Jane Juska was a retired school teacher.
One day she placed a small classified ad in The New York Review of Books.
It said, “Before I turn 67, next March, I’d like to have lots of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”
She got a lot of responses.
There are several clever and exciting things about what she did.
The media she chose, for a start.
Not the back pages of any of the mags you’d normally find ‘men-seeking-women’ or ‘women-seeking-men’ ads.
It was placed in The New York Review of Books.
She was a retired English teacher.
She loved books, and reading.
She wanted sex, yes, but only with intelligent men who also loved literature.
So she let the search for intelligence dictate her media choice.
Not just the search for sex.
And, as a result, she stood out in that media much more than she would have elsewhere.
And that made her small classified ad unusual and daring.
Of course, what was really daring was deciding to do it in the first place.
Jane Juska was born in 1936.
She grew up in a world without the pill, television, mobile phones, rock and roll, or social media.
Women didn’t even talk about things like sex.
So Jane grew up, got married, had a son, and got divorced.
And, like all divorced women, that was supposed to be the end of her sex life.
For thirty years she worked as a schoolteacher.
Missing it occasionally, but accepting the inevitable.
Then she retired.
And it became obvious to her that, unless she did something about it, this was her future.
This was how her life would end.
She decided it was now or never.
And she did something to change that future,
She managed to combine her passions: love of literature, hetrosexual intimacy, and intelligent men.
After the ad ran she wrote a book about her experiences.
It’s called “A Round Heeled Woman” and it became an international best seller.
And it transformed her life.
(The title refers to the Victorian description for ‘a lady of easy virtue’.
A woman who would lay on her back so quickly her shoes must have round heels.)
When Jane Juska placed the ad she didn’t know where it would all lead.
She just knew you only get one life.
And she had one last chance, use it or lose it.
She knew she had to disrupt things.
She had to disrupt the inevitability of a future she didn’t want.
We talk a lot about disruption in advertising.
But we don’t really do much of it.
We just do something slightly different.
Nothing we can’t predict the outcome of.
What stops us being more daring is our fear of other people’s opinions.
Our client, our peers, our boss, consumers, even Campaign.
But, as Jane Juska found out, public opinion doesn’t really exist.
We just think it does.
Sure some people were disgusted by what she did.
There will always be people like that.
But many more were curious and intrigued by what she did.
Many women wrote to thank her.
After they read her book they realised they weren’t the only people in that situation.
This gave them the courage to transform their own lives.
To live before they died.
I think what she did is a great lesson.
Not just about sex.
But about facing the fear of whatever stops us.
Usually that fear is what we think other people will think.
And learning that they don’t actually think anything, anyway.
What stops us in our head.
Everyone will treat us according to how successful and confident we appear.
And can’t be successful and confident if we try to live life with no risk.
We can’t be disruptive if we constantly seek permission.
Imagine if Jane Juska had asked everyone their opinion before she did it.
What answer do you think she would have got?
So she wouldn’t have done it.
Because no one can see anything truly disruptive being successful before it’s done.
And, when it’s successful, everyone agrees it was a good idea.
Because it worked.
So our life, and our work, will be as exciting as we make it.
And actually, the only person we actually have to worry about is ourself.
That’s whose opinion is stopping us.
If we can learn to ignore ourself, we can do anything we want.