PR Dog’s Letter to my Younger Self
In April 1990, my younger self accepted his first job as a graphic designer and writer for a farm store chain headquartered in Muskegon, Michigan. I was 23 years old, just out of college, fresh from an internship at Walt Disney World, and earning a mere $18,500 a year. I moved 165 miles from family, friends and my hometown. Alone and starting my career, here’s some professional advice I’d give my younger self (my personal advice would take up a small library).
Dear lil’ Bish,
It’s hard to believe, but “Wham!” will never make a comeback, Michael Keaton will not always be The Batman, there’s no need to vote for Ross Perot, and please, please, please! Borrow money and buy stock in both Microsoft and Apple (trust me on this one). Here are some other things to consider as you begin your career:
It’s the early 90s and the digital revolution is just beginning. The multi-colored Apple sticker on your car window is a foreshadowing of exciting innovations to come. You’re having fun impressing friends and family with wedding invites created on the MacIntosh II in Aldus PageMaker; no one will ever make a better computer and design package, right? We’ll, never forget this; great marketing and PR is not about tools, tactics, or even technology — it’s always about the relationship. So, embrace technology and innovations, but always use it to bring value to relationships.
It’s the Economy, Stupid.
Political strategist, James Carville, will help little-known Arkansas Governor, Bill Clinton, win the presidency with this simple slogan. You can learn a lot from this message. Communication is creative and fun, but always tie it back to results. Learn early in your career how to connect the dots to research and, most importantly, the bottom line. Numbers are our friends! Understand and speak the language of business and you’ll earn that seat in the executive suite.
Chunk it out.
Take a lesson from the recently released Nike slogan and “Just Do It.” Yes, I know, it’s totally boss making those compilation cassette tapes of your favorite Van Halen songs (while watching re-runs of The Greatest American Hero), but don’t procrastinate too much. A great way to get work done is to “chunk out” the big jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks. It makes you feel good to get the parts and pieces done, plus they add up quickly and you’ll have time to proof your work.
The right side of the camera.
For some very practical advice, put down the camera and pick up the microphone. Being the photographer is cool and creative, but (I’m sorry to say) this role is generally perceived as a low-level, task function in most corporate cultures. Do you ever see executives taking pictures? No. They are in the pictures. And… because perceptions are reality, don’t be the dude with the camera unless you want to be seen as a “tasker.” On the other hand, if you want to be perceived as strategic, pick up the microphone. Most people are afraid of public speaking. Executives respect and revere someone who can handle the pressure of public speaking with skill and poise.
Dude, like… Gnothi Seauton, fer sure.
In the eighth century BC, the Greeks traveled to the Oracle of Delphi. Above this temple of Apollo was inscribed an adage, “Gnothi Seauton.” This maxim became one of the primary wisdom sayings of that culture; it means, know thyself. We both want you to be a man of character and that starts by knowing yourself. You will be lonely and you will struggle. You will go through tough times — everyone does. It is during those times when character is treated, molded, pounded, and formed. Prioritize what’s most important. Find positive resources. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Serve others. It takes a strong person to have a soft, open heart and, in the end, they make the best, most authentic leaders.
You will spend more time in your life working than just about any other activity. If you’re lucky, you’ll retire when you’re 65 years old and live to be about 85. This means, you’ll be working at least 40 hours a week for approximately 45 years. Here’s the secret to maintaining job happiness: do what you love! The brain is hardwired for happiness, but you have to tap into that passion of yours! Never stop learning, but at the same time, don’t take yourself too seriously. Like Ferris Beuller says, “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Love what you do and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.
See you in about 25 years lil’ Bish; everything is going to be just fine.
Dr. B. (aka PRdog)