In our new series, the Further team look at insight from a personal perspective, revealing one that changed their path and inspired something new at work, at home, or across their life in general...
Welcome to part two.
Dan (Chief Inspiration Officer)
There is no big lie, there is no system, the Universe is indifferent...
As Mad Men fans will know, possibly the greatest scene occurs when Don Draper, confronted by a group of 60s Beatniks at a party, the living embodiment of ‘the man’ - casually dispatches his tormentors with the greatest microphone drop in TV history...
'Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.'
I have always found the character Don Draper inspiring. A man who invented his history and identity to achieve advertising career success, from quite literally out of nowhere...
Flashback to age 7... a conscious effort to lose my locally celebrated cockney accent following a chat with my nan (‘you’ll never get a job at a bank talking like that!’). I would only become aware of the extent of negative perceptions towards my home county, Essex when I reached University (thank you Guardian, and thank you Daily Telegraph)!
No doubt with encouragement from my teacher mother I’d managed to push through my ‘special measures’ high school (27% 5 A-C grade GCSE’s), attending Trinity Catholic High for sixth form managed by recently appointed OBE Dr Paul Doherty. Inspired by the efforts of new friends, not least hardworking 2nd generation immigrants from countries as diverse as the Philippines to Nigeria, I quickly up-skilled to achieve the grades required to study the BPS-accredited BSc Psychology at Goldsmiths, and then on to the University of Bath to study my Masters in Management.
University taught me that class politics remained rife and that my career / work persona would need to be managed, to ‘fit’ and avoid being overlooked for opportunities. I felt disappointed for being sold on the lie that ‘hard work’ is all it takes.
Of course, now that I have matured I question why I cared so much about fitting in... The simple truth is, as Don remarked, that there is no great conspiracy, no great lie… Simply, no future but what you make, and what a city to make opportunities.
Gareth (Marketing Manager)
I gained two insights early on that forged the path I would take into marketing. First, was that having worked in retail management during university and shortly after, I discovered that I never wanted to work directly with the public again. But the second, which was perhaps less irreverent and more relevant, was given to me by a boss early on in my marketing career. His belief, a motto of sorts, was “don’t ask someone to do something without first understanding what it is you’re asking.”
Simple, perhaps, but it changed the way I worked, encouraged me to increase my skill set and pushed me to gain a deeper understanding of how to work with colleagues and stakeholders. I learnt Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, so that I could speak to designers on their level and rudimentary HTML and CSS so I could mock up web pages, create new, customised emails and present developers with something more than ‘I want this image in that place’. Furthermore, it encouraged me to take a much more active interest in other departments, enabling me to understand the way they work. It’s even impacted my life outside of work, just as relevant when playing sports as it is in the office. It’s an ever-present thought in my mind these days and gave me an insight into how he had achieved the success he had.
Next on the list is a language, because “dos cervezas, por favor” will only get me so far in life.
Izzy (Sales and Marketing Director)
For me, it came from my debating team coach, who shared how he used to plan for and write a complete agenda for the opposing position, before writing his own. He would make both sides as bulletproof as possible, predicting any arguments and preparing a counter.
I found this attitude and preparation has helped me in many walks of life, both personally and in my career. For example, this empathetic approach has helped in numerous sales negotiations - finding that magic win/win positioning, also in resolving conflict - whether that be in the workplace or amongst friends, and in providing assistance and encouragement to those that need it.
John (Research Consultant)
'I will do today what you won’t, so tomorrow I can do what you can’t.’
Do I win? Isn’t that the most cringe-worthy, Herbalife drinking, Instagram-yoga-with-a-dog-on-my-head thing you have ever heard? It is, right?
Sadly, it is also a mantra that runs through my head every morning when I wake up to go training at 5:30am...
However, it is something that I strongly believe in. I’ve been doing competitive sport since I was 16 and by now I have experienced pretty much all the things that an athlete can; excruciating physical and mental pain, crippling injury, daily exhaustion, great wins and even greater losses. It is a massive part of my life, and it makes me who I am, but it is also by no means easy and requires a love of the ‘grind’. A passion for the process of work, where the destination isn’t actually the reward, but the ‘journey’ and the self-improvement keeps you coming back.
Yet it took a long time for me to come to this conclusion. When I started, just like many out there, I was searching for that quick fix. That magic routine which would transform my physique. That supplement which would make me like the Hulk. I wanted it all, and I wanted it now (or then). I looked at those who were better than me, and all I saw were their victories and my own inadequacies. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I still do.
Back then though, I didn’t appreciate that their success (and later my own) would come from sheer, unrelenting, boring grind. It wasn’t that these people had a secret in or a hidden magic element. Their achievements came from hours and hours of simply putting in the work, and doing the things that others refused to do because they deemed it boring. Or because they were impatient to commit to a program and reap the slow (but undeniable) results. Success is very much a habit; formed from doing the right things, day after day after day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even if it makes you look stupid or feel stupid. Now, when I look at those better than me, I don’t think in the same way. Rather than feel down hearted, or impatient to find out what the one thing they are doing different is, I know that it’s just going to require me to buckle down and work on my weaknesses. To get up when it’s raining, or dark, or I’m sore, or it’s a birthday, or I’m slightly ill. To do the things that others won’t, because it’s hard and uncomfortable and hurts.
There is nothing bad about pain. Not only does it let you know you're alive, but it’s also a part of your prize, your product. Get used to it. Do what others won’t. Then you’ll be able to do what they can’t.
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