Think you know what job or career you want? Learn how to develop a bulletproof mindset for getting it.

Hunger beats talent

The first lesson you have to learn:

It doesn’t matter how good you are right now.

What counts is how good you want to be.

It is a timeless rule in life that hunger will always displace talent.

Talent is lazy. Talent is egotistical. Talent is perishable.

What does it take to succeed?

Global Chief Creative Officer of McCann, Rob Reilly answered with the following:

“Outthink. Outwork. Out care.”

Few exceptionally successful people consider themselves to be naturally “talented”.

It is your hunger to get a job/ career, to do it and do it well that you must rely on, not talent.

90% of most jobs are skill-based.






These are all skills and skills can be both learned and taught.

But hunger and work ethic are personality traits.

When you understand this you realise that your hunger and work ethic (or lack thereof) towards a topic, dictate the majority of your actions and decisions.

As Einstein said, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.

By choosing one thing, you are often neglecting another.

By doing one thing, you are often not doing another.

You choose to work hard, or to be lazy.

You choose to hungrily pursue a goal, or to procrastinate.

You choose to take action, or you choose to make excuses.

From a Global Executive of a creative communications company:

“I have never, ever, in my entire career, met someone who was naturally talented. Everyone, absolutely everyone who excels works their absolute fucking bollocks off.’

So there you have it from the horses mouth. There is no need to worry about talent or beat yourself up if you don’t think you are good enough. The important thing is that you want to be.

Another thing about talent? Most people with “talent” took years and even decades to develop their “talent’.

There’s a great story from James Clear about Pablo Picasso.

‘There is an interesting story about how Pablo Picasso, the famous Spanish artist, developed the ability to produce remarkable work in just minutes.

As the story goes, Picasso was walking though the market one day when a woman spotted him. She stopped the artist, pulled out a piece of paper and said, “Mr. Picasso, I am a fan of your work. Please, could you do a little drawing for me?”

Picasso smiled and quickly drew a small, but beautiful piece of art on the paper. Then, he handed the paper back to her saying, “That will be one million dollars.”

“But Mr. Picasso,” the woman said. “It only took you thirty seconds to draw this little masterpiece.”

“My good woman,” Picasso said, “It took me thirty years to draw that masterpiece in thirty seconds.”

Picasso isn’t the only brilliant creative who worked for decades to master his craft. His journey is typical of many creative geniuses. Even people of considerable talent rarely produce incredible work before decades of practice.’

Quantity trumps quality

Below is a wonderful example from ‘Art & Fear’ of how the ability to think and work prolifically will always trump the ability the produce one killer idea.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

The learning for us is that if you want to produce something of quality, produce quantity.

The Power of Accumulative Advantage

Even working marginally harder than others around you will still see you reap the majority of the rewards.

James Clear shows us why in his discussion of Accumulative Advantage.

“The Amazon rainforest is one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Scientists have cataloged approximately 16,000 different tree species in the Amazon. But despite this remarkable level of diversity, researchers have discovered that there are approximately 227 “hyperdominant” tree species that make up nearly half of the rainforest. Just 1.4 percent of tree species account for 50 percent of the trees in the Amazon.

But why?

Imagine two plants growing side by side. Each day they will compete for sunlight and soil. If one plant can grow just a little bit faster than the other, then it can stretch taller, catch more sunlight, and soak up more rain. The next day, this additional energy allows the plant to grow even more. This pattern continues until the stronger plant crowds the other out and takes the lion’s share of sunlight, soil, and nutrients.

From this advantageous position, the winning plant has a better ability to spread seeds and reproduce, which gives the species an even bigger footprint in the next generation. This process gets repeated again and again until the plants that are slightly better than the competition dominate the entire forest.

Scientists refer to this effect as “accumulative advantage.” What begins as a small advantage gets bigger over time. One plant only needs a slight edge in the beginning to crowd out the competition and take over the entire forest.”

How can we apply this to our own journey?

The take-out from James’ article is that those (things, people) who are more competitive will get a bigger share of the resources.

This in turn leads them to develop at a greater rate.

As a result, they then get an even greater share of the resources.

