Say My Name (You’re Goddamn Wrong)
On breaking out of self-imposed pigeon holes, by Abraham Vargheese
I don’t wish to piss off Shakespeare, but I have to say this. Bro, there’s a lot that’s there in a name, a lot of subtext that bleeds out unnecessarily, quite like a Tarantino film climax.
And, it’s time we had ‘the talk’ regarding this.
In the ad industry, there are a thousand names to describe people. Art Director, Copywriter, Account Manager, Content Strategist, Brand Strategist, Social Media Writer, Media Planner, Growth Hacker, etc. The list keeps growing.
“What do you do?”
That’s a question that a 21-year old kid entering the ad industry will answer a thousand times or more in the future. After all, this answer has the power to shape a person’s self-worth, their potential, and so much more. Imagine, you’re called an ‘art director’. Everyone thinks of you as an ’art director’. You think of yourself as an ‘art director’. And, it’s a thought trap, that severely limits the outflow of your creativity.
This new generation doesn’t want to squeeze themselves into this box, it seems. After all, this thought trap is one of the sources of the dreaded ‘existential crisis’. And, this generation is in no mood to have multiple midlife crises.
Think about it. What’s the physics behind an existential crisis? Humans crave to flex their potential and they should be allowed to do it. Any obstruction will lead to resistance. Imagine I look at you, and have got three roast jokes about you. If I only get to make one, won’t I suffocate and die? How will I make peace with those two unsaid jokes? It’s exactly that.
So, the idea is that, in this brave new world, nobody wants to stick to one job profile. Ask any 21-year old, they’ll tell you. They want to build the next Tesla and also put up their Netflix comedy special. They wanna be hybrids. Do art direction and strategy. Do business development and copywriting. The combination can be anything. But not one thing, that’s simply unacceptable to them.
Well, this is all fun, but how is this possible, you ask?
Haven’t we been taught that you can only achieve only one great thing in life? That we need to pour our hearts and soul into one thing to be a specialist, and how we need tons of experience for it. Sorry to break that bubble, but the future is for generalists, it seems. Also, there could be an argument that there is not enough time to specialize in two fields simultaneously. So, here is the magic weapon that lets you do it.
It’s called first-principles thinking.
First-principles thinking helps you reverse-engineer any problem and open up a bunch of interesting creative possibilities. Simply put, the way you do it is by breaking down a problem into its most fundamental parts and rebuilding it from there. And, Elon Musk is one of the biggest proponents of this thinking style. He could use this method and write the next bestseller rap song, by simply messing with the craft, in the right way.
A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.”
In the olden ages, a master craftsman was a god that apprentices would worship and hope to be one day. People wouldn’t dare to rebel, or if they did, they would do it gently. They would refer to the big rule book to see what works and what doesn’t work. See if their idea has been done before. And only then continue to pursue it. This is still the rule we follow, though we’re slowly breaking away from it. But, the next generation wants none of it. They don’t want to refer to the past to validate their ideas.
Once they’ve understood the nuts and bolts of the craft, they’re ready to go rogue. And, also ready to ask existential crisis to go have an existential crisis.
So, this generation is now looking at everything as a result of design. From social structures to comedy sets to space rockets to business presentations to engineering marvels. Design is everywhere and in everything. So, in this brave new world, everyone by default is a designer.
Now, every designed thing in the universe can be redesigned, if you want to. And, the engineer and the writer, the architect and the CMO, the comedian and the scientist, are no longer prisoned to their titles. So, the next time, one asks you what you do, you know what to not tell them.