A little gratitude with the sarcasm, please

It's as necessary as sustenance, but our industry too easily confuses it with satisfaction, writes the CEO of School

Thank you. We say it all the time. It’s what we are taught to do for deeds big and small. For every good thing that comes our way. For the food on our table, and the loved ones in our hearts.

I’ve been told that gratitude is the expressed emotion that keeps us grounded, makes us humble, and keeps us young. In life, gratitude is as necessary as sustenance. But in our industry, it’s easy to confuse satisfaction with gratitude.

Can one truly feel gratitude for a great pitch win? Nope, I don’t think so. Gratitude is being grateful for a child’s healthy check-up. Should we ring out hallelujahs for an Addy in the same way we celebrate the friends we have around us? Do we feel as thankful in getting that "E" next to the "CD" as when we get a letter from a good friend or a love note from our spouse?

Nope, I don’t think so.

This can be a thankless profession. There are long hours committed to working on things that get systematically diluted at best and mercilessly disparaged at worst. This is a profession in which you can get fired for telling the client the truth. Where diversity has little value and misogyny is disguised as bonhomie. Where months of work is measured in the success of one 30-second spot.

As if that’s not enough, take a lap through AgencySpy. Doesn’t seem like the ad industry is a healthy, happy, thankful kind of place to be, does it?

But, there are people with whom we work day in and day out who have our backs. For that, I am insanely grateful. For the clients who embrace us, make us true partners, and empower us be bold and brave, I say thank you.

We might just be more thankful at work if we devoted more time to our personal lives. Pursuing passion projects and devoting more time to the things for which we can feel more grateful will undoubtedly boost our creativity, inspiration, discovery, collaboration, and love.

What if we actually took time away from our jobs – away from the drug of long hours, deadlines, production runs, and delays at O’Hare when you’re trying to make it to your kid’s birthday on time? We might just uncover gratitude that’s been covered by the frenzy of our daily lives.

More time to ourselves can actually be a business driver. Oh yeah, my adulating ad friends—taking time away from our job can actually make us do our job better.

A recent article in Fast Company points to numerous studies that suggest being unproductive is actually quite productive for creative people. And we are in the creative business, n’est-ce pas? So pay attention.

The article says that there are number of time-consuming practices that lead to breakthrough ideas, like daydreaming and longer showers. Finally, validation for taking time to mentally wander. 

So as today is World Gratitude Day, thanks for reading this. Now, go back to doing what you do well but promise never to confuse satisfaction with gratitude. They are distinctly different.

--@maxlenderman is the CEO of Project agency School, the Boulder, CO-based agency that helps brands act purposefully in culture.

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