Why I Stopped Putting Work First


Back in my intern days, I did everything I could to prove I deserved my seat in the creative department. Need me to come in early or stay late? There. Work on holidays? Done. Cancel my birthday? Pssh, I have one every year. Donate my liver? They grow back, right? Dad dies in the middle of a pitch? I'll be there in the morning.

It's true, the day after my father passed away I went to work. I wanted to prove how dedicated I was. Every book, every blog, every panel reiterates how competitive the industry is and how there are hundreds of other equally talented people waiting to take your spot. So my philosophy was you could be smarter, faster, creativer but I would not be outworked.

In the midst of my grieving I was attending briefings. A week later my grandmother passed away. Still I wouldn't be outworked.

Then my cousin passed.

Then my cousin was murdered.

Then I set boundaries.

It's been said that the M-F, 9-5 life doesn't exist in advertising. That, especially early in your career, you have to make many social sacrifices to climb the ranks. Miss family dinners. Cut vacations short. Sell concert tickets. Send apology texts for cancelling again on significant others, friends, family, doctors, etc.

That's bullshit.

I know last week I said that you'll push yourself and make sacrifices, it's true. I've simply traded open availability to flexibility. There are things work can't touch and you shouldn't feel shamed, pressured or inadequate for setting those boundaries for when you are out of office.

I unplug. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb. I make things that aren't for sell. I see shows. I create for fun. I talk to people who love me. I explore. I read. I write. I sleep. I breath. I live. Fully.

A creative who's able to wholly experience life and its pleasures will produce far more interesting work than those who do not. And you get to decide which pieces of your human experience gives you that freedom to enjoy our brief time here.

These days, I don't cast my net as wide. My work is still immensely important to me, but it doesn't come first. I see how rewarding advertising can be, but I've also seen how quickly life and it can disappear.

I'm almost certain many Boomers and Gen Xers will disagree and I'm up for discussion. But you have to hit me up before 11pm, that's when I turn my phone off 🙃.