Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #5: Jim Elkin

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Dear Jim,

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 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 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.


wow. just, wow.

fuck. that was beautiful.

Absolutely beautiful, Jim. Thanks for sharing.

Incredible. Moved to tears. So true.


Dear self, thirty years in the future, you're going to be asked to write a letter to yourself on your first day in advertising, but before you do, you're going to read the submission of a fantastic jew and resign yourself to humility.

Sorry, wasn't logged in—definitely didn't want that to be anonymous—great job buddy.

Big hug for you Jim.

A gut-punch, Jim, but well, well worth it. Thank you.

There are no words good enough to describe this. But please, PLEASE put a copy of this in her baby book.

That was huge. and amazing. Thanks for putting yourself out there. -r

As a writer, I am deeply humbled by the writing of everyone in this series. Jim, this is so honest and raw and true I don't even know what to say other than thank you for gifting us all with a tiny piece of your heart.


The miracle of life becomes your little miracle. A heartfelt moment for all of us. Thank you.

Beautiful, Jim. Thank you for sharing.


Just like Jim to pour everything, every emotion, all of his energy into whatever he 's doing - work or parenthood or just being an amazing human. This is an extraordinary piece of writing. Thanks Jim. I cried and loved every word.


I passed on contributing to this series because I thought I was "too busy with work" to commit.

If I had only thought I could put something out there even half this beautiful, I would not have declined.

Extremely well said.

Thanks for writing, this was amazing.

It's you, Jim. Beautiful and extraordinary. This makes all the happy dancing pictures even more special.

Thanks, Jimmy. You are a wonderful guy and this is an amazing piece of writing.

One of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your precious life with others!

You are awesome Jim. Thanks for sharing and keeping it all in perspective.

Well crap. Now my letter to myself makes me look like a total dick. Thanks for making cry at work, Jim.

Jim, this is simply beautiful. I'm crying at the office right now and can't wait to go home to be with my family. Amazing writing from an amazing person.

Thank you, Jim.

So nicely done Jim and I can relate to so much of this. You should mail this to Violet when she is 16.

Before I read this, I would have said words cannot express such emotion. This piece is truly exceptional Jim. Just like you.

I'm crying at my desk unapologetically. Beautiful.

Perspective. What everyone in this egocentric career of advertising needs more of, each and everyday. Thanks for sharing Jim.

My hectic day just came to a sudden halt. Breath. Focus. Thanks for the reminder. Mad respect Jim.

Thank you so much to everyone who has posted a comment on here, called me, Facebooked, Tweeted, Snap-chatted (which has been awesome by the way). I've gotten so much love today from everyone that I respect immensely and I'm truly touched. I hope I can talk to you all personally. You are all amazing and you all mean a lot to me whether you know it or not. Group hug.

Well shit, perspective really is something else. As a dad of three, I sometimes overlook my kids for the less important things in life. It's humbling to put those priorities straight. Thanks for the insight Jim. All the best to you and your family.

Thankful to to have worked with you just before this all went down. Thankful to have seen you smile after she was born. And thankful to have taken the time today in the mad rush before the holidays to sit and read this.

Yes, Jim. Just... Yes.
Thanks for sharing.
You bring a smile to my face every time I see you, and now, for another deeper reason.


Oh. My. God.

That was absolutely amazing. My daughter just turned one. We had a scare, but nothing like yours. Just brought it all flooding back.

Probably why I got some dust in my eyes.

Thanks for the perspective. We're all crazy SOBs when it comes to work. Because of that we should hold each other accountable for our personal lives, too.

I'm decorating cookies with my daughter today (seriously) it made me nervous/anxious yesterday and proud today.



Very nice, Jim. Poignant words from a great guy.

I read this, laying in bed next to my three year old sleeping daughter...
Simply amazing and humbling. Beautiful!
Thank you for sharing such a powerful and personal story!
Thank you.

thank you.

Wow, Jim. What a beautiful piece of work. Thanks.

Absolutely amazing. Thanks for capturing how to put things into perspective.

Nothing like starting the day by sobbing hysterically. This was truly awesome.

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Jim, AMAZING writing and sharing from the heart...this post puts life in perspective doesn't it, but that's what our children do, or should do. I was in tears, thanks for taking time to put this into words.

holy crap that was good.

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