Do you know those things you’re supposed to do, things that are good for you that you avoid? For many children, it’s eating vegetables or studying math. For me, it is making contact with people. Left to my own devices, I would mostly avoid people and try to focus inward, that’s my default.
Why do we choose bad habits over good ones? Why do we eat gummy bears when there are string beans in the house? Why do we watch reality TV when you can read any piece of classical literature on demand, for free? I’m not preaching, I’m more guilty of this than you are, almost guaranteed. How does each decision shape who we are over a lifetime or over a month? And is the decision shaping us, or are we already pretty much etched in stone and imposing ourselves on each decision?
I don’t know the answers. I know that our actions are how others come to know us. By watching the individual and summary choices we make, those around us–or friends, our families, our colleagues, our neighbors–get to know who they perceive us to be. When we avoid the things that are good for us, the conflict is probably not visible or apparent to those outside of our skulls. Some choices are only for us.
Listening back to this conversation, I can hear the benefit of enriching conversation in real time. Mark Pollard, CEO of Mighty Jungle, founder of Sweathead and author of Strategy is Your Words, joins me for his second appearance on The Strategy Inside Everything. I think you’ll hear how much thought he put into every decision around the book, which is immediately clear when you see it. The detail of the cover alone would have paralyzed me for months, never mind the hundreds of pages within. I think you’ll hear how much thought he puts into his word choice, and how much he’s trying to understand who he is and who you might be. I think you’ll hear two friends reconnecting after too long.
Adam Pierno: All right, welcome back to a very special episode of the strategy inside everything. I don’t know how special it is Mark how special was it you feel special this morning.
08:09:24 Mark Pollard: I like the word very, very special is good.
08:09:29 Adam: It’s, it’s enough. It’s additive it’s additive Yeah. Today’s guest is this is your second time on the show I’ve also appeared on your show. On the, Sweathead podcast. This is Mark Pollard Mark How are you today.
08:09:44 Mark: I’m well, Adam. I’m two days into having officially well kind of officially published my very first book in America as an Australian in New York.
It’s been busy and it’s been hectic and very fulfilling and all the emotions tend to happen as you know, when you publish a thing to the public.
Adam: How would tell everybody that’s listening does not know that I’ve published a couple and you’ve published Strategy is Your Words.
08:10:13 Adam: It is a tome, and then the work that went into your book, we’re going to talk about writing in general but it was a true labor of love I mean you drew every page you created the art for every single page so it’s not, it’s more I think than writing.
08:10:27 Mark: It’s well it’s more than writing, it’s definitely more than writing, there are drawings in that not every page there’s maybe 15-20 I should count them, but about 15 to 20 drawings I would say, drawings, might be a generous word, there are several occasions where I’ve used a pin to get my thoughts down I’ll drawings, sometimes does feel too generous but yeah it is a time it’s only 400 pages.
It’s been two years in the active making from a couple of sprints. Sprints is the wrong word, but a couple of really focused phases of writing, and then there was the procrastination and the anxiety, then editing and then we’ll procrastination and anxiety design wants to kick start. And now, almost two years to the month from when I first started it I think I sat down to write it and it’s probably September 2018 It’s, it’s, it’s arrived in America and now it’s started to ship, so it’s been amazing.
08:11:23 Adam: It’s an amazing achievement to get that done before I asked you, I have so many questions for you. Before I do that, give people there are probably a handful of people listening who are not familiar with you, would you just give them a little rundown of who you are and what you’ve done.
Mark: So, so yeah. So, Mark, live in New York, obviously from Australia, England, grew up in Sydney, have been around the agency world since I was about 19 and for the first decade or so I was largely working in digital
agencies or digital departments during user experience we didn’t have strategists we didn’t have anyone with many specialized roles I mean UX was a specialized role didn’t exist much so as a producer for about a decade doing user experience information architecture, trying to understand search and all that sort of stuff.
08:12:07 And after that, late 20s became an account planner at Leo Burnett and Sydney which is like a really good prolific ambitious creative agency.
08:12:17 Want to. I mean that I just see as one, a ton of awards, very competitive and worth the mccann Big Spaceship in New York, moved over here nine years ago.
As of May, and now do a podcast run this community cold sweat head and want to publish and then sort of shifting my sense of self and how I exist in the world as I moved through my 40s.
08:12:42 Adam: Same. Yeah, you and I are parallel, in a lot of those in a lot of those descriptions of where you are. I want to talk about writing the book two years, the process. Well, so I work with you and I did some things together, I guess about three years ago, and I assume some of the drawings that you used in those sessions that we did together where are, are part of this because I remember, And please, I want you to describe your not your writing process because I don’t, I don’t know that there is one but your process for teaching, creating the materials for teaching, getting feedback, and then using those things to feed your, your writing or your output, and then how the cycle works.
08:13:27 Mark: Yeah yeah totally at something have been very deliberate with, in many ways, I mean I operate pretty spontaneously so I’m a spontaneous introvert who has social needs. It’s quite a, quite a strange brains of it you know I’ll tell you that much, but yeah I’d save for the past 12 years I’ve written about doing strategy and the triggering moment was the 2008 2009 global financial crisis the GFC as we call it in Australia,
America does not call it that Australia is global, Jessie. Yeah. And I just remember, you know, a few conferences happened while agencies that I knew and clients that I knew the offices were emptying out because big crisis right GFC.
08:14:17 And so I had a few moments one was like I didn’t want to be that guy writing about advertising like that that’s you know like I don’t want to be that guy, I was publishing by the way i hip hop magazine and done that for 10 years and written for 10s of of music magazines and radio and that was real. That was my reality and advertising was something that I sort of fell into and was fortunate enough to be in but I use most of that money to pay to subsidize essentially my, my hip hop lifestyle, which was a publishing lifestyle there’s, there’s nothing flamboyant going on because I didn’t really have money.
And so, yeah, the inciting incident was really crisis.
08:14:53 At the same time, I would see people turn up at conferences being social media gurus and I’m like, I’ve managed online communities for 10 years I don’t call myself a guru on ninja whatever but like, Why are these people talking about things that they’ve read someone else write about in America in Australia, what. So I started to write about it and the first post I put up was actually on a guy called Julian calls blog, and it was about hip hop and online communities and what you can learn about, you know,
managing an online community and social media through hip hop.
08:15:19 So, I’ve always tried to bring the things that are in my life together in unexpected ways through my writing. Is that part of your is that part of your drive to connect your personal life, and the professional community that you a part of it is consciously part of my drive, and it’s a deeper part of my drive now than when I was doing it before.
08:15:44 I mean, most people who write you you return to write something that’s true to you something that you could stand in front of people and say I had these experiences and it led me to this thinking and that connects to your experience here or to this other topic that we didn’t even connect to it, that’s just the process of lateral thinking or having an idea that’s creativity so that’s what most writers do and that was natural to me.
08:16:06 And I think one of the things that I brought with a few other people at the time because often we come up with these little gangs, people were blogging similar similar times and maybe do some stuff together but
08:16:19 I have a very emotionally oriented, and traumatized. I have emotionally oriented and traumatized parts of my family that are very good at sharing. And I grew up with that as the quiet one who barely my therapist is like when I, when I did some therapy, she said something like, it sounds like you weren’t allowed to have many emotions and it’s true so I would like a household was based on one person’s emotions, and I would withdraw into writing poetry and it’s a sad music, you know, grew up with a single mom and younger sister.
08:16:52 And I guess that’s like that and rap is in me now and over the years it’s increasingly become about philosophy and psychology and then understanding things such as individuation through someone like Carl Jung, I’m not a, an academic but trying to understand these concepts, then what you’re talking about becomes the driver becomes that that thing that energy that you want to serve, because your 20s and 30s are often very distracted by Korean materialism and a sense of progress and I got through high school if I went to college or university I was lucky to do that but I got through that and then I go to get the job and then I’m going to get a better job and then I’m going to get a bit of promotion, the endless drive.
08:17:29 Yeah, and then you’re like, Oh my god, even the psychologists and philosophies that we looked up looked up to so many of them for understand went through we had phases in the mid 30s to mid 40s especially, and it’s not always about biological age.
08:17:43 But there’s often a shift and the shift is that they connect to their own artistry, if you’re wired for that they connect to what is difficult, like the shadow side right what’s difficult in them, and they work out well they try to work out how to assemble a story that might or might not be true.
And then live that story. So that’s what I’ve been doing and I think that’s what you’ve been trying to do as well.
08:18:05 Adam: Trying to “try” is the keyword. It’s a weird thing when you, when you are writing about a topic that is about how to express—our job is about how to express the qualities, the pillars, whatever word your agency or your – the mechanism you use express those things about a brand. And what what art is, is the best expression of the artist, put into a way that’s accessible for the viewer.
But what commercial advertising and the strategy that we inform through that brand strategy is is about. It shouldn’t. If I show up and that’s that’s a problem in a lot of ways that if I have to be expressing on behalf of the brand that I’m serving.
And so, that can be – what I learned after 20 years was, oh I’m stifling myself deliberately to this, I’m clogging that part and keeping that part. Almost you know it’s now that now that we’re talking through it. Almost the way your, you described your whole you weren’t allowed to have many emotions.
08:19:11 Mark: My therapist said that, not me. Yeah, yeah, it was fair fair because I feel myself as emotional but I love where this is going. So good.
I agree and keep going.
Adam: Yeah, I do too, and and I think a lot of people would describe me as not emotional. But I feel like my emotions are always on the surface.
You know, and I’m working super hard to not Yeah, or something like that and I’m just like, I’m going to be. I’m just going to be very rigid here and still it, but by withholding that part of yourself, to serve the project which is your job and sort of professional does. Over time, if you don’t have another outlet that that catches that could catch up with you, and create some kind of problem or just make you feel shitty.
08:19:55 Mark: There are so many themes that I want to get into with what you just said, I think, just understanding the idea of emotion is important because there are people who are generally speaking, and paths, and I know empath has been used to replace the word psychic for some reason recently that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s people who think, or if you think about how other people feel you can put yourself in their shoes but really you can’t, so it’s quite an arrogant thought to think of yourself as
being an empath that you can feel what other people feel, but I think the tendency again my therapist pointed this out to me last year she was talking to me about all this stuff because I just lay down all the weird stuff I’ve gone through.
