Try the Unlikely Painkiller for Copywriters Who Work Too Hard

Why do you work so hard?

Let me give you my answer for a second before we get into the painkiller I’ve been using in 2014 …

If I don’t have a knot in my spine at the end of the day, I can’t sink myself into a session on Call of Duty.

It’s backwards – but it’s just how my mind works.

And I realised this during the most depressing year of my life …

I graduated in 2009 and told myself I deserved a year out from The Grind (… as if university was ‘tough’. I had three lectures a week – at most. Typical student, eh?).

So, I stuck to my 16-hour a week part-time job in the local electrical store. And I barely broke a sweat in any of my shifts.

Post-graduation, I was taking it easy. Really easy.

Like I said, it was the most depressing year of my life.

I couldn’t enjoy the things I wanted to … because I felt like what my brother likes to call an ‘oxygen thief’.

Only when I started volunteering did I regain that sense of fulfilment, purpose and happiness.

Then I got my role as a junior copywriter and finally swallowed a lungful of deserved air.

The hard work had begun.

Are You Working Hard or Working Smart? Or Both?

But I now realise that long shifts — even in a job I love — are not the answer to happiness. And certainly not the answer to being my best.

A lot of us work overly hard no matter what we do – like my girlfriend’s aunt who has four jobs (cleaner, car park attendant, carer and bingo hall operator). Or Claude C. Hopkins, who is regarded today as the founding father of modern advertising.

— Note: You might consider David Ogilvy to be the founding father of modern advertising … but Ogilvy swore by the works of Hopkins. Perhaps Claude ought to be considered the grandfather. Your call. —

His book, Scientific Advertising, is the Big Bang … and all the ‘How to’ guides we’re reading from today’s copywriters are merely shrapnel from that first BOOM.

He wasn’t always an ad man.

Hopkins was a hustler. He worked 18-hour days for fun. And he shot up to become head bookkeeper at Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company in his earlier years.

The job was well paid at $75 a month.

Hopkins had grabbed that position by the nads through gruelling determination and hard work – two traits he’d owned for his entire life.

Those 18-hour shifts had paid off. Big time.

But not big enough …

He soon realised that the steak he’d been chewing was a rag of beef in comparison to what he could be tasting if he ditched that cushy bookkeeper’s job and became a salesmen.

From his seat at the top of his bookkeeping career, Hopkins could see that it was the salesmen who were bringing in the business, rolling in the cash and making it rain.

It wasn’t about working 18-hour days to get to the next prize meal.

It was about working smart – and learning what he had to learn in order to enjoy the juicier fillets in life.

Brian Clark talks about the same thing in the first episode of New Rainmaker.

Those who bring the profits into a business will always earn more kudos, respect and money.

They are the rainmakers. They make the rules. And they work smart.

I’m still trying to figure out the trade-off between hard work and smart work. 

Are You Learning Enough to Stay Pain Free?

See, working too hard can cause a nasty rash on your happiness.

New Rainmaker and the books of Claude Hopkins have been my calamine lotion. 

You’ll learn more about being an ad man, marketer (or whatever your role in advertising might be) from these two, than you will from any marketing-related degree. 

In fact, I’m willing to say that you’ll learn more about the principles of great advertising from these two than you will from a year in a marketing agency. 

I know Drayton Bird often underlines how nobody reads anything. And that probably includes your boss.

Are You Prepared to Sacrifice Zombie Enjoyment for True Happiness?

If you’re truly a copywriter, you’ll install more happiness from these than you will from your Xbox or HBO.

It’s soothing to learn from the best and to actively train yourself to be better than you were yesterday.

I don’t need a knot in my spine to enjoy being educated (plus it’s nice to get through one night without being disappointed in my deteriorating first person shooter reactions).

You’ll enjoy identifying the parallels between New Rainmaker and Hopkins’ literature – each delivered nearly 100 years apart. And if you’re making a living as a writer, you’ll get to implement what you learn today, in your job tomorrow.

Soon enough, your own confidence and knowledge makes that job a little easier.

This dilutes your stress levels. And your happiness is topped up, daily.

So, that’s your unlikely painkiller – studying.

Now it’s just a question of whether or not you’re willing to take the medicine.

— Note: I’ve got a feeling that if this is the painkiller for hard work, then Charlie Hoehn’s ‘Play it Away’ might just be the permanent cure. And that goes for everybody, not just ad men/women. —

Turns out Hopkins continued to work long hours, even as a rainmaker … not sure if that’s my kind of deal. And in all honesty, I’m late to this feast he’s been hosting since the 1920s.

But the food here never goes stale.

Pull up a seat.

If you’ve got your own remedy for relieving the symptoms of hard work, please share your best advice in the comments below (all suggestions are welcome. I know one copywriter who uses rum to unwind – that’s more than valid in my book).

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