Monday, September 08, 2014

Let's Talk About Stress

My friend Matt Follows is a multi-award-winning creative and CD who has worked at agencies including M&C Saatchi and Wieden + Kennedy in London, and Clemenger BBDO in Sydney. Today he coaches creative leaders from advertising, film, TV, design, music, and gaming.

He wants some help from you, to help him help us.

Matt says:

I've been in the creative industry a long time.

Which means I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in it when it was the most fun, exciting, brave and confident place on the planet to work in.

But this isn't a rant about the good-old-days or a whinge about shrinking budgets, ever increasing media channels and tighter deadlines.

That stuff happens, industries change.

But I do have a question:

Is sacrificing our emotional health and wellbeing in the pursuit of creative brilliance really the best way to achieve it?

Stress, overwhelm and burnout isn’t something we talk about often enough in this business. And brushing an issue as big as that under the agency ping pong table doesn't make it go away. It simply makes it dig it's heels in deeper and bite you on the ass when you can least afford it.

From coaching creative heavyweights for the past 18 months it’s become clear that despite us turning a blind-eye to things like stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, overwhelm, frustration and sometimes depression, 'the job' does negatively affect us and our creativity. Especially if you're a driven, ambitious, 'want to change the world' kind of person, like most of us are.

We can see the signs of this all around us: in our friends, in our peers, in our bosses and in our current and fallen heroes. But to talk openly about how we're feeling is to show weakness, or a sign that you can't hack the pace.

Which is not only tragic, it's not helping our cause.

In the world of elite sports and high-flying executives it’s very different. Mind coaches and sports psychologist are constantly on hand to help the bright shine even brighter. These people get to the top and stay at the top because the health, strength and wellness of their mind is taken seriously and kept in peak emotional condition – not worn down or left to fend for itself.

So in an industry when our mind is the most valuable tool we posses, shouldn’t we also have access to those powerful resources?

For the past few months I've been researching what we're most struggling with in today's industry. Not to bash it or bitch about it, but to uncover the biggest fears, frustrations, struggles and obstacles we face in today's high-pressure, high-stake industry.

I’m then going to create a results-driven, highly targeted performance psychology training which will be delivered as group workshops, a series of short films and a book. Or maybe there’s a better way to deliver it?

Because let's face it, the pressures we face today aren't going to go away any time soon, so we do need a way to deal with them.

But is it good enough to have a yoga teacher and a massage therapist come into the agency once a week, or is there something more proactive we could do to make us happier, healthier and more creative?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And if you're a creative leader, could I be a cheeky bastard and ask you to be a confidential part of my study by filling in the 4 minute survey at the other end of this link?

Click here to take Matt's survey


Anonymous said...

There's no stress in this indusdjudjdkwsjfdjdndhsjdjdfkjdjfkfrk



Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind working so hard if the end result was the least know....good. But it's normally shite.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this just a sales pitch?

Scamp said...

Well, in a way it is, in that Matt wants to make a living out of this. But since what he's wanting to do is help us, I don't really mind. Anything that can help Creatives, I'm in favour of. You can do his survey anonymously if you prefer, then there's no danger of it turning into a sales call - you'll just be helping Matt shape his services.

Matt said...

HI Anonymous,

Simon's totally right. The purpose of it is to raise the issue and begin a conversation about this stuff so that the stigma can begin to be diffused. At the moment people are too scared to talk about it for fear of looking weak, which is crazy. Then, thanks to all the amazing responses I've been getting I'm going to start providing an answer. But I can't do that with any real effectiveness until I know specifically what the problems are.

No one needs to provide their name or email address unless they want to talk about it further. And even then they can say they'd rather not talk.

Hope that helps

Anonymous said...

I don't mind hard work, especially when it's appreciated. And I love what I do so I'm always eager to try and try and try. But after being hospitalised three time in one year due to over-working I decided that even though you're almost looked down upon if you're not slaving away at all times, I needed to try and stop worrying about looking "bad" for attempting to have more life balance.

It is hard to do though when you're considered weak for doing it, but so far so good.

Matt said...

Hi Anonymous, thank you for being so honest. It's good to hear that you have a way to bring more balance to the thing you love to do. Good luck with it!