And she’s like, anytime I asked you about your feelings you tell me about other people’s feelings, and for me that’s the sentence she would probably say to anyone that she would identify as possibly being an empath because you constantly not thinking about how you feels like how does that person feel or I will like you probably just disappear into I read this in research, or, well this is what’s going on in culture, as opposed to you know what, I’m angry and I’m disappointed that these things happened.
And I feel, I was abandoned and whatever stories come out. Right. Well, we’re like, well, How am I supposed to feel his a framework for it and so I think like I do.
Yeah, there’s like the empathy thing, and then within emotions, there are people who, you know, there’s the concept of neuroticism and also like negative emotionality and sensitivity and these, these things are real, and so you could be an empath and maybe not feel a lot of negative emotions, but maybe you could also feel a lot of negative emotions and some of that same night, some of its how you grew up some of us just not having coping mechanisms or having good self talk some of its your hormones.
So there’s, you know I’ve personally found it useful to find better words for these things because it helps me understand myself, and that’s in a culture where you know I’ve dealt with a lot of depression and we’ve talked about it over the years in public and private, but I remember when I first started to be public about being depressed in my 20s. People around me were like, I’ve never felt that way.
It’s like what’s that got to do with anything, or if they found me googling it, they’re like, why do you have to prove that you’ve got depression, what’s wrong with you and I’m like, I’m trying to understand it because it’s crazy in here.
08:22:04 Adam: Yeah. And so, that I need thankfully that that’s that doors opening a little bit, I mean it is a different environment at least there’s some receptivity to it it’s still not comfortable but that that is, I’ve noticed a shift there.
08:22:17 Mark: Yeah, yeah, but the language around these things is, is really useful. So, just wanted to point that out.
Adam: Well also I’ve known, I know that in your, some of the training you do and in the Sweathead workshops that you conduct.
08:22:31 You have gotten feedback from people that was like, I thought I was coming to learn strategy, why, why are you talking about emotion so much. And you’re like, well they’re kind of they’re–You’re the fulcrum that connects those two pieces so if you if you haven’t, if you don’t understand that is going to be really hard for you to survive this job.
08:22:50 Mark: I agree, I agree, but I’ll also say that maybe you don’t have to be an empath to be a strategist or an account planner, it’s just that that’s my genre of it and I think you need to be but it’s, it’s, I get small pieces of feedback either in in the room when I’m training or through the online course where like in the online course I’ve got this thing because I just did this hundred day course was launching a class every single day, and early on, it was just up to lock down, you know, it was in May.
And people were exhausted and upset and so one of the exercises I’ve got, because one of my tricks. As in, it’s not a shortcut to anything it’s just a bait and switch people into thinking they’ll any best strategy and then I push them into themselves.
A lot of people resist it and they’re like, “Why are you getting me to write about my ugly cry?” It was one of my exercises I wanted people to do it because if you can, if you can admit that you’ve ever been said if you don’t have any ability to be introspective if you don’t have empathy if you don’t have intuition. I’m being extreme because people have that it’s just on the spectrum.
Like, I just don’t think you’re going to be very interesting compelling, or maybe successful strategist even though a lot of sociopaths are pretty good at strategy.
So yeah, there’s a little bit of that feedback but increasingly I’m like you know, I don’t want to have to, I don’t want to have to defend what I do. I’ve been doing this stuff for ages and I’ve done it.
08:24:05 I don’t have to defend myself to people who are not able to get what’s going on, like I have I want people to to be confused by it and come along but if they’re just like, I need three frameworks that’s all I want.
08:24:18 I’m like, go get a framework, it’s not going to help you do any better thinking
Adam: Yeah Google can get you there. I mean, even Under Think It, in which I positive bunch of frameworks and a map for how to start learning strategy is not, there’s no mention of emotion I can go search it I’m sure the word doesn’t show up in there.
08:24:35 Mark: You repressed yourself in your own book.
Adam: I think so, I mean I think what I was trying to deliver was to that, that audience that was how do I do this, give me the play by play on, I need a to b to c to produce a strategy and, and that’s what that was intended to be.
08:24:52 Mark: So it’s really cool that that would be a more normal way to deal with this topic.
08:24:57 Adam: Right, but they’re coming to people you don’t hire the, the subject you hire the teacher. And so the teacher is you, and here’s the experience you’ve had and what works for you and what you feel unlocked strategy and made you successful at what you do. I also think people, you can take a class take a course and discard the parts that don’t work for you without complaining, you can say, Oh, this thing about ugly cry, Oh my gosh, you know, or I’ll try it, but I’m not gonna let myself really get too invested
in it but I’ll be back for the frameworks that are coming in phase three.
Mark: Yeah, yeah, you’re an independent thinker take what works that’s the point that’s like it. Teachers they let just take what works like I don’t need to convince you of any fanbase to you can react to it you can throw it away, but to get caught up in hating it with this is not what I did a lot of like that, to really want to tear it down that tells the world more about you than it does about the person teaching you or writing for you.
Adam: One of, I don’t have a lot of regrets that I verbalized but one of the regrets I have over the last four or five years was I was invited to help with a training. I don’t know how to even describe this but it was like the vision for it was, it would be a retreat.
