We just marked Peppercom's 14th anniversary. We didn't do anything special to mark the occasion. In fact, we didn't even mention it on the firm's intranet or bring it up at our regular staff meeting. Fourteen is one of those in-between years.
I hadn't given the 14th anniversary much thought until I read Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, 'What the dog saw.' Truth be told, it isn't a book but, rather, a compilation of Gladwell's short stories and essays. Some are quite good. Some aren't. It's illuminating, but it's certainly no 'Outliers.'
One chapter, entitled 'Late bloomers,' got my attention. In it, Gladwell attempts to explain why Picasso was successful at an early age while Cezanne didn't break through until he was well into his 50s. The author cites numerous other dichotomies as well: Keats and Byron vs. Twain and Frost, for example.
Gladwell got me thinking. Why did Ed and I become successful? After all, when we started the firm, we didn't think Peppercom would last more than six months. So, I took a quick dive into my favorite subject: me.
I jumped off to early successes at St. Francis Grammar School, but hit a serious trough in high school. Northeastern set me straight and headed me in the right direction. But, I experienced a series of career ups and downs before running into Edward Aloysius Moed and launching Peppercom at the age of 41.
Did I finally succeed because I needed to experience failure first? Did Ed succeed earlier in life because he was Picasso to my Cezanne? It's scary to think of Ed as the Picasso of PR. Does that make Jerry Schwartz the van Gogh of our field? Is Richard Edelman the Brahms of public relations?
Defining how, why and when someone succeeds fascinates me. In 'Outliers,' Gladwell addresses what he calls the '10,000 hour rule' to explain how such disparate people and groups as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the Beatles succeeded so early in life.
Success means different things to different people. I'd be hard pressed to describe it myself. But, I'm flattered to think others believe I'm successful. More importantly, though, I'm grateful that writers like Gladwell can shed light on the subject.
You see, too many young people are too caught up with becoming a success by a certain age. The beauty of Gladwell's late bloomers chapter is its truth: lots of people find success late in life.
So, here's a note to students, interns, junior account executives and a certain master's student in history: be patient. If you're good and you're persistent and, like me, you're a little bit lucky, you WILL find success. Worst case scenario: you'll find your own version of Ed Moed. And, trust me, that's not all bad.