Archive for the ‘ work ’ Category

If money were no object

I’ve been a big fan of Alan Watts ever since I discovered this video (music and life). The video above is another wonderful piece of wisdom.  In it, he offers his advice on how to decide what you want to do with your life. And it is incredibly simple:  ask yourself what you would do, if money was no object. Write a list. Look at it. Then do that.

Most people’s first response is to reject this, and blame money. I can’t do that because it doesn’t pay, or it won’t pay as much as I earn now, or it would at the very least it would require a temporary drop in salary before I would be earning the same kind of money again.

And it’s true that the higher you go and the more you earn, the harder it is to consider dropping your income. Especially if you feel that you did your scrimping when you were younger, and now that you’re finally enjoying the fruits of a grown up salary, the thought of sacrificing those cappucinos is painful. Or maybe you’ve got a mortgage to pay for, or save for. Or you’ve got children and suddenly safeguarding their future becomes your biggest concern. Ultimately, the money seems essential to maintain your lifestyle.

Except we rarely step back and consider how much we really need to earn in order to live the kind of life we want. I did an interesting task once, where you write a list of the best things you did the last year, your fondest memories. And then you plot them on an axis in order of best experiences and level of expense. The results were surprising. My absolute favourite memory was a weekend away in the country with friends, which had certainly cost some money, but nothing compared to other major purchases I’d made that year which cost a great deal more but were quickly forgotten.

The other major barrier to choosing another path, more subtle, less acknowledged, is self identity. Whether starting out on a career path, or as a veteran in a profession, your view of yourself is often wrapped up in the status or comfort and familiarity of being X.  You’re used to introducing yourself as that. Other peoples’ perceptions of you are shaped by that. And perhaps what you’d really like to do, wouldn’t garner the same kind of response. Or maybe it would be equally respected, but you would not be, because you would be the novice instead of the master.

Yet the conclusion of Alan’s entreaty is simple and it echoes the sentiment of “music and life”. A life spent with money and with status but without enjoying what you do every day, is a wasted life. It misses the whole point of life, which is made up of minutes in the present, not memories or aspirations.

And if that isn’t provocation enough, the most common regrets of the dying offers us a Scrooge-like glimpse into our own futures:

I wish I didn’t work so hard.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Battle of the airlines

In full disclosure I’m obviously a little biased as I was involved in making this campaign, but I do think our new easyJet Ad is much better than BA’s  – on a fraction of the budget, a shorter second length, and with much less pretension. But see what you think!

Forcing it never works

marissa-mayer-hope-poster

I feel sorry for Marissa Mayer because if she was a man, no one would expect her to be anything other than the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

But she’s not a man, she’s a woman. One of the only women to hold such a powerful post. One of the few female leaders in silicon valley. And because of her rare achievement, she’s now a high profile role model – whether she likes it or not.

Which means everything she does will be scrutinized from the perspective of gender, in a way it literally never is for a man. And as unfair as that is, it explains why there is such disappointment when she appears to be setting back progress for working women. Hard won gains like time flexibility and remote working, which have allowed mothers to take care of children while also maintaining a career. The fact is however, while it’s clearly a hot issue for women as long as they are still the primary caregivers in the home, at it’s heart it’s an issue for everyone.

Penelope Trunk, who I always enjoy reading though frequently disagree with, wrote a piece on the issue which was incredibly depressing, with passages like this:

The reality of today’s workforce is that if you want to have a big job where you have prestige and money and power, you probably need a stay-at-home spouse. Or two full-time nannies. Which means most people don’t have the option to go on the fast track, because most people have not set their lives up this way. So let’s just admit that most of us are not on the fast-track. Stop bitching that people won’t let slow people on the fast track. Stop saying that it’s bad for family. It’s great for family. It means people will not continue operating under the delusion that you can be a hands-on parent and a top performer. People will make real choices and own those choices.

This is definitely a reflection of professional America’s unhealthy relationship with work, but it also spills into many fields across Europe. The idea that people are either fast track or slow track is ludicrous. There is a huge spectrum in between and often the most talented and creative people are exactly that because they have a wide range of interests and influences in their lives. They’re out in the world, aswell as the office.

