Remembering Those Who Came Before

If you haven’t seen the trailer for Pixar’s next blockbuster “Coco,” you will. The new feature from Disney’s animation juggernaut drops on November 22 and it’s already getting rave reviews.

The visually stunning film tells the story of a young boy who magically finds himself in the Land of the Dead. The concept is wrapped around Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday that brings families together to pray for and remember friends and family who have died. Centuries ago, Day of the Dead was celebrated in early summer, but today, it begins on Halloween and runs through November 2. Not coincidentally, many denominations of the Christian church observe “All Saints Day” on November 1, celebrating both Saints who have passed, and those still living.

On All Saints Day last week, I found myself in a moment of reflection and particularly mindful of those who have had a profound influence on my life and career over the past three decades. My parents and sister. My husband and children. My teachers. Agency Presidents. Account Directors and Creatives who took an eager, young graduate who had no idea what she didn’t know, and showed her. Taught her. Mentored her. Sometimes with impatience. More often with complete grace.

I thought about all the smart, driven, energetic people I’ve gone to battle with over the years. Dozens of pitches. Hundreds of clients. Thousands of assignments. Brilliant strategists who modeled what that role was supposed to look like. Devoted account people willing to do anything to take care of their clients. Losing sleep. Missing date nights. Flying to vacations a day late because a second family was depending on you.

I was mindful of the smart, inspired, creative people I worked with who magically, and routinely, created magic out of thin air. A brutal mix of talent and imagination that wowed more clients than I can even remember. Same goes for the Media Directors who achieved the same results using spots and dots instead of pens and layout pads.

I’m not sure how long I sat thinking about those who have gone before me. But at the end of it, I was left with two very present thoughts. First, a strong feeling of thankfulness for the opportunities I’ve enjoyed, and the people whose friendships have made this business a calling for me instead of a job. Second, I had an overwhelming feeling that I now have an opportunity – an obligation – to do for the young people I work with what my mentors did for me.

Do you think about that in your own company? How often do you mentor the young people who work for you? Ask them how they’re doing. Take them to lunch. Pick up something great at Barnes & Noble you think they should read. How often have you heard or been part of conversations maligning the Millennial mindset in favor of just grinding the way we did? How do we teach them what they need to know, without belittling their energy, curiosity and wonder at being in this business?

Twenty years from now, when those who know you are celebrating All Saints Day and recalling the effect you had on them, what will they say?

JULIE ONDRUSEK is the COO/Director of Client Services at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. For more about challenger branding, subscribe to our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog