Years ago, I was at an est seminar.
Someone from the audience stood up and said he wanted to declare something.
And, to make it real, he wanted to say it in front of everyone there.
Then he said, “I’m going to be the best actor in the world.”
Everyone cheered and he sat down.
The guy running the seminar said, “That’s two things. Which one do you want?”
Everyone stopped cheering.
The person who’d spoken said, “Pardon?”
The leader repeated, “That’s two things. Which one do you want?”
The person said, “I only want one thing. To be the best actor in the world.”
The leader said, “That’s two things, and you have to decide which one is more important to you.
Do you want to be an actor?
In which case you’ll do it because you love acting.
And, even if you’re not the best in the world, you’ll have spent your entire life doing what you love.
Or do you want to be the best in the world at something?
In which case you may have to look and see what the world thinks you’re best at.
And it may not be acting.”
I thought that was fantastic advice.
Personally, I’ve always chosen the second option.
I’m a pragmatist.
I’ve always started off with a vision of where I wanted to go.
But be prepared to change it quickly to get a result.
Originally I wanted to be a fine artist, painting in oils.
But I got turned down by seven UK art schools.
Then I got a scholarship to go to art school in New York.
Where I discovered advertising, so I switched to being an art director.
When I graduated I couldn’t get a job as an art director.
Everyone said my ideas were better than my layouts.
So I switched to being a copywriter.
At BMP I wasn’t the best copywriter there.
But I was better than anyone else with students and young people.
So I switched to being in charge of training.
I wanted to be BMP creative director, but they gave it to someone else.
So I quit and opened my own agency.
That’s how it’s always worked for me.
Find out what you’re good at, even if it’s not be what you wanted.
I think most youngsters have to learn this.
Around about second year at art school you have the Van Gogh conversation with yourself.
Van Gogh loved painting, it was what he lived for.
He was a great painter.
Years ahead of what the world was ready for.
So, although Van Gogh did fabulous paintings, he went unrecognized in his own lifetime.
He had a miserable life and died penniless.
But he’ll always be remembered as a truly great painter.
Now, what would you choose.
To have a miserable life, but be remembered as great after you’re dead?
Or have a really nice life and be forgotten when you’re dead?
There isn’t a wrong answer.
But you do have to choose.