I’ve always been a huge advocate for making myself uncomfortable, it’s the only way to grow, and it’s the only way to stretch your heart. And honestly, I’ve been doing a terrible job of that lately—until last week.
The 3% Conference is a woman’s conference. The main goal is to equalize the ratio of men and women in creative leadership roles across the advertising industry. Why’s it called the 3% conference, Christian? Well, you inquisitive flower, women represent 3% of the creative directors in the advertising industry. When almost 70% of purchasing decisions are made by women, this lack of representation is complete buffoonery AND bad for the business. It’s time to change the ratio.
At POSSIBLE we had an internal print ad-writing contest for the 3% Conference booklet, the winner got to see their ad come to life in-person at the conference. I’d be lying if getting to NYC for a few days on my company’s dime wasn’t a key motivation for entering. I didn’t win the contest, but global leadership decided to ship me along with the pack. At that point, I knew I was there for a reason.
^^ “Great Second Place effort, Christian!” Thanks guys!
I’m going to fill you in on the two sessions that had an unexpectedly profound impact on my life. Cause surf’s up dude! I’m STILL riding that conference-high.
But first, let’s get personal…
My world as I knew it unexpectedly fell apart the day I turned 23. In the wake of my parents’ almost-divorce and high, un-met expectations for myself and others, I span my wheels too hard, and eventually lost myself. It’s hard knowing you’ve lost yourself. Especially when you’re unwilling to put the time in to figure it out and pick up your pieces.
I was not expecting to find myself at the 3% Conference. I figured I’d gather some key insights, get some killer exposure to our global leadership team, party with coworkers, and regurgitate it when I got home. Plans changed.
I met Nilofer Merchant at the Twitter VIP Kickoff party the day before the conference started. OoOooh you’re a VIP? Better believe it, Sweetheart. Nilofer was one the keynote speakers on the last day of the conference, and she’s was debuting some new thinking, called Onlyness.
Nilofer explains, “Onlyness is that thing that only that one individual can bring to a situation. It includes the journey and passions of each human. Onlyness is fundamentally about honoring each person: first as we view ourselves and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision.”
Check out her Ted Talk:
^^ Video thumbnail of the year, amiright?
Did I mention she was rated the #1 thought leader in management? No big deal. After I found this out, I couldn’t figure out why she was spending so much time talking to me. We had an awesome conversation that ended with her asking, “There’s a Q&A at the end of my talk on Friday, you BETTER ask me a question.” My brain snapped in half at her request, but I gave her a high-5 and promised I would. And yes, I was totally thinking, “Wow she’s great! Can’t wait to hide from her the rest of the conference!” But you don’t grow by faking diarrhea in front of your Global Chief Creative Office (that’s my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.) Good thing I had 72 hours of lead time to start thinking. I was going to give her a serious zinger.
Her talk came and she murdered it, but after she slayed us all, she quickly scurried off stage.
We don’t have time for Q&A?? THIS WAS MY ONE JOB.
Then this Twitter exchange happened:
^^An dope?? I WAS NERVOUS.
After she hounded me down at lunch, she demanded that I spill my inquisitive beans to her.
Christian: How do you turn the adversity into something you can celebrate—especially if it’s still painful?
Nilofer: Well, what’s your adversity?
Christian: EFF EFF EFF EFF
I explained to her that my parent’s marriage was crumbling, something I thought was impossible. Coming from a devout, Christian family where we all pretended to be perfect, this news was like getting your face slammed in a car door. I was also the only one in my family to get hit with all the news all at once—being shielded from the truth for years. I know they were trying to protect me, but I have never been so hurt and angry.
She gave me hug and asked me, “When you’re 28, what do you want this story to be?”
I told her I wanted my family to be healed. Even though we were all gutted, it felt like we could all really connect for the first time—and that’s not insignificant. I want all that laying awake at night, silent car rides, tears, yelling, and ears I’ve talked-off to bear fruit. I want to pour into my relationship with my Dad, even though sometimes it feels impossible. I also wanted to empathize with people who are experiencing the same thing to find comfort in our recovery.
Nilofer: Make that your story.
She hugged me and told me she has really enjoyed our 3 days of “random” encounters. She asked if I could ship her one of our POSSIBLE notebooks. They’re pretty dope. She loved what we stood for, and that we sent over 22 people to change the ratio. She also said she’s going to give us a shout out in her next book. BIZ DEV MOMENT.
^^ All yours for 40 hrs/week!
My second heart-splosion stemmed from Kelly Fredrickson, SVP Creative at Bank of America.
During her talk, we completed an exercise where we had to pair up with a stranger, form a list of qualities we admire about them, and then tell their story to our assigned stranger. You’re making us do work AND it’s going to be uncomfortable? BYE. Turns out it was exactly what I needed. I presented about my roommate/bestie/fun-pusher Danny Baron. He’s encouraging, direct, high-energy, intentional, relentless, and asks the hard questions. He’s has seen me at my highest highs and Earth-shattering lows—and he still loves me. After listening to Kristin’s tale of her best friend and listing the qualities she encompassed, we each picked 6 of our favorite qualities from our combined list of characteristics. Turns out these 6 qualities represent who you are. The qualities you love in other people are often because you see them in yourself. At some level, I remembered who I was at my best self.
But it’s best coming from her. Here’s the deal in 2 minutes:
Here’s how to get yourself back, you have to whittle yourself to your core.
Preparing the blank: It’s the piece of wood you find in the store that only you can see the vision in. This is finding your true self. This is my list of 6 from the exercise:
Choose the Right Knife: Identify what works for you. Fredrickson recommends square breathing: 4 breaths in, hold for 4 breaths, 4 breaths out, hold for 4 breaths, repeat. Imagine your breath is making a square around your heart and connecting your brain to your emotions. Bring to mind your favorite place on earth, and bring that favorite place here.
Centering the Blade: If your knife isn’t centered, you’re losing power. Savor the best thing that happens every day. Feel deeper, love harder, and acknowledge all of your emotions.
Work With the Grain: If you’re not your authentic self, you can really do some damage. Don’t repress your true self, or force the whittling process.
After all, there’s one Oprah, there’s one Malala, there’s one Christian Jaekle, and there’s one of you too.
Overall, the 3% Conference was inspiring, empowering, emotional, and supportive—of everyone. I remember sitting on the plane frustrated on the way to NYC. I was boiling in my circumstances and refusing to take any of my stressers off my plate. It only took 48 hours of whittling to realize I’m valued, and that I didn’t have to carry my baggage around with me. When I hand it to God, he works through his people, like Nilofer and Kelly, and meets you where you are. I did not attend the 3% Conference by a freak accident, it was part of his plan. Now that I’m back, I can’t wait to start doing my part—both inside and outside the office—to help women feel safe and empowered in what can sometimes be a total white boys club.
Thanks POSSIBLE for taking a risk on me, sending me on the trip of a lifetime, hooking me up with amazing team members, and always pouring into me. I couldn’t imagine a better place to get started.
^^ Industry legend Cindy Gallop, and my ultimate career advocate Amy Vaughan.
For actual content about my change-the-ratio-learnings, check out my post on the 3% Conference blog to be posted here… SOON.
Don’t Forget Your Jaekle Jam: