Thoughout my career, I’ve been told that advertising as a career is only for the young and foolish. It’s an industry that eats its young. And that certainly seems to be the case, as so many of my contemporaries are either no longer in the business, or have managed to morph themselves with Industrial Light & Magic precision, into alternative careers. Of course there are exceptions, like Lee Clow. Plenty of them. But I think their numbers are merely a blip on the radar. I wonder why there are so few working, respected, awarded creative teams whose collective age exceeds 80. Does creativity fade at a certain age, like an over-washed pair of jeans? Do we, as we get older, lose our curiosity and therefore our ideas run dry?
To a certain extent, that advertising’s long hours and lack of respect for the personal contribution that goes into every concept, eventually extinguishes the fire that rages within the creative soul. For some, perhaps they simply run out of ideas in their creativity jar, while others discover that advertising opens doors for alternative explorations and challenges. Perhaps those folks are the smart ones … getting out while they still can. I really believe that as we get older, two things happen. One – we become less curious because experience tells us that we already know all the answers. And two – we become fearful or afraid. Afraid of the blank page. Afraid of lame ideas. Fearful of the future, afraid for careers, family, consequences from decisions – you name it. Creativity is strongly tied to never being afraid to ask the question “why not?”, “how come”, “what if”, “just imagine that”, and “what lies between left and right?.” Call it “boldycurious” and it needs a healthy dose of the “I am right, I am not afraid to be right, and I will stand up to all those who doubt the rightness of my idea” bravery in order to survive the ills that can impact a career. That doesn’t mean they are blindly stubborn … they are simply confident in the decisions they have made that have led them to their particular creative solution. They are brave.
When you’re standing on the awards show podium with shaking hands, take a moment to thank yourself – for believing in YOU. Thank yourself for your curiosity and your questioning nature. Take stock of your confidence tank. Keep it full. There are way too many people out there who are going to try to siphon off some of what you got … but don’t let them. Because allowing fear to creep in puts one creative foot into an early grave.
How to stay creative at any age
1. Be curious
2. Be brave – eat fear for breakfast
3. Think confidently and you will BE confident
4. Don’t give up – don’t let time dictate when the creative solution is done
5. Be a student of your industry … there is always something new to learn
6. Explore creativity outside your area of expertise … again you may learn something new that you can apply to what you do
7. Have fun. If you aren’t having fun what the heck are you doing here?
8. Challenge yourself at least once a week. Do something outside your comfort zone
9. Don’t let others keep you down – but keep an open mind when listening to feedback. Great ideas can come from anywhere
10. Be open. Just ’cause you’ve been there and done that doesn’t mean it’s still being done the same way.