The Richest Man I Know
I’ll remember the way that you took to
For the rest of my life and for the rest of the day.
It came up upon me, without any warnin’.
So now I’ll be in your eyes whenever you look away.
I tend to be pretty stupid when it comes to money. It’s not because I don’t understand it. I’m just not that into it. Plus, I don’t think I’d be a very good rich person. I don’t play golf. I don’t like caviar. And the only shoes I own are Converse One Stars. I would upset a lot of maîtres d's.
When it comes to money, my goal has always been to have enough to cover everything that I need and every once in a while, a few of the things that I really want. Like a cherry red Gibson 335 with a mahogany neck and trapezoidal inlays. That’s what Chuck Berry played. Some day, I will too. Oh, yes. Some day.
So, while I realize that money is important, I don’t place a ton of value on it. I read a quote somewhere. It was something like: “The money you have isn’t really yours. It just happens to be in your pocket right now.”
I like that a lot. And not because I’m secretly some kind of devout socialist. It just points to the transient nature of material wealth. That’s what I dig about it. It’s just a fancy way of saying, "Easy come. Easy go."
What I value the most are ideas. Which, I know, sounds super cliché. And I apologize for that, but I assure you my intentions are good.
I think if you asked any professional baseball player to choose between a million dollars and hitting a winning homerun in the seventh game of the World Series, they’d pass up the dough for the dinger faster than you can say Bill Mazeroski.
Creatives are no different. You don’t even have to do the money scenario. We’d trade our mother for a really great idea. Sorry, Mom. I’ll call you later and explain.
So with creativity as currency— and the ability to come up with ideas as the measure of one’s wealth— the richest man I know is Rich Siegel.
Rich has been a 44 year old copywriter for at least the last 15 years. He’s been one of the most successful and sought after freelance talents on the West Coast for as long as I can remember. He writes a wonderfully entertaining blog called Round Seventeen that’s inspired me almost daily since 2009. He’s written four books. Done some of the most famous work in advertising. And was considered by Lee Clow to be one of the best writers to ever walk the halls of Chiat/Day.
Rich has written for TV. He’s had his work turned into movies. Pestered politicians. And is most likely officially banned from North Korea for his Kim Jung Fun series.
But all of that is just scratching the surface. If you know Rich or if you follow him on social media, you quickly begin to realize that this is a man with no off-switch. The ideas that flow through Rich’s brain on a daily basis are literally non-stop. They just keep coming one after another.
It’s a trait I don’t possess. Unlike Rich, I actually have to think for quite a while to come up with an interesting idea. Rich is different. His cup runneth over.
I follow a lot of creatives. I’m lucky to know a few of the best. And I’ve been working in creative departments for the last 25 years. So I know how creative people behave. And with the really great creatives you tend to see a few common traits. The biggest one that I notice is, that for the best of the best, the work that they do in advertising is just the tip of an enormous iceberg of creativity. For these rarefied creatures, advertising isn’t enough. They need side projects.
Just to be clear, what I’m saying, is that there are people out there who regularly spend 12 hours a day pursuing break-through ideas at the highest level possible and then still have so much creative energy left inside of them that they have to go home and spend another 8 hours or so working it off on something they’re even more passionate about.
Creativity isn’t magic. I actually kind of cringe when people say, they can’t wait to see the creative team work their magic. It’s total bullshit. We’re not magicians.
Creatives are problem solvers. We’re trained to make connections—often times from seemingly disparate and illogical spaces— that provide solutions in an unexpected fashion. That’s not to say that other people can’t be creative. Because in the agency business we always say that creative ideas can come from anyone.
But only from creatives are those ideas reliably and consistently delivered every single day, over and over again, on time, on strategy, within the budget and with multiple options. Kevin, from accounting, can’t do that.
It’s something that for most people takes quite a bit of time to master. And even then, it involves an incredibly time consuming process of exploring multiple pathways—many of which lead to nowhere.
However, with experience, the best creatives learn to move through this exercise extremely quickly. And that’s what allows Rich to be as prolific with his ideas as he is.
But there’s one more thing.
A lot of people come up with ideas. And a lot of those people’s ideas are pretty good. But Rich does what most people don’t. He actually makes them happen. He follows through. Every day. All day long.
It’s something that’s pretty amazing to watch.
I’ve heard of people who are really great at sales be described as a walking ATM. I know some great salespeople. I’ve been to their vacation homes. It’s true.
That’s what Rich Siegel is. He’s a walking ATM. Only instead of shooting out cash, he spits out ideas that are pure gold. And he does it better than anyone I’ve ever met.
Which, in my book, makes him the richest man I know.
So look away, away
And let’s have no more cryin’.
It’s time I was leaving
But I thought you should know…
Look away, away
I’ll always be tryin’
To get back home to ya’
But now, I’ve got to go.