Sanjeev Kotnala: 11 Rules for Freedom from Professional Stress for Ad & Marketing Professionals

24 Jan,2018

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Life in  Media, Advertising, Marketing and Technology has always been stressful. In fact, stress is an integral part of it. Here are some hard truths to help you out from chakravyu of professional stress.

You may agree, disagree, debate or discard them at your risk. However, some of you will smile with me. These truths will resonate with episodes in your professional life. They will revive fading memories, bring back faces and names you would have forgotten. Take it with a dose of sincerity… after all, life is nothing but ‘Perception Adulterated with Reality’.


1. Your Life Is Not A Campaign. And Campaign Life Is Getting Shorter.

It is an absolute truth. Mostly campaign life is shorter than the time spent developing it. Few campaigns see a second inning. Some by their karma get re-born in another category. Is this worth the stress? Don’t be afraid of not giving your best all the time. Or experimenting without perfection. No point getting emotionally hyper. Be courageous to voice your opinion and stop calling a mere observation an insight. And remember, there is always another grand campaign around the corner, only if you let go of this one.


2. Awarded Get Awards. Enter The First Awards Of The Season.

The first award function in the year defines who wins in the future award functions. Limited creative pops up with regularity and walks away with the trophy in award functions. After that, they get further strengthened with richly textured post-rationalised insights. You talk of biasing the jury. This is the way to do it.


3. Don’t Drown Yourself By Emotionally Marrying The Campaign.

You can count the number of stars in the sky, but it’s tough to keep track of campaigns. So many  TVCs, print ads, radio spots, digital intervention, activation engagement, OOH innovation, events highlights, virals are created in the ecosystem. Many contribute to the Creative Pollution!

Audiences forget your winning campaigns, and you are discussing that silly campaign which bombed. The brands themselves have a tough time remembering a three-year-old campaign. But you carry the scars of caffeine and darker liquids, fried foods on damaged kidney


4. Awards Have Many Owners.

Your life is yours alone, but your campaign is yours until it wins. Then suddenly even the office boy who got you a hot cup of coffee and the Uber driver who dropped you home one late night will have a story and share in the credit.

You fail alone, and you win as a team.


5. Insights Are Dead.

Controversies help win awards. Such campaigns pop up uninvited in the digital shadows of our beloved screens. Judges don’t like explaining their decisions. So, stop looking for brand insight. Start looking for possible controversies, virality and the Bot farms for digital engagement.

Remember you are not gunning for the hall of fame or the lifetime achievement award.


5. Being Busy Is Not Being Productive Enough.

Decades back in the era of facetime, busy people were in demand. Crazy schedules, strict juggling timelines, multi-tasking, lips darkened with smoke and extra-marital affairs were indicators of a busy person; the efficient highly productive person.

No longer, it is true. Bold and inspiring is respected. It is ok to be stretched but not okay to be constrained. You are for the finished work and results not plans and strategies. Everyone wants your piece to complete the puzzle. And that’s the only thing you should focus on.

Busy means: you are either ineffective, or the organisation has given you more than you can chew. Either way, you are screwed. You are unable to have a healthy work-life balance. You are perpetually seeking quality-time you promised the family. And you are by default getting branded hardworking, dedicated, over-burdened person who is damn good in the position he holds. Say goodbye to any upward movement.

Wake up and give yourself the time you deserve. Invest in self and relationships.


6. Failure Before Success Is A Possibility, But A Certainty Afterwards.

Learning is in our DNA. That’s what we do. We learn from mistakes, hopefully, from errors, other’s made. However, many of us are not so intelligent.

As early as possible, learn to accept failure and to forgive. Do it before getting successful. Don’t let success raise the benchmark so high or give wings to the thought of corporate immortality that will frustrate you in life.

Be assured; a failure waits for you on the next turn. Be ready for it.


7. Map And The Territory Are Two Very Different Things.

Remember, you are the results of yesterdays plans. Ideas count for nothing. Career is all about merit. It is the result of how well you are branded in the mind of decision-makers and influencers. Hence, take charge. Learn to keep a distance from negative results and flow with the limited positivity in the organisation.

Surround yourself with ambitious people with a dream. Get your ‘Brand-i’ right, and you will never be held responsible for a failure. Remember, the map is not the territory, but you must marry the two to get the result. And a right map helps.


8. Learn To Forgive Without Waiting For An Apology.

When you forgive someone, you are making a promise not to hold the events of the past against them. You are freeing yourself from the burden of being a victim. It is all about you and your life. So, screw it. Stop taking offence to every possible thing.


9. Find The Right Circle To Work With.

You are as good as the company you keep. Be strong enough to let go of people. You should be with people who make you feel great, not who emotionally drains you and make you feel uncomfortable and insecure.

Listen to your instincts. Get out of the circus you are in. Find the people and activities that energise and inspire you to deliver the best.


10. You are not your social profile.

Surrounded by screens contsnatly sharing or creating content and personas. We say things we regret later. We waste quality time we were searching for. If you can’t wean yourself away, form these, at least slot your social and email shots.

Redefine your media consumption. You don’t have to be the audience for all the content being generated. It is time you took care of your life the way you want it.

LIFE is right now. Life is about the present. It is about the moment. Get ready to live and enjoy the moment. Don’ let the distant dreams, and future expectations kill your today.


11. Proactively Change.

Wean yourself away from the fear of change, recognise it will happen. You can’t control everything. You are the net result of your past choices and actions. You are today defining your tomorrow. So why not take charge and proactively identify the change you want.



Being selfish is about finding time for self to enjoy the life in the present.



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