I'm going to talk to you about a notion and maybe one of the most important things that you will face, and maybe you faced already. It's something that is certainly one of the most difficult things for me to handle. And that was how to deal with a naysayer. Now I'll set the stage. I was at McCann Erickson Worldwide, a famous advertising agency. I was a young up-and-comer. And one of the things that I noticed increasingly was the behavior of a fellow named Eric. Now, every time I turned around, there he was. "Oh, you're not going to do that, are you?" Oh my God, that makes no sense, blah, blah, blah. You're never going to succeed in that. Blah. .."
Literally my nemesis. Every time I turned around, there he was. I wonder if you have someone like that in your life at a particular moment in time? Anyway. So I was on a shoot one afternoon, and it's pretty boring. You sit around for a while, and the idea came to me, brand citizenship. Wow. The idea that a brand is a community of individuals with a shared value system. Now, for those days, that was pretty forward-thinking stuff. And I shared it with a friend of mine at the agency. And he said to me, "Wow, Ken, that's a heck of an idea. I can get you a meeting, a slot every month. The senior members of the board of McCann invite the young up-and-comers to present their ideas." And so, he got me the slot. It was just amazing. Little did I know it was the same conference room that I would occupy when I was part of running the company several years later.
But anyway, on the appointed day, I was as nervous as I could be, and I walk into the conference room, which we called Battlestar Galactica, it was enormous. And there was one empty seat, where I was going to sit before I was invited to present. And who do you suppose is seated right next to that empty seat? Eric. I couldn't believe it, of all people. And I sat down. And he leans over to me and he says, "You aren't going to present that brand citizenship nonsense, are you?" And of course, I was really taken aback. Now, I did get up and I did make my presentation. But, I did something that I'm going to ask you never to do. I didn't do anything about it from that day forward. I let Eric convince me that my idea was unworthy. I let him intimidate me into thinking that somehow what I was working on, wasn't worthy of being pursued.
And I would say this to you. You can take advice from a lot of people. That's constructive criticism, but a naysayer and someone who wants to take you down, the only person in this world that can and should prevent you from following your instinct about something you believe in is you, no one else. So don't let an Eric get in your way. When you hear that kind of nay-saying, let it be the rocket fuel for you to pursue it even further.
Oh, and by the way, here's some good news. Many, many years later, I wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review. And in it, I talked about brand citizenship. So Eric, wherever you are, how do you like that? I hope it's helpful to you. Have a wonderful day