The Success Trajectory

David Ogilvy

Part of business success is knowing that you are doing what you should be doing in life. Different people from different places may be telling you that you are good at a particular thing. And you sense it yourself. But just maybe you lack the confidence. And maybe you lack an official degree, or you lack long-term experience, and fear no one will take you seriously. Here is hoping this week’s Imagination Hat will be an encouragement to you.
Today is the Birthday of David Ogilvy. If you do not know who he is, the short story is that he ran one of the most famous advertising agencies in the world–and one of the original MadMen–at Ogilvy & Mather. His gift in advertising was indisputable. But the path to the top of the advertising world ever wasn’t exactly a straight trajectory. He began as a dropout of Oxford. Next he worked as a sous-chef in a swank hotel. Next, a door-to-door salesperson selling cookstoves. He was so good that he was asked to write down how he did it. His thesis, “How to Create Advertising that Sells” is still considered one the best sales manuals ever written. (Just Google it and read it yourself. You will find the original in many places). He worked for his brother’s agency, and then for George Gallup for a while. Yes, THAT George Gallup. He was in the Secret Service in World War II. And believe it or not, after that there was a stint for an Amish farmer. (Makes sense to me!). At age 38, after never working in Advertising per se, he opened his own agency in New York. Ogilvy & Mather was one of the most successful agencies ever.
It was the combined experience of each dot on Ogilvy’s timeline that created his genius in advertising. It was his timeline that was his degree. When people shoot quickly to the top, it is often by accident. They often do not know how they got there, and the success can neither be sustained or duplicated. If your path is somewhat eclectic, you are in good company. What you learn along that random pathway cannot be recreated by any diploma, and is often more valuable. So what is your degree?
That is this week’s Imagination Hat.