Agency boss David Palmer says creatives need better coping skills with failure

“Creative people are rejected more regularly than almost anyone else on the planet,” he tells Creative Boom. Palmer estimates that LOVE, whose star client list includes Brew Dog, Nike and Vogue, has lost three times more than pitches won, and says the failure rate is pretty standard for creative businesses.

“When you work in creative industries, failure is part of your daily life,” he says. “You can pour your heart and soul into a project and apply the best strategy, thinking and design skills, only to have a senior or a client tell you they don’t like it.”

For Palmer, dealing with this means you have to have a rhino skin and a rubber ball: always ready to bounce back. But Palmer is adamant that having tough skin and a resilient attitude doesn’t mean ignoring your failures or rushing past them. Instead, Palmer advocates for the creative team — and the industry in general — to foster a healthier relationship with creative success by being willing to accept and embrace creative loss.

“Dealing with failure is like going through the five stages of grief,” Palmer tells Creative Boom, when he was on vacation in Greece when he received a call about a lost step and effectively ruined any chance for much-needed R&D.

The five stages of grief were first introduced in 1969 by psychologist and author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as a framework for navigating one’s own life’s end. The use of the Kübler-Ross method has been expanded and reconceptualized in many ways over the last 50 years, turning it into a powerful tool for facing any loss.

According to the trajectory laid out by Kübler-Ross, a grieving person gradually transitions from shock and denial to pleading, bargaining or despair, and then anger – an experience that David Palmer of LOVE says he and his team can relate to every time they lose. one step. “You can really feel like the world around you is falling apart, and it’s perfectly normal to feel really angry at first,” Palmer tells Creative Boom.

As a leader, Palmer thinks it’s healthy to make room for negative emotions—by accepting creative rejection or the anger that comes with failure, you’re one step closer to accepting failure and moving on. “It’s helpful for young creators to know that it’s perfectly natural to feel this way,” Palmer says.

Photo Credit: LOVE

According to Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief, depression and/or anxiety usually follows the anger stage. In a creative context, Palmer likens this phase to the period of dullness, discouragement, and self-doubt that often accompanies creative failure – once the anger wears off, real grief begins to settle. From this low point, someone with healthy coping mechanisms will eventually find themselves ready to take action to heal and learn to accept their loss or failure. Conversely, someone with unhealthy coping mechanisms may sink to the bottom.

This is where Palmer worries because he is not convinced that today’s creators have the coping skills they need to pursue a career path inevitably filled with failure and rejection.

“In sports and school, kids are taught that failure is a bad thing and should be avoided or ignored,” he tells Creative Boom. “But failure is inevitable. Especially in this industry, because it’s so subjective, you have to be aware of it. And you have to find healthy ways to deal with it.”

‘Cause at the end of the day it’s failure not “Rejection can be a catalyst for really positive things,” says Palmer. “The pain of failure pushes you forward in a way that gives you more energy and momentum than you didn’t have at the beginning.”

To prove his point, Palmer recounts an experience from his first job in design school working alongside a boss who seemed determined to keep him down. “I didn’t win,” Palmer says, recalling a particularly discouraging incident where he watched his work crumple and be thrown in one leap. At that moment, it was as if he had gone through all five stages of grief at warp speed. “I had been working for two years, but I had nothing in my portfolio to show, and I was at a point where I realized: I’m going to fail no matter what. And from there, I went: you know, you’re a problem solver. So what are you going to do?”

After recovering from the shock, the anger, and the blow to his self-esteem, Palmer admitted that this was the way it worked. was not Study. So he decided to change his approach. Instead of presenting big, original ideas that seemed to make her boss feel threatened, she found ways to prioritize her boss’s approach while managing to leave her own mark… it was a lesson in reconciliation that served her well with a long-term client. -Facing career. It is living proof that approaching failure and rejection with curiosity and determination are the building blocks of a sustainable creative career.

Photo Credit: LOVE

Photo Credit: LOVE

While it’s important for creators to learn to take individual responsibility for themselves and develop healthy coping mechanisms to accept and deal with their failures and rejection, Palmer thinks agency leaders and even their clients need to take responsibility for the role they play in creating more. positive culture in the creative industries.

He realizes that the way feedback is delivered can have a lot to do with the way it is received, and that creative leaders and clients alike may turn to unnecessarily harsh feedback without overthinking the impact their response will have on the creative behind the business.

At LOVE, feedback is mitigated through the accounts team, which can help separate helpful feedback from not-so-helpful feedback before sharing it with the creative team. “This way, we can ensure that feedback is framed in a constructive way and provide our team with a more positive place to begin their journey to accepting rejection.”

Ultimately, Palmer questions whether the industry as a whole needs to re-evaluate its relationship to failure and its vocabulary related to failure. A working understanding of the five stages of grief and how these stages manifest in experiences of creative failure is a good start – but he’s open to ideas and conversation and tells Creative Boom: “As an industry, I’m always curious about how everyone else is doing it. and what could be improved.”

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