Altruism at work

A clear reason why will we be unhappy if we work or study or live in an atmosphere of constant competitiveness and have no common goals, no kindness or no compassion towards each other.

My happiest memories of work are with people who believed in inclusiveness, learning and mutual growth. I have worked in organizations that promoted competition between peers and all level of colleagues with the intention of producing some striking work. It never really appealed to me. Rather than constantly thinking will I feature in the monthly list of “creative individuals,” I was more focused on getting the job done and doing it without any error. And that, in no way meant, that I wasn’t creative or successful. For me, work was never about the spotlight.

One of the most amazing feelings when you are a part of team is helping someone who is junior (hierarchy wise) to you, succeed or aiding them in doing what they want. I felt crazy amount of bliss when I did that. In fact, one of my biggest concerns when I had a team was that I couldn’t spend much time helping them grow. I loved spending whatever time I could helping others. It wasn’t about taking on extra work. It was more about learning from someone else and helping someone else learn. An exchange of knowledge and ideas. Human interaction that helps creative people grow, achieve new levels of creativity and do awesome work. And competitiveness is a complete antithesis of that.

Recognition is a temporary result of good work. We work in teams. While giving out accolades, pointing out one single person is creating an atmosphere of potential hostility between team mates. I have so many times heard people say, “It was team work,” when they have been awarded something. And so many times I wanted to ask everyone in that team, did it really feel like team work? Did you help someone grow or were you more concerned about being better than the rest in that team? Common goals unite us. There is so much discord when everyone is trying to be better than the other. No wonder people like me hate working in teams.

It is the unsung work. Things that people don’t notice. Like taking time to help someone do better, making a cup of coffee for a colleague who is struggling, buying someone lunch. And sometimes, it is the big things that you do without expectations like double checking a piece of work, proactively making sure there are no glitches, foreseeing disasters. And then there are massive things like ensuring a calm day. It is this stuff that made me feel great about the work I did. These moments were what made working-job-employment worthwhile for me.

And frankly, in retrospect, it didn’t matter if recognition came or came late. It took me a while but I made peace with my priorities. The smiles I shared with my team, the trust and rapport from clients and knowing I did my best was much more to me than award at the end of a month.

I saw this video today and realised why was there such level discontent in me when I worked in the environment I mention above. It explained to me the reason why I couldn’t feel at ease or happy even when things were seemingly good. And what exactly did I decide to quit when I left certain jobs.


The power of time off

How much time do we actually spend on ourselves or on what we like to do while we are working? Even when we do take leaves, how much time do we spend doing what we love or doing nothing. My personal experience says it takes us weeks just to get back to normal rhythm of things. To slow down, pay attention to our own thoughts and to find things that we’d rather be doing instead of work. Sure, we say that we’d like to travel to new places, read new books and in my case do nothing, but how far do we really go? It is quite amazing to see this video and know that someone really does what I have been trying to do in my time off. 
My sabbaticals may not have been as productive as this man’s but one can hope. May be by the time I reach the next one, I’d know exactly what I’d like to do when I get my share of unlimited time off.Till then, I am going to let my thoughts wander, spend time doing nothing, read, cook and generally try to find peace once again. 

It is not personal.

On a rate of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, advertising will always score very low when it comes to job satisfaction. And by job satisfaction, I mean a feeling that assures you that you are doing something good, for yourself and others. In fact, I had read a study a couple of months ago that clearly stated this. Most people in advertising, aren’t the most happiest. It is very rare that I have come across someone that is truly passionate about it. Or really does think that advertising is a profession that does some good. It is absolutely no wonder that earlier generations never thought of advertising as a worthwhile career. Why would anyone? What is it that we do at the end of the day? Sell stuff to people. And sometimes entertain them. What good ever comes out of it?

