Graduates: Live Your Life, Not What Your Parents Want for You

Originally published by the Stamford Advocate.

Working on the Apple account in 1997, I had become one of the youngest globalists in the advertising business. My agency then, TBWA Worldwide, was hired to reclaim the company’s passion and dream, and my job was to watch, listen and, of course, “think different.” It was a great way to continue my own passions and dreams, too, as I globalized the “Think Different” campaign, making what was relevant in Cupertino relevant in Amsterdam, Paris, Sydney, São Paolo, Istanbul, and on and on.

My parents never understood it (were they alive, I would be their failure because I am 55 and have no pension or “profession”; I chose passion and jobs, which ultimately became a career), but I’m all about new—chasing it, packaging it and, most of all, living it. A great career is a great adventure, and you have to create that for yourself, not follow the plan your parents might have for you.

Now is the time to make your own “think different” journey.

You “be carefuls” out there might be reaching for your earplugs. But you sparkplugs and square pegs and mad ones, just be yourself. Because from the moment I decided to be me, I have been anything but careful. Sometimes cautious, sometimes calibrated, always creative, but never overly careful or concerned with what others would think of me and my many ideas and passions.

Yes, join 401(k) plans and sniff out pre-IPO companies should the occasion arise—but never pick security above sanity (go where your heart and head can fuse), and don’t take a bureaucratic view of your career, since you are joining the working world in the Age of Chaos. The era of job security is no longer. The best company men and women work for themselves.

(Parents, bless you for paying for all these years of school and supporting your kids’ emotional well-being, but to be fabulous today, they need to be entrepreneurial and independent—which means you need to park your helicopter and stay the heck out of their working lives.)

As a trendspotter, I want to share some advice based on trends for the future that might help guide you as your personal brand gets out into the world:

  • Have a sense of place. The Brooklynization of everything (Oakland is the latest) has allowed smaller places to enjoy the benefits of coffee culture, live music and a great entrepreneurial spirit. If you can be a pioneer and realize the power of work in the cloud, you can find your very own place and build a community of like-minded people who embrace the power of change. (And good Thai food.)
  • Don’t follow the pack. It’s tempting to fall in line when you leave school, to take the path most traveled, accept a corporate job, and show up somewhere at 9 a.m. every day and get a paycheck every two weeks. That’s great for some, but if you like to zag when everyone else is zigging, embrace that. Go your own way, but be good and true and give back more than you take.
  • Know that chaos can be good. Even great. In the marketing world, we respect that a sort of “good” chaos, the creative kind that leads to brilliant ideas the night before a big presentation, can make us better. If you, like me, are someone who embraces the power of change, you’ve got to be ready for chaos.
  • Reinvent work. I have lived through the biggest revolutions in work life, from the early days of the Internet to figuring out ways to allow people to work from wherever they need to be. I have great hope that your generation, now well past being digital natives, will show us how it’s done, as we’re not quite there yet, with courting and flirting of many opportunities along the way.
  • Practice compassion. As you pave the way for the next generation, practice compassion in everything you do—from the way you treat one another at work to being kind to an environment that surely needs your help. If we all make a commitment to compassion, we can truly change the world, and that’s the biggest trend I’d like to spot in my career.
May 29, 2014 | Posted by in Change, Insights, Trends, Youth | 0 comments

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