Am I Good Enough?

August 16, 2017

Last week I was invited to participate in a fantastic event put together by the North Leadership Council called “Welcome(d) To Adland.” The event focused on “building relationships between established, high power agency executives and budding young talent.”

The North Leadership Council is a committee of the MPLS MadWomen made up of supporters from more than 20 Twin Cities agencies “who are working to bring more diverse leadership to our industry, and who aim to build more inclusive environments within our agencies.”

It’s important work, and to that end, MPLS MadWomen is currently recruiting young professionals to match with more than 100 female industry leaders. This is an amazing opportunity to make important professional connections and learn from some very accomplished women in our industry. Fast Horse is proud to be a big supporter of the effort. You can take the first step here.

The “Welcome(d) To Adland” event I attended was a kick-off to this mentorship program, and even if the organizers were gravely mistaken in thinking that anyone from Fast Horse remotely qualifies as “high-powered,” colleague Mike Keliher and I trundled over to Space150 to lend whatever insights we could to the assembled impressionable youth, and, more importantly, to learn from them.

The audience included students from BrandLab and Juxtaposition Arts, two local organizations doing great work to foster diversity in our industry and the arts, as well as a host of other entry-level practitioners from various Twin Cities agencies and companies, including Fast Horse.

Our small discussion group ranged from 17-year-old high-school seniors to interns at some of the largest companies in Minnesota. Sprinkled in were a handful of experienced pros who thankfully did qualify as high-powered. The up-and-comers in my group were smart, motivated, eager to learn and not afraid to show their vulnerabilities, offering real insight into the hopes and dreams of the coming generation of leaders in our industry. At the end of our session, I asked them to share their biggest fears about entering our profession.

What an eye-opener.

This impressive group of young people, representing diverse backgrounds and experiences, told me almost to the person that they were afraid of being underestimated and not being good enough to find success in our industry. How refreshingly honest and reassuring.

Self-doubt is natural and so much more useful than arrogance and false confidence. We all have it from time to time, even long after we find professional success. For many of us, it never really goes away. It’s a powerful driver and I see it in so many of the best practitioners I know.

Being underestimated is also a powerful motivator.

I have said over the years that I always want Fast Horse to play the role of the underdog. We benefit from being underestimated. “How creative can an agency from Minneapolis really be?” “That little shop can’t compete with a global agency like ours!” “Fast Horse? Never heard of ‘em.” Underestimate us at your own peril!

And, it‘s quite clear to me, we underestimate the coming generation of industry leaders at our own peril.