If there has been one overarching theme of this final season of Mad Men, it’s been the reestablishment of Don Draper against a rapidly changing business climate.
As the world he once dominated quickly evolves past him, Don must work his way up from the bottom to reclaim his identity and to identify exactly what his identity is.
Mad Men often parallels the work of the creative team at the ad agency with the internal struggle of all writers and creative thinkers. One scene from the penultimate episode of this half season with Don and Peggy brilliantly breaks down the conflict a writer goes through when their work is good, but not quite good enough.
Ultimately though, the biggest struggle Don faces is not against his creativity but against his willingness to do the work at all.
This season of Mad Men finds Don Draper at his lowest point – jobless, separated across the country from his wife, spiraling down to the bottom of a liquor bottle. He is brought back into the office only to be given a menial job in the hopes that he will quit or give the partners in the firm a reason to fire him.
Peggy, the student he mentored, is now his disdaining boss. She gives Don the remedial task of coming up with some simple taglines for a new client. Scoffing at the idea of this work beneath him, Don grabs a bottle of vodka, calls up his old friend Freddie, and skips work to see the Mets.
Falling into a drunken stupor, Don is awakened the next morning by Freddie handing him a hot cup of coffee. With pity and a bit of disgust for a man throwing his life away, Freddie speaks one very important sentence to his old boss:
“Do the work, Don.”
Instead of reclaiming his spot as the king of the ad agency, Don Draper lets his sense of entitlement drag him down to his lowest point. Don believes basic work to be below his talent level and nearly lets his second chance slip by him.
The path to success is lined with many boring, repetitive, and remedial tasks. It is easy to become spoiled by our own talent and abilities.
We begin to think just because we’ve reached a certain level we are immune to having to do the basic things which brought us success in the first place.
Ultimately though, any sustained success comes back to our willingness to obey those three words – “Do the work.”
No true battle can be won without doing the work. Not even Don Draper can bypass the work to get to where he wants to be.
There is work before you today. Some of it will excite you. Some of it will bore you. Some of it you will find to be beneath you.
You may think you are above doing the work. You may think the world or God owes you some level of success just based on your reputation.
But as Don Draper learns, the world rushes by those who rest on their laurels.
Success comes to those who are willing to sit down and write everyday. It comes to those who sift through the daily chores which lay the foundation for the fun parts of our work we truly enjoy. It comes to those who are willing to get their hands dirty on the path to something beautiful.
Success comes to those who do not expect success to be handed to them.
Success comes to those who will Do The Work.
How will you Do The Work before you today?
3 thoughts on “3 Words Mad Men Taught Me About Success”
Spot on, Alex! Dare I say, “Good work!”
Ha – thanks! Gotta keep doing the work…
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