The highlights of your career

Over the last few weeks I've received more replies to my weekly articles than I ever have. People from around the world, and even around the corner from where I live and work, reply to make comment, debate, praise and discuss the topics I write about.

I've received very personal responses which have had me shed tears and have moved me to hold my children close. Readers have shared with me such very personal stories of their own journey through their lives and not just their careers.

Aren't the two so very well interwoven anyway?

I've shared stories with people whom have disagreed with much of what I've written, and have had both healthy and fruitful conversations with them; forging respectful relationships.

I've also received praise for the effort to put together a few words and share what I've learned — and am still learning — throughout my career in creativity. Week after week.

A couple of weeks ago, someone sent me an email to praise the article I wrote titled I'm the asshole and that's OK. This person took the time to stop their work, read my email, click on reply and send me his thoughts of praise. I place some of this comments here humbly.

I was emailing you to congratulate you on being a true leader. Not a just a creative leader but a truely inspirational leader. I’m telling you this because it takes real courage to talk about what you talk about. And you deserve to be commended for it. So, thank you Jim. Thank you for being honest about the industry. Thank you for calling bullshit when you see bullshit. Thank you for questioning the norm. Thank you for suggesting there is another way.

Someone else sent me this:

I love your courage and conviction. Especially to say (and publish) what other people think and say behind people’s backs but never lay out in the open.

I could go on but this isn't about patting myself on the back [FIRST NAME GOES HERE].

This is about you.

This is about how these comments had me thinking back at the different things that I once thought were the highlights of my career.

When I was starting out I thought it was about getting a job — any job, in a creative environment would be a highlight. Anything.

I then thought it was about working on a prestigious brand; an organisation that would trust me enough to do their work — and possibly pay me. I thought this too would be a highlight.

I once believed working with a specific type of client would be a highlight.

A bank, airline, media company or entertainment brand — a cultural institution, a university, an arts brand or sports brand. I believed that landing this type of work would indeed be the highlight of my career.

I thought that there would be clients that would help me reach highlight points in my career. Leaders with teams of like-minded, strategic/creative individuals who clambered to work with me and my own team. Who would recommend amazing books to read, take me out for fancy lunches and even give me tickets to premiere screenings, events and lots of other bullshit.

I mistakenly once thought that winning awards would be a highlight; or having my work published in a magazine or being invited to judge awards.

At some stage in my career I thought it was about international brands, or famous studios and even job titles or positions on industry peak bodies/associations.

All were viable things to strive for, any many do as did I, but all of them pale in comparison to the true highlight of my career.

There was a time in the past where I was ashamed to answer the question 'What do you do for work' because it lacked any substance beyond helping other companies make a lot of money, build empires and rape and pillage the Earth for valuable and precious resources.

The notes of praise I receive each week make me feel truly humble.

These are the highlight of my 27 year career.

Each week someone says 'thank you this connected with me', 'you said something I was thinking' and in many cases 'you helped me'.

Each week people from around the world reach out to discuss, debate and both agree and disagree — altogether thankful for having the opportunity to talk about issues that are important to them, that I have raised in this weekly journal.

I would never have met these people if I hadn't started writing this weekly journal. Our paths would never have crossed and our lives would never been impacted in such a way.

Next week I'm currently planning yet another Skype call with one of the earliest readers of this blog who lives on the other side of the world in Helsinki — and I'm currently mid-draft-email, writing birthday wishes, talking about hiking holidays in Germany and fatherhood with one of my first Strategy Masterclass students in Munich.

These conversations have been the highlight of my career.

Clients have come and gone, awards aren't on display in our foyer because they lack importance and we don't have a foyer anyway. The rest pales in comparison with the human connection that humbles me weekly.

Sharing what I've learned, and having it connect with people in this way, put simply, is the highlight of my career.

When you think about the highlights of your own career, I hope you're able to pause for a moment, challenge your own biases and find more meaningful things to celebrate — and if you can't find anything, start doing something about it now.