It’s the dirty kids that shine  – By @WeR4everPpl

By Sean Grace


It’s the dirty kids that shine 


It might sound a little strange wanting to wipe the slate clean for my first scab but I realised something important the other day. I was musing about how uncomfortable, or not, I would be if someone asked me why I left it until 47 to try to get into advertising.  As I thought about it I realised there were only two answers. I could talk about the same load of old same old I’ve been telling myself and others for a long time about my class, where I’m from, who I was, or the life events that happened to me. Or I could just say, you know what, I didn’t…I didn’t. And reach down, stretch my arm out across the page, scoop it all up, hold it close and own it. So I chose the latter and it feels kind of liberating. 


I once went to South America and took a ferry across Rio De Janeiro Harbour. As we pulled out of the dock I remember the corrugated iron dockside panels were so huge, I thought this is a new country, there is opportunity here, you can make a new life in this new world. Letting go of the past by accepting my own agency in it, allows me to put my own agency centre stage going forward and that is empowering. 


This and the course reading has already helped me see something else for what it is. It is the only past thing I will talk about here as once I dropped the ‘whys’ that had become the distracting ‘whats’, it was the only real ‘what’ left in the room…  


For a long time I suffered from a perfectionism so debilitating it left me with an overriding fear I would die without ever having tried to fulfil my dreams. Yet I never thought to ask if perfectionism itself was wrong rather than imperfect me. That may not be surprising. Perfectionism is a harsh master and keeps you on a short leash. It conceives of opportunity as time limited and ‘one off’, every test being rerun in the one in the right here and now or never. It’s all or nothing, down and out, you lose, and the biggest judge is you. For a concept obsessing on merit, it has an unhealthy focus on worthlessness. It is a stick, and when you’re not beating yourself with it, it points to everything you didn’t do. 


But a state of perfection is as abstract as it is unreal and impractical. Define perfect? Oh, it’s like really good. Define good? You get the picture. Scrutinise it and it quickly frays at the edges. Edward de Bono has opened the concept prison door of my old ideas. So I walk out and up to newly revealed imperfectionism. I take off the prison gown ‘cos I don’t like the pattern and hand it back to him straight: “It’s not me, it’s definitely you.”


Is something happening to my brain? What happens in the 21 or 66 days before you cement a habit after you break a pattern? I hope I can carry this through to my dark creative meltdowns at 2 am. The little gems of liberation keep coming… 


Marc gives me my Bellwin results. I am the opposite of a delegator. I realise for the first time why I hated every moment of project management tasks in my old job life. 


I research and practice speed reading. I read a chapter and get the general gist for the first time without rereading it. I know this because I disagree with it.


I do a lateral thinking exercise drawing a hundred uses for a square. The ones I start drawing before I know what I am drawing turn out the most interesting.  


Sir Frank Lowe tells of a washing powder tagline that was never used. It’s the dirty kids that shine. I think you never hear that enough. 


Sir Frank Lowe says ‘often things look inconsequential at the time’, that ‘You never know how things are going to turn out. You never know.’, that ‘There’s no certain way of getting to where you want to be’ so ‘Just push it and push it and push it’. I realise in this house it’s ok to be ok with uncertainty.


Ben Priest tells me how he almost turned down his big chance at a big agency. A friend calls to say I heard you’d turned it down and was just phoning to check you really aren’t that stupid. Ben says he regrets not taking it and the friend says he‘s already spoken with the agency lead. Ben calls and the lead says it’s ok, it happens to a lot of people. Ben takes the job. They move on. And suddenly there is a working world out there that’s like the real world, where you don’t feel like you have to be two separate people each day.


So what’s my new Schtick? 


Play again.

Try on all the shoes. 

Treat all imposters with the same urgency. 

See the wins in ‘own’ goals.

Enjoy the journey. 

When the wheels fall off run barefoot on the wet grass. 

Trip and tumble and not know how I’ll end up or where I’ll land. 

Know I have a right even if it is just to a reaction.

Be mindful and deliberate in choosing my life. 

Give back by being there just to witness someone else’s bravery. 

Mike drop that stick. 

Be a dirty kid again. 

And shine.

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