And we would do trainings in the late afternoon but in the morning, it would be like yoga and meditation you know shared meditation and quiet walks and it’d be like a real spiritual side and then work side.
So, yin and yang, and I as I was reading it, I’m like that’s not I don’t meditate. I don’t you know yoga is something I’m like, just exploring and trying to figure out what makes sense.
I’m not very, I don’t consider myself really spiritual in a way that I can talk about you know not able to be publicly spiritual.
08:26:47 And I was like, I don’t know. “Thank you so much, but this is not who I don’t think this is who I am” like, I think I would be waiting in the classroom for everyone to come in and disconnected from their experience I don’t think I’d be the right person to do this and now. Four years later, I’m not sure I should have done that, that would probably been awesome.
Mark: No, that’s just getting older right but again the language spirituality and for me, I connected to the word love.
And that came from research reading into the way that academics, measure the reaction to psychedelic experiences. And they use the word religiosity.
Did they have a religious experience or something that was something that connected them to the world and gave them a sense that we’re all connected. And it’s bigger than them. That’s how they were defining that word spirituals within. And so, for all my inability to actually connect with my own emotion, apparently, although I feel it all the time or label it was deflect from it.
While always experiencing myself as emotional, the research stuff helps me understand things you know make a part of me that I think is if you grow up with like a really, if you go up with a really stable family maybe a conservative family, with a strong religious structure, you don’t have to work anything out, you know that’s one of the benefits of that. That’s not how most people are growing up right now at least in America, where there’s scaffolding for you as you’re growing up so you can connect yourself
to how that how spirituality is part of your life. Yeah, this is how I behave that’s how that person behaves in that role. This is what happens after I died I have to think about any of this.
So for the rest of us who grew up in broken families, not to be dramatic right now but like broken families and we’re constantly having to work out how to fit in who never felt much stability. It’s embedded in you and that comes through the Big Five personality traits and in the end of ocean and it’s neuroticism being a bit unstable.
It’s not about being neurotic it’s about not really being super balanced and being, which is really common with credit minds.
Adam: I think so, yeah, you’re trying to, especially commercial creatives where you’re trying to balance the art and the commerce.
08:28:57 Mark: Yes. Oh, on that you mentioned a point that I wanted to get into. What’s your thought on the feedback, or this idea that you’re not supposed to put yourself into your work, or it’s just about the brand it’s not about you, which was the thing you were about earlier let what. Talk to me a bit about that because I’ve got a relatively strong point of view that’s new ish on that.
Adam: Well, the brand is paid for you to figure out how to connect the brand, to the best prospect for the business and not that you’re not supposed to be invested in it or put yourself in it but if, if your brief for, let’s say something that is unlike me. Let’s say my brief or something like BMW was about all the things that I find challenging about BMW or like I am obsessed with rims. I’m not really serving that client if I try to get them to invest $750,000 in a TV spot about rims, when they’re when they’re when they’re saying is their engineering is superior to their, their peers in the space.
It shouldn’t be about me and it shouldn’t be about my individual work, individual feelings about it now– I always start from a place of this is how I think about it, and then I ping off of what I know about the customer or the prospect. So, then try to figure out, Okay, this is how they see it differently than me let me go research and understand how that shapes their perspective and then what is the message I need to create to connect to that person because I’m not creating an ad for myself. I’m not creating a brand for myself, almost, which we got to do that. You got to do it with your hip hop magazine that was owned published produced and written by you.
You got to do it for mighty jungle but you do not get to do it for the clients you serve in most cases, the audience is not you directly.
Mark: Yeah, I hear, and I think going. One thing that I really took out of that the writing process for the long form for the book is seeing a lot of these sentences as as many algorithms or many operating systems right so what you said I would add a few things to it which is the starting point is that if you’re coming up with ideas strategy, whatever it is you serve the best interest of the client.
And you serve the research, and you serve the idea, and it’s not about you, but put yourself into it. You know, I often if I’m working with someone. And I know that they’ve got a lot of energy, and maybe there it’s really interesting things and I do actually know the brand, those other rules is still a play like it’s not about you, you’ve got to do what’s
08:31:37 what’s right for the research and the brief etc. But where are you in this like I want to feel someone in it and so for me there are four or five sentences that hang together, and sitting there typing out almost 80,000 words I think really helped me be
08:31:53 me be like, oh, then this and this and this and this and this, and it sort of reprogram my brain to understand language a little bit differently. Did you find that through your writing process?
Adam: Yes and so just to quickly address what you said. I think where the, where the strategist ends up in it is in the satisfaction of the cohesion, that were there in it is the synthesis of all those pieces they put together, and they’re the prism, that is that is projecting it back out into whatever form
whatever the artifact of the strategy is.
So if you’re not satisfied at that point that I think is your last chance to be invested in it and to feel ownership or authorship I guess is a better word, and yes when I think about, not so much Under Think It, which was really a, like I said, a handbook but with Specific.
I can scan that book and think of five sentences that are seemingly disconnected that could summarize the entire book, but you can do the same thing with strategies you’re essentially beginning, then a sentence three chapters later.
