When I arrived at Wieden+Kennedy 17 years ago, I was positive that I was one of the least talented people there. And I was probably right. And if you’re like I was, you’re probably waging a daily war with Imposter Syndrome, terrified that everyone will discover that your talent is average at best. But after working alongside some of the most famous and accomplished creatives in the industry for 16 years, I come bearing good tidings of great joy.
Average levels of talent is not only more than enough, it has been my experience that the most talented creatives are almost never the most successful.
Blessed are the moderately talented.
Unusually talented creatives were born that way, which sounds like a blessing, but it’s usually a curse. Why? Because creativity has always come easy for them. They can say something off the cuff 2 minutes after being briefed that would take most of us days to come up with. And that’s the problem. They’ve never developed the discipline and habits necessary to push beyond all the good ideas that come so effortlessly, to the great ideas that require hard work, relentless curiosity, and yes, a healthy dose of insecurity. Those are the unglamorous domains of the moderately talented--those of us who have to work at it. Because that relentless curiosity, questioning, and endless experimentation is where the great work is found. Past solid, past good, past very good, and right to the very edge of madness is where greatness is found.
When I was starting out I got a hold of a little book made by VCU Brandcenter. It was filled with pictures of students who looked cooler than me, and their work, which was better than mine. As I thumbed through the book I was inspired and discouraged at the same time. Until I got to a page that gave me hope. It said “Genius doesn’t exist. Just hard work.” I knew I was no genius, but hard work was something I could do. So I tore out this page and put it above my desk and went to work.
So I speak from experience when I say that you have more than enough talent to do things you can’t even imagine. And next time you’re worried that you don’t have the talent for greatness, remember that genius is just hard work wearing a bowtie.
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A couple of weeks into the class, as I started to incorporate the things that Jason taught, an account lead that I was pitching ideas to at work said, “this is some of the most diverse range of thinking and ideas I’ve ever seen on a brief.” I fully attribute that complement to Jason and the things that he taught me in CREATIVE MEGAMACHINE.”
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-Mustafa “Moose” Ulker, Freelance Copywriter
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Goddamn. I’m envious and thirsty at the same time.