Staying Relevant : Lessons from Mad Men

Sometimes I feel a little “Mad Men ish”, like Don when he returned to Sterling Cooper after his forced leave of absence and finding that everything had changed. Don Draper, who had once been on top of the world, a  Clio recipient, and the most desired man on Madison Avenue, was feeling lost, irrelevant and disinterested. His professionalism and advertising schtick in tact, Don was still “Don”, but things around him had moved on to a younger, newer, more progressive generation of workers. He didn’t exactly fit in any more. Does that sound familiar?

There are many of you who like me launched businesses in the early 2000’s who have weathered the storms of change over the last two decades. From the anxiety of moving from the 90’s to “Y2K”, to getting through 9/11, the crash in 2008, adjusting to social media and new technology, and now COVID. It’s definitely been a brewing pot for new stories, and lessons learned as we embrace different ways of doing business. Like Don in that final season of Mad Men when he lost everything before coming full circle into his potential, we must rethink our skills and behavior, albeit painful and not without consequence, to be taken seriously. Without the respect and recognition for his past accomplishments, when Don returned to Sterling Cooper, he had to prove himself all over again, regardless of his superior experience.

Today, if we are moving forward it is because we are seeing the new business climate as a challenge to embrace, and we are working to reinvent ourselves to accomplish that.  We have to learn to shift our thinking and ask “what are we doing to remain relevant, to adjust ourselves, in these new times?”.  We cannot rest on our accomplishments of 10 years ago, nope, we have to be willing to put ourselves out there, learn new things, create an environment for new accomplishments, and embrace new relationships.

Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is.


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