What I learned in 2015 – Jarod Huff of Odysseus Arms

By Egotist / /

What do pizza rolls, Sasquatch, gender identity, and a mountain retreat for billionaires have in common? No, not the latest Adam Sandler movie.

They’re facets of my rookie year in advertising at Odysseus Arms. And the word of the year is: “Whirlwind.”

One minute I’m writing for pizza rolls, and literally the next I’m photoshopping “gnarly” on a poster for a $25,000 a night B&B in the French Alps.

Which reminds me of what David Ogilvy assured us about this line of work: “You’ll never be bored.” If variety really is the spice of life, ad land is the lamb vindaloo at the lunatic fringe of the business world. It’s definitely a tasty ride.

Then, there’s Socrates.

He followed me from The University of Texas philosophy department to San Francisco with these cynical little pamphlets of his, yammering about a “big idea” he had once. Always bugging me about it too, poking me in the chest, reminding me the only thing he knows is that I know nothing.

You could smell this dude’s defeatist funk a mile away. Every time I’d open a brief, he’d stroll in the room reeking of freshly cut cheese. When I’d write, he’d drool over my shoulder. And when I’d try to design something hip, something cool, he’d whip out a clarinet and train wreck Led Zeppelin. Just relentless.

So I started to cave a bit. After all, when I’m staring down the barrel of another blank page, scraping my creative womb with a fine tooth comb, it really can feel like nothing’s going on upstairs.

But as the months whirled by and I labored further and further into the crucible of idea generation, of paid creativity this past year, I had a change of heart about that big idea of his… I don’t mind it so much now.

Let me explain. The irony is palpable, I know. And if you think it’s insecurity or self-loathing, you’re only half right. I mean, we’re payed to spin golden thread for a living. It can be scary.

Case in point: another golden yarn from Ogilvy, my favorite – “I have never sat down to write an advertisement without thinking this time I’m going to fail.” See? Scary.

The fear of not knowing where to begin, not knowing what to do next used to be a consuming fire for a fledgling creative like me.

But in sharing the past work year with a small group of some of the most wonderful humans on the planet, I’ve learned to rethink this common anxiety into something uncommonly useful. I’ve learned that fear of creative mediocrity is the potential energy of effective, divergent thinking.

Because it’s a fire that tempers, not a fire that destroys.

I’ve learned that to get it right, we usually first have to get it wrong. Obnoxiously wrong. And that’s ok.

This year, my take-home message isn’t about getting up the next time I fall off some creative high horse – it’s about not being afraid to fall in the first place. Not caring if it happens. Because it will.

When Jim Riswold paid us a visit earlier this year, he put it best: “To succeed spectacularly, you must be willing to fail spectacularly.”

And now, I know.


Jarod Huff is an Art Director at Odysseus Arms.