Dear Younger Me – by ECD Grant Smith
Introducing “Dear Younger Me,” a series in which McCanners write letters to their younger selves about work, life and coming up in advertising.
Grant Smith is Executive Creative Director, McCann NY
Dear Younger Me,
I’m writing to the Grant that is at the start of our career in advertising. When we were at our most inexperienced, fragile and attractive.
In this exercise of careerist time travel, I’m probably supposed to advise you in some meaningful way…pulling back some thick curtain of experience to reveal a hard learned insight.
But I know you. And I know you won’t listen. And you probably shouldn't. What lies just ahead of you isn’t some passage to be walked as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Because at its end, there’s just another passage, followed by another. There’s no top of the mountain. There’s only the climb. So enjoy the climb because that's all there really is.
Maybe instead of telling you what I have learned, I’ll trust you’ll learn everything you need to know in the same gloriously messy way that I have. That you’ll stumble, blunder and miscalculate yourself into being just a little bit smarter. And every once in a while, you will be lucky enough and clever enough to do amazing things.
But I guess I can’t just write a letter to younger me without some advice. So here are a few things to keep in mind.
1) Small things are hugely important. They don't need to be addressed first, but they MUST be meticulously addressed.
2) Presentation isn’t everything, but I’d put it at around 64%. Everyone gets more excited by ideas that look great.
3) Don't be weird. No one deals well with weird people.
4) Find the value in everyone you work with. Even the people who you think aren’t doing a good job.
5) Lose good-naturedly. You’ll win plenty of trophies and do lots of great work. Don't lose your shit over the few times you get snubbed.
6) Stay away from lists that have more than 5 points. No one will ever read anything after your 5th point.
7) Seriously, no more than 5.
8) Don’t give up just because things are going wrong. Even a terrible assignment has something valuable. And the project isn’t over till you get fired.
9) If you’ve figured out only one good way of solving a problem, you haven’t solved it yet.
10) Very few good ideas happen at the 11th hour. But try anyway, because nothing else will happen at the 12th hour.
And so, good luck Younger Me. I wish I were you again, if only to un-know everything I learned and discover it all again.