More than fifteen years ago, I read the fascinating memoir, Mary Wells Lawrence’s A Big Life in Advertising.
Mary Wells Lawrence is a legend—she was the first woman to be president of an advertising agency and the first woman to be CEO of a company on the New York Stock Exchange. This memoir traces her career from starting as a fledgling copywriter to head of the advertising agency that came up with ads like ‘Flick your Bic’ and ‘I Love New York’ and ‘Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”
One story from the book has stuck in my mind for a very long time.
She’s describing a period of her career when she’s working as the copy chief of the fashion division of Macy’s. She’s writing all the advertising copy, and she’s very happy in that role.
Then one day, she recounts:
People were gathering around the first [TV] sets that appeared, not because the programs were enthralling, but because the pictures moved. The first time I watched television I felt exactly as if something important had taken an elevator ride up to my head and gotten off and turned on the light in my mind. I knew that I was going to do something in television. It was in my cards. I remember feeling the warm relief of knowing what my future was.
I didn’t know anyone who was creating television programs or commercials. Nevertheless, whatever got off in my mind that day was very clear, I knew that one way or another I had to get into television while it was still new.
Before long, a headhunter called from an agency that was creating TV advertising.
It makes me so happy to read this account of someone coming into their work. To discover the work that’s right for us, and to be able to pursue it, is one of the greatest sources of happiness that life can offer.