Talent Is King

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Give a monkey a typewriter and enough time, and he’ll eventually write a Shakes peare play. After reading Sally Hogshead’s article “Work Ethic, Ugh” [A&C, Sept. 16], I’m beginning to wonder if that monkey wouldn’t make “a brilliant ad” instead.

I don’t know any agencies that are hiring typing monkeys these days (although there are bound to be a few), nor do I know any clients willing to pay for the time it would take for them to achieve such brilliance. So, when it comes to work ethic and talent, I’ll take talent, please. Because you can count on talent to consistently hit more homers for its clients, and at the end of the day, that is the only thing that matters—not how many “A for effort” stickers you get.

Yes, talent is still king, and even more so today. And although talent might make everything look easier, it doesn’t work any less than someone without it.

“Sitting down and working. Hard. For a long time. Long after the night crew has stopped vacuuming the hallways,” the kind of behavior Ms. Hogshead admires, might earn a person brownie points and/or carpal tunnel syndrome, but it doesn’t mean anything more than he or she is physically in the office. (Hell, I attended most of my math classes, but I still can’t balance my checkbook.) The real question is: Is this person thriving in that type of environment? If so, great. Perhaps typing monkeys are the future. But what if the gods of creativity are claustrophobic? What if someone’s muse decides to have an affair with the boy next door? Do we really think that pounding one’s head into a sweat-cubical is going to do any good?

Perhaps now is the perfect time to switch the mind to autopilot and let the subconscious take over. Run that neglected errand. Get a massage. Go to a bookstore. Visit an art gallery. Work from a park or café. See a movie. Go for a run. Make smoothies for everyone. Just switch mental gears for a moment. Change your scenery. Be brilliant by any means possible. And repeat as necessary. As long as you’re responsible enough to make meetings, you’re reachable by cell and you’re consistently knocking it out of the park, there’s no problem. Changing the way you work might even create opportunity.

The idea that you can advance your career by staying in the office makes me sad. What industry are we in again? Is it 1984 already?

Talent does not stop thinking when it leaves the office. It does actually come up with great ideas in the shower. And while lying in bed. And while driving to work. And while playing games. And while scanning through books and magazines. Talent is always working. Just check out the level of work done in London or Amsterdam by people who go home earlier and vacation longer.

Talent is the cursed consumer who studies, questions, deconstructs and reassembles the world—from beer-bottle labels and billboard ads to street fashion and architecture. It knows what it likes and what it doesn’t because it has to live with it. Talent makes life its work, not the other way around.

Long live talent.