08:32:55 Mark: And it’s funny because I’m watching you. And the way your eyes moved and your hands move is exactly how I feel when I’m sort of scanning through things I’ve written your eyes darting and it’s like that product after that paragraph to that paragraph because you can often remember writing the first sentence that led you to the paragraph, knowing that that paragraph is sort of filling out that first sentence and then you’re like, Okay, then I need a strong English closing sentence on that same paragraph but that’s going to connect to the following paragraph. Then I’m going to take them on a journey somewhere, then come back and so it’s um it’s through that long have you written I’ve written a ton of stuff I mean I used to publish a magazine, I had more question and answer interviews in that and, in, in writing and creating. It’s, um,
Adam: You’re prolific.
Mark: I don’t know if that’s a compliment but I need to put my brain somewhere but the thing is sitting down and writing book really helped me fall back in love with writing, and I feel a certain joy and energy for it and I want to write another thing like I want to do my next thing I just needed to get to this point. First, a lot of other people like I one was enough.
And I’m like no no I’m excited because my brain I know where I can put my brain every day, you know, yeah you know book writing
Adam: The writing stimulates more writing in a weird way.
08:34:01 Mark: Yes.
Adam: But, but, you know, when you were doing your setup here when you were introducing yourself you said something that I made a note of. You said that you wrote the process took two years but there was a there was a period in their of anxiety installing the word used, and I experienced this to where I think the book was done, it was sitting there, I knew what the next step was I wanted to do with it were but there was something in me that was like, I don’t want to put this out in the world and people are going to tell you what they think of it.
08:34:31 That’s what that’s honestly what I was like, do I really want feedback on this, you know, that can make me feel great about this.
08:34:37 You know 200 pages that I’ve just assembled.
Mark: Well, I would say I had a few things going on. And not to go back too much into history but the last magazine I printed I was 28 and I felt burnt out I failed I failed I was doing a full color, 100 and eight or so page Hip Hop magazine from Australia which is a big island, a long way away, and we have like 23 million people right small population hasn’t been an out and I feel like failed I felt let down my people as I know, but I need to write and so moving to New York, help me reenergize to a degree, even though you get that networking advertising going to Strand books, every few months is a beautiful book bookstore in New York and that reenergized me they’ve got a
non, where they call it literary nonfiction section so books on writing and words and I would pick up books every, every so often a few books a year and I’d write agreed on writing or on writing well and the artful edit by Susan Bell, and I just chip away I was like, what, and I was like, What do I really want to write about I want to do creative writing but I know I’ve got all this stuff that I want to get out of that strategy, but I don’t want to write a blog post, that’s a book.
So I sent on that for a while, and I experimented with different stories and screenplays,
Adam: Were you talking yourself out of it, or were you just trying to identify what’s the format that is, is the best expression of how you were feeling at that point?
08:35:56 Mark: It was a combination of just feeling kind of burnt out and not like being a bit, bit you know caught up in moving to America and not really feeling I was doing good work, and people that told me that it’s hard to do the work in New York based on the work I like to do. So I felt I was failing there as well had nowhere to show and then I talked to other friends who’ve moved here or Yeah, a lot of other friends and senior roles and I like, I just got to meetings all the time and yet we’re making money but I don’t have anything for my portfolio and I’m like, but that to me is I don’t like to use the word ‘failure’ but there’s a dramatic part of me was like I feel like I’m failing, like ‘what is this?’
08:36:28 And so there was that and then there was trying to shift my identity from that hip hop world into what I was doing in America, trying to develop some writing techniques.
08:36:36 I went quiet for a few years of repressed, I did a talk at can we had no work to show so I talked about how he worked which is an important story for where I was, but as I like. ‘Am I just a fraud?’ You know this whole time.
08:36:48 And so that all happened. And then, as I’m moved into creating sweat head MIT jungle, I was like I just need a couple of, I just I didn’t even put a time on it I was like, I need to express so I started doing weird stuff on the internet I started doing events and started doing training events all over the world. And, and it’s kind of embarrassing on one hand, because I was you know late 30s now, I’m like, I need to find myself, who am I, and I feel and I feel myself and I’m writing and I feel myself and I’m teaching, and when I’m on stage, even though I can be quiet in between all of that.
08:37:24 And so as I started to play with these things, I started to gain a bit more confidence, even though I have a savage inner critic, like I think you do.
08:37:32 And so I kind of got to the point where I had enough material I’ve just done all the dumps like I was writing and voices on Twitter and people like what was the UK made like I was just experimented with things, and I felt like I had shaken everything
08:37:41 up, like shaken a lot of my self oppression off, and then I read two books around the same time, which were Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way.
08:37:56 Oh yeah, man social meaning. Essentially, you can make it up.
08:38:01 I was like, ah, unfortunately he had to spend time in concentration camps. He was a psychologist, but he was a prisoner in concentration camps Viktor Frankl to that was, you know, That’s the lesson I’m taking from it anyway.
08:38:13 Maybe it’s inaccurate, and then Julia Cameron, she’s very unique and like there are a lot of kind of unique and and I guess Buddhist and ideas in her book but a lot of it’s about stream of consciousness writing and doing daily pages and that really helped me just, I was just writing for the sake of it and I just let anything come out and then over time, over a few weeks I would start to be a bit more specific.