I was recently asked if I had a problem or value clash with working for an alcohol giant. It was exactly the question I had been struggling with since I started working for the brand. I drink.  But I don’t drink like most people. I don’t drink to get drunk. I don’t have need to be high or every time I have some alcohol, I don’t look for being high or drunk as the end result. In fact, lately, drinking is something that doesn’t excite me at all. Am I marketing alcohol directly? No. I can’t even do that legally. What am I marketing? May be a lifestyle. May be a bit of greed. Am I okay doing that? I’m not really sure. I think I can never be sure.

If I am someone who isn’t sure about my profession to begin with, how can I be sure about a brand? I have nothing against alcohol. But I do have something against alcoholics. So I don’t think the brand is an issue here. My issues are with larger things. Like values, beliefs and existential stuff. Like what exactly am I doing with my life?

I think being confused is an intrinsic part of our lives. I think I am someone who will be confused about things even when I am old and grey. So this doesn’t really bother me much at this moment. It is something I will figure out with time and experience. But there is a question that I do need to address right now. And that is what do I want out of the job that I am doing right now. If I have to earn and this is the only way I know how, what do I do to ensure that I am not as miserable as I have been lately.

To start with I don’t want to feel like I am fighting a battle everyday and I’d like to do what I was hired for. I like writing. And everything that has to do with it. As long as my life revolves around it, I am happy.

I think I have passed the age/phase where being at work like a workaholic was exciting. I love work even now. But I also value having a life. This is something only a lack of a (personal) life can teach you. The value of it. I don’t want to work like a mad person anymore. I want to enjoy work. I want to value it.  Not treat it as a job. Not that I ever have but I think that is where my problem lies.

Everything I do is personal to me. And that is what makes me so passionate about work. But when it becomes personal, everything that goes wrong in that sphere also becomes personal. Every win is personal and every loss is personal. And that is what causes this deep unrest every time things go even slightly wrong.

Learning to disassociate is a long and tiring process. I repeat this to one of my team’s junior writers every day, it is not personal. Nothing that happens at work stems out of personal vindictiveness or negativity. At least most of the time it doesn’t. I wish taking my own advice wasn’t so difficult. And I wish I had someone repeating this to me when I was as young as her. It is not personal. It shouldn’t be personal.

Day 4 – My Favourite Quote

Everyone has their weird, unusual and strange reasons as to why they are in advertising. Most people also have an interesting story, how they tried doing something else and realized their heart is not in it. Words, photography, design or just plain freedom called creativity appealed to them and they ended up in advertising. I have neither. No story, no strange reason. It was a simple decision. It’s like I always knew what I wanted to do.

I am lucky to have a sister who understands art and is good at it.  While she did her commercial arts degree, I was in school/junior college. I used to write her copy and she helped me understand design. I realized that this is something I was good at.  But it never occurred to me then that I could make this my career. I understood briefs, understood advertising. But I also understood people and emotions better. So I decided to take up Arts and eventually do psychology. During junior college, I came across BMM through left over notes on blackboards and assignments posted on notice boards. Again I felt this is something I can do. I researched, got to know more and decided that this is something I want to do.

So that is how it began. I got through BMM. It was worse and better than a roller coaster ride. I made it through. I did content jobs, which are mildly related to advertising, just because I love writing more than I love advertising. And then I experienced advertising. And that is why I love this quote.

It is 100%, completely, utterly, shockingly true. The amount of struggle that goes into just making your work acceptable to yourself is astounding amount of hard work. And this is just to yourself. Not even to others. You are constantly surrounded by greatness and creative geniuses, who almost always seem a thousand times better than you. And you know that because you have awesome taste and shrewd mind that points out the best. And you struggle and struggle everyday to inch towards making your work as good as your taste is.

I am glad I read this. I know I am not alone in this struggle. And I know I am not supposed to give up. It is reassuring. It says exactly what I am supposed to do if I ever want to be as good.

I wish everyone in creative fields reads and understands this quote. All the juniors for obvious reasons and the seniors, so that if they’ve gone through this they should realize it. The most, I think, anyone at my level needs a bit of learning and guidance. While learning is a responsibility for everyone, teaching is responsibility for those who actually know.

PS: I cheated I know.