

This lesson comes from Wesley Hoffman at the TreehouseNetworkshop. If you were to look at his LinkedIn page, you’d see that he’s had quite a diverse career. Yet, I think I can safely say that he’s happier now than he’s ever been. Learning about how he came up with, nurtured and executed Treehouse is a lesson all its own—and one he'll happily share. That’s why I shall forever push for him to speak anywhere and everywhere I go. It wasn’t the career he thought he’d have, but it’s the one he certainly fit right into.

3. Don’t horde your talent. Share it.

Get involved with your creative community. Do pro-bono work. Share your insights, knowledge and opinions. The more we collaborate with each other, the better the results. I saw creative communities that seemed more like family than rival businesses; but I also came across creative communities who had shut themselves off from one another. Want to take a guess as to which ones did more impressive work? St. Louis is the prime example of a close-knit creative community. I met people from nearly every agency in town and they were all extremely kind, inviting and willing to talk shop with me. Why? They all shared the same attitude—the better we all do, the better the city does and the better the city does, the better we all do.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no.

This may be the scariest of all the lessons I learned, because no one likes saying “no”, especially to their boss. However, to keep your sanity intact, you have to go out on a limb every now and then. I learned this lesson, when I discovered a co-worker had missed their best friend’s wedding because of a looming deadline. Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of the situation, but it’s important to understand that some things need to take precedence over our work—especially things that only happen once in our lifetime. Don’t go hurling “no’s” left and right, but use them when you have to. People will understand. On a side note, I’d also recommend reading David Oakley’s Book, “Why Is Your Name Upside Down”. He talks about a few ‘no’s’ he had to deliver in his career and they're pretty amusing to boot. 

5. If you love something, go after it.

I learned this lesson through the likes of Alex Kocher and Maria Roepke—two individuals who fell in love with a city and went after it. For Alex it was Portland and for Maria it was Austin. They were so passionate about being there that they threw caution to the wind and made a move; and now they’re both happier for it. It can be a bit frightening, but also very worthwhile. Several years ago, I did something similar when I made my move to NYC. I sold my car and left for the Big Apple without so much as a job in mind. But my persistence and hard work paid off in the end. And I wouldn't be surprised if I moved back there one day.  

6. Never stop exploring your city.    

I’ll admit that in a few of my stops, I stayed in the wrong part of town. Not because of crime or anything (well… sometimes), but because there just wasn’t anything going on. Heck, I’ve lived in northeast Ohio for a combined total of about 23 years and I’m still finding new neighborhoods here. What the whole thing made me realize was that a few blocks can make a big difference. You might write off an entire area, without ever finding that art district tucked away down the street. Plus, you might just discover something you fall in love with—a place that can change your entire opinion of where you live. St. Louis, Memphis, Portland and San Francisco were prime examples of this in my case.

7. Create your ideal work environment.

Before I embarked on #TGAA, I pretty much assumed everyone worked at a desk. Boy, was I wrong! Some people work on couches, some stand all day, some work from home, others prefer to relax in a beanbag chair. There are those who need silence when they work and those who blast Arcade Fire into their headphones. I never knew you had so many options or that they’d be so widely accepted. That’s why I bounce around on an exercise ball nowadays. It keeps me moving, which I love, and helps me get the creative juices flowing. I found my ideal work environment and I hope you do too. Try some things out and see what works best for you.

8. Don’t limit your creativity after 5pm.

Don’t limit yourself to the 9-5. If you have passions other than what you do for a living, explore them! Play sports, paint, dance, sing, perform, parent—do whatever it is you love to do. Some days it might be a little difficult to get up the energy, but I promise you it’s worth it. As I mentioned last week, I met people who had put their life on a constant loop—wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. You could see they’d lost their passion, because they'd given everything they had to their careers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your damnedest at what you do, just make sure you leave a little left over for yourself. It’ll make you happier and even help you in the office too.

9. Know that learning isn’t limited to students. 

There will always be people who refuse to learn and you shouldn’t be one of them. They’re the ones who still see social media as a “fad” and still insist overheads are the best way to give a presentation—the late adopters. The problem is, as things change, these individuals get pushed further and further out until one day, their skill set is completely outdated. While I didn’t see many of these situations along the way, I did come across a few. If you have an opportunity to learn something new—take it. It may come in handy one day and if you’re passionate enough about it, it might lead to some rather interesting opportunities.

10. Give others a chance.

Something that surprised me was the individuals who'd write me off for one reason of another. Some immediately assumed I was an intern and treated me as such. Others were hostile from the get-go, worried that I’d be taking work from them. Thankfully, both sets of people were in the minority. I met so many passionate individuals, who constantly inspired me and I shall be forever grateful to them, But every now and then, someone would come along and belittle me before even getting to know me. While I expressed my frustrations about the whole “intern” thing during the project (again, I’ve been in the industry for 7 years), a few of those situations still linger with me. It was like biting into an apple and finding you sunk your teeth into that one rotten spot. It immediately put a bad taste in my mouth about the agency. Especially the few who took it upon themselves to try and sabotage the project. So, I encourage everyone out there to just give people a chance. Listen to their stories, figure out who they are and then pass judgment—never begin with step #3. 

-Steve-

 

Day 422

Well folks, we've officially entered into the final week of #TGAA. I'm currently on my way back from a weekend trip to Las Vegas and I have to admit that I had a stellar time. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it, since I didn't plan on spending any money, but those buffets really sold me. I don't even want to know how many calories I consumed in the past 48 hours. Yeesh! 

