Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #5: Jim Elkin
There is no easy way to put this. You're a jerk. You're sitting there in your comfy office at J. Walter Thompson thinking you're so amazing, really incredibly good looking and a fantastic Jew. Well, you're not, you've got a bad haircut and chances are you just finished a BLT with extra bacon. Take a look around...look out the window of your fancy office to the streets far below. Do you really deserve all of this? Do you really think you should be so cocky? Do you really think you're that special? Things are going to change and you are not ready for it...not at all.
In about 1 minute from this moment...your life will completely change. Well, actually 1 minute and about twenty years later, but one thing is certain...things will change. You'll be standing in a delivery room with your wife in the middle of the night with snow falling gently outside the frosted window. Your baby daughter was just born seconds ago, but she's not breathing. In fact, she's completely blue. Your wife will start to cry. You're now beginning to cry too as each second ticks by. The doctors are rushing around you with masks on trying to appear calm. You'll stand there wishing you could take back every bad thing you've ever done in your life. You start to concentrate on the sound in the room. You hear your own breathing now and that's all you hear. You're now wishing your daughter was able to breathe instead of you. You want to take her place. She's still not moving. You're beginning to panic. Your breathing is getting more shallow. You're sweating on your upper lip. You're beginning to sob. Your wife is inconsolable. She's begging you to do something. You're completely helpless. Another minute...
This all started where you're sitting now. You will sacrifice everything in your life over the years for your work. You think it's worth it. Every choice you make is for the better good. It affects everyone around you. Your closest friends. Your family. People you wish you treated much better and with more care. You'll lose people you care about. You'll have relationships that should have lasted a lifetime. Friends...lovers...wives...but you will lose them.
In twenty years and 2 minutes you look down at your daughter. She's lying in a warming tray now. Her color is a deeper blue…as blue as the ocean. Doctors are storming into the room. They crowd around you and the baby. Watching both of you intensely as if you have some control over any of this. Your tears will stream down your chin now and reach your shoes. You can hear your soles squeak from the salty water rubbing on the linoleum floor. This can't be happening you tell yourself. This is a bad dream and I'm going to wake up. But, you can't wake up when you're not dreaming.
Look around the office again. What do you see that is worth anything besides the awards you’re dreaming about winning? There is a picture. The one good thing you put in that office. A picture of your family. The people who raised you. They taught you what is truly important in this life. They taught you the difference between right and wrong. They taught you that doing the right thing means making hard choices. It means to sacrifice the things you really want and take care of the people you love. Remember those things. Remember to be kind above everything else. There are other things besides this office…besides the awards you want to win…besides the work. Remember to put the work aside every now and then. Go home and be with the people who love you. You’ll thank me for it.
Twenty years later and 3 minutes now doctors are rubbing your daughter's back on a small metal tray. She still isn't breathing. You think to yourself that this can't be it...hundreds of years of medical knowledge and they just rub a newborn's back. How can that help? Then you hear a sound out of the silence. A breath. The most incredible breath that you've ever heard in your life. The blue skin that made your daughter look like a human Smurf begins to change...like some kind of real-life perfect special effect. The color changes from blue to orange. You reach out and touch her hand...she squeezes it. Life. You're so happy that your tears turn into something different. You've never cried before. Not like this. Not like a happy cry. Your heart leaps from your chest right into hers. It all makes sense. Life makes sense. Your daughter squeezes your hand harder. She's alive. She's beautiful. The doctor asks what her name is...as the nurses are crying with you. You look over at your wife…and turn back to the doctor…“Violet,” you say wiping away your tears. “This little flower is going to need you to grow,” said one of the nurses patting me on the back. It turns out in the end, she will be the only award you ever need.
To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.