Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #17: Christopher Cox
Dear younger self on your first day in this upside down world,
You thought you were hot shit in college but the next 14 years is going to be a succession of personality beatdowns that will both humble and harden you. Starting with nearly losing your only brother in a car accident the year you graduate it’s going to be a long road to finding yourself spiritually and creatively. Every time you try to climb up on your egotistical high horse you will get knocked down.
If I can tell you one thing and one thing only it is not to be afraid. Do not approach things with fear. Banish it if you can. It will always be a challenge and it is even now, but try not to start with fear as the motivation for your decision-making. It’s okay to work for yourself. Not everyone was born to work the same job their entire life no matter what your parents say. But there are two sides to that equation, and the other is to not be afraid to commit. Don’t be afraid to commit to the people who love you. Don’t be afraid to commit being a good husband, father and friend. And yes being a father is amazing. You’ll put it off forever because you are being a self-centered douche bag but when you finally throw caution to the wind it will be the best decision you ever made. I’d tell you to do it earlier but you act like a spoiled kid for a long time so it’s probably best that you wait anyway.
If someone needs you then be there for them. Part of working to banish fear is banishing expectations. And banishing expectations of others is almost harder than banishing your fear. If someone is using you though, or you suspect they are then move on. Don’t be afraid to say no and on the other side of the coin don’t be afraid to say I’m sorry.
Be nicer to your wife. She’s actually even more of a beautiful person than you initially thought. Way more beautiful. She approaches and handles nearly everything in her life with an innate grace. Learn from her. And listen to her. She deserves it.
Don’t be afraid to change. This is part of banishing fear-based decision making. Actually you are going to have to change. A lot. The first 10 years is pretty much a succession of admitting wrong doing and being an overbearing jerk. Sure you mean well but it doesn’t come off that way. It’s going to take a while before you learn to project positivity even when you feel your negative upbringing tugging at your pant leg. You will lose people along the way and have to admit you were wrong many times. Choose to be self-aware as much as possible. Self-help books exist for a reason. Read them.
Don’t be afraid of time. It doesn’t exist. Everything is in flux. It seemed like things were changing back when you were handy in Flash, but you would not believe what’s happening now. It’s too weird to even describe. It’s hard to even know what advertising is anymore or if marketing is actually effective at all. The entire experience of it has changed so much in the past 15 years that it would sound like science fiction to you now. Two things do remain constant though and that is good design and old-fashioned artistic talent. You can always come back to that. When those two elements combine they are still capable of solving many problems.
Oh and please write more. Write as much as you can. Even if you aren’t great at it it’s one of the best ways to learn how to develop your ideas. And pick up the pencil before the mouse (or the Stylus pen (but you don’t even know what that is yet). You may not like hearing this but clients will pay more if you think before you act. Brain always trumps brawn in this industry. It makes the art direction side a challenge and puts a moving target in front of you but just remember to think before you act whenever possible.
But overall, just don’t be afraid. This industry is even stranger than you could have imagined. A lot of people will try to fill your head with bullshit but it always boils down to the simplest ingredients. It’s about relationships. You gotta work at that, kid. Hard. Just keep trying to get better at it. People will put you down. There’s nothing you can do about it. It will hurt. It always does. Learn what you need to from the criticism but don’t let it slow you down. You can always improve yourself despite the odds. You’ll have to work at it every day but it’s the only thing that will make your career move forward. You can always start over and will have to many times.
Just remember to choose at the start of every day not to be afraid. And smile when you do. There is love in every moment of life if you look for it.
To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.