I firmly believe that the recession has made me what I am, and informed how I do what I do. It has fuelled me and given me the freedom to choose what I eat next.
Recession literally means to ’recede within oneself’. In a recession people tend to capitalise on existing resources or money already spent – their intellectual property, the clients that they have retained, skills that they already have or the hobbies that they find solace in now become assets.
Failure becomes a measurable phenomenon in a recession and in the process becomes more accepted. If everyone around you is failing, normality gives risk a different meaning.
Crossing a species barrier often makes you appear to be taking huge risks, when, in fact, all the time you have a solid foundation that you can rely on.
We are witnessing a rise in system design – the ’design of businesses’ – in order to squeeze more out of what we already have, or even more out of less.
But in a recession what can you really measure yourself by? How do you know when to give up and start again with something else? It’s quite alright to take a risk, but I think it takes real intelligence or experience to know when you’ve failed.
Is the recession just a question of life throwing us a tighter brief?
The emotions are not the same if you leave a career when you’re at the top rather than at the bottom, but the consequences are. I have done both and, believe me, it was important which one came first.
Dealing with failure is a massive part of life and if you don’t do it early on it can cripple you.
In life you deal with the big three events: you retire and lose your social circle; you lose your parents and become head of the family with no safety net; you get sick and old, and you face your own mortality.
I failed early on most of these. Failure is a good thing when it comes early. The thrill of failure – putting yourself in harm’s way – is pushing the boundaries of sanity.
Some say recession stagnates business and makes people hibernate. I find the marketers you have to explain this to are naturally asleep. If everyone else is sleeping, you go out hunting.
Stop professing and start playing – success comes out of play not out of a profession. Early in my career, people called this ’the amateur society’. This was wrong as it suggests there were professionals. No-one knew anything – at Deepend we made it up as we went along.
Recession makes room for play. It pushes us to invest in ourselves. Someone once asked what I had given up for the recession – I replied, ’Looking at my flat as my pension fund.’ I work in the service industry, and can only invest in me.
I have worked hard to redefine play/work boundaries. The rules are similar, the end-game being you still get fed. I want to wake up every morning and play at producing the best work of my life, on that day. I have a finite amount of them left and I’m no fair-weather rider.
If you mix recession and play you get a period of recess. When I was at school, huge things happened in the recess. Worlds were created, rules, boundaries and windows were broken. I made friendships, avoided beatings and had only one fear – that the bell would ring and I would be called back into class.
Recession is over, let’s enjoy the recess.
Simon Waterfall is founder of consultancy Fray, He co-founded digital groups Deepend and Poke, and is a former president of D&AD