Anyway, I wanted to post my final 'helpful website' blog today, because I think it makes for a good segue into my final 'project' blog on Thursday. Not to mention, I always get a lot of good feedback on them. So, before I start rambling on about crab cakes and salad bars, let's take a look at some of the sites I frequented over the past 5 months. 

Austin

Do512.com  — A list of all the wonderful events going on—in and around Austin. What’s cool and different about this calendar is that they regularly offer free tickets to shows, which is a very useful tool for the vast nightlife of the city.

Austin360.com — A more traditional site, Austin360 offers everything from sports standings and classifieds to concert photos and games.

C3Concerts.com — These folks have their hands in some of Austin’s biggest festivals, which means you’ll find the latest and greatest concerts here before anywhere else. An excellent site to bookmark, if you love live shows.

Seattle

The Stranger — City news with a twist. The Stranger is Seattle’s go-to site for all things music, art and culture. But they also have a rambunctious staff running the show and they know how to bring the fun into everything they do.

City Arts — Art is alive and well in the city of Seattle and if that’s your scene this is a site you’ll absolutely love. From lectures and comedy to openings and movies, they cover just about every creative endeavor you can image.

Seattle MET — This is a great site for new restaurant openings, the latest fashion tips and a lot of local giveaways. Personally, I found it extremely useful when trying to decide where to eat. They have some really great reviews over there.

Portland

Willamette Weekly — Arts & Culture, Food & Drink, Willamette Weekly is the city’s authority on everything happening in and around the city. Their print version can also be found just about everywhere too.

Eleven PDX — This one is all about the music. You can learn about upcoming concerts and even read up on the local and national acts who are making their mark on the scene.

Artslandia — Portland has a lot of stage performances going on almost every single night. This site brings you the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s going on and where.

San Francisco

Fun Cheap SF — If you’re living on a budget (and let’s face it, most people in SF are) this website is Internet gold. I had an extremely tight budget in December and this site provided me with a slew of free and cheap events to attend.

The Bay Bridged — If you love music, this site is for you. San Francisco has an incredible indie music scene and The Bay Bridged brings them all together for your concert-going pleasure. If it’s happening on a stage in the bay area, you’ll find out about it here.

AD2SF.org — This site is much different than any of the others I’ve posted about. AD2SF is dedicated to bringing young ad professionals together through networking events, learning seminars and mixers. If you’re under 35 and in SF, I highly recommend you check out some of their events.

Los Angeles

Art Scene CalLA has an incredible art scene, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise. This site is constantly updated with the latest openings, shows and news from the art world. It’s a great way to take in some culture any day of the week.

Buzz Bands LA — Have you always wondered how people hear about the ‘next big thing’ before anyone else? They probably frequent this site. It’s dedicated to highlighting the newest groups and letting you know where and when they’re taking the stage.

LA Weekly Calendar — I feel bad about putting this one on the list, but I’ll be damned if LA Weekly doesn’t get it right. They’ve got nearly every upcoming event listed and catalogued to help you make plans for the week ahead. 

I hope these sites help you as much as they helped me. It's nice to look back and remember how much I used them. As for now though, I'm going to take a nap and hopefully wake up back in LA.

See you soon!

-Steve-

 

Day 383

I’ve always known that like the ocean, the ad industry is defined by its never-ending movement. Yet, over the past year, I’ve come to learn just how much things can change in a year’s time. Some things come about unexpectedly and others are welcomed with open arms. There have even been times they've caused more than a handful of hiccups for the project. I chalk it up as a learning experience and think you’ll agree much of what’s happened spells good things for the industry as a whole—or at the very least that many of the agencies I’ve visited are on the fast track to greater success.

Way back in the planning process, whenever a new agency would join the project, I was always given a point of contact to speak with prior to my impending arrival—that’s 14 different people in 14 different offices. The interesting thing about it all is that of those 14 people, only seven of them were still working at the agency on my first day.

What I learned over time was that a majority of them went on to higher-paying jobs or other industries entirely. Of course, the people still at the agencies had nothing but positive things to say about these folks, so I consider it as good things happening to good people. It's also an uplifting sign about the current state of hiring within the industry too. That’s always welcomed news, if you ask me.

A number of agencies also rebranded at some point during the project—TRISECT (who dropped their '3') in Chicago, Campbell Mithun (now just Mithun) in Minneapolis and Y&R Group (formally Wunderman) in Seattle. Whether it’s through an acquisition or the result of changes within the agency, you can’t deny that every once in awhile a new coat of paint can do wonders.

It could've all been spurred by a change in management, location or focus, but they all know you have to keep up with current trends if you hope to continually find success. The same goes for people working within the industry. That’s why a lot of creatives end up going back to school, attending monthly seminars or furthering their education in some shape or form. Relevancy is a magical thing.

The final change I’ve come to notice has to do with location. Three agencies have since relocated their office since my departure (97 Degrees West, Mithun and We Are Social) and Evolution Bureau is actually moving their office from San Francisco to Oakland next month. On top of that, Recess Creative added more space, Red Tettemer opened a west coast branch (stop #14) and I wouldn’t be shocked if Pollinate and Boxing Clever relocate within the next year, because they’re bursting at the seams with growth. It’s exciting to watch these agencies succeed, especially as I now consider many of them to be friends. 

What it all comes down to is that this is not an industry for procrastinators, dilly-dallyers or lazy asses. Everything moves at such a rapid pace, if you close your eyes for too long it will pass you by. In the end, I think it’s safe to say that determination and hard work really do pay off in the ad world. I’ve seen far too many instances of it across this country for it to be a coincidence. Do your very best, keep up with current trends and never be afraid to try something new. Those are the lessons I’ve learned and that’s what keeps me moving forward in this crazy, crazy business.

-Steve-