Friday, March 18, 2011

Happiness is not about looking cool

I've been unhappy of late.

The Chicago late winter will do that.

The tease of March's menagerie of lions and lambs makes Mother Nature an alcoholic parent you find pissing in the new baseball glove she just bought for your birthday.

I've also been unhappy because of a 3 month span of trying to sell myself to a profession I thought I left so I could accommodate my wife's hopes.

My wife is from the East Coast and with the birth of our son she has been hoping to be closer to family. Her sister lives in Boston so I looked for jobs there.

I've worked in what is known as "Account Planning" for 10 years and about 3 years ago landed a job in a medical marketing agency. I never thought I'd enjoy the B2B nature of this market but took the job due to the scarcity of our new economy and have loved it.

My love stems from the people I work with and the information we get to work with. We are geeks. A land of misfit toys.
  • A cardiologist with a latex allergy who works deciphering clinical trials.
  • A flinty former punk-queen who left journalism to be a scientific writer and now mines data for new opportunities.
  • A PharmD who has a weather station on his condo roof as a hobby and prides himself on having followers in Japan who tune into his web-site to check the Uptown barometer.
We aren't cool but we annotate our data (we have to due to the multiple rounds of copy clearance we have to face).

The ideas we share seem intrinsic.

It is the secret of pharmaceutical marketing where you have clients who are Ph.Ds in things like bio-chemistry and therefore come to see what is real not by what is asserted with personality but proven with evidence.

It is a different type of selling and, although selling can suck, it doesn't suck as hard as my other 7 years in planning because it doesn't demand I pretend knowledge I don't have.

But my recent striving has been towards consumer agencies again and in my 3 years away much has changed and,in my mind, these changes are as illogical and disappointing as a Chicago March blizzard.

The driver of change is the multiple communication channels we have now. Various agencies sell themselves as prophets of the Interwebs with their trademarked social-media-strategic-models (usually using the term "friend" as a predicate) that are touted as the scriptural cure for a media agnostic environment.

The high priests of this religion are the Account Planners. I've written about the dangers of this clerical affiliation here and here.

And because I've been looking to be ordained again in the church of consumerism I've been unhappy.

I think the reason seems to be that the priest of this religion is so busy trying to convince himself (and his congregation) what it takes to be happy he has to live in the past, touting his agency's capabilities, or predict the future using selective information to confirm the bias towards his agency's capabilities; it just doesn't make the world a happy place.

Not surprisingly, I didn't make the cut at either agency. I think being a "Charlie in the Box" was not "Out of the Box" in the right way to properly anticipate I could offer the right kind of ulterior communion.

This reminded me of a New York Times Blog I read a few years back. It was written by philosophy professor Simon Critchley of The New School of Social Research.

(An aside - one of the ways I've tried to better work with the clinical data I have to communicate is by reading philosophy so I might spot logical fallacies and sharpen my critical thinking. This new interest seems like it may have been the cause to at least one of the reasons my reentry to the church of consumerism failed. It seems the "VP of Human Nature" at a big firm decided after a 30 minute conversation with me I wouldn't be a "doer" because I was too "philosophical" -- I would have loved to ask her what the attributes of "doer" are so I could fathom her antecedent arguments but . . . you get the point -- there is a pretense to the public intellectual about the Account Planning profession witnessed by this woman's job title which in reality doesn't operate as anything more than packaging).

The blog talks about happiness and the author hints that it is found in intrinsic experience when he writes,
"Happiness is not quantitative or measurable and it is not the object of any science, old or new. It cannot be gleaned from empirical surveys or programmed into individuals through a combination of behavioral therapy and anti-depressants. If it consists in anything, then I think that happiness is this feeling of existence, this sentiment of momentary self-sufficiency that is bound up with the experience of time."
Sadly, I think most consumer advertising misses this while asserting to be expert in it and I think it is why I'm glad I didn't make the cut.

I get to stay on the island of misfit toys and find intrinsic joy in the relationships I have rather than pretending I hold the secret to unlocking the happiness of future relationships with a "gameification" strategy (yes that is the latest trend title within the Account Planning world).

Jackie is supportive and understands that happiness wrought is an intimate thing and can't be created with pretense to biased interpretations of past success or self-centered assertions to future gains.

I'm glad we can get back to living in the moment rather than thinking that we need to position ourselves to be ride the next trend towards the future.

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