An Open Letter to All Business Leaders in Media
To Any and To All:
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I am a failure. It is important that you take note of this because I don’t want you to develop any false notions about who I am or what I’m about to share with you. Because it’s important for you to understand that what I am about to tell you is something you already know, but you may just not know it yet. Further, I think you and I are more alike than you might think. But we’ll get there in just a few moments.
I have spent my entire professional life in the pursuit of communication. To relate to other people. To share and cultivate love and acceptance. I have taught myself how to copywrite, shoot, edit, design, and even program, because, truly, honestly, I desperately wanted to share ideas with the world. To make an impact. To be a part of something much bigger than myself.
And through all of this, by and large, I have been told that I am “unfocused”. That I need to “specialize”. That I need “to carry a bigger title”. That I should go back to school and get an advanced degree, or take a job at a big agency in order “to advance my career”. But see, therein lies the rub. I can’t do that. I’m not qualified.
Or am I?
I’ve written print campaigns. I’ve built websites and mobile storefronts. I build social platforms. I’ve directed commercials. I co-wrote and produced a feature documentary that actually won an award. I can write a business plan and a marketing plan, and know the differences between the two. I can manage a P&L sheet. I’ve started three companies. I’ve even planned and purchased media. I can do just about anything you can do, or at least claim to do.
More importantly, I like people. I genuinely care about what they have to say. I’m good in a room. And I’m not an idiot.
Most importantly, I have failed. I failed in the sense that the companies I started didn’t last or make much money. But with each, I took invaluable lessons away from the experience.
So then, you might be wondering, what’s the issue? And on a macro level, what’s the point?
Well, for starters, I’ve stopped blaming everybody else. It doesn’t matter that recruiters most often don’t care about ‘transferable skills’, or that most agencies and media companies ‘just don’t get it’. Not only does it not matter to me, but it certainly doesn’t matter to the rest of the world. Audiences and consumers certainly don’t give a shit - they want to be dazzled and entertained. They seek inspiration. They seek to align themselves with some form of legacy.
You know what? I don’t give a shit either. It’s not that I don’t ‘care’, because I do. I care a lot. I just don’t have the time or the energy to waste anymore on trying to convince the ‘change agents’ that I have a vision. I can only show, not tell. I can only do what I ultimately seek to do... Which is to make a profound difference in this world. I’m 37 years old and only have one life to live. As Andy said to Red in The Shawshank Redemption: “You can get busy livin’, or you can get busy dyin’.”
The point I’m trying to make to you is that I have some idea of what I am capable of. I am a failure not because of my potential, but because of my inaction. Because I’ve spent years with one foot on the sidelines seeking the approval of people that were never going to validate my dreams, or help me find a path to enlightenment. All of that exists from within.
So to all of the agency tycoons, media mavens and business titans out there, let me ask you this, if you’re still listening. What is your legacy? What are you going to leave to your children? To the world? Aside from money, houses, cars and a title? More importantly, what are we going to do together? I ask these questions because as much as I hate to admit it, I need you. You have far too much influence to be ignored. And while that may change, what got you to this position was extraordinary. And I’d like to openly acknowledge that.
Look, we live within a cultural paradigm. At some point in our collective, formative development, we diverged. We were hurt by something and came to the conclusion right then and there that we needed to protect our self-interests and compete. And while competition has bred innovation, we have in many ways lost sight of who we are as a people. We have been conditioned to believe that we must be better than one another, to steal market share, to own mindshare. But none of it is really ours. It probably never was.
Don’t get me wrong, making money is great. It can be very fulfilling. It is important. There’s nothing wrong with having things. But innately, don’t you want more? Isn’t it no real mystery that the ‘things’ we have are simply not enough, and never are enough?
So what if I told you - what if I simply reaffirmed for you - that you can spend the rest of your life doing what you love, and continue to make money, all the while playing a major role in expanding and advancing our collective conscience and goodwill?
No, I’m not telling you anything new. But I am pleading with you to turn these ideals into realities. I am asking you to look past the spit-and-polish conference tables, the fish tanks and glass backboards, and join me... join ‘us’... in helping to cure the ills of the world. I am asking for your hand and for your guidance. Because I cannot possibly do it alone. And for you, I will make the solemn pledge: that I will stop at nothing to get things right.
So think about why you got into this business in the first place. What you dreamed about in ad school or business school. I know it wasn’t just about making money.
So let’s begin the conversation that is the next stage in our lives. I hope these words find you well.