Let me start by thanking Jon Ghazi for sending over an article in about Ikigai, the Japanese view on how to have a long and happy life. Why did we discuss it, well when you leave work and start to talk to lots of people about what next, some very simple but powerful questions come along with that chat.
When you meet someone and you work for a company, conversation is straight forward as it focuses on what you do, why you do it, what the company or service does and that’s the limits often of the discussion. When you are not working the questions are different. The questions often move towards things like:
What do you want to do?
Where do you want to work?
What things do you like?
How about doing something for yourself?
You get the idea, these seem simple but are challenging questions. Jon Ghazi sent me this article https://medium.com/thrive-global/ikigai-the-japanese-secret-to-a-long-and-happy-life-might-just-help-you-live-a-more-fulfilling-9871d01992b7
It was very timely as I was deep into thinking about these topics, nothing solved just yet, but really good food for thought. Basically your Ikigai is the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing..
The theory is What you love doing, what the world needs, what you are good at and what you can get paid for, simple right? Wow that’s no easy feat and when you have time to think it through, it becomes more challenging and when you don’t have the anchor of a job it makes it somehow harder. However, it is also an opportunity for real introspection and hard questions that will help in the next decisions about roles you want to consider.
I first thought that I would simplify the questions to more day to day language.
A) What do I love? – When I am feeling good, what is making that happen?
B) What am I good at? – When am I most in my zone and reactions are positive
C) What can I paid for now? – What can I get paid for at my current level and what am I willing to sacrifice if need be
D) What does the world need? – Can you feel good about what you do?
As I think about these categories, I am going to try and tie them down to my career, my ambitions and abilities and see if we can come up with some direction. At the end of the day, this to me is about categories. Yes I can say that I can do sales, or I have worked in agencies etc but I cant answer the question ‘What job do you want? Or. Do you want to work in agencies?’ I cant because its not about jobs or industries or sub categories, for me it is about categories of skills and likes.
What do I love?
I actually think this is the hardest, love is a strong word. Hence why above I changed it to what makes me feel good. I feel good when I am with people, I feel good when I have a big group of people who are looking for direction, support, reassurance and confidence.
I feel good when I am confident enough to turn to people in that group and ask for their feedback and suggestions. (So many leaders feel the pressure to have all the answers and see it as a weakness to ask for input)
I love seeing teams and people succeed, it feels great when plans come to fruition and results follow. It feels great when you did plan something and it comes off as you planned.
I enjoy seeing a mass of jigsaw pieces which could be team or people issues, could be advertiser or client challenges, could be any of the daily challenges we get – I love sifting through them and making sense of them.
I love leading people in work, not an egotistic, power hungry way, but because I love seeing the results and it is where I feel good.
What am I good at?
Ahh now to say this out loud is always hard, easier to tell a headhunter or in an interview. Well after my LinkedIn post I have taken some reassurance that what I think I am good at, is supported by the wonderful people out there and the many people who have worked for me over the years.
The biggest two words that came out of the LinkedIn word cloud was ‘Inspirational leader’ I know, sounds arrogant, it is not meant to be and the reason why is its been a long and hard journey to even contemplate saying those words. It’s been the accumulation of knowledge and experiences from all of my bosses and co workers and friends. Everything we have and everything we are is learned. I thank all of the amazing people through my career.
Let me break that down a little. Let’s start with ‘Inspirational’ its not cult like, screaming into a mic type inspiration. I think it is the ability to take a group of people and make them feel good about what they are doing, give them hope that they are growing and have more potential in them than they themselves think. I think it is the ability to bring the best out of people, to help themselves grow and learn. This is not always knowing everything, being the smartest in the room, having every answer, no sometimes it is just not having the answers and asking people to help you with them. It’s about caring about issues your team care about. It’s about responding.
Being a leader is really fucking lonely, you could be a manager of a few people or leading a whole team across a region or globe, it’s lonely and stressful BUT lets be clear, part of being a leader is to take that on, yes people look up to you, they want you to be able to take decisions and make shit happen. Sometimes those things are not always nice, sometimes it upsets people. If anyone reads this looking for advice, I have a number one piece of advice. You cant be friends with everyone and always make them happy. The teams I have inherited who previously had bosses who wanted to be loved and always have good news, were the teams that were hardest to get back on track. People have to know when they are doing good or not and sometimes the answer to ‘am I being promoted’ or ‘will I get that big pay rise’ is no.
