10. Don’t drop the pen.

Meeting someone who can say they’ve burst through the doors of Wieden + Kennedy riding a soaking wet, yellowish horse, tumbled down a flight of stairs holding a glass of vodka and smashing through a wall, and turned a page of their own book each day in front of a tiny picture of Oprah taped to a wall isn’t something that happens everyday.

Kathy Hepinstall is that someone. As our guest speaker in Creative Strategist today, she shared with us stories and insight that can be applied to much more than just our future in the advertising business.

While her lecture jumped around from one entertaining story to the next, there was definitely a recurring theme: kindness. She explained kindness as an artistic medium and suggested we perform random and creative acts of kindness as often as possible. Many of her stories revolved around acts of kindness done to her that she’ll never forget. Being kind makes a person memorable and being memorable is key in an industry where the level of competition is so high. Competition in the kindness realm, however, is not so high.

Along with the importance of kindness, there were a few other critical points I took away from her lecture. Here are 7 important points (there were definitely more than 7, but these were my favorites!) I left class with, along with some of my own thoughts.

1)    Creativity is an exchange of energy.

2)    Feedback is a form of art.

Use feedback to improve whatever it is you’re working on. Don’t linger on the negative words for too long.

3)    Don’t drop the pen/don’t waste your energy.

Kathy explained her philosophy of “don’t drop the pen” by example. Just yesterday she received news from her agent about a book she’d written that wasn’t exactly positive. After hearing it, she dropped her pen. She then quickly picked it up again, ready to take notes from her agent. She explained that the amount of time it takes you to pick your pen up and get back to work is a measure of your maturity level. Take criticism in stride and know that the only way to improve is to get right back to work. Don’t waste your energy thinking about the negative words or defending yourself. Keep working and keep improving. Don’t drop the pen.

4)    Give good news to your brain.

Kathy has had people ask her to read their work and give feedback; however, some people start off by asking, “Can you tell me if this sucks?” By asking this, you’re admitting to yourself that you think your work is bad. Instead, try giving your brain positive messages. It can do wonders.

5)    Start out with others, not yourself.

This is something I’ve been trying to do a bit more of, so her discussion really struck a chord in me. This point ties in with the importance of kindness. People will remember you if you’re kind. It can be as simple as when you meet up with someone, be the first to ask how he or she is doing before talking about yourself. Show you’ve taken an interest and care in little ways. You’ll be more memorable and people will be more likely to want to contact you in the future. This reminded me of Maria Scileppi‘s lecture when she visited us. She discussed how important it is to make a personal connection with everyone you meet. They’ll remember you that way.

6)    Know your audience.

“People aren’t music.” Kathy explained the importance of knowing your audience wonderfully. She played two short clips of instrumental music for us. Immediately, despite the fact that there were no words, we all had a feeling for the emotion of each song. If people were music, they could stroll into a room and others would instantly understand their feelings and what they’re about. Because this isn’t the case, it’s important to know and understand your audience, especially when applying for a job. Agencies go through so many books everyday. All this repetition of looking at the same sort of thing really brings down the energy level. Understand who you’re applying for, and surprise them with something unique and something that their particular agency can relate to. Seeing something that stands out will definitely lift the energy level.

7)    Having a joke with Dan Wieden is like having a joke with Jesus.

I think this point is pretty self-explanatory…it’s Dan Wieden, after all.

Kathy’s lecture was full of general life lessons as well as ideas that can be applied specifically to the advertising industry. She herself seems very kind-hearted, and even though she has created beautiful and ground-breaking work and won countless awards, I’m glad to see how humble she is. This is the type of people I’d love to work with someday. I’m looking forward to reading her newest book, Blue Asylum, when it hits the shelves next April.

Click here for Kathy Hepinstall’s blog!


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