There once was a show on MTV called ‘The Next Song Will Be Great.’
MTV2, to be specific.
I loved it.
The song that you were listening to was always an absolute cracker.
Equally, the anticipation you had around the next song meant that you could never be satisfied with what you were currently listening to.
The joy would last a minute or two but then immediately you would be drawn to the brilliance of what could come next.
That was the thrill.
It’s what made the show so great.
Its class was treated as being temporary.
Its ambition to beat what had come before it, was permanent.
I recently watched a documentary about Tom Brady of New England Patriots’ fame. The GOAT. The only player to have won six Super Bowl rings (the American football equivalent of a winner’s medal).
When asked which ‘ring’ was his favourite, he responded…
“The next one.”
Recently I got to experience my first Kiwi summer.
It was one of the longer breaks I’ve experienced and one I really enjoyed.
It gave me time to not just relax, have fun, tour New Zealand, and run after my young daughter, but also to do something I rarely get to do: reflect over my career to date.
Now, last year we enjoyed a great year at Special.
But more broadly I looked back on the clients, brands and campaigns that I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on over the years.
It struck me, that I didn’t care as much for the past successes as I thought I would.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed the successes I have played my own small role in.
I always gave everything to help whatever team I was a part of to get there.
And anyone who knows me will tell you I celebrated like hell when we had successful pitches or campaigns.
Celebration remains important.
But for me, the joy was — and is — always temporary.
Hours, sometimes days, rarely weeks, but never months or years.
The opposite of the effort it took to get there.
Roy Keane (the outstanding yet slightly misunderstood former Irish and Manchester United captain) once touched on how he could never really take great joy for long from victories, but defeats would sit with him forever.
It’s not just an Irish thing, the All Blacks say success is a lousy teacher.
My reflection led me to realise something.
The reason I get up in the morning isn’t to dwell on past glories.
It isn’t what’s going to define my future.
I do wonder, if at times, in agency life, that we place too much emphasis on what we’ve achieved, rather than what we haven’t.
We are a reflective industry.
That is certain.
We talk about the glory days.
We think we know best because of the awards to our name (I have been as guilty as anyone of this).
Our credentials are based on the past, as opposed to where we want to go.
Has anyone really achieved what we want to achieve, yet?
For a start, have you made it through an entire career in advertising?
That would be a feat in itself.
Many of us have won awards.
But have we been as inspirational and as ground-breaking as Guinness Surfer or the Nike Kaepernick stance?
Have we made something in this industry that has truly changed the world yet?
Few of us have.
Part of the reason I was attracted to living in New Zealand was because of the unbridled success of the creative industry here.
I am here, because I want more.
I’m often asked by people who aspire to get into the industry or by prospective clients to give a sense of how I work and go about my job.
There’s many things of course. But this is the most important one.
It’s best summed up by an Irish expression:
‘A pat on the back is six inches away from a kick in the arse.’
I crave the pat on the back but I know the latter is always close.
It’s not worth waiting around to experience the kick.
If you do: the awards dry up, the pitch wins become pitch losses, and the clients who love you will slowly leave you.
In this industry, you can’t spend too much time thinking about what you’ve achieved.
We need to continuously think about what is next.
The next great strategic breakthrough.
The next great big idea.
The next time you are there for a teammate when they really need it.
The next time you make an effort to help the new person settle in.
The next thing that goes out the door needs to be great.
But of course, don’t treat anything I’ve said in this thought piece as being anything but a provocation.
Because I’m still hopeful that my best advice is yet to come.