So a reality check.

It’s the 21st century and in the affluent developed world at least, we are fortunate to have never lived in a more peaceful, comfortable and educated society. Technological innovation has given us unprecedented ability to work effectively and efficiently at any time or location. Why  on earth would anyone want to work like a slave in shackles, or only develop one aspect of their lives at the expense of all others?

Coming back to Marissa’s main issue however, she clearly is trying to figure out how to galvanize Yahoo and stimulate creativity and innovation, and this is a valid problem. What both she and Penelope are missing however, is any simple human insight into how companies instill this passion and dedication in their staff. Because their strategy definitely won’t work.

Whether you lead with the autocratic perfectionism of Steve Jobs or the geeky humanistic spirit of Sergey and Brin, people make a decision to buy into the purpose of a company and give their time and skills towards building it. As Penelope herself writes:

In Silicon Valley, home to Facebook, Google, Airbnb, none of most desirable companies make room for a personal life. They don’t have to. They have plenty of people hoping to give up their whole life to the company.

The point here is that this professional commitment is voluntary. It can’t be forced.

And if passion is lacking in your company, as it evidently seems to be in Yahoo, sending a mandate isn’t going to fix that. Especially one that in reality only affected a small fraction of employees, yet sent a huge message to the rest of the company. A message which frankly smacked of self interest on the part of their management team. It sounded like they cared more about the company, than the people within it. And that’s never going to win people’s hearts and minds.  Richard Branson says for him the priorities go: staff, customers, shareholders. If I were Marissa Mayer, I would put that on my wall.

ANNA Winner – Fire Kills & Clock Change

Our new campaign for fire safety just won the topicality prize at the ANNAs!

Good things come in small packages

The most recent fruits of our labour on Danone – a new strategy and a new creative idea, brought to life by the legend that is Ronnie Corbett.

Separation of Work and Play


After playing around with Google+ for a bit, the feature I like best so far is the circles. I was always really annoyed with the clunkiness of Facebook which put you in the uncomfortable situation of having to accept every person you knew who asked to be your friend – or risk insulting them by giving them access to a limited profile – or worst of all ignoring their friend request indefinitely. With Google+ you can link up with everyone you know, but in an appropriate way, where your boss doesn’t need to see your photos from the weekend and your friends don’t need to be spammed with your work-heavy geeky Twitter feed.

But as much as I like to keep my professional and personal circles separate, I think we’re living in a world where the intersection between all of these social groups is becoming inevitable. How we work is changing. How we hire is changing. And all of this is blurring the lines between our professional and personal lives.

To be fair, who you know, has always been more important than what you know – but that is amplified in a world where we are frequently changing companies and roles.

Our career pathways are becoming much less linear than they traditionally have been. It’s not a new thing for people to seek a job which they find meaningful and fulfilling – but what is new, is the greater ease and acceptability of career change. It’s become much more common to change direction, sometimes several times, in order to pursue this ambition of finding the right job.

In addition, lateral moves into related industries are much more frequent because of the needs of our 21st century economy. Children in schools today are being educated for jobs which do not exist yet; modern employers are seeking workers with a much more flexible skill set – which means hiring from outside of the current industry employment pool.

And what all this mobility means, is that people who are in our “friend” circles today, could easily be in a “colleague” circle tomorrow.

We’re also seeing a rise in freelance and contract work. Many more professionals are choosing to become self-employed, to regain control over their own work-lives and reap the rewards of their abilities directly. In the freelance world, your reputation and your network are your livelihood. It’s much harder to compartmentalise your personal self and work self. And more often than not, it’s those personal relationships that lead to your next project.

I believe that in the same way that the barriers between businesses and their customers have come crashing down, this age of transparency is having same impact on our own lives.

As social media plays a greater role in recruitment, as our reputation and influence is increasingly quantifiable, and as our careers take us into contact with greater numbers of people from different spheres – our personal and professional lives will overlap even more.

And the separation of work and play, like privacy or copyright – might become a quaint little concept from yesteryear.

%d bloggers like this: