If you don’t have one, find one. For without one your growth will plateau. It’s your mentors who bring out the best in you, leading you to exponential growth. The stories, techniques, and life experiences – whether outdated or antiquated – it’s all relevant… A good mentor will drive you to reach your full potential. Sometimes these engagements may position them to seem like an asshole, however they‘re an asshole because they care and believe in you.
Never take your work (or experiences) with them for granted.
Good creatives in marketing understand that it comes down to the details. As my mentor had always told me, nothing we produce can be good, it must be great. From the hanging widows and ragged paragraphs, to the leading and kerning of text; one pixel shift will take that logo or headline from good to great. This, at one time, drove me mad. I always grunted and said to myself, ‘no one will ever notice these changes… who the hell cares?’
It’s the difference from being a good, mediocre designer, and being a great designer. I see the same lack of attention to detail in all my young hires, and find these things glaringly apparent.
I was lucky to start my career right off with my mentor. He vouched for and hired me at the end of my internship when I wasn’t sure I was going to be given the chance.
“We all screw up… a lot in our early days,” my mentor told me. “It’s inevitable, however a good mentor knows this and never lets up.”
I worked directly under my mentor for a year until he was let go due to personal dynamics within the agency. Afterwards, I was lucky to work underneath many other veteran art directors and creative directors since the company had become a revolving door. That said, I never lost touch with him – the original. We touched base regularly – he’d call me up, sometimes late at night, asking me for assistance on this and that. And I knew I could do the same… We invested in each other over the years. It never came down to money between the two of us, and honestly, I didn’t care. The value we gained from each other was invaluable.
Those who only look at the monetary side of their engagements and partnerships will ultimately never reach their full potential. This is due to the fact that the discussions and long hours shared is priceless.
He saw something in me that no one else in my life had. He was the only one in my life that would understand what it was like to be new blood in a marketing agency. Not many people have others in their life that do the same thing you do. It’s not like I could call Pops up and explain the issues I was going through, because he was on a completely different career path.
The only people that understand what you do are the people you work with and others in the same proverbial boat.
He drove me into the ground… He was the first one up in the morning and the last one to go home. He waited and held me accountable when no one else was up to do so. He was an asshole, yet my favorite person in my youth. When we had chances to work together we were always on the same page – we would create an energy in the room that was unmatched, and some of the best work I have done in my career were during these times. There was an energy in the room that no one else quite understood.
We got into fights many times, and now, looking back, those fights were about my lack of commitment to greatness vs. mediocrity. He always told me that it’s easy to produce good work, yet much harder to produce great work. For the difference between good and great is small.
The man was a walking headline. He was a man of one-liners. Never stopping to drop knowledge on me. Some stories I heard 20-30 times. Sometimes I would have to say, ‘dude, you’ve said this to me about a hundred times… I think I heard this same story yesterday.’
However every one of those stories, no matter how old, were still relevant in the given moment they were told. The mediums in which we market and produce work may change over the years, but the issues we go through do not.
After 10+ years of working together I learned what to do and what not to do while working with my mentor.
Eventually there comes a time when the communications slow down. The time between exchanges begin to lengthen. This is different for everyone. I would still check in every couple of weeks, however we both understood I had now found my own groove in my career and my own creative ways had now been instilled.
My mentor has recently parted ways with this world and, in a state of reflection, I will always treasure the times I shared with my all-time great friend, Keith Lane. He was more than a mentor to me. I considered him family. For without him, I truly do not know how good I would be at what I do. He taught me everything with regard to good creative and what it took to be great.
I have yet to meet someone again in life with the passion and drive to create great creative, as he had and I together. He was the only other person in my life that had the same passion, if not more, to create great work. He will forever be in my heart, and I will never forget the crazy times we had together producing and crafting, not only our work, but our unwavering kinship and commitment to each other – the truest shared mark of greatness.
In loving memory of
Keith D. Lane, Creative Director