We’re engaged in a lifelong process of constructing personal ‘cages’ around ourselves. The bars of our cages are all the things that life has taught us: our knowledge, our attitudes, our values, our beliefs, our convictions. As the cage becomes stronger and more complex, we feel increasingly comfortable inside it and increasingly confident in our ability to cope with the world beyond the cage. The cage is the most powerful element in the communication process. It acts as a filter in the process of interpretation. Because we look at the world through the bars of the cage, the bars impose their own pattern on what we see.
When I was applying to ad school, I literally applied everywhere. Creative Circus, Miami Ad, Portfolio Center, Chicago Portfolio, Brainco in Minneapolis. Adcenter was my reach. It was my Harvard. And I’m not a Harvard-esque student.
Not even close.
I thought my ads were shit, I thought my application was shit, I thought my chances were shit. Needless to say, I didn't think I would get in. And because of my vehement pessimism, neither did my parents, brothers, roommates, friends, or girlfriend.
So you can imagine my shock when, one unusually bright April morning, I was awoken by my cell phone ringing. Karen, the admissions coordinator, was on the other end with good news.
Jumping up and down in my boxers like a little schoolgirl as my girlfriend watched in amused embarrassment for me is something I wish I could take back. But the happiness I felt that day is something you’d have to pry from my cold dead fingers.
My whole life I’ve been constructing my own cage around myself, always lacking the confidence to move beyond it. I always suffered from a lack of self-esteem with my work, and thus did things I thought people wanted to see.
Even as a graduate student, all of last semester and for the first month of this semester, I’d been doing work that I thought my professors wanted, missing out on golden opportunities each time.
It wasn’t until last Tuesday, when my partner and I presented the most ridiculous, off-the-wall, joke of a campaign (that we thought might get us bitchslapped out of the room) to our Conceptual Thinking class, that something peculiar happened.
The . . . professors . . . actually . . . liked it.
In that moment, I finally saw with my own eyes that what I had been reading about for years was legit: Taking risks pays off. Doing what you want to do pays off. Being your own person pays off.
For too long I was scared to move beyond my cage and do the type of work I wanted to do.
That ends today.