AI Inspired Storytelling

By Raymond Smith

Befriend Your Weaknesses

One of the things you learn very quickly about yourself (if this is your first ‘adult’ job) is that you’re not great at everything. This isn’t limited to the field of advertising, of course, but it’s the one we’re focused on today. And it might include things which are more specific to the ‘creative’ trades. It also might be something that’s more noticeable in our business because we’re called upon to possess so many different talents on any given day.

 Here’s what I mean; say you’re a great copywriter. That’s a rare and valuable skill. But along with writing comes the need to be a great presenter. They need to speak in front of groups small and large, selling their great work. So, a writer who is, by temperament, a quiet introvert, suddenly has to change gears and be a gregarious extrovert. For a lot of people, this is difficult. “It’s part of the job” they tell you, but that doesn’t make it any easier or more natural to do.

Account people are relied upon to be hyper-organized and detailed. It’s a valuable combination of skills. Every now and then, though, they get called upon to write great strategic briefs. But what if your organizational / executional mind isn’t all that strategic?

Art directors are all over the map; some are highly buttoned-down and detail-oriented. Others arrive at work unintentionally wearing mismatched shoes and carrying an empty laptop bag. The point is that everyone is different, with wildly varying strengths and weaknesses.

My advice here? It’s two-fold; the first, accept your shortcomings. Recognize them, understand them and make peace with them. You’re never going to be great at everything, so don’t make yourself miserable trying.

The second; learn to work with, or work around, your shortcomings. So, if you know you’re not detail-oriented, find systems that help you compensate. When you get direction or feedback, maybe ask for it to be delivered in writing. Or make checklists to ensure you don’t miss important things.

Do you get flustered in presentations? Train yourself to make notes or detailed scripts so you can cover all your important points. Rehearse with a friend or partner if that helps. Arrive early so you can get the lay of the room.

Are you uncomfortable delivering feedback verbally? If not, ask if you can provide it by email with a follow-up call to clarify any points. It might not work for everyone every time, but if it works for you it’s probably going to help you do a better job.

Me? All kinds of shortcomings. I get nervous right before presentations. I compensate by visiting the washroom five times before big meetings. I always arrive early so I can get the lay of the room, and I calm down by breathing. And the minute I start speaking, I’m fine. What else…oh…procrastination. I’m bad, so I’ve trained myself to do small tasks as soon as they’re assigned to me. If someone needs 5 subject lines written, I’ll do them right away and deliver them in a half hour, otherwise I’ll put them off for a week.

I also know I’m a visual learner, so if you give me feedback or direction verbally, I’ll forget roughly 50% of it. But if you deliver it in writing, I’ll address 100% of it. That’s not a big insight, but just an awareness of how I work best and how others can work with me. And what I’ve learned is that people are more than happy to accommodate your specific ways of working if it means you’ll do your best work on their behalf.

It all begins with recognizing that you’re not perfect, you’re not going to become perfect, and there are lots of ways to make you better through simple techniques and accommodations. The first step is to be as self-aware as possible and humble enough to recognize your own shortcomings.