The regional marketing and design community is grateful for the School of Advertising Art and the excellent design professionals it produces evey year. I was a member of the first graduating class of SAA some 23 years ago. As a former graduate and Vice President of DCS I was honored to be invited to address this year's graduates. My remarks:
So let me start with a little story. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and asks, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and asks, “What the hell is water?” The point of that story is merely that the most obvious, important things in life are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. So as you continue on life’s Journey, make sure you take the time to enjoy what’s going on around you. Greetings and congratulations to SAA’s graduating class of 2010, enjoy your day kids, you’ve earned it.
I’m honored to be chosen as the commencement speaker for this the 25th anniversary of SAA, I would like to extend a special thanks to Tim and Linda Potter, the class of 1986 and the entire staff of SAA past and present. This is quite an honor for a shy kid who once was scolded by Paul Behrens, Linda’s father who taught figure drawing at the time, for emasculating the male models. Paul was quite the stickler for detail. Thank you SAA, you are an integral part of my success. As part of the first graduating class 23 years ago, I was sitting right out there where you are, nervous and excited about what lay ahead. Actually I’m a lot more nervous today then I was back then, so feel free to sweat because I sure as heck am.
But this isn’t about me it’s about you. And as I reflect on the last 25 years of my life, I thought I would share not my accomplishments but some of the lessons I accidentally learned along the way.
LOVE HARD AND MEAN IT.(not nearly as provocative as it sounds)
First, love what you do and do what you love. Technology has become a great equalizer in our world. True talent is much tougher to recognize. It’s much harder to stand out amongst your peers. The playing field has effectively been leveled. And we’re part of a shrinking world where everything is becoming outsourced or automated. Sounds kind of bleak, but the good news is that the jobs that can’t be automated are the ones that require creativity, passion, imagination--jobs that can only be done by people who love what they do.
Second, work hard. Once you’ve discovered your true love, pursue it with vigor, passion and, of course, hard work. Work hard at your craft. It’s what will separate you from everyone else, talent and a great portfolio are just the first steps the real measures are how much you’re willing to give or sacrifice for your love. What we do isn’t easy. Each of our designs is part of us. They’re like our children, and believe me you don’t want someone telling you that your baby’s ugly. So the harder you work at what you do, the more rewarding the results.
Third, mean it. You can’t just say you’re going to love what you do and work hard at it to be successful--you have to mean it. Talent gets you in the door but determination keeps you there. It’s what makes you do the design one more time to make it perfect. It's what keeps you from settling for a job you don’t want. It’s that “I’ll show you!” attitude that drives parents and teachers crazy, but it's what every successful creative has. Start low and reach high: You can fail without being defeated, as long as you have the determination never to give up.
I guess what I have been trying to say here this morning can be summed up by the old saying that “happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Bringing joy and passion to your work is not what you get to do when you get to the top. It’s what gets you there. If I have had any success in this business since I was sitting down there where you are 23 years ago, it’s because I found a way to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Life’s way too short to sit around and watch it go by. Sometimes like the fish in the story you have to stop and look around to see the water. Believe me I’ve had my failures over the years but more often than not I found ways to learn from, and enjoy, some part of each job. With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Mark Twain: "Always work like you don’t need the money. Always fall in love like you’ve never been hurt. Always dance like nobody is watching. And always -- always -- live like it’s heaven on earth."