I’m a nervous guy. I don’t like flying.
So the first thing I do when I sit down on a plane is take out the card from the back of the seat in front of me.
The one with all the emergency exit locations on.
Then I look all around and memorise where they are.
I memorise how they open.
Some exits, called A, open by moving the handle clockwise.
Some exits, called B, open by pulling the handle towards you.
I memorise how many rows of seats are between me and the nearest exit.
I figure, when the plane is on fire, it won’t be the best time to wish I’d checked out these details.
When I’ve done all this I can relax a bit, because I’ve done as much as I can.
Is it a waste of time?
But I subscribe to Pascal’s Wager.
Pascal’s position was that it made more sense to believe in God than not to.
If there was a God, by worshipping it you’d have a wonderful after-life.
And be better off than the atheists, who would be burning in hell.
If there wasn’t a God, well you’d be in the same boat as the atheists.
No after-life for anyone.
So on balance, it’s a 50% better bet to believe in God than not to believe.
I feel like that about flying.
What I do is insurance.
If the plane reaches its destination safely, I’ve wasted 10 minutes studying the exits.
If we crash on the way, I have an advantage.
And I just may be in a better position to survive.
So, when the guy next to me is sipping his champagne, wondering why is that nut studying exits, I’m using the time he’s wasting.
This need to go further than other people works for me.
When I was at BMP, John Webster said I could hire a young team to work under me.
In those days people didn’t go around in teams, so I asked the head-hunter to find me a good young art director and writer I could put together.
I looked at lots of young art director’s books, but none of them were great.
Then the head-hunter told me there was a very good young art director at an agency called Vernons.
I asked her if she’d get him to send his book in.
She called back and said he didn’t want to send his book in.
He was very junior and a bit shy, and didn’t think he was ready for BMP.
I had a friend at Vernons, so I called them and asked about this kid.
They said, yes, he was good.
So that night after work I went over to Vernons to see my friend for a drink.
While I was there I asked them where the young art director sat.
They showed me his office.
Everyone had gone home, so I went in and looked around.
I found his portfolio and went through it, and it was good.
So the next day I called him up and said, “You don’t have to come in for an interview, but I’ve seen your book and I’ll give you the job.”
That young, shy art director was Gordon Smith.
We’ve worked together for many years since then.
We’ve opened three different agencies, and won lots of awards.
All because, when the head hunter said no, I didn’t let it stop there.
It would have been very easy to think, “Well she’s the expert. If she says he doesn’t want to come I’d better leave it there.”
That would have been the sensible thing to think.
Like thinking, “What’s the point in worrying about the exits? If the plane crashes, we’re all dead anyway.”
Well of course you can think like that.
Those are very good reasons for not doing anything.
There are always good reasons for not doing anything.
But by accepting those reasons, you’ve just thrown away whatever advantage you could have had.