I was once having a discussion with a head of planning. I was arguing that we shouldn't put Creatives in brainstorms (or 'workshops', as they're now called), because Creatives hate them. We just find the whole experience supremely uncomfortable.
"Comfort," he replied, "is overrated."
And at the time, I couldn't see how to refute this.
After all, the main purpose of our job is to come up with great ideas, not to have fun. Often we'll have fun, for sure, but you couldn't say that fun is the primary goal.
And thinking about the times I've done good work, I realised that it wasn't always in a comfortable environment.
Sometimes, it's been under pressure. (I've worked at agencies where it felt like you were under pressure the whole time). I've worked at agencies where people were aggressive. I've worked at agencies with crazy deadlines or crazy colleagues; in atmospheres that were intense, political, or fearful. But where great work still happened.
But recently, I thought back to the time when I felt I was doing my very
work. At that time, and in that place, none of the above applied.
That's not to say that we Creatives spent the whole day sitting in the bath, eating popcorn. We were working hard. But there was no aggression. No crazy deadlines. No crazy colleagues. No politics, and no fear. (And no brainstorms).
There was only the expectation that you would do great work.
And that's the kind of pressure I want.
Mark Manson, in this insightful
, argues that the most interesting question in life is "What pain do you want?"
He argues that anything worthwhile in life, costs pain. If an athlete wants to win, she is going to have to train hard. If you want a great relationship, you may have to go through the pain of tough communication. If you want to write a novel, you are going to have to suffer the discipline of regular writing.
The trick is, to choose the type of pain that - to you - feels challenging rather than soul-sapping, that feels rewarding, even nourishing. This is what will give you the greatest chance of success.
So - a long time later - I have the answer for that head of planning. By all means let's put Creatives under pressure.
But let's make it the kind of pressure that they thrive under.