08:38:35 Then, I was in Dublin, and I went to the Dublin writers center, and it’s a really humble building and I was reading these stories and listen, I wasn’t doing the audio to and I listened to people at James Joyce, or stories about James Joyce and wb Yeats,
08:38:48 and I was like, You know what, these are my people.
08:38:51 Earlier I’d been at the Seattle pop museum and I almost cried going into the room with Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, and I’m like these are my people and they’re artists like I’m repressing myself I used to write music I used to write raps and poems and I’ve been repressing myself and hiding maybe in this strategy career and advertising creative ages, I have to put myself out there because the opposite of that is 25 years of depression.
08:39:15 So, that got me into writing the book Adam
Adam: I’ve tried that, it hasn’t worked Let me try the other thing.
Mark: Yeah, you know and and I guess that’s, you know, facing your shadow as I say, and individuation and trying to become like yourself becoming yourself become more of yourself but that was my journey and so two years ago, I was 40. You know I just turned 40 when I was in Dublin I was a few months into being 40 and that number like 30 with many people in this industry plays on your mind a lot right.
08:39:42 Adam: It does. There’s a, there’s a weird. Finish Line that you seem to pass at 40 I had it to where I was like wait, what happens. It’s supposed to change. Nothing immediately did change but I felt like I needed to start searching for something that was going to. I don’t know answer questions that were that were popping up you feel you. Your mortality and your place in your career that you’ve just invested 20 years and feels at at stake at issue, all of a sudden.
08:40:13 Mark: Yeah. And, you know, apparently Karl Jung had this phase in his mid 30s where he felt like that and then he and a lot of other people that I’ve spent time with this selection bias, they commit to what I would call like a more savage form of self expression where they’re like, ‘I’m not getting younger, and my coping mechanisms from growing up in my household whatever didn’t work, or don’t work anymore.’ Maybe they work down or they don’t work now.
08:40:40 What do I want to do. And I think for so many people, art, and identifying as needing to do art, which might lead you to identify as being an artist. It is a useful identity to try to shift into.
08:40:53 Adam: And that’s part of The Artist Way: Don’t wait to become an artist here’s the practices that you can take on right now if you want to write, right, you don’t have to have an epiphany that declares you a writer.
08:41:08 That book is what I like about it and it kind of aligns with my writing voices is very straightforward. It’s, there’s not a lot of emotion in it it’s very practical.
08:41:17 You want to write here’s, here’s some things you can do to do that in the first half of the book is very much like this is what it’s like to be someone who produces words on a page.
08:41:26 Mark: Yeah, what was there a concept or two, with a name that you took out of that book.
Adam: So really the morning pages are the things that stuck with me from that, that book and just the idea of, it doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just get the words, get your brain started sending words and doing that free hand with a pen or, you know, directly on paper versus typing.
I did not keep up the practice for very long. But I learned from it that oh okay I don’t know what the point of that to me was, don’t edit now start just when you sit down to write.
Let the words pour out, and if they’re not pouring out, find a topic that you can write on even in the middle of this paragraph that doesn’t relate.
08:42:10 You will edit it later or you can hit a hard return and say I’m going to highlight this text and come back to it and see if it ever made sense at all, all of a sudden you’re writing 2000 words about your dog in the middle of your book but let your body know that it’s okay to right and you’re distracted by something let’s see what it is.
08:42:27 Mark: I agree, I agree, and I started to a few weeks into doing morning pages which. It’s like we said earlier, just use what you need. And I stopped because I was writing a book and I needed to the book but initially I was just writing anything and I felt like I was a 15 year old unemotional 15 year old writing in my journal again but over time, I was like, the silly phrase or sentence or quote might have popped into my head just from a thought or from a memory, and I’m like, hang on, what if I put characters in there and I write three or four pages on a Saturday morning at 10am about like, who invented marriage and why and who it serves and but I’m writing this sincerely characters, and I was like, Okay, I can do this, I can do this.
08:43:12 And so that was really good. Shadow artists, was a concept that she talks about that I found quite interesting and a shadow artist is someone that is around artists, but he’s not an artist.
So for example, a lot of people in strategy might repress their own creativity and artistry, because they’re around a creative department. Someone who runs an art gallery, someone who marries a painter, you know you’re following your shadowing an artist but you’re not an artist and I found that really useful concept as well.
Adam: Yeah, that is that is another one that comes to mind from the book that I definitely identify you’re sitting across across the creative floor or down the hall from the creative team but you are you are not considered one of the creatives. It’s kind of a hard kind of harsh,
Mark: But it’s harsh and they’re our plan is to identify as being creative, but they’re also strategists and account planning so identify as being creative and who resent the fact that other people don’t want them to see themselves
as creative, and it’s like what you’re doing, really, you’re doing it to yourself, because the solution to that is to go be creative and put your name to it.
Right, so no one else is preventing you from doing that. Yeah.
