Who better to go to for career advice than Sir John Hegarty, the cofounder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and one of the world’s most awarded creatives? The man behind some of the best advertising of all time, including Levi’s "Launderette" and "Vorsprung Durch Technik" for Audi, is still enjoying an illustrious career that has spanned six decades. And he’s lived up to his oft-quoted aphorism, "do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you" and has applied his creativity well beyond the ad game. He is a bona fide vintner, producing what’s been described as "a generous and powerful wine, full of fruit and joy" from his winery in the Languedoc region of France. Here, Hegarty offers tips on amplifying your creativity, extending your career as a creative, and staying on top of your game.
The working life span of a creative can be brutally short. While artists and musicians can repeat the same ideas, creatives need to continually come up with new material. One way to turn a 10-year career, into 20 or even 50 years, according to Hegarty, is to stay connected. "You have to stay riveted to what is going on around you," he says. "And stay positive. Cynicism is the death of creativity." Also, don’t be tempted to withdraw into your own world. "When I see people in the office walking around with headphones on, I tell them ‘you’re not seeing what’s going on around you—you didn’t see when that woman put her bag down and the car horn went off; you could use that in a commercial’."
To illustrate the importance of staying connected, Hegarty points to fashion designer Paul Smith’s inspiring experience in the Milan airport. Smith had some time to kill as his flight was delayed, but instead of retreating to a quiet seating area, he took a stroll around. A lone bracelet charm which had fallen to the ground caught his eye. He picked it up and decided it would make a beautiful button for a shirt. Smith went on to make 30,000 shirts with that button detail.
Getting recognition for your achievements can be a dangerous thing, Hegarty warns. With the awards comes the nice car, the personal assistant, and the big office, all of which can act like a fortress and prevent outside influences from coming in. "You become isolated, and creatives cannot become isolated because they have to be part of culture, " Hegarty notes.
Taking big risks is easy when you are starting out, because no one knows you and failure doesn’t stick. When your reputation rises, being daring becomes difficult. "Your success really does eat away at your future opportunities, " he says. "It takes great courage to break through."
Once you’ve achieved enough to be held in high regard, people may stop disagreeing with you. Don’t surround yourself with "yes" men and women. Stay close to people who aren’t afraid to tell you when you are wrong. "You need people around you that you can trust to say "that’s a shit idea," Hegarty says. "Every McCartney needs a Lennon."
Hegarty, who has his own vineyard in France, likes nothing better than spending time with people in professions different from his own—like his winemaker for example. "Talking to people in different industries about what they do is fascinating. " he says. "It opens channels in your thinking you didn’t know were there. "
Hegarty is an avid reader of the Financial Times, though he admits he doesn’t always understand it. "You have got to read stuff outside your comfort zone, as well as doing things you love, " Hegarty says. "You can pick up a business article, get a creative angle on it and find the solution in creativity."