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Life is like a box of Jelly Beans

December 20, 2010
Jelly Bean Knight

Flickr: Tren

It was Forrest Gump who compared life to a box of chocolates:  “you never know what you’re gonna get”. As the year hurtles to a reluctant close, I kinda feel like I am sitting on that park bench next to him and saying, no – life to me feels more like those new flavour Jelly Beans, where some of them are sweet and fruity, some taste like chocolate or coffee and others carry titles like “Vomit” and the like. I would have preferred a box-of-chocolates year, where the worst filling would be that awful orange goo (does anyone actually like those?), but that will perhaps be held in reserve for next year.

Although I have started many companies over the years, as part of my leading large organizations, starting one’s own shop is quite different. It is deeply personal, like a child. There is no distance or arm’s-length observation of the patient, nor commentary on how it’s doing – you are in the ring.

Naturally one has expectations going into the new game. Friends are friends, loyalty is just that and you’ll be rewarded for jobs well done and kindness shown, past and present. Continuing the metaphor, this is mostly true when savouring the banana or pineapple bean, but you soon discover that the yellow one could also be hot English mustard. Or snot.

I was invited to a talk earlier this year where a swami addressed the well-heeled audience on “ancient wisdoms in modern business”.  He suggested that a key to leading a less stressful life is “to meet life as it is, not how you hope it to be”.  This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received as, in truth, I always meet life as I hope it to be. I think it’s called optimism – and a frequently misplaced trust in our species. But I would rather have it that way, than living life expecting tricks or disappointment at every turn. Either way, if you simply meet life as it is, you know how to move ahead based on fact.

A great example of this was that bright red and delicious mid-year Jelly Bean called the World Cup. Massive business diversion that it was, what a spectacular proof point for the country and of what it is truly capable of. The miracle of our peaceful transformation, the overwhelming joy of our first Rugby World Cup win in ’95 and then hosting the world six months back ! So many opportunities to celebrate the extraordinary nature of this land and its people.

Closer to home, I have had the opportunity together with my partners to build something amazing this year, from scratch. We opened the door without a single client in February and handled projects large and small for 38 different companies (not 38 brands, but companies). This fits into our unique model of arguably being South Africa’s first Strategic Marketing and Communications Consultancy (that also happens to make ads), as opposed to being a traditional multiple-disciplinary ad agency.

You see, it is where the conversation starts and its orientation that’s critically important. Ours is simply about growing our clients’ market share using our proprietary approach of Brutal Simplicity of Thought. It posits that the world is getting more complicated by the day and our thinking, sharpened by Maurice Saatchi, is that “simple messages enter the brain quicker and stay there longer”  – a vital approach and truism. But this Brutally Simple Thought needs wholesale buy-in at the top table for it to resonate as it should throughout the Client organization. The “Thought” that we refer to is a powerful, business building idea – neither an ad nor an execution, although that may well be a manifestation. This thinking was at the centre of our global agency when it started 15 years ago, and will continue to be our rallying call into the New Year and well beyond.

So, it is but a few days from Christmas and New Year. To those who wished us well on our great adventure, we thank you. To those who partnered us as team members and clients, we are indebted to you.  Our story is but 10 months old, and if the previous few months are anything to go by, it’s going to be a busy 2011.

I wish you all peace, love and joy over the Festive Season.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2010 5:49 am

    As Mr. Gandhi once said “The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. Freedom and slavery are mental states.”
    In SA we need to make the choices simpler and the flavours better …like Walt Disney once said…”You make it and they will come”
    All the best for 2011….

  2. sine permalink
    June 1, 2011 2:05 pm

    Mike Abel really inspires me. You are my hero.

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