I have a certain appreciation for tragic heroes. Whether they are fictional like Tony Soprano, or real like Mickey Mantle, those whose flaws are out for all to see fascinate me.
One of my all-time favorite characters was Don Draper, the consummate advertising executive. I refer to him in the past tense because in case you were unaware, the series finale of Mad Men aired this past weekend. But Don, and the writers, left us with one more great lesson.
Throughout the series, Don would swoop in and save the day when his firm needed a new pitch or slogan for a client. His ability to reach people, tap into their feelings, and understand what made them want to buy things was what made him better at his job than others.
However, during the last few episodes, Don quit his job (he referred to himself as “retired”) and traveled across the country seeking something different. He left behind his new job at the world’s largest advertising company, his success, a lot of his money, the tailored suits, and the gorgeous women, looking to reinvent himself.
But in the end, as Don sat meditating on a beach in California, as far away from Madison Avenue as he could be, both physically and otherwise, he smiled. It was a genuine and knowing smile, one that we had seen before, but not in a long time.
Don had figured out how to sell Coke. In that moment, he developed the iconic Coke ad that many of us remember featuring the song “Buy The World A Coke”.
So is the lesson that Don Draper came up with the first alternative workplace solution by coming up with an idea on the beach? No.
The lesson is that in the end, Don was true to himself and found his voice. He didn’t try to fit in and be someone else. He didn’t need to reinvent himself. He just needed to get back to who he really was.
I see young brokers in our industry trying to emulate successful senior brokers. I see them try to say the same things on the telephone when canvassing. I see them try to act the same way in networking situations. And I see them fail because they aren’t being themselves.
Taking time to sit back and reflect is important. Finding your own voice is more important. Be yourself. People can tell when you are trying to be someone else. In the end, Don Draper was happiest being the consummate ad man. Who are you?