I have loved leading teams and I have built a loyal base of people who come to me for advice, who I have reemployed, who I have become friends with and I am super proud of them and I feel good about what I have achieved in that area.
What can I get paid for?
Compensation is a really interesting aspect to work. We all obsessed about it over the years, the younger you are the more intense it is and through the years I have chased the cash and not got it, other times I have stopped chasing it, and it came my way. I have moved jobs for money and it was a huge mistake, I have moved jobs for the passion and the money came and on and on.
I can get paid for what I do, question is how much and how much it dominates your decisions and choices. I am lucky enough now that for me, I want to get paid my worth but it is not a primary driver. Sometimes you are overlooked on roles because they think it is not paid well enough and they don’t ask if you would consider it. Madness, hire the person who wants the job and has chosen to take a hit. Choose the person who wants the job, even if it looks less senior, in our industry we obsess too much about whether a job is more senior than the last. Far better to join a great company on a lesser position or salary than take a job in an average business for more money and more senior role. That’s my belief anyway. I have seen it work out great for people who have done that, ignore the negs.
What does the world need
As above I have changed that to suit a slightly more down to earth version for our day to day. I massively admire people who do things that actively change the world, I think that is a wonderful thing to see.
I think as it comes to our careers and mine in particular I am focused on roles that make you feel like you have a purpose and brands that matter in some way to the world. It could be how they are empowering, democratizing or revolutionizing the world. I have learned a few things a long the way about my motivations. Mainly that passion for where I work or what I do is incredibly important. I have worked in a couple of roles and the absence of passion left me cold and I am clear about not repeating that, yes it is a profession but its not where I want to be.
I came up with the #LoveAds while at Spotify and it created quite a discussion and at first some skepticism internally but in time I think it achieved something, which was to get people to realise that advertising like everything in life can be done well or be done badly and we focus on the bad often, but advertising does a lot of good. So much of our lives are filled with content and services paid for by advertising and that’s pretty cool. The perfect situation is a consumer brand, it is so great getting feedback from people around you, people knowing what your business does and sometimes it is not all positive, but that’s OK, still a great sensation.
So where does that leave us? Well for me, I have focused on categories of careers that I do and don’t want and thats as far as I am going to go. Anything more and it gets limiting, too specific. I want to work in Formula 1, that would be a passion but I want to be more opened minded than that right now. So on reflection here are my categories:
Category 1: Development
Development sounds so boring, but its not, its an attempt to catch the many different types of businesses and situations you may consider. Some companies will need to modernise, perhaps stuck in the past, perhaps populated by too many people who have always been in that business, perhaps not digital enough, perhaps going backwards. The list is broad, why do I choose this, well its where leadership is incredibly important as well as working in high growth businesses with digital front and center.
Category 2: Fresh set of eyes
I have already had approaches from companies who are looking for a commercial mindset but need a person who will ask completely fresh set of questions, as Rishad would say, where the future wont fit in the containers of the past. Spotify is a great business because it never stops changing and growing and people want to have some of that in their business.
Category 3 : Hitting the ground running
Businesses that are sound and interesting but want to have someone more high profile and connected to accelerate the business forwards. Someone who knows what growth looks and feels like. Putting a business on the map is something I feel very confident about, here and abroad and actually have a lot of fun doing that, I love representing great businesses.
Category 4 : Big and Beautiful
I think it is so exciting working in businesses that have a range of products and services, they have big and varied customer base, that has the power to literally create businesses, change industries and set the agenda. I think this is a wonderful place to be. Some people are not keen on big companies and all the things that go with them, but I feel relaxed there and would be happy to return.
I am starting out on the 3rd act in my career. I am incredibly excited about what it will hold, and I am going to hold on to some of these principles and try to guide my way through the choices ahead. Always ready for a left field opportunity and an invite to go work for an F1 team, ideally as a driver! I have a lot of contacts out there, your support has been amazing and thank you for what you have already done.