This doesn’t mean shouting louder or being the biggest voice in a room. It means working harder, wanting it more, asking questions and pro-actively seeking feedback that helps you to grow and improve.

This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where those who are naturally more competitive develop more quickly than those who are not. These individuals are often referred to as “naturally talented” by their counterparts.

As James says himself;

“The margin between good and great is narrower than it seems. What begins as a slight edge over the competition compounds with each additional contest.”

If you know anything about compound interest, you know that over time it makes a big difference.

Thinking you are bad will make you good

When you are starting out, every benefit lies in thinking you are not very good.

If you do not think you are very good, you will work harder and longer than anyone else. You will think more laterally. You will arrive earlier and leave later. You will study more. You will listen more and you will learn more.

This doesn’t mean self-flagellation. Or looking into a mirror and telling yourself you are worthless. It means acknowledging that you cannot rely on talent to excel as a creative.

If this is your mind-set and you are good… then not only are you good… but you’re also working harder than anyone else. So success will follow.

It is likely that when you start out in a creative job, you will suffer discomfort. This is something every creative person feels. Your taste for creative work will not match the quality of the creative work that you produce. As Ira Glass once said:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just got to’ fight your way through”.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

What is the next obstacle you must overcome?

A fear of upsetting or annoying people. Creative people are often busy people. Not because they are special, or important. But because they are always thinking, doing or making.

A wallflower is very unlikely to ever get noticed by an creative already working in the field.

There is a saying in New York — which is “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”.

This means, if you want something, you have to tell someone. If you don’t tell them, how can they know what you want, or that you want anything at all?

As Creative Director, Dave Trott says in his blog post:

“…the only thing that can stop you is embarrassment. You’re worried what other people will think about you. Don’t be. Because the truth is worse than that. They don’t think about you at all- no one even notices you. 90% of everything is invisible…[So] you must choose: be a nuisance or be invisible… you don’t have to sit back and wait for a job to crop up. You can e-mail everyone with your work, again and again. You can carpet-bomb everyone until someone takes notice… In summary… use it or lose it.”

Here is an important lesson to remember. Everyone is the centre of their own universe, the main character in their own story.

The way you feel about your life, how important you are in it, is exactly the way everyone else feels about their own lives.

So right now you feel afraid to pester people. You are scared to email them a second or third time. You are scared to pick up the phone and call them.

You are afraid you will annoy them. You are afraid they will tell their friends . Who will tell their friends…

And before you know it… you have blacklisted yourself from an industry before you are even in it.

But be aware, that this is never going to happen.

There is a fine line between being keen and being annoying. But as a rational adult, you will know where this is.

You are not going to annoy anyone by being hungry for a job. If you do, they are not a good person to work for. People may be too busy to respond. They may take a long time to respond. But that is the exact reason that you must be persistent and put these irrational fears out of your mind.

If you want to get into a company to see someone, email them. Put “Re:” at the start of your email subject line. It will look like they already have an on-going email conversation with you. For example “Re: Meeting”.

Keep your email polite and to the point. Don’t write like a “creative person”. Write like a human being. Tell them who you are and what you want. Tell them you respect what they do/ make/ create. Tell them you would love some constructive advice.

If they do not reply, email again in the same email.

If they still do not reply, email a third time in the same email.

Still no luck? Try calling them. If a receptionist answers, state with confidence who you want to talk to and your name. If they ask who you are or where you are from, tell them you’re a journalist.

If you are then met with a personal assistant, state with confidence:

“Oh hi, is he/ she in?”

Pretend you already know them.

If you still do not succeed. Find someone else at the same company and repeat the process.

Every great creative person is part hustler and you must be the same.

Creative business are stamina businesses

A creative person is only as good as their last piece of work. 95% of your work can end up in the bin.

(Though your ideas ending up in the bin is still way more fun than most people’s jobs. What an amazing thought! Disappointment in your job is still cooler than 99% of jobs.)

You have to have the stamina to keep fighting to make great work. But also to not get complacent once you have.

There is a book titled:

Who Moved My Cheese?

You can read it in under an hour. Its relevance to creative jobs is such:

A job as a creative person is a contract between you and your employer. Your employer pays you for goods and services that you provide. These services take the form of ideas and executions of those ideas. Provide goods and services of a high quality and the contract will continue. If the goods are not of a high enough value to justify what is being paid, then you are not fulfilling the contract.

