You Learn from your Mistakes (?) @pitspadafora ‏

By Pietro Spadafora

Dear Myself,

get ready for the next infernal 10 days, when You and I are going to defeat our demons.

I have been asked to put down in writing what I have learned from missing a deadline, a question that unfortunately I have already asked myself several times in the past, without much success. I do not want this letter to be another scam, where I declare to have found a solution and then, at the next occasion, I fail again. I find that the saying “you learn by your mistakes” is a bit too banal, “easy to say and hard to do” is more appropriate. In my view, the one and only way to learn a lesson is by proposing a similar situation to the one that caused the mistake and trying to improve it in every way. For this reason, I have created an “ad hoc” experiment to clear/avoid/unlock my defects.

At SCA one constantly improves thanks to the continuous briefs we receive. They do not leave us much time to reflect, we have to learn to manage ourselves and to work together. Each week, a bag of experience is loaded into the trunk, with the aim to get to the end of the year with a van full of ideas and a rich portfolio ready to move to an agency. Of course, dialogue criticism and self-discovery are important, but the school focuses more on work and not on words: “acta non verba.” It is no mistake that one of our mottos is “Hard Work Beats Talent”. Time has come to pull up the sleeves… when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

First of all, I gave myself a double delivery date for this assignment: on one side my client is the Dean, to whom I must deliver it within two days (I am not going to respect it for obvious reasons), on the other it is Myself, for whom I moved the deadline to November 1st (my real target date). I took this decision to put me both in a comfortable position and in total discomfort.

I will start to talk about the uncomfortable side: I will have to make the effort not to deliver the assignment earlier than the tenth day, so that I can feel completely uncomfortable every time I see Marc, knowing that I can not give him what he expects. I will re-create the poor situation I found myself in with the Facebook brief, where I took off on a wrong foot and, feeling guilty, I remained completely frozen; I know perfectly well that doing nothing can only make the situation worse but I can not help it. It is like the unconscious reflex of a pedestrian who is about to be hit by a car and stands still in the middle of the street instead of jumping away; this block is probably due to the fact that my dad, since I was little boy, told me so many times that “if things are to be done, they should be done to the highest standard.” I must understand that: many times in my life I will start a brief poorly and not to be appreciated by the client, I just need to deal with it.

The upside is that I have given myself ten days to try to make the most of my time, so I absolutely need to improve my time managing; I cannot pretend to leave everything at the mercy of the anxiety of the last minute, that most of the time makes me work well but sometimes suffocates me (as we all know, there exist positive and negative anxieties). I have decided to write only 4 lines a day, so to arrive to the last night with only the conclusion to be made. Conclusion that I hope will be liberating after 240 hours of self-experimenting. A little step each day instead of the usual frenetic run at the last second. As much as I feel extremely creative when I feel the positive anxiety, the risk of being trapped in a negative one is too great. In Italy, we say that the game is not worth the candle (the risk).

I have to say that this punitive assignment has come at the best time. These days, I only have the study week, the choice of my companions and some group work. I want it to be one of the last times that I work alone (except for the extras that I will do when my creativity is not fully used in the group and when I am asked to do it). As we have renewed the classrooms, I have tried in any way to put myself on the list of my 5 preferred partners. It has been a tough task, especially knowing that my all-time preference would not put me on his. I hope and believe that he has changed his mind. I think that working in a group will also help to prevent myself from doing things at the last minute, knowing that if I fail also my companions will share the responsibility for them too.

In addition, if you can create a good synergy, the result of each brief can only be much better; no one is perfect but in a group, everyone complements each other and gets closer to perfection. A failure together is definitely better than one on your own. “United we stand, divided we fall.” Even more so if we look at the outcome of the Facebook brief.

Back to my experiment, I have tried to sleep as little as possible in the last week (the same hours that a normal person would sleep in one night) but got to the conclusion that staying awake at night will not lead me anywhere, especially knowing that from now on I not only need to care about myself but also about others. I have always been a night owl, I tend to stay up very late at night. Although it may seem ridiculous to think and believe it, when I am really tired my brain works better. Tiredness allows me not to split my brain into a thousand thoughts and to concentrate only on what is important. The atmosphere that is created at night is simply fantastic for many reasons: everyone sleeps; knowing that no one is doing anything makes me feel better, as a matter of fact, I have never felt at ease in studying in libraries and preferred being at home. The complete silence, the darkness around me and a single light that illuminates what I need, makes me seem to live in a Baroque Chiaro-Scuro picture. I know that I have to try to change this bad habit of mine but honestly, I do not think that it is related to my character or from birth but more to a concatenation of events and experiences. When I was a little boy I was terrified by the night and to fight it, rather than sleep, I preferred to stay awake. Yesterday, after finishing the Christmas invitation at 6:30 in the morning and setting the alarm clock at 7.15, I did not wake up and I missed a super lecture by Drayton Bird, it serves me right. Maybe I have exaggerated too much with my experiment. It is time to change.

I am now to the conclusion, I am glad to have followed my path, making an extreme and drastic attempt can lead to excellent results. When you want to stop smoking you have to do it immediately and it must be a clean break. Ultimately it has been fun to do both “all right and all wrong” in these days. I hope to benefit from it. I have to learn not to go to bed too late and not to overwork for a single project especially because I do not yet have the experience to be able to repeat my mistake in another brief with near deadlines. I think that not being in an agency yet, I should consider every brief just as important and split my energies in the best way possible. On the other hand, I hope that I will always someone close who can give me a hand in difficult times and help me rise again as fast as possible. The good thing about having got near the bottom is that you can only improve. For this reason, I hope to be given the opportunity to stay at SCA all year long and see a constant and exponential improvement. Now I just have to see if I have succeeded in my intent. This week I will have so many important engagements. I will not go to bed too late from tomorrow and will arrange for more regular and organized schedules. It seems to me already a good start.



PS I also forward this message to my Dear Friend. If you do not share you do not learn.

PPS I strongly hope never to take the features from my twitter account (pen-portrait): The Italian Procrastinator.

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