Friday, December 15, 2006

The Law of Averages and Success

"So where would you like to be in ... say 5 years time?"

The clocks ticking away. Your palms begin to secrete even more. You're sitting opposite 3 figures. One's fidgetting with a pen, the other gazing at you as if you're about to confess a crime, and the interlocutor is waiting.

"I would like to be an editor"

There's a pregnant silence.

"So where would you like to be in ... say 5 years time?"

Clocks ticking. . .

"I would like to be a foreign reporter

Silence. .


'So where would you like to be in ... say 5 years time, David?"

I don't ****ing know. What the **** do you think I am a futurologist. If I said I wanted your job. You'd think I was an arrogant a***. If I pitch myself any lower, you'll think I lack ****ing ambition, so where do I wanna be in 5 years. Truth? Doing something I love doing. Being successful at what I do.. Yeah, not because of you. But because of the hard work, I'm going to put in and the law of averages.


I walked out of the interview room thinking that's what I would really like to say, but I'm weak and feeble. My final answer was average. My clenched fist almost made it past my oesophagus.

There is ambition; what we love doing; drive; bloody mindedness; and the law of averages.

A loose assessment ( seconds, there!) leads me to a conclusion - how we so easily misconstrue and become determinants at what they mean.

Ambition is good in the US. In the 80s it took on a more aggressive persona: "Greed is Good"- ala Wall Street's Michael Douglas' character.

In the UK ambition is to be left in the fridge with the half used can of beans. We all love doing something and working in the media has a high "I love my job quotient". But here too there are tacks on the floor. How much do I love you to want to stay on late and impress the editor who will remember my radiant chuckly reply when I spoke of drive, and combed my thoughts which screamed "Bloody mindedness".

We all want success: to be the best postman, most accomplished burglar, and a good journalist. And we'll do what we can legally to get there. But we're lumped into an ecosystem which rewards the antithesis to that we deem good character.

B****... HE IS A RIGHT W******
My diary shows I uttered those words possibly 1 trilion times in the beginning of my employ. Well actually I didn't but I must have heard it amongst the small gathering around the coffee machine.

There can be few professions in the world that are so personality driven, residing on ego ( in varying dollops) and insecurity.
And it's this unhealthy mix that is in part the daily catalyst to spring step to work to the sound of music, walk, then drag feet by midday.

But we love it. Many of us wouldn't do anything less. This is no place for shrinking violets my boss told me. Er what did he mean? I had no idea what he meant. Translation, if you can't shout about what you do, then no one will do it for you. Actually the more succesful ones are more tactful about how that's done. Oh yes and at some point you're gonna be loathed. Fancy becoming a manager?

Email 13.17 Sunday
As you know Jim there was a slight problem with the edit that carrie should have dealt with so we went back. Did you see that item on Ar** irrigation on Newsnight's newsbelt?

Inference: The sods working late again, post 10.30. No 11 that's when their newsbelt's on. Gosh how ambitious can you get? And look at the time of the email. **** off and die.

In part, the green mist could quite easily descend on me on these ocassions. But what was it that I/we felt envious about? Them or my lack of that killer "et tu brutus" stroke doing the same thing. I didn't want to

The web cohabits this wierd and wonderful world of contradictions. More so because of our abilty to interact, scrum and thwack that arrogant journalist/writer back in the face. Particularly joyous if it's the paper or journo you love to hate.

But as the new superstars of the web are showing, the old personal human traits so prevalant in the media are showing no signs of abating. One major differences is that this new group have had a rather meritocratic rise in blogospshere based on you, I and my pet dog sparky who would bark when he saw Amanda Congdon on Rocketboom.

No where would you like to be in say years; no where did you go to school; no er, we already have a person with a disability, ethnic background, er whatever in the workforce. This time it's me and you. Our blogs, the quality of them, our youtube videos, flick pics, sniper-edge pods say more about us than anyone could.

Yeeeeees, (i'm squirming) and No (very abruptly !)

Jon Snow on my reel produces the biggest reaction to this schizo-mania. Those who know me, will probably have guessed what it means, that when I sit down the chairs don't illuminate. Of the student's I know and have had the pleasure or working with, I can't imagine a more crass intro walking firstly into a lecture. Not because of what Mr Snow says, but by actually believing it.


But the Snow effect, a visual CV, the equivalent of those pithy comments for the paperback you're planning is a proxy vote of sorts, a short cut if you like Snow to cutting the author some slack, a grandfathering ping


Three pieces of advice passed to me, passed on. When considering a career into the media.

Find yourself a grandmother/grandfather - a mentor.

If your dad happens to be Michael Grade, mentor? They'll be coming to you? I was once paying a brief visit to the home of a very powerful TV exec. She sat me down with a cup of tea and begun to tell me about how I should work hard to get where I wanted and then segued into a tale of her daughter.

"Gosh she works so hard. She's just finished two attachments and even the Managing Director's are calling asking if she want to come back", she said gushing.

Yep, musn't be judgemental. her daughter probabaly did sit down to Gustav Holst's The Planets in Full Score, but it didn't seem illogical that the reason also her daughter was being pursued... you get it!

But grandfathers/ mothers have a place, and self belief as well. One of the professions I advocate to anyone/friends e.g. journalist aspiring journalist is to teach.

Because a) I'm finding I can shortcut all the ***p I went through by hopefully passing something on
b) the first time you stand in class you're as naked as the day you were born. If what you're saying doesn't make sense, watch out. Furthermore, there are no airs and grace in the lecture just what I refer to as the cauldron.

Everyone is equal, our respect reciprocated. It's an assymetric coms line, where often the more you're pressed, the more you learn about yourself. The more you learn about yourself, the more you want to push further.

I worked at so many outlets in my broadcasting career that I lost touch, and while a quick flash at my CV may look dandy, it's in part a card trick; huge highs followed by lows. In the UK in 92 I couldn't fnd work in the UK, so relocated to South Africa, ploughing townships and the most aweful places for a story. In 97 I emerged from an agency disillusioned and then like everyone else probbaly goes through badgered enough people to get work, in 2002 having dusted down the last year's general election, I begun to question whether this is what I really wanted to do.

And then I had a idea - though it wasn't called it then. here's an early incarnation if you're interested.

The law of averages says this it's a big numbers game. The 5 percenters. The more we play in the field, the more we're likely to get the ball. Success is relative. Hah I was once touted in the Evening Standard as some doer. What i want to do is pay my mortgage. The law of averages says in this ecosystem where there's a lot of back/foreground noise, find something you're good at and keep doing it. The law of averages says it's a big bell curve, that only a few will make it, a large percentage of us will do ok and a small amount will... well.

The law of averages says those who work hard will be rewarded and the best reward is that which you like doing, whatever that is


Matan said...

I just don't understand ,as you zoom across all things multimedic, where you find the energy to be aware of the "landscape".

It's a relief to read these words coming from you.
And I'm not even sure you know what I mean.

Thank you.


This post made me laugh out loud! It is quite reassuring to have my lecturer talk about journalism this way, I agree with Matan.

In five years time if i'm doing the job I love regardless of anything else, I will be the richest person in the world. There really isn't anything better.

Denae said...

yeah, 7 years working in tv taught me to be ambitious but in a secret way. everyone is trying to stab each other in the back and look the best in front of the boss but around the water cooler you have to act like you don't give a f***. strange, eh? also, the question about where will you be in 5 years? a toughie. i kinda like "five years ago did you think you'd be where you are now?" if you can answer that in a positive way, more power! liked the post, david.