08:44:19 Adam: Yeah, it’s, it’s just a weird way that the way the agency world fetishizes and creates a competitive environment for that special class of people, but also tells you, ‘Anybody can be creative. Ideas can come from anywhere and the agency, but not, but not really guys, it really comes from that Flora where it comes from the sixth floor only, but anybody can participate,’ and we end strategies have to imagine a creative expression of their strategy. But don’t tell anybody because you’re going to pick those guys off and they’re working really hard, you know it’s like this weird for new strategist I think that’s a tough place to learn is, when is it okay for me to share an idea, and I think it varies by agency business to, when is it okay I have an idea that I think will help them. When’s the right time to tell them.
08:45:09 Mark: Well, there’s also what is an idea, what are the different kinds of ideas who gets to have those kinds of ideas who leads and who follows with certain kinds of ideas.
08:45:17 And that’s why the sentence like an idea can come from anywhere. I don’t mind it. It’s just what are you trying to say. Are you trying to say that because you think ideas can come from anywhere that anybody can have them therefore you don’t need to pay someone who’s good at them, which means it’s okay to have 50 people in a room, who don’t even know what an idea is, Is that right, is that what you’re saying?
08:45:38 Adam: And it’s it is an idea, the is an idea, exclusively the answer to the brief in the form the mandatory format requested, or as an idea just that abstract thought, I read this brief and I had this idea, it could be a couple shopping for a house. Can you do anything with that? Well no, that’s the creative teams job don’t tell us that idea. come back when you have 700 300p by 250p banners.
08:46:04 Mark: Yeah, yeah, but the thing is like so that’s part of the reason why I wanted to write this book is that this these words are beautiful, but they need definition because not only a lot of the words that we use all the time, not defined in a company or by the industry. There are different kinds of ideas there are different kinds of insights and then we use silent adjectives in front of these words to define who we are and how we operate.
And so the question that I that I put to everyone is like what if all of this is just made public, maybe even up on your wall. How much heartache and pain and stress and time are you going to save.
08:46:41 Adam: Yes. Why do you like to ya know each other because you don’t know what they mean that’s why. Yeah, and we just thought that we don’t agree on what they mean.
08:46:51 Mark: Yeah, and they don’t have to mean something in an absolute way, top, you know you can define them how you want the point is to define them and then not use them at each other but use them for each other.
08:47:00 Adam That’s it. That’s interesting – for each other. Did you get blocked at any point, writing this book or. Have you ever suffered block, I don’t feel like it. I feel like I’ve always seen you sharing and having things that you’re writing.
Mark: Well, I mean I tap into emotion so if I’m not writing or if I’m quiet on the internet it’s, I could be in a little bouts of melancholy. Or I just not feeling angry or I’ve seized up. You know I see mental blocks with rioting as fear based and also as a person not really wanting to get in touch with what’s going on inside them, so I mental blocks for me like a, an act of avoidance, and knowing that I can just do a silly baby strategy drawing, or sit down and write something and be a smartass in my head. I know I can get somewhere so I don’t feel a mental block so much.
As far as the act of writing with the book, I was nervous because it’s like, I like to hand draw by hand right. I didn’t know how to start and I didn’t know if I wanted to write it on the computer.
The day or two after I got back from Ireland I sat down I knew what I wanted the title to be on you I wanted the subtitle to be a strategist fight for meaning because it’s a shout out to Viktor Frankl.
And I sat down and I was like, Look, do you stop, stop, blah blah blah.
I open up a document, and I write the title at the slightly bigger font size in serif font. Okay and then I write the subtitle. And then I was like, don’t be arrogant don’t put your name there, I was like, No, that’s what an author would do. So I put my name there, I think, oh my god I’ve got the first page.
And then I knew what half the book was going to be because it’s basically my training material that I’ve played with intensely for several years now.
Then I want to read about the words that I hear strategist use, and because I interact with so many through Sweathead like I’m interacting with hundreds really every week, and I’m like okay that would clarity keeps popping up truth meaning imposter syndrome is popping up again. What’s all that about lone wolf so I’d be like, Okay, I’m going to grab all these words, had a piece of paper, I read all the words down that I wanted to write about I broke them into life words and work words, and then they became my daily brief, so it’s been half a day. What riding on writing about a particular word.
And so I need that workflow to keep me going, but I don’t feel intimidated by a mental block, and if it’s if there’s something going on with it, it’s because it’s because I’m in a dark place that I don’t want to be that will probably end up being useful to me.
08:49:32 And the when you come out of it.
Adam: Yeah, at the end of it, it’ll turn into something you can write about it.
Yeah, that’s what it that’s funny in the in the Hemingway days he would put a piece of paper in the same typewriter and type, you know, he didn’t have to think about the format very hard.
08:49:48 Yeah, I am a writer, this is the writing I do, but I’m working on something now to where I actually have, I was thinking oh I should ask Mark about this because I’m not sure the format that this is going to take on when I’m done. And I was like, Don’t be an idiot. Just, just start writing it, and let the format that it will define itself isn’t eventually something in the, in the work will say, Oh, this is how they should be the final product of it should be expressed. If it gets expressed, you know, but just start writing it and see how your. See how the words are forming and then go from there. But but the the liberating and scary thought is the word art.
08:50:27 Mark: So, to me, this is my art, and I know that someone could pick up this book, especially someone who’s more conservative neurologically speaking, and more MBA like and PhD like they could take it down and destroy it. I would not it’s not there to be destroyed. It’s up yeah like what would describe what I write as art.
