8 for 8: Patience required; how to earn a seat at the table

The first years on the job can feel a bit like sitting at the kids’ table. In my experience, it sometimes resembles arriving to a meal with an adult-size appetite with the “good stuff” still a few seats away.

In the business of advertising — from the untested account executive to the junior copywriter — the rite of passage can take on many forms. Whether delivering a big pitch or nailing the headline for a killer unique selling point, virtually all staffers experience these formative moments–small wins on the path toward the hope of bigger success.

Somewhere along the way, advertising began stealing phrases from the suits in legal (Perhaps it was an attempt to validate the hourly rates designed to replace the age of high-percentage commissions). One such term is “discovery,” the process of on-boarding a client through a series of meetings that assess their situation and provide teams with background on the client’s business.

Until recently, I made it a habit to arrive to discovery over prepared. While research is an essential part of this process it’s less important than knowing how to ask the right questions that will elicit a meaningful response.

In one such instance, I grew impatient and frustrated with others in the room. Why couldn’t they see what I did? A more seasoned, experienced colleague glanced at me with a smirk as if to say, “you’re trying too hard.” Later, they leaned over and whispered, “David, this is how the sausage gets made.”

There I was — seat at the table and all — with my stomach already full. I had consumed too much information and as a result, spoiled my much-needed appetite. In this moment, I realized how patience is one of the most vital, yet least appreciated ingredients of the process.

A person’s self-motivation — their internal drive — is often described as “hunger.” The definition of hunger includes “discomfort,” and “a strong craving.” Enabling a robust creative or strategic process in any business requires a healthy appetite for the truth and a willingness to wait.

Fortunately, the truth is nothing like fast food. That stuff is reserved for the kids’ table.


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