To Hell With New York

Toyota Prius

We’re Blind To What We’re Not Really Focused On (Duh)

I’ve seen a good number of posts from other bloggers on the importance of setting goals and I couldn’t agree with them more. Don’t worry, I won’t beat that dead horse. Instead, I’d like to point out a couple of things to consider that will help improve your goal setting. Have you ever decided that you needed to buy a new car, done your research, and then started to notice that specific type of car when you were out driving your current one? All of a sudden, there’s a Toyota Prius alongside you at the stop sign and there’s another one in evening traffic, when you hadn’t noticed them before. You start to see them because you’re mentally focused on that specific car. Goals work the same way.

Write Your Main Goals Down Every Morning

So, yes it’s important to set goals and deadlines for those goals, even breaking them down into smaller portions with deadlines set for mini goals. If we miss our deadlines we’ll notice it and can adjust in the way that makes most sense for the projects and us.

Not only should we set main goals, we need to set daily goals. It’s important to write the main goals down every morning just to remind ourselves of the big picture. Yes, I said every morning.

When I worked at VCU, its president Gene Trani was a man that accomplished an amazing amount of major goals. He kept all the vice provosts and deans focused on the university’s main vision by handing out annual top ten priority lists (printed small) and asking people to glue them to their phones. This way, they’d see them every day. Not only that, if you weren’t on the top ten list, it made you want to work hard to change it as your group wasn’t going to get the type of help and financing that the top ten were receiving. Reminding yourself each day of what is important to you is smart.

After you write your daily Main Goals, write a To Do List, too. This will have smaller tasks that will help you reach the bigger things.

Think Big

When I was younger, I asked the Executive Creative Director and President of The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia to lunch a number of times to learn how he approached goal setting. Harry Jacobs was an art director initially and established a national reputation early for himself by surveying important people in the advertising business and writing up his results for Communication Arts Magazine. Actually, I learned that he’d had a copywriter write the article but it went out with Harry’s name on it. He’d then send letters out with the printed article and feedback on the survey to everyone he wanted to influence. Guess what, when the Wall Street Journal and other groups asked the top people for names of young up and comers they’d remember Harry.

He also decided when he was in his mid-thirties that he wanted to influence advertising in the South. This goal idea kind of knocked me back when I heard it. I was trying to become a creative director and hadn’t really thought much past myself. I loved this idea and could see how it changed Harry’s career and daily decisions.

In the 60’s and early 70’s, New Yorkers treated those working in cities of Richmond’s size as if they were country bumpkins. Photographers, illustrators, ad professionals, and potential clients didn’t believe that Richmond ad executives could play in the “big leagues”.

To combat this problem, Harry decided to put together an “Outside New York” show in the middle of Manhattan. He contacted creative directors at a few other good agencies. McKinney; The Richards Group; Cargill Wilson & Acree were on the list, as were others. They pulled their best work together and Harry created a terrific poster that was mailed out showcasing some of their work with the heading To Hell With New York. They arranged to have a show at the New York Art Directors Club and invited a lot of good New York clients to it along with top advertising executives from the best agencies. It was a packed house with a follow-up dinner party for the New York clients that had come. In short, it made quite a stir and a big dent in the perception of advertising expertise outside of NY, too.

Focus In A Meaningful Way On Your Worst Work

Another thing that I learned from Harry was to focus on my worst work. Once a year, he’d take every single piece he’d created to his house. Then, he’d chose the best work and put it away. For the next three days, he’d make himself sit with the worst work he or his firm had created that year. After really thinking carefully about what had gone wrong and why, he’d write up an analysis of each case. Now, he and others at his company could he take steps not to repeat that same mistake again.

Have you conducted an annual audit of your work or your firm’s work? Harry saved everything from the smallest ad to the biggest TV spot. A firm’s real expertise is its ability to reduce the distance from the very best work it produces to its very worst work. What is your range with whatever you create or help to create? This process works for any company, freelancer or student. What really came together last year and what was didn’t? Too many times, people want to focus on their awards or what they think might win when they could improve further if they focused on their worst in a truly productive way.