Monday, December 8, 2008


I still get automated reminders on Mondays and Fridays at 9:45 a.m. that class is starting in 15 minutes in the bunker.

We didn't have class really in 12.1. We worked. We would occasionally get together as a group, but nothing formal. We didn't want to do anything conventional.

When it was time to start 12.2, I started thinking about how much I loved being in the classroom at VCU, and wondered if the structure would help balance the chaos. It became a fixture of 12 the rest of the time for me. It is one of the very few things in 12 that all the students seemed to enjoy and value.

When I saw the post on Huffington this morning about the predicting "massive" advertising layoffs in 2009, I thought about how I couldn't have class today without acknowledging the anxiety the students must be feeling. Towards graduation time, whether at VCU or 12, the anxiety level of the students was always high. The anxiety level of 12.5 has been high for a while.

If I were having class this morning, I'd probably break out the old Covey circle chart that distinguishes the difference between things that concern you vs. the things that you have influence over.

Covey asks us: draw a circle to contain everything that concerns you. The economy. What's going on in the industry. Your relationships. Your health. Whether you are going to get hired after graduation. Whether your fellow students will be team-minded or selfish. Whether your creative director likes your idea or not. Whether she thinks you are talented or not. Whether you will get hired. Where you will get hired. Whether you will like your new job. Whether anyone will ever find you attractive enough to fall in love with you. Whether your portfolio will be interesting. Whether there will be a screening in the agency with free food today sometime.

Covey then asks us to draw another circle inside that circle, a significantly smaller circle you might notice, and he calls it our Circle of Influence. Inside that circle goes everything that concerns you AND which you have some influence over.

Put simply, you separate which things belong in which circle, and spend your time in the small circle, not the big circle. When we are freaking out, it is a good sign that we are have the content of our circles mixed up or we're spending time in the outside circle, not inside.

That's good enough to be super valuable, but then Covey adds this level of Jedi magic: when you spend time in the circle of influence, really focusing on the few things you can control, namely, yourself, that tiny circle enlarges and a lot of the things you have no influence on get taken care of. Doesn't make sense, in a beautiful way.

Conversely, spend time in the outside circle, freaking out by everything you can't do jack about, and your circle of influence gets smaller and smaller. Panic time.

So, separate what goes into what circle, make a list what's most important in that tiny circle, and get to it. Spend one hour on each of the top three things today! Easy! Don't worry about what gets accomplished! Chop chop!

When that doesn't work, I'd say what I've said to students for 10 years: that in a crap economy, nothing's better than being a student, or someone early in their career. You are hungier, fresher and more willing to work hard for low wages. People will love you.

Of course, given that there are still more than five months left in 12, there will likely be at least a handful of students, maybe more, who don't even know what they want to do after 12, whether they want to work in advertising at all, what the hell their job will be.

To them I'd say, 12 is a perfect place to be right now. In this economy, it is even more important that you spend time thinking deeply about your value to the world, what gives you joy, what you can do better than anyone else. As Luker told me, when you don't know what to do,

And then we could go see a movie! Since Benjamin Button and The Wrestler are not out, maybe we'd go to JCVD at Living Room, or Synecdoche NY at Fox Tower. If we hurry we can make the 11:40! Come on!


Bill W said...

Hey Jelly, I checked this too late to catch the 11:40 - but next time stop by my desk on your way out and I'll join you. In the meantime, I appreciate the blog wisdom. Bill

Patrick said...


Chris said...

Nice post. Some things a lot of us juniors need to hear. Hustle hard and let things fall into place when fate decides it's time.

RPMcSweeney said...

Great lesson, Jelly.

In some ways, I've found the current climate to be liberating. With the entire economy derailed, I find that I'm less anxious about being personally off-track. Or, rather, that the idea of being personally off-track is ludicrous now.

Plus, just imagine what all those creative, ambitious, and unemployed advertisers, investment bakers, etc., will accomplish now that they have to think up new ways to apply their talents. Exciting.

John Helm said...

well said

Luke said...

i sent a link to this to all my friends... it changed my decision process and it's something i go back to pretty frequently. anyway, your message got through.