I'd like one vision, please
My father-in-law is a stoic man with a quirky sense of humor. He's got a kind of Sam Elliott swagger. He asks rhetorical-sounding questions that, not only have an answer, they have just one correct answer. One day, long before 5 + 8, he asked me what one singular thing one must have in order to be successful in life. I attempted to look thoughtful, as if I was ruminating on my response, all the while hoping he wasn't waiting on me for an answer. Ten painful seconds later, I realized he was waiting on me to speak. I gurgled out an eloquent, "duh duh dunno?"
The answer was vision.
Vision is the answer to just about all questions when it comes to starting anything. It's a big buzz word on the podcasts I listen to and books I start. When you have it, it sounds pretty amazing and empowering. I think you become like an entrepreneurial X-man (or X-woman).
One problem: I didn't have a vision. Uncovering a clear vision of your future is hard without a time-traveling phone booth. But, it turns out Jeff (my business partner) and I had one the whole time. Since our early days at Love Advertising we shared a mutual admiration for Austin-based agency, McGarrah Jessee. They were and still are the best agency in the country in my never-humble opinion. They understand branding so well that they have assembled clients that feel like McGarrah Jessee clients. What does that mean? Shiner Beer, Whataburger, Costa and Yeti – just hearing those brands you get a sense of what they are about. They execute branding so expertly, they are able to craft an agency 'feel' by the clients they select. That's something even the preeminent Portlandian Wieden+Kennedy can't claim.
We share this vision. Mc-J gave 5 + 8 a clear path. They showed it is possible and profitable to make beautiful work, support meaningful brands and not lose your soul. They drew us an adventure map where "X" marks the intersection of advertising and art. McGarrah Jessee showed us this hazy, crazy dream of ours was entirely possible.
I could tell you how they inspired our work, but it's more fun to show you. (Mc-J: Left; 5 + 8: Right)
About six months ago, I reached out to tell them how much I respect them and let them know what we're up to... one of the partners and executive creative director replied within 24 hours. After a lot of fun back and forth, here are some of the gold doubloons (nuggets is kind of a gross word) they shared with us:
"Our first office was 300 square feet."
(so was ours)
"I’ve seen creative people make some amazing changes for the better with a little extra help from a mentor they can trust."
"Partners have to take a personal responsibility to not let anything fester. Bring it up, talk about it and move on. "
"Focus on the work"
To recap, here's how to find your vision – steal it. But, please, steal from only the best. Find someone who did it or is doing it and do that. Read their books, stalk them on Instagram, email them and tell them they inspire you. The more you talk about them, the more likely they'll give a damn about you.