Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are all celebrated with great fanfare in the United States each November — as they should be. I’m celebrating exceptionally hard this month because it also happens to be National Adoption Awareness Month and I recently became a dad again — rather unexpectedly.
I have a new 15-year old daughter. Ariella, let’s call her — since I can’t share her real name but much like the angel, she’s quite the lioness.
Just a few months before I met her, Ariella ran away from a troubled home and was seemingly alone in the world. She had a few aces up her sleeve, though — my 17-year old son being one of them. They had met a year earlier when he’d noticed her eating alone in the cafeteria and decided to befriend her (side note: super proud to have helped raise such an empathetic and compassionate kid). Marginalized and isolated, Ariella slowly revealed what had been happening in her life.
The two became fast friends, finding connections through music, politics, and other shared interests. Their friendship reached a crescendo in August when my son rushed into our bedroom late one evening insisting that we had to protect her (from what, he wouldn’t say). After doing our due diligence (in under an hour, mind you) we quickly realized that this was not a case of high-school drama but an actual situation. So, we leapt.
Let’s just say it’s not easy to navigate the foster care system. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, mountains of paperwork to fill out, and interviews to be had. There were numerous home inspections and of course, classes to take (20 hours with Guardians of Love in LA). But none of that mattered to me and my wife. All that mattered was helping this kid out and doing whatever it took to give her respite from the fear, a roof over her head, and, hopefully, a place to call home.
Fastforward a few months, and I’m happy to report that Ariella no longer jumps when someone knocks on our door or freaks out at the sound of a siren. She’s gone from seriously terrified to cautiously optimistic. I’ll take it. Possibility is a powerful thing.
I’ve realized that there are lessons learned from our journey with Ariella that apply to the daily grind of the advertising and marketing worl
Embrace what’s right
It isn’t easy to change course, but shake-ups are often necessary and may even be preferable. My wife and I got married 27 years ago. We adopted our first child after seven years of trying to conceive. A few years later IVF brought us twins. A challenging situation brought us Ariella.
Our family had been running pretty smoothly, so fostering (and hopefully adopting) Ariella could have really upset the apple cart (and to some extent, has).
I won’t lie. It’s often been a struggle, but even after a few short months, I honestly believe we’ve all emerged stronger because of it. Same holds true for a brand in dire need of change. If you’re worth your salt, you know what’s right for your client. It’s on you to gently guide them toward it. It may not be easy. But nothing truly rewarding ever is.
Iterate to awesome
Ariella is now (mostly) a wonderfully boring teenager. She has silly fights with our other kids and will often push back on being told to what to do: brush her teeth, clean her room, the usual. Perfect. It’s so satisfying to see her focus on mastering mundane day-to-day routines.
There’s a relentlessness to parenthood that eventually iterates to awesome. I’m convinced of it. Same holds true for ideation. You really want to change someone’s behavior? Walk as many miles in their shoes as you can bear. Comfort comes at a cost.
Good gets you better
Our family has calculated that we owe Ariella 722 good days to make up for a whole lot of crappy ones (figuring one good day could make up for six bad — you can do the math). I journal her life every day, notching the good against the bad.
That first month had me in the minus. But at recent count, I realized that Ariella’s good days now outweigh the bad by a margin of 3 to 1. She’s slowly catching up in school, having fewer panic attacks, and finally starting to eat like a teenager. I
It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong with a client or what’s crippling a brand. You help no one by doing so. Find out what’s right and pull at it until it’s all right. It’s positively infectious. I promise.
Is it really worth all the blood, sweat, and tears? Damn straight it is. Why else would you be in it if not for the belief you can make a difference? How can I can compare fostering a child to selling a Fitbit smart watch or the latest and greatest from Windows 10? Easy, it’s just a matter of degree. What my wife and I do fulfills our desire to make the world a better place to live. What I do professionally does so as well.
By the way, on any given day, there are about 438,000 foster kids in the U.S. This is the last day of National Adoption Awareness Month. which primarily aims to boost adoption of children currently in foster care. While #GivingTuesday has passed, here’s hoping the sentiment lingers. To learn more about how you can help kids survive and thrive, click here.