Must read to write

After publishing my previous post, I kept thinking… telling people not to read is not a good message, especially for myself. Life is a contradiction, so here is my new post about a very inspiring book: LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg -Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

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A good friend gave it to me on one of her visits to London. I never knew I had to read it at that time, the earlier you read it -the better. It’s about doing what you love, but really going for it, in order to have more women in leadership jobs. Either you want to be the best at work, a super Mum, a singer, travel the world, whatever else you want.

“Success is making the best choices we can … and accepting them.”

The book tells us (with plenty of statistics, research, and life experiences) how few women are in top roles because of internal obstacles, even before society places more in their way. Prejudices, opportunities, the education we receive, family decisions, all hold us back from what we want. It is a reality that men are earning more than women, men go for leadership roles more often, men are more willing to negotiate salary, men apply for jobs -even when they are not fully skilled, dads-to-be don’t think twice when applying for a job. So what is happening? Why do we women keep stopping ourselves?

I tell you my reasons. I’ve been working since I finished Uni at different advertising agencies, and when I found out I was pregnant I just had finished a contract with Expedia London. Uh oh! There is no perfect time to have a baby, but babies are the most perfect things I’ve seen.

I was more eager to get a job because of my news, so went to interviews camouflaging my belly with winter coats (I shouldn’t say this on my blog, but kids are expensive, so you need a job -it’s a fact). I started contacting people from different agencies and finally, I was very grateful when Ariadna US, an agency based in Miami, took me on board after some freelance work. I had my baby and kept working remotely, it was amazing attending KFC meetings on Skype and presenting Amex campaigns over the phone. Baby sleep time was my office opening hours. How? You just find the energy if you love it. And then a startup called me to join their team, and here I am dividing myself between motherhood and projects. Maybe I stopped myself from working in an office but haven’t slowed down.

There are two faces when you work from home, the crazy and the crazier. I can tell you a lot of stories of multitasking/working Mum moments. The first that comes to mind happened when I was listening to the annual company’s review (while I was potty training my oldest daughter).  Nobody from the meeting knew what was happening on the other end of the line and thank God for the MUTE button.

Or that time, when I spent the entire day, on my own, waiting for the team to get together to hear my presentation. They all had busy agendas and just when I picked my 2 girls from the nursery, very tired and irritable, my team sent me a text: We are ready.  So I gave my girls a couple of ice creams, sat them on a picnic blanket in the middle of the garden and started presenting my ideas from the patio (where I could see them but not hear them). I reckon when working remotely, the main skill you need is availability.

Anyway, this post is not about crazy stories whilst multitasking. Freelancing was my choice and I assumed it. It is about persuading yourself to lean in and go for it. We need a change of mindset, first from us, and them from the people surrounding us. Work-life balance when having kids, it’s not easy, nor is it impossible.

“You can’t have it all”

This is my favorite sentence from the book. CEOs are human too and Sheryl tells how difficult was for her leaving her daughter crying and asking her not to go when she had to fly to a TED Conference. True leaders are human.

There are plenty of quotes and inspiring bits, I’m not going to spoil it for you. I just had to share the fever after reading this book, and when that stops here are my top mantras:

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    1. We are the choices we make. Simple. Life will follow our decisions.
    2. We are what we are thinking about. This is so true. If I’m thinking of strategies, and awards…I’m an ad woman. If I’m thinking about my kids and places to take them… I’m a Mum. If I’m thinking of others all the time, I’m just a bored neighbour.
    3. Compare yourself to yourself. Stop scrolling Instagram (note to myself) where people seem to live the perfect life with the perfect filters. Think of yourself ‘the one you want to be’ and become that person, that will make you the happiest woman/man in the world.

Life won’t become easier but it will become more exciting. If you are not there yet, LEAN IN and good luck!

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How are you, really? By Cannes Lions

I haven’t been networking for ages. While living in London it was so easy to attend all the courses and events at least once a week. Now that I moved to Essex and after having 2 kids, escaping for 3 hours to London requires a “bit” of planning.

Anyway, I made it last week to How are you, really? an event organized by Cannes Lions See it Be it. Unlike most chats, where the speakers tell us about their jobs, case studies and success (and we end up wanting to be like them), this event was focused on us, the audience. I guess the title can tell you that, so let me tell you the rest.

How are you really

Michelle Morgan started with an honest and touching talk sharing her story about the time when she had a burnout. Yes, it can happen to anyone. She is the co-founder of Livity and despite loving her job and working in the industry for many years, one day it suddenly happened. (FYI a burnout is exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress). The talk opened the topic for mental health and depression, in the Q&A more women shared their stories and also advice on how friends and family can help. I must confess my eyes welled up with all the stories but shhhh don’t tell anyone. If you know someone going through difficult times, just be there for them, to make dinner, to change the topic and most importantly to listen. Michelle was wearing pjs, 6pm is maybe is a bit early for them but she was showing us her new venture called PJoys. Confirming that after every storm the sun always shines, and brave people like her get to move on.

Sukhvinder Pabial followed, sharing great advice on how to deal with this s*** . Pardon me! How to deal with all the stress and concerns. Basically by removing ourselves from that situation and thinking of the positive. We spend too much time worrying and don’t give permission to ask ourselves when we had a moment full of joy. I tried to write down some of the exercises so you can join the club.

1. When was the last time you felt vibrant? ____________. What do we mean by vibrant? What made you the happiest person in the world? Gratitude is a very important thing.

2. Can you think of 3 good things that happened to you today? 

1________2________3________

Is it difficult to come up with some answers? Maybe as adults, we became too complicated. Kids have no concept of holding back, they reply immediately to this. Lastly, there is more to life than being at home or being at work. People tend to have 2 places where they spend most of his time so

3. Where is your third place?________________. Where are you taking care of yourself? What’s that thing that you do and make you feel rejuvenated? I’m not pretending to be a therapist (I’m quite far from it) but in this article maybe. Just ask yourself the simple questions. Sometimes the greatest answers are those that we are not looking for.

Then we left our seats and started dancing and singing. Yes, we are mad! Blame Dr. Amy Rachelle on stage, sharing her 6-step system for a complete mind, body and spirit workout. If you have 6 minutes a day (which I’m sure you do) use them to power yourself.  Amy remarked on the importance of putting yourself first. We seem to be busy taking care of everybody else, thinking that we have super powers with no need for a break. Although, it’s essential to take that little time to pause, clear your head of thoughts and feelings – recovering your healthy self, instead of letting your body deplete.

Just when I was thinking I was in the perfect yoga retreat, the event took us back to the ad world. Jaki Jo Hannan, Senior Art Producer at AMV BBDO gave a fantastic talk about self-care & love in a fast-paced industry. Starting with a pic of herself with braces in her teens, Jaki Jo opened the door for a conversation about confidence and self care. She shared her own experience with honesty and humour all the way; simple statements such as ‘Sleeping the hours you need, not having sugar at night, taking yourself on a date and writing as a therapy’ became relevant when you see her on stage. She is a spontaneous and thriving woman, having worked her way up from intern to integrated creative Senior Art Producer. Recently she launched EqualLens her 50|50 Photography Ambition creating new and equal opportunities for female photographers in advertising.

We are almost there, so time to breath. That was the last piece of advice by Anthony Abbagnano. How such a simple tool as your breath can be used to transform your life.

That’s it. Time to ask yourself How are you?

Start

This is something I read yesterday and became the first thing I want to read today and tomorrow.

“…The willingness to start is the littlest thing in life that makes the biggest difference.

Step onto the field.

Stand up in the meeting.

Raise your hand in class.

Get under the bar.

Walk up to the podium.

Ask the first question.”

 

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Read the full article here: Why Getting Started is More Important Than Succeeding .

P.S. There is an interesting reading list too. But remember less reading and more doing.

Shooting at the center

In the creative industry we  look for ideas 24 hours a day, no word of a lie.  Last weekend I was moving house, something to feel very excited about, but every time I was carrying a box, cleaning the place or unpacking, I was thinking of KFC. I had a presentation on Monday, so no time to bake a cake for the neighbours jaja…not that I was intending to. The idea had to be born over the weekend so I kept linking pieces of information in my brain, while assembling a cot. I’m glad I had the help of my UK family. Long story short, the idea came but the house is still a mess.

What’s the trick to getting an idea? When you need some inspiration, you must speak your mind and listen to what’s going on around you. Brainstorming with people from work is always effective. Researching and experiencing as much as you can about the product and the target will lead to discoveries. The classic online inspiration: vimeo, youtube videos, reading blogs, ad awards and case studies are all valid; if others did it you can too! And remember to keep an eye on the news (not really, the news is disappointing).

From all of them, my favourite is to listen to people who don’t work in advertising, they are my innocent source of insights and my real target. They skip ads instead of looking for them, they don’t know about Cannes and the campaigns with the most awards – but they teach you a lot about different topics. They are thinking outside of the box, because they are outside the box.

When I was fine-tuning my idea, my husband was watching a youtube channel called SMARTER EVERY DAY. You should watch it, it’s great! That’s how I discovered Byron Ferguson, an unbelievably good archer. He can shoot an aspirin in mid air. What?? Yes, he can hit an aspirin, with a bow and arrow. Impressive!

When people ask what’s the secret, he replies: “Shoot at the center. The center of the Aspirin is exactly the same as the center of a beach ball – it’s a point”. And that’s how good ideas should be born, by shooting straight to the point.

Move your ass

Yes, this blogpost is for people like you and me, that keep having a sedentary life in front of the computer.

Last weekend my friends planned a trip to the Jurassic Coast, not the park. When I heard the word ‘coast’ I immediately thought of the beach, sea, relaxing, coco-loco and sun. However my thoughts changed quickly when discussing it further  – as we were actually going there to walk. We went by car, stopped at some point and started walking for 2 days.

I take my hat off to Dorset, it is an a-m-a-z-i-n-g place. Blue sea, blue sky, white cliffs, incredible landforms documenting 180 million years of geological history including the natural arch – Durdle Door, no wonder the Jurassic Coast was named as the 5th greatest natural wonder in Britain.

We had a professional sporty friend (everybody should have one), Hugh. He’s an extraordinary guy that likes hiking, cycling, kayaking, all kind of sports and he also likes to have a pint to celebrate every time we reached the next village. Nice!

I realized Hugh has a job, has meetings, has clients, has a family, has children, has problems like everyone but he has no excuses.

If you want to do something, just go and do it. Move your ass.

We did start the fire

Last Wednesday I attended #FireStarters, an event asking UK agencies how they are innovating. Generally agencies have straplines and About us pages using the words: Innovators, Cutting edge technologists, Modern thinkers, at the fore front… and other synonyms. I wanted to know how they keep looking for innovative ways to do things.

Firestarters started (redundant to say) on 2011 when Google asked Neil Perkin, my professor at the Masters, to curate a series of events designed to encourage thinking and debate around challenges that planners are facing. Since then it has been happening several times a year, I attended the #FireStarters No. 8.

First of all, being at Google HQ in London brings you to a different world, the design is amazing and all the rooms have their own personality, we were at the Town hall. The place was designed by architecture studios PENSON.

Focusing on our topic, the talks began. First on the podium was Pats McDonald, Chief Strategy Officer at Isobar, asking for innovation not only in environments and culture but in business models. She spoke about the rise of LABS in agencies and ways to disrupt the current model, a very complete presentation indeed.

It is nice when you see in person people that you follow on Twitter, that happened to me when I saw @anjali28 taking the mic.

Anjali Ramachandran was debating innovation in different contexts: product, process, marketing and organizational. Remarking that agencies can’t be classified as ‘innovative’, this will reduce the perspective and the impact.

Following was Antony Mayfield, founder of Brilliant Noise, whose advice was simple: Quit you job and do something outside of the agency so you won’t be prisoner to its business model. He also presented the Netflix case inventing the future of an industry not just focusing on the future of the DVD rental business. Netflix is transcending, looking at where the consumer is heading to and this is what agencies should look at too.

Then, Phil Adams from Blonde Digital, brought some meaningful thoughts, underlining how agencies are in a race to create apps and hashtags like they are in Foursquare, (funny). Phil emphasized that innovation shouldn’t been pointless, it should be done for a purpose. Are we using it as an ‘Ends’ or as a ‘Means’? think about it.

Beeker Northam the brain behind the Govt Digital Service, told us a bit about her life, her fear of having twins and the reality when you run your own agency.  Innovation becomes a small part of the budget, while most of the money goes on rent and salaries.

I’d never heard of KLF, until Glyn Britton told us about the book he recently read ‘KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money’ – to give you an idea, these guys ‘retired’ from the music business, firing a machine gun at music execs at the Brit Awards, before dumping a dead sheep on the steps of the after party. And finally they burnt their last million quid – all the money that was left over from their pop career. Crazy right? They didn’t know what they were doing. they just look like they did. Sometimes this is true of agencies too.

Graeme Wood, Planning Director at LBi, explained how planners can inspire innovative behavior in agencies. Now I’m feeling like reading some of the books he mentioned: “I’ ll have what she is having” and “Thinking fast and slow” (my husband has been recommending them to me for a while – but I don’t trust his opinion).

Lastly, a great speaker closed the event: Nadya Powell, with a sincere talk about her job title as Chief Innovation Officer at Dare, she discussed the need of collaboration in this area and invited us all to join @InnovationSoc in the pursuuit of innovation.

I got a great souvenir, Artefact cards designed by Smithery for drafting and crafting ideas. Love it!

Ooof!! this is one of the longest post I’ve written, but I didn’t want to miss any speaker or any point, all ideas are valuable, they are just like a bunch of rocks and sticks, ready to start the fire.

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Sundays

Sundays are quite tricky, they make you think that you have the entire day to do nothing, In fact it is your busiest day. People do sports, go shopping, cook, clean the house, go to the park, etc…I spent the entire day working with my friend Marcia on her new project as an entrepreneur in the world of accessories.

She showed me all the jewelery for sale and I have to confess I fell in love with most of it, specially the ones with blue bits. She told me her plan and we started putting it into action. After brainstorming, we had a big list of things to do, today we created the name, concept and brand identity ‘Marcia Squirrel’, making things happen step by step.

I’m not an a Graphic Designer but recently I have more tabs open in Photoshop than in other programs. It is interesting that my friend, a Marketing Manager showing her Commercial side, is making me, a writer, show my Art Director side.

Thanks Marcinha!
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