When I was about 14, I overheard a conversation by the bike sheds at school.
One of the boys was telling the other that he’d heard wanking was harmful.
He’d heard it was responsible for everything from blindness to mental instability.
He asked the other boy what he thought.
The other boy shrugged and said, “Use it or lose it.”
I’ve often thought that’s a good metaphor for life.
Why are we trying to hang onto it?
We can’t save it.
It won’t keep.
This applies particularly to us, in the business of ideas and creativity.
We have an idea for an ad campaign.
We think we’d better save it until the right opportunity crops up.
Except it won’t.
We have an idea for a website, a new product, a book, a film technique.
If we wait for the right opportunity it won’t happen.
It’ll stay in our drawer until the world has passed it by.
Times will change and newer, more exciting things will be happening.
Now it looks old and tired.
Now it’s too late.
If we don’t find a way to make it happen, if we don’t take a chance and overcome lethargy and embarrassment to do it, it will disappear.
Students always ask me what I think they should do.
I tell them, “The answer is always the same two words: ‘everything’ and ‘now’.”
When WCRS was a young agency they pitched for the Milk Marketing Board account.
Milk was a healthy drink that built strong bodies.
So that was what Ron Collins based his idea on.
Different people, in different situations, performing amazing feats.
And the strapline, “I bet he drinks milk.”
Well. for one reason or another they didn’t win the Milk pitch.
I bet you get the sneaky feeling that you’ve seen that line somewhere else.
And you’d be right.
Their next pitch was for Carling Black Label.
They changed the line into, “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.”
They won the pitch, and did some great beer advertising with a line that got into the language.
Despite the fact that you’d think beer advertising would be a million miles away from milk advertising.
They had a great idea and they found a way to make it happen.
I was thinking about this yesterday when I was driving to Sussex.
Paul Arden’s widow Toni, and his children Christian and Harriett, were having a memorial for Paul.
But of course, it couldn’t be an ordinary one.
Not for Paul.
We had champagne and fish and chips in the grounds of the cottage he renovated, overlooking the valley and rolling hills.
It was a perfect evening, not a breath of wind and visibility for miles and miles.
In the last of the twilight Paul’s grandchildren, Charlie, Tom and Attila, began letting off little hot air balloons.
White envelopes that drifted way up into the sky with a flickering light beneath them.
Like spirits, going higher and higher until they eventually disappeared from sight.
Then, when darkness fell, a spectacularly beautiful fireworks show.
A perfect evening just the way Paul would have wanted it.
Culminating in a rocket bearing his ashes.
It arched into the sky higher than anything else and exploded into a massive perfect golden shower.
Scattering Paul’s ashes all over the Sussex Downs he loved.
And I thought, there it is.
A memorial for Paul that is exactly the way he lived his life.
Right down to his ashes.
Don’t hang onto them in a vase and keep them on the mantelpiece.
Get a great a great idea, and find a way to do it.
And do it now.
Use it or lose it.