What I Learned This Year: Jim Elkin

The Nine Great Things I Learned This Year or What I Did Last Summer, But I Can’t Really Talk About It Until I Have A Few Drinks First

Sometimes it’s better to fight for the things you want. Creative arguments are healthy and good for the soul. Some of the best Creative Directors I’ve ever met around the world haven’t been insecure bastards who just want you to agree with them. They don’t necessarily want you to say yes...they just want to know why you’ve made certain choices in your work. Stand up for what you believe in and what you’ve created. Do not be afraid to say where you’re coming from and how you got there. Just don’t be a jerk about it and always remember when to back off. Or as the infamous Kenny Rogers once said, “You’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to walk away.” Umm... unless you’re North Korea.

Ok, not literally. Smoking is an awful habit and, no, your medical marijuana card doesn’t help matters. But do take a break. Late nights are the norm in this business, but you always need to recharge your batteries. Don’t lose sight of the small things...puppies, sunshine...double rainbows...warm hugs from TSA agents...I’m not judging.

Get tough. I mean really tough. Thick skin can provide some much needed relief. It’s too easy to fall into the woe is me and feel sorry for yourself. It’s not how hard we fall... it’s how we pick ourselves up that define us. Man up...or woman up for that matter...even cross dress it up...I’m still not judging.

Sometimes at the end of the day when you’re creatively out of juice one of the things I learned this year is that you need to keep working and push yourself even harder. Even if you think all hope is lost, the chances are there is one more good idea left before you head off for your two fingers of Makers Mark or your double whipped Mocha Frapp. Take a few more minutes and push yourself. Ask any Olympic marathon runner and they’ll tell you that it’s not the first 26 miles that are hard...it’s the last 385 yards. Keep going. You’ll know when you’re finished when you hear clapping.

There will always be opinions, critics, naysayers, and God awful Bristol Palin dance moves. But in the end, you’ve got to be the one who calls the shots. Be brave, and even if your work is picked apart, keep believing in yourself. But if for some reason you decided to wear Jeggings...you might want to listen to your own inner critic.

Take responsibility for everything you do and create in your life. Don’t play into the old, “Well if I had a better partner...” or “No one listened to me...” game. If anything has your name on it, then make sure it’s not any less than your very best. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that you spilled coffee on your favorite shirt or your hybrid got booted. Life happens...but if your name is on it, there are absolutely no excuses. This year, I had to create 100 separate videos for American Crew. It was a large project to be sure. It would have been really easy to pass off a lot of them as filler and not put as much effort into each and every one. After all, 100 is an insane amount of videos any way you slice it. But I tried to suck it up and, as hard as it was every day, I asked myself, “Is this the best I got?” It was hard...sometimes it meant going back and reworking things...but I look back at that experience and I’m glad I did. I think I slept for about a month straight afterwards, but I had some nice dreams...although I will never admit that any of them involved Snookie from Jersey Shore and Twinkies. Just remember, you’re responsible for all of your actions...and, of course last but not least, only you can prevent forest fires.

Giving back should not just be an empty promise or because you wanted to place your lips on your boss’s booty. Giving back should come from the heart. It’s important not just to do it in your work, but in everything you do. As a creative person, it’s pretty much your duty to contribute to the community and your neighbor. There should be no ego here...just do good and good will come back to you. Be pleasant to everyone below and on top of you...I know, “That’s what she said.”

Understand your surroundings and the people who inhabit it. That audience you want to reach definitely live life in a a very specific way. More then likely, very different from you. Figure out who they are and everything about where they come from. Put yourself in their shoes...unless they’re wearing some Uggs...in that case feel free to try on their pants when they’re not looking.

No, not that word. I’m talking about collaboration. Collaboration is absolutely key. I know that can be a scary topic. It’s hard to trust people that might not have your exact vision. But personally I’ve tried more then ever this year to surround myself with much smarter people than myself. I know what you’re going to say, “But, Jim...that is pretty much everyone.” (You’re really hilarious...you should think about doing standup.) This is one of the hardest lessons in life and you have to suck up a lot of pride in the process. I guarantee that you will be glad you did. Feel free to also replace “collaboration” with “cookie” if you don’t agree. Either way, C is for cookie and that’s good enough for me.


What Denver Learned This Year: Jim is cool.

Co-sign on Matt's post. Very cool.

Thanks...right back at ya.

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