In summary, you do not own your job. It is not your job. It is a job that you are currently performing.

In thinking it is your job, complacency and laziness are sure to set in.

Which is why you must approach your desk every day with a point to prove. The point being, that you are worth employing. Which is exactly why the job requires so much stamina.

Doing a job needs energy. But getting it requires even more.

You may well have to attend as many as 100 meetings before getting one single internship.

You must walk into every meeting willing to start again all over again, if necessary.

The equation for making progress in the pursuit of a creative job is very simple:

P= A+C X R

Progress-P equals an attempt at creative work-A, plus the constructive criticism you receive and act upon-C. Multiplied by how many times you are willing to repeat this process-R.

In German culture, there is a word: ‘sitzfleisch’.

It roughly translates into English as ‘Staying Power’.

Read enough autobiographies and you will see a trait all successful people share. This is an uncommon level of staying power. They all have got back up more times than they have been knocked down. To get even cheesier; as Rocky Balboa puts it;

“Life aint’ about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.’

Creative business are stamina businesses. So start building yours now

The 10% that makes the 10%

Creative Director Dave Trott is also a successful blogger.

He often cites the following statistic on his blog:

89% of money spent on advertising is wasted. 89% of advertising is neither noticed, nor remembered by the general public. (7% is remembered with negative feelings and 4% is remembered with positive feelings).

We emailed Dave to ask him why he thinks this is. He kindly took the time to reply the following. Thanks Dave.

Why 90% of advertising fails.

-Dave Trott.

In rough numbers 10% of everything on the planet is great.

90% of everything on the planet isn’t great.

Because 90% of people don’t care.

Mechanics, doctors, shop assistants, cops, teachers, journalists, footballers.

They just want to do their job with as little effort as possible.

So most of everything falls into that 90%.

10% won’t settle for that.

10% want to be great.

10% make the extra effort.

They get up earlier, stay later, work harder, study it at the weekend, talk about it after work, read about it, love it.

The other 90% think they’re mad, ‘fanatics’.

So, in macro terms, that’s why there’s a 90 -10 split about most things.

In micro terms, concerning advertising, the 90% doesn’t work because it’s invisible.

It’s wallpaper, it’s background clutter.

That’s what you get with the 90% attitude.

The 10% that works is the part that’s different, that stands out, like a picture on the wallpaper.

Done by the ‘fanatics’.

Because that’s what it takes for advertising to work.

To stand out from the mass.

So those are the only kind of people who can do it.

Whether they’re Art Directors, Copywriters, Planners, Account Men, or Clients.

The 10% who want to do the 10%.

The 90% don’t want the effort, or the risk involved.

They’d rather take the money and go home, or to the pub, or do something other than their job.

Because they don’t love it.

Do what you love and it shows, do what you don’t love and it shows.

10% are doing what they love.

90% are doing what they don’t love.

It’s as true of advertising as it is everything else in life.

So, ask yourself, are you going to be the 10% that make the 10%?

People skills pay the bills

Understand people and your journey into a creative job will be much easier. What moves people? What motivates them? Why do they do what they do and say what they say?

Like knowing that it will flatter someone to tell them that you respect their opinion. That you have found their advice very helpful. So much so, that you would like them to recommend other people that they respect that you could see.

Before you know it, this simple act of flattery has gained you two or three more contacts. Two or three more potential routes into a creative job.

Here is another example. Knowing that in any industry, senior people tend to be busy. They may struggle to remember what it was like when they were trying to get into the industry themselves.

Knowing that junior people likely have not being doing the job long enough to offer you any real value. That they will not have the power to give you an internship. That they may even sabotage your progress out of their own insecurities.

If you know people — you will know that the people to target are middleweights. They are busy. But not too busy. They remember trying to get a job themselves. They also likely have the power, or know someone who does — to give you an internship.

A closing note. It will surprise you, how much of your success will be heavily affected how much people like you.

You will spend long hours, late nights and weekends working with your colleagues. So you are far more likely to get a job if you are a nice person.

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