An old boss and agency head from early in my career passed away last week. I had not seen him in 15 years, but his passing was stuck in my head all weekend. I recalled everyday interactions with him, brainstorming sessions, traveling, harsh creative critiques and successful pitches. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I decided that I had learned quite a bit from him. This hit me as I thought back to those years. His teachings shaped a lot of who I am today, I just never noticed. Day in and day out, we worked side by side and I was learning something without knowing it. I liken it to when you see someone every single day and you don’t notice that they look older, heavier, thinner… until one day it just hits you.
I was 24 years old when I first met him. Yes, he taught me much about advertising and the science of direct marketing specifically. But, he also taught me to enjoy quality liquor, a nice steak and how to be a gentleman way before I was ready to be such a responsible man. Then I started thinking about how he preached the disciplines of David Ogilvy and made me read his books. He even wore braces (he taught me that british term also) most days. This particular memory got me thinking about myself as a leader. I began to realize that so many things that he preached still apply today and that I actually reference and maybe even preach them myself. But how well do I communicate this? Does it sink in or make a difference to others? Will the young people working with me each and every day one day realize that I got fat?
Much like one wonders who will show up at our funerals, I found myself pondering heavily about this. One day, will these young people (who may have forgotten all about me until that sad day comes when I pass) remember me as someone that influenced them in some small way? And… should I care? I don’t know. But damned if I didn’t think about it way too much. I soon decided that I’m not going to think about it anymore for one simple reason: I believe that creating a legacy is not something I feel people set out to do, and probably shouldn’t. I say do your best every day, try to make a difference and work damn hard to make you and your clients successful. And just maybe then, along the way, you may just make a difference in someone’s career, maybe their life — and probably gain a little weight while you’re at it.