part 3: "stepping over the edge"

a portrait of sol


continued from part 2: "when opportunity knocks"

in spanish, the word "sol" means "sun"...and that is exactly what he reminded me of.

brilliant. warm. inspiring. a beacon for clients' brands—guiding them inward, toward their core. defining. refining. capturing their essence. and then leading them outward in a beautiful tapestry of design and words.

in brainstorms, beyond the easels and colored markers, he would hand out dictionaries in latin, spanish and italian. whether the assignment was branding a new treadmill or naming a luxury line of pillows, we'd leave no stone (or language) unturned. ideas just flowed: whether good, bad or neutral. in the end, it was all part of the process of getting to the truth.

with clients, it was magic. they'd come with a challenge. entrust him with their brand. and, with the eloquence of an orator, he'd unveil a new position or concept, simultaneously inducing chills and inspiring belief. they swooned. as if pixie dust had just been sprinkled over their eyes and they saw their brand revealed, in its true essence, for the very first time.

i met sol through a twist of fate (or if you read my previous posts, perhaps the culmination of all my decisions prior). whichever it was, he pulled me over to the other side. the agency side. my lifelong quest had been fulfilled.

so, when it came time for my moment, my big debut, my immersion into agency life—in the presence of such an immense talent and mentor, i responded like any normal, red-blooded copywriter would.

i froze. like wylie coyote when he finally caught the road runner, i literally went blank.

by the end of my first week, i had logged at least 35 hours in meetings and had copy projects ranging from a sales sheet for an artificial sweetener to a brochure for a new line of ergonomic staplers to the brand positioning for a health and wellness company, and an annual report for a charter school. i was shell-shocked.

each night, i'd go home and after everyone was fast asleep, i'd open up the computer and try to write. it was painful. i'd spent my entire academic and professional life writing, words flowing from my fingertips like water, and now, the well was dry.

i had the sinking feeling that i had made a huge mistake. "maybe i wasn't cut out for this." i thought. "i should've stayed on the client side." the hours were certainly better (aka sane), the workload was negligible, and the pressure—nonexistent. i was sure sol was thinking the same thing.

i somehow stumbled through the first few weeks, and then one day he stopped by my cube for a check-in.

"how's it going with the motorola video script?"

"'s going ok...i was actually hoping we could get together to bounce off some ideas." [heart starting to race]

"i read through it and i think it's getting there...but i get this sense that you're holding something back."

"really? what do you mean?" i said, all the while thinking to myself "i'd buy a couple buckets of fiber if i thought that would help clear up this verbal constipation i'm suffering from."

and then the epiphany struck.

"celia, i feel like you're standing right on the edge of a cliff. you just need to trust your instincts and step off the edge."

without saying anything more, i understood. in life, when you want something so deeply, and all your efforts are directed toward that goal, you care—viscerally. you can feel it in your core. the pressure is on. and the fear of failure may be greater than you've ever experienced before.

it is at that moment that you have to detach. let go. stop thinking and start trusting: in yourself. in your accomplishments. in your history. in your future.

on that day, he talked me off the ledge, by encouraging me to jump off—feet first. and i did...

and never looked back.