WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT.
It’s the strangest thing. I never remember wanting to be a writer. And I never remember not being a writer.
It was sort of decided by an uncle of mine, an old-school newspaper man, that I would be a writer. I can’t say why he picked me. I certainly was no better at grammar than any of my siblings. But he decided. And he insisted.
I am the only person I know who was taught the inverted pyramid at the age of 6. Also, I am the only person I know whose essays were blue-pencil edited by a real editor, when I was 7. And I am the only person I know who had an attitude about excessive prepositions, the passive voice, and adverbs, by the age of 8. To tell you the truth, I don’t know too many people with attitudes about those things as adults.
So you know, passive voice is, well, passive. It avoids responsibility for its own thoughts. It is, therefore, cowardly. it is unclear. Weak. Stuffy. Bureaucratic.
Prepositions are used by amateurs to add words to a paragraph. Professionals don’t want to add words to paragraphs.
And adverbs are just sloppy. Mostly. Sometimes you need an adverb. But usually, if you need to use an adverb you have the wrong verb. And there is a simple, one-word rule for using multiple adverbs—NEVER.
But I digress. I like thinking about how people got to be what they are. Does anyone aspire to be a dry cleaner? Does anyone dream of becoming a baggage checker? So, how do people come to do those things.
My theory is that people do not become things, they just are what they are.
My college roommate, Mike, was a swimming pool guy. That’s not what he studied. And I don’t think it was what he tell you he aspired to be. He just was. Every summer, he worked at swimming pools. Lifeguard. Manager. Concessions guy. Pool maintenance guy. He just was a pool guy. Great hair. Great tan. All the time.
Mike was better than me in all of our advertising classes. He was a great writer and a very creative guy. But I just could not imagine him doing what I do. He IS a pool guy.
So, wanna guess what Mike does now. Well, he is very successful in the pool business. Way more successful than I am in the ad business. He would have done well in advertising. But he is a pool guy.
From everything I’ve heard, Stephen Spielberg is a movie guy. From birth. And Donald Trump is a deal maker. It’s who he is.
So, maybe a better question for kids than “what do you want to be when you grow up?” would be “what are you?”
Maybe this line of thinking is the source of our branding approach. A lot of branding experts can dress you up like Fred Astaire, which is great if you’re Fred Astaire. But if you’re Dennis Rodman, the tux just doesn’t work for ya. We go about it the other way. We find out who you are. And then, we dress you up as yourself.