The Overnight Test
In November 2011, I signed a contract for a job at Saatchi & Saatchi Brussels. I was scared shitless on my first day: I used to be a freelancer that executed the actual production. Now I was heading towards an office where people expected me to manage projects and tell other freelancers/teams how to execute stuff. I was not sure if I’d like the job or if I’d be any good at it. I was great at execution… I had experience, insights and motivation. It was anybody’s guess.
Turns out I hated the job and I sucked at it. And it was pretty clear why: I like to figure stuff out. Build, design, animate things myself instead of telling other people how to approach a project and by when to finish it. 10 months after my first day I decided to quit my job. While my 6-week resignation period was passing by, I started wondering “Was this the right decision?“. Then I read this piece.
It tells the story of Linds Redding. He used to be an Art Director in several ad agencies (Saatchi & Saatchi was one of them). He tells the story about how back in the day when they got a new briefing, they spent all day coming up with ideas which they sketched down on paper and ended up on the walls of their office. At the end of the day they went home and when they came back the next day, they reviewed their work. A lot of it came down the walls immediately. The things that were still up had actual potential and would probably be presented to a client in some form. They called this “the overnight test“.
Then he goes on to tell how times changed: With faster computers and broadband internet, ‘the overnight test‘ quickly became the ‘over-lunch test‘. In the end, they found themselves working lots of overtime because they were building “new worlds“, making brands become “lovemarks“, etc. Then Linds was diagnosed with cancer. He was terminal.
Reality check… He realized the truth: They were not building new worlds or lovemarks. What they did was making a rich guy even richer. There was no higher purpose. To quote him: “It’s a fucking TV commercial. Nobody gives a shit“. He goes on to conclude that in hindsight, it wasn’t worth his time and energy.
“As a life, it all seemed like such a good idea at the time. But I’m not really sure it passes The Overnight Test”
Linds Redding passed away in October 2012.
Ever since I read that piece, I was certain that leaving Saatchi was the right choice. Not because advertising is bad or the industry is not worthy of my time. It’s actually a very glamorous industry and being part of that is pretty cool. However, for me it didn’t pass the overnight test. It didn’t make me happy.
The lesson I took from his piece and the reality that Linds is no longer with us, is that we only have this one life. We have one shot at making this life worth living. It’s a cliché; I know, but Linds’ story has made this everlasting impression on me and I am very aware of the fact that in 50 years I’ll have to look back at my life and either congratulate my younger self for the amazing adventure he embarked upon or hate him for being such a loser.
Thank you, Linds Redding for pointing out the obvious. May your soul rest in peace.