Monday, 3 August 2009

Amazing Agency Attributes 1: Knowing what you're doing

Bond laughed. He said, 'You're a fine friend, Felix. When I think of all the trouble I've been to to set you a good example all these years.' He went off to his room, swallowed two heavy slugs of bourbon, had a cold shower and lay on his bed and looked at the ceiling until it was 8:30 and time for dinner. The meal was less stuffy than luncheon.
-The Man With The Golden Gun

Good old James Bond always seemed to have everything going for him. In the films he is many different things to different men and women but his overriding and defining characteristic is that he knows what he is doing. It's expressed all the more starkly by throwing him into many different situations, sometimes within the space of an hour. And he just copes. Or appears to. But on film, there's no internal monologue - save for some clumsy blubbering in the later ones, which itself clashes with the idea of a man in full stoic control of the raging insecurities within. But I digress.

I've just finished the first Ian Fleming novel I've ever read. It's amazingly gripping (for reasons which I need to spend a lot more time working out) and instantly redefines that nature of the Bond-state. His defining characteristic is that while is some sort of ubermensch to the world, he is clearly all too human. His brainwashing at the start of Golden Gun proves it. His genuine fear at being killed is expressed with elegance, and it makes his ability to coast through difficult situations far more gripping. I now have the fear that I won't be able to see film-Bond as more than an automaton after this.

Insecurity is a funny thing, isn't it? It represents the feeling that maybe, just maybe you're out of your depth? A bad thing? Well, no. If you're out of your depth, you learn to acclimatise. Toddlers won't learn to swim unless they're forced to - by putting them in a place of insecurity. The Apollo space program, which we've just celebrated the 40th anniversary of, was brought about by East-West antagonism and yes, insecurity.

It happens in agencies too. Gareth Goodall, head of planning at Fallon, said: "all of us in planning are a bit scared of being 'found out', aren't we? Trust me, it doesn't go away as you grow up. Or it shouldn't. Because it's the feeling that drives you to research and think, just to make sure you really have the most informed viewpoint in the room". How nice is that?
In How to do better creative work, Steve Harrison advocates: "when hiring, avoid those who've reached a level at which they feel comfortable. The very best people are usually insecure and fear being 'found out'. This fear is the engine self-improvement.
"And I mean the very best people. I once asked David Ogilvy when he finally felt secure about himself and his reputation. 'About five years ago' he replied. He was 85." Ace.

We are taught to overcome insecurities - and that's fine - but it depends on how one does so. You can overcome your insecurities in a holistic, concrete way - by being sure of your abilities and shoring them up with some fucking hard work. Or you can cover them up with empty bravado and showboating, like Scaramanga in Golden Gun. The choice is yours.

But Scaramanga gets shot in the face five times.

Just saying.

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