I started in this industry at the dusk of the 1980s. My secret work weapon then was a velvet Alice band that I wore atop alarmingly backcombed hair. Together with removable shoulder pads that I thrust into every sleeved item in my wardrobe, I felt invincible.
Happily, I have dispensed with those now. But there is one secret work weapon I adopted back then that has stayed with me through the subsequent decades: paranoia.
This isn’t paranoia in an unjustified, manic, pathological way. More like a positive dissatisfaction; a desire never to rest on laurels. The Germans probably have a terrific word for it.
At the knee of my first account director, I was taught that a healthy dose of paranoia is your best friend. As I wandered through my first weeks in the industry, the lessons came thick and fast.
First, a few simple maxims: Check, check and check again; a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on; have you spoken to your client today because, if you haven’t, someone else will have; you’re only as good as your last job; fail to prepare, prepare to fail…
These formed into one philosophy: things can go wrong. If you don’t plan for that, you’re an idiot.
Initially, I found it disillusioning to discover all was not necessarily for the best in the best of all possible worlds. But I came to see it as liberating.
Paranoia is the perfect weapon for an optimist. Working to create positive outcomes while planning for the worst is an approach that has served me well.
Fast-forward to today and I think about my lectures on guarding against complacency, leaving no stone unturned and no myth about TV uncorrected.
A healthy Panglossian paranoia has become a welcome part of our culture (right, team?). And remember: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
Lindsey Clay is the chief executive at Thinkbox.