It’s Thanksgiving week amidst one of the shittiest years in recorded history, made even shittier still by the loss of my dog Diesel. But as gut-wrenching as it was, I am thankful to have had 12 incredible years with him in my life. I am also thankful for everything he taught me, hence the article below.

In 1993 at D’Arcy, Massius, Benton & Bowles, back when DMB&B even existed, they had something called the Junior Pool. And as the name suggests, it was a pool of junior creatives that anyone from any group could tap into for their creative assignments at hand.

And while the pool only lasted for a few years, the eight of us in the pool bonded like The Brady Bunch. We did everything together. We went to lunch together, got shit-faced together, went to movies, played the video game Marathon- oh, and we occasionally did some work as I recall. The other thing we did a ton of was just talk. About all sorts of stuff. Stupid stuff. Like what breed of dog would you be, assuming you were born a canine. But the thing was, you weren’t allowed to choose the breed yourself. Others chose it for you, and mine happened to be a Jack Russell Terrier.

Now at first I took offense being that I was the shortest guy in the Junior Pool and just happened to be assigned the smallest dog. But apparently the intention of any size correlation was merely a coincidence, or at least so they told me. The Jack was chosen more as a result of my tenacity, my relentlessness, and my energy. I’d also like to think it was because of my smarts, but unfortunately they didn’t list that among the reasons.

What is especially interesting about this, is that approximately a decade later, by sheer coincidence, my wife wound up picking out a Jack Russell as her very first anniversary present. And while it was technically supposed to be a present for her, I quickly grew attached to this little kindred spirit of mine.

We named him Diesel, partly after the fuel, since Jackies have an abundance of it, as I already mentioned, but also as the namesake of Vin Diesel, because if it’s one thing Jack’s are, it’s badass, acting as if they are ten times their size.

It took all of about an hour in our apartment for Diesel to nuzzle his way deep into our hearts and before I knew it he was sleeping in our bed and consuming our thoughts. He was nothing short of our first child and we spoiled him accordingly. He traveled everywhere with us from France to Turkey to Vienna. He had designer collars and cashmere sweaters- hell, he even ate filet mignon every birthday.

Yes, he had quite the life. But tragically, a few months ago cancer took my boy away from me. And while I say it was we who gave him an amazing life, it was actually Diesel who gave us so much more. Not just his unconditional love and companionship, Diesel also managed to tap into my dormant Jack Russell gene and gave me inspiration and guidance, along with a veritable treasure trove of career pointers, which I will share with you now.

  1. Always give 150%

Think about how many of us are so quick to label clients as bad or stupid or cowards. But in the world of a Jack Russell (or any dog for that matter), you would never even think of questioning your human companion. Granted you probably wouldn’t be thinking much about anything except for food, but assuming you did, you would simply accept the person you are presented with who is taking you home from the pet store or breeder and regardless of their faults (none of us being without a few, by the way), you would give them 150%. For example, no Jack would ever say “I’m not playing with you because you don’t know how to throw a ball correctly.” You work with, and love, what you have. We should do the same. Because it has been my personal experience that when you stop writing off clients, you’d be surprised what incredible things you can achieve together.

2. Be relentless

For most creatives this one comes naturally, but not for all. In fact, if I were to choose one characteristic that separates the good creatives from the great ones, this would be it. But relentless doesn’t just mean fighting for the work. That’s only a third of it. Relentless also means never giving up. Never caving and throwing the fastball down the middle. It means keeping spirits up and remaining indomitable. Listening to your client’s feedback and then putting round after round of killer work in front of them until they buy it. There are a million ways to skin each and every problem, you just have to be willing to mine for them.

Relentless also means staying with an idea from start to finish. Showing a tenacity to make sure the idea comes out the way you know it should. Pushing it even after it has sold. Pushing it to be even better during the production and then pushing again during post-production.

3. Sleep with one eye opened

It was always impossible to sneak up on Diesel while he was sleeping, and rightly so. I was usually up to some sort of shenanigans. And unfortunately, so are a lot of the people around you. And as well-intentioned as you might be, sadly there will be many a Machiavellian bastard who will try to fuck with you. So please don’t stoop to their level and get caught up in their games. But don’t ignore them either. Just make sure you are always looking out for numero uno, because no one else is as important to you, than you.

4. Act big

Most Jacks think they are Rottweilers. So steal a page out of that book, no matter whether you’re a junior or a CCO, there is nothing more important than coming across larger than life. Owning a room will sell more work than brilliance any day of the week. Clients like confidence, it’s a fact. Hell, everybody likes confidence. So pack a trunk-full before walking into every meeting. It will take you farther than talent and luck combined.

5. Be a quick study

As a puppy Diesel could learn just about any trick under the sun in three days or less, which brings me to my point, being able to get up to speed on a client’s business, tone, campaign history or the crisis du jour is invaluable. This is especially one of the most vital skills to have as an ECD or CCO, because you are often times walking into the middle of a situation that you know little about because you’ve got 10,000 other things on your plate. So to be able to take it all in and miraculously form a cogent opinion about it is a skill worth honing.

6. Stay curious

They say curiosity killed the cat. Well, I think it also tortured the Jack Russell. Just try playing hide and seek with one and you will see what I mean. But it’s not just cute, it’s also admirable, because if we only could be half as curious we would no longer need digital agencies. Everyone would just be agencies. After all, it’s not like we have TV agencies and print agencies and radio agencies. Digital is really just another way to tell the story. Another tool in your arsenal. But because it is so much newer than the other mediums you have to stay on top of it, because it is also more complex and ever-changing. So never stop exploring and learning and you should be just fine. This is the difference between creatives who thrive and those who make themselves obsolete.

7. Take it where you can get it

Jacks don’t care who feeds them and neither should you. So lose the ego. Account people, planners, project managers, juniors and interns are all capable of throwing out brilliance, but so often we resist them simply on the basis of who is doing the tossing. My advice, just take a moment or two to listen. It doesn’t mean everything they say will be golden, but I guarantee some of it will be, or at the very least some of it might trigger a thought that gets you to the promised land.