Monday, February 25, 2008

The death of a colleague: Perspective II

I did not have the best of days. Life was not kind. There was money involved. Let's just leave it at that. But it made me think about what I love to do for a living. It made me think about the creation of things and how it beats working in a bank or factory – how cool a job creativity really is and how blessed we are.

Excerpt from Wild Wild East:

"Today, a man named Paul Tilley jumped from a hotel in Chicago. He was 40 years old. I did not know Mr. Tilley, but he worked in the same business as I at DDB in Chicago, a rival of Leo Burnett. Mr. Tilley started at DDB the same year I left Burnett and started my own company (ADWEEK) in Korea – 1997. Paul's story made me think about wtall-building, paul-tilley, wild-wild-east-dailies, wild-wild-east, DDB, leo-burnett, chicago, advertising, news, business, suicide, jump, leap hat might have happened to me had I remained in Chicago instead of starting a business in a foreign country, a very scary thing in itself.

I know now, very clearly, that I have much less money than I did in my Chicago days, that I am no longer married, that I no longer have a lake house in Michigan, and that I am no longer a Vice President for the most famous and respected agency Chicago has ever produced – and that I live in Vietnam. But I do remember looking at my boss, a very nice man, one time at Burnett in the 90s and realizing that he was not a happy man. His teenagers had suburban drug and sex issues, his wife had issues and his Lexus had issues. He was being told how and what to manage and he couldn't do it his own way. The company owned him, totally. To him, work wasn't creative anymore. The bad guys were winning more business and he was getting screwed on all sides. But he was an extremely well paid, yet decidedly unhappy man.

I know there was a definite point where I told myself,
"I don't want to be him in ten years". I don't know exactly what day that was but I'm sure there was one."

A recent post on a website here in Vietnam stated this: "
Remember, many of the expatriate residents in this crowded and polluted burg are here not just out of love for the place but also because they felt oppressed by their position in various hierarchies back home."

Today, a man jumped from a building in Chicago to his death from the business of creating things. And that made me very sad, but gave me a lot of perspective.

These days I spend much more time selling, taking care of clients, looking for new business and managing the business of the business than I do actually creating things. Ha! That fun now gets largely left up to the younger people. But I work everyday, at sometimes not very glamorous jobs, in sometimes not very glamorous situations, in a certified "developing country" looking for that next creative bone, like an old dog who just can't shake a habit. But it's enough to keep me going. Just the idea of it.

Sometimes, the world of business gets in the way of our ability to create – because we let it. Relationships atrophy, the magic of that "white sheet of paper" becomes an albatross and many times it's all about money. I can't say that having a lot less money makes my life any better than anyone else's but I can tell you that it makes it a lot easier to tell people what you are not willing to do. If there's no money in the deal, you will do far fewer stupid things and the fewer stupid things one does, at least theoretically, the happier ones life will be.

I have at least put a limit on the stupid things I do – but the one reason I do that, is that I am deathly scared of loosing, not just the ability, but the opportunity to create. And creating things is what I love and do best. I know the minute that I start to regard it as just a job and not a passion, that I will have lost the battle.

Whatever mirage I need to maintain perspective. I am privileged to be able to create things for a living. Everyday. And just keep digging.

For more on the "Perspective" or "Little Things" series, click below:

My Morning Wake-Up Call - Perspective XX: The Little Things XII
We'll Have A Gay Old Time - Perspective XIX: The Little Things XII
"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI

Joyeux Noel - Perspective XVII: The Little Things X

Lunch With Obama - Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX

One Motley Crue On The Bus Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII

Attraction vs. Conversion: How To Power Your Blog - Perspective XIV: The Little Things VII

A glass box full of deep fried chicken heads - Perspective XIII: The Little Things VI

Seoul Searching - Perspective XII

He Would Have Shot Me 40 Years Ago - Perspective XI: The Little Things V

Chomsky on Colour & Sleep - Perspective X: The Little Things IV.2

Running With Scizzors - Perspective IX: The Little Things IV

Henry Miler II - Perspective VIII : The Little Things III.1

Henry Miller - Perspective VII: The Little Things III

Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II

This Carnival of Life! - Perspective V

The Art Walk - Perspective IV: The Little Things

Bentley #5 - Perspective III.2

Bentley vs. Vespa - Perspective III.1

Bentleys Invade Vietnam - Perspective III

Death Of A Colleague - Perspective II


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