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Does Any of This Matter?

Posted on May 31, 2012 and read 2,193 times

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pierno Does Any of This Matter?Adam Pierno
Creative Director
Partners + Napier, Atlanta
Founder
Hunting the Spark

I am on my way to a funeral. Two days ago I received a text during a client status meeting, which I normally would have ignored, but instead chose to read. The message informed me that someone important in my life had passed away. I responded abruptly that I was available for any needs and put my phone away. I had trouble focusing on the next few items on the status sheet. And thought: Well, none of this is important.

I marked that thought.

I tried to focus. A few minutes later I had another thought: I should be paying careful attention to my life for the next few days to see if that first thought is true.

And so I did. My next couple days at the office were full of the typical things. Strategy sessions, client lunches, internal status meetings, creative reviews. Dumb shit like looking at round two of a mechanical. And at home, dealing with naughty kids and another with a cold (again) and finding time to do all that while giving all my clients, coworkers and personal side-projects the attention they require and deserve. I made an extra effort to ask people around the office why they made decisions they had made on projects, or why they felt the way they did about a particular direction. I really listened. I didn’t know what I looking for, but I was aware that it wasn’t the answer to my actual question. I wanted to know what made them tick. What pushed them? What scared them? Did they think this was important?

I still hadn’t drawn a conclusion, and I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it. Just marking moments for later analysis. Today was full of the crescendo of some of those things. My daughter apologized to me for misbehaving, and I to her for raising my voice. At the office, we got that mech out. I spent time with several clients and had meaningful conversations with them. I found a certain balance that doesn’t always come as easily as I’d like. I had an internal review of some work that we had done deliberately to provoke a reaction, and had a great debate about it. And a conversation about what makes work great. We settled on a direction that made me really proud, and a little compromised. At the tail end of the meeting, we had cake for an Art Director’s birthday. Then I had to scramble to get to the airport. To go to this funeral.

Once I was at the gate, I finally began to run down the list of those moments. And I came to a new conclusion. For a long time I made an effort to separate my personal work and my work life. I felt that I’d achieve a better balance if I could leave one at the doorstep of the other. Later I realized that the results are better when I break down those barriers.

And sure, I can single out any task and minimize it. Make it unimportant on its own. But what happens when you connect them all, when you understand the goal of the person who you’re talking to or the personal goal of the client. What is going on in their lives? What is going on around them at work? You begin to see connections between the tasks you’re doing and the lives of the people working on the projects. It can all be connected. It’s not about the list of items on the status sheet, or the small tasks that leave you frustrated. It’s about stringing them all together every day. It’s about understanding that how people see you do those tasks, how you converse with people, how you listen to people does add up to something greater. The smallest item at the bottom of the status sheet is important. To someone. Somewhere. If you find out who and ask why; and if you really want to know the answer, it will become meaningful.

Here at the gate, I realized my initial thought was wrong. I know now that perspective skewed on me and made some stuff smaller and some stuff bigger. All of this stuff does matter. It matters to the people around us. The tiny details of that mechanical and the big picture of those conversations. We have to find the reasons that make this stuff matter.

Or else, we probably don’t.





  • Ches Hill

    As a wise old proverb says, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.” In that sense everything ‘matters.’ But I think you were right to stand back and think about what has long-lasting value, positive impact and is thereby meaningful. In my worldview at least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffreyjorgensen Jeffrey Jorgensen

    I’m sorry for your loss, Adam, but I’m happy you were able to find somewhat of a silver-lining within it. This is a great article, as usual, and congrats on breaking down those barriers. I think it’s very important to intertwine your personal and work life; a great deal of worthwhile art (regardless of medium) comes from life experiences. Just be careful to not let those two things weave themselves together too tightly. Oh, and find out how to work more of these posts into your schedule. Cheers, mate.

  • http://twitter.com/apierno adam pierno

    Thanks for the feedback Ches.

  • http://twitter.com/apierno adam pierno

    Thanks, man. Working on the next one now.

  • http://twitter.com/jumpinjulie Julie Glassman

    i very much like this article. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/aplural Samia Saleem

    It sounds like you actually like what you are doing because you are able to make those connections. A lot of us wonder why we are doing what we are doing because we are lacking those or it’s not the right culture fit, but we really hope it is because it’s such a “good” job. Sometimes, unfortunately, we need those life moments to slap us in the heart and make us realize what the fuck we are doing.

  • Anonymous

    Really sorry for your loss…Your thoughts made me think and even though I get your point very clearly & appreciate it, I still have the feeling that sometimes work – even though it surely affects or get affected by some people around us who have several commitments, feelings, expectations upon it – consumes us more and expects us to have less time with people we really care…and sometimes like in the quote of Oscar Wilde, “to live is the rarest thing in the World. Most people exist, that’s all” I feel I just exist by going to work & back home, without even seeing the sunrise or sunset..just wanted to share it, cheers

  • http://twitter.com/apierno adam pierno

    Good point, and I agree. I do my best to have a balance, and to care about what I’m doing and who I’m working with. I try hard when I have a voice to bring in teammates who will carry that same point of view and honor Partners + Napiers’ value of Family. But I can’t say there aren’t nights that i don’t miss bathtime, or rush out before my kids are dressed, or experiences I haven’t sacrificed to focus on making work great, or honestly, just finishing something on deadline. There’s no avoiding that on occasion and I’m OK with that because I love what I do.

  • http://twitter.com/apierno adam pierno

    Thank you. Appreciated.

  • http://twitter.com/apierno adam pierno

    I guess we all need to decide for us personally what attributes define a job as good or more importantly what role we play in making a job good or bad. Wow. That sounded preachy as hell. But I’m sticking with it. 


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