Whether You Hate New Year’s or Love it Doesn’t Matter. What Matters is What Can You Do with it.

People who go dark inside at the thought of New Year’s Eve, those are my people.

Friends of mine have left New Year’s parties at 10 minutes to midnight to walk out by themselves on the beach in LA to face the stars and the waves at the big moment. Looking back, those have been my best friends, not the ones who stayed on the dance floor. I’ve been that person standing on the beach at midnight, feet in the ocean, eyes pinned on the stars & moon several times, looking for what I can’t tell you. Once it was my own party I left.

I was on Interstate 70 between Denver and Copper Mountain on New Year’s Eve in a snowstorm once. A trucker headed East blew his horn at midnight. I waved, uselessly, but with great feeling. Driving by yourself on New Year’s Eve sets a person up just right who’s prone to dark thoughts, even though I was driving to a party at a ski house.

This is all New Years is to me:

It’s math.
You can’t consume it.
You can’t grasp it.
You can’t know it.
You can’t do anything with it.
In the moment it arrives it is leaving.
It is in motion, undoing itself while it goes.
It builds nothing, is part of nothing, leads to nothing.

Why am I bringing this up?
I swear it’s not just to bring you down.

We aren’t putting stuff like this into ads.
I think that’s a mistake.
I think people who make ads are getting drawn more and more away from telling the truth as we know it.

People are walking around dying inside for someone to come along and say Man, I hate New Year’s Eve, don’t you?
But we’re not speaking to that part of them as much as we used to.
Maybe we’re not speaking to them at all as much as we once did.
And, truly, there are also people walking around dying to hear the exact opposite as well—something funny/light/warm/dizzy/smart/crackling that you can think of, you who are different and better and younger or older or wiser or faster or less abstract than me.
The point isn’t whether the math brings you down or draws you onto the dance floor.
The point is: use what’s real to you.
There isn’t a company on earth that doesn’t need more connection to the human beings who buy its product, would buy its product, or would at least be willing to stop lampooning people who they see buying the product.

I’m not the only one who goes interior at New Years.
I could hear at least half of you nodding yes about your best friends not being on the dance floor at midnight.
We want to be outside of time.
Time is holding something inside of us down.
New Years excites that feeling.
Stirs it up.
Makes you walk outside into the dark and the cold and look for lights.

You can’t put that into an ad straight, though.
(If that worked, heck, consumer-generated content would be worth watching)
To bring an audience what it hasn’t specifically chosen to consider you have to bend something.
You hold it up straight they have a right to say so what?
You have to bend the right thing the right amount at the right time without knowing from anywhere outside yourself what the right thing to bend is until you bend it.

You have to take a chance that what it occurs to you to say is what an audience wants to hear.
Since audiences want always something new something new something new, you’ve got to stop trying to make copies of what has already been and start getting ahead of them.
How do you get ahead?
At midnight this New Year’s Eve, or, truly, any time in any place, whatever news you’ve got that’s true, that needs saying, bend it some & tell it.

Happy New math.

Q: What Does the Pilot of an Airliner Do if the Plane Suddenly Drops 2000 Feet?

A: Look up from his newspaper.

Dear Students,
You’re not going to get any preparation for this in your classes.
But you should know it.
The key to success in big time advertising: learn to live out of a carryon.
Don’t get into this business unless you truly love airplanes.

Merry Christmas.
The holiday dedicated to us not having to get what we deserve.

Why the People with the Most Talent Don’t Always Make the Best Work.

A student in the Film Storytelling class couldn’t bring him or herself to do an assignment.
He or she came to my office to tell me this.
Trying, in a gentle way, to help, I said, “Tough. Do it anyway.”

The owner of a sturdy & upright nature, the student went away to work on his/her project.
I was left wondering: what could make a person who came to school in order to learn to do this not want to do it?
This is what I figured:

A lot of people are held back from working by fear of failure.
They’re so afraid to make something that’s no good that they don’t make anything.

Failure is necessary.
Failure is important.
Failure is an irreplaceable ingredient in the creative process.
The right to fail is a right you are wrong to deny yourself.

There’s a ton of failure in creating advertising.
(Truly, a great deal of failure is central to the creation of anything in which quality is determined by subjective judgment)
There’s a lot of failure.
There’s a lot of looking foolish.
It’s part of the process.
You learn to accept it.
After a while you hardly notice it.

What’s terrifically good about the right to fail is it means you can try anything.
Here’s where you can help yourself.

If there’s going to be plenty of failure no matter what you do, try something that’s worth the trouble.
Instead of sticking to what you see others doing, make something that could only occur to you.
Make something you couldn’t describe to someone else without them looking at you funny.

Most of us have been trained by life to avoid the feeling you get when you try things like that.
It requires an act of faith.
Faith is scary.
Even a small act of faith is not for the fearful.
(I believe there is no advancement in any part of life without an act of faith but that’s too big an idea to get into here, now)

It’s similar to the feeling you get when you think to yourself, heck, I should just kiss that girl.
Most of the time we don’t follow through.
Some of us are such dorks we not only stop our instincts, we compound our dorkness by moping for 3 days, and then—ask the girl if we can kiss her, and in that moment damn ourselves as not being men of action.

Don’t ask, kiss.
Sure you might feel stupid if someone laughs.
Get used to it.
Could be worse.
You could do crummy work all your life and never know why.

You can try to skip the looking foolish part.
But you miss the part that allows you to understand what makes a great ad great.
Let the great French essayist say it:

“To learn that we have said or done a foolish thing, that is nothing. We must learn that we are nothing but fools, a far broader and more important lesson.” -Montaigne