Adam: That’s so funny that but what if you did a new thing I’m working on it’s fiction so I don’t know yet. We haven’t crossed that threshold yet but yeah books I’ve written so far like those aren’t.
08:50:57 Mark: Well, that’s for you to answer, I mean you could drop in a third, you could have a trilogy that doesn’t create some, maybe you write a prequel, and it’s completely absurdist, I don’t know, I mean, I just find that this is a new idea and I got friends who, you know, are artists and they brought us from a young age, they don’t, they know this they know what I’m talking about, and they coach me on instinct, you know, if I post something weird on Instagram, or just be like ‘yeah keep going. That’s cool.’ And I like really it looks stupid right now just keep going like, why did I do this 30 years ago, you know all the tricks. But for some people. Hearing you say that you think of yourself as an artist I’ll be like you so pretentious and the strategy world’s got a little bit of classism and snobbishness in it that I little, I don’t really like. I think we don’t need it, it’s not useful it’s people usually protecting their and privilege. But thinking of yourself as an artist.
08:51:45 Dangerous idea, because, anything is possible in any reality as possible.
Adam: You know what I think is dangerous about it is, I’ve never thought about this before, this is fresh. What’s dangerous about it is when it is the result of research. It can’t be. There’s only so much you can push on it but I remember I was a creative for, I don’t know, 15 years. Art is subjective. So, a brief is usually its ground it’s good ones are based in facts and supported by research in some cases, some cases not but its facts and it’s hard to assail that in a way that feels personal to the creator of it, or the creative person the person who the author can say, well, it’s informed by this research or the client asked me to include x, and so I’m buffered. I’m insulated from that critique, where art: If you do a layout, or if you paint something or if you write a book and it’s art.
08:52:42 It is wholly subjective and you are putting it out there and it is you that that point you were admitting so when I say I don’t want to call myself art. I don’t want to admit that I am susceptible to that critique.
Mark: Yeah, but then you have to define the word, and I’ll get a funny story with that social media is really trying to reveal profound truth, often in indirect ways. That’s how I find it to myself I don’t. I’ve never studied that, but that’s how I define myself. Now, I was in London, a year or two ago, and got off the train got off the plane, got a train from Heathrow a wherever, wherever I was into the city.
It was not a threat was the other one, and nearly got run over but by motorbike because it was like 9am and I’ll super jet lagged, and then I made my way into like the National Gallery of portraits portraiture sorry English people I know you’re all fancy and you know the words for things and I just stumbled my way through them.
And I remember being in there, and they were amazed they’re obviously amazing and important paintings, but as I based on my definition of ours like this is not art. I don’t want to spend time here, and I left, which is for some people stupid and ignorant and naive, but like I wanted to have an experience with art, which was going to be about con like concepts and ideas and I wanted to explore them and feel them looking at a bunch of paintings, paid for by rich people. I was like, that’s not according to my definition. And so I left and I had a mini tantrum I paid 20 bucks or whatever it was to go in.
08:54:08 But I really do like the idea of thinking of this stuff as art, because nothing’s nothing’s wrong to me a creative brief is part as part are you using facts but there’s still a leap. Yeah, yeah a little bit you know I needed to find that a lot more but I think it’s more. Okay, what I will say is, for strategist I think it’s useful to think of a creative brief or your artifacts, as being more out like then more businesslike, if,
Adam: If you have not put that translation that indirect expression like as the result of all the research, then you probably have not written a good brief, if
Mark: it is just reporting,
Adam: you’re reporting, you’re not a journalist, you’re a strategist and it’s a different, it’s a different thing there’s an aspect of gathering the information but then you have to process the information into something that is expressing a point of view, which a journalist and a reporter does not is not supposed to do in America, strictly that’s what they do but elsewhere. The idea is to gather the facts and keep those isolated for a strategist that has been to express those into something powerful that can inform and inspire people.
08:55:18 Mark: Yeah, I agree, I agree.
I think it’s difficult if you get to tripped up on the debates between subjectivity and objectivity, because I do see strategy as being a subjective craft.
And it uses objectivity uses data and information and facts, but it assembles them in ways where there’s a leap, a creation of new meaning of new newness.
Yeah. And you can’t prove that it’s existed before because you’re creating the thing. So, there has to be some kind of leave some kind of out there.
08:55:51 Adam: That’s awesome. Mark, thank you for making time this is awesome to to hang out again. I haven’t talked to you in a while.
Mark: I know you’re so far away in the desert over there.
08:56:03 Adam: Where can people find the book.
08:56:05 They can find it on my website Sweathead: Sweathead dot co I’m about to get Sweathead dot com.
08:56:13 But it’ll be up, you can google sweat head you can google strategies your words and you can find it there, and we will definitely link to it here in the show notes as well Mark, thank you very much for joining me.
08:56:22 Adam: I really appreciate it.
08:56:24 Mark: It’s good to see you, good to hear you and best wishes with that writing, let me know how like if you start to think aggressively about yourself being an artist. I’m curious to see what happens.
Adam: I don’t do well we’ll see, we’ll see what happens with that would be that would be a challenging fork in the road for me.