Ian Sohn of WPP is 48 years old. Old enough to have gained the critical experiences and insights that lead one to wisdom.
He shared some of his knowledge with Adweek, recently. The article is behind the trade magazine’s paywall, but Sohn kindly provided a PDF version for non-subscribers.
I love how Sohn says (in the article), “…the thing is I was never young. My youth was never a professional asset. Being cool wasn’t my currency.” He continues, “In my 20s and 30s, my value was hard work, accountability, thoughtfulness. In my 40s, it’s empowering people, leading with empathy, listening, pragmatism in the face of complex challenges.”
Sohn also concludes that he will celebrate his trips around the sun. That’s the spirit!
I Graduated in ’87 (Same As It Ever Was)
I am 54 in Earth years, and like Sohn have seen and heard a few things, and gotten some important things done.
My first job out of college was Production Coordinator for American Rivers in Washington, DC. I produced, mailed, and processed the organization’s direct mail, annual reports, and other marketing collateral. I also counted the money as it rolled in and kept track of our response rates and return on investment.
We all learn so much at work. I recall a few things from that time, including how the three Yale grads on staff had more in common than a diploma. The youngest of the three was my age, and he didn’t like that I read the newspaper in the morning at my desk. He felt that was lazy of me. So, he told the older Yalie in the executive director’s seat about his feelings, which were then shared with me. I had just closed a $25,000 deal with Calistoga Mineral Water (with help from my mom, who was VP of Planning at a sales promotion agency in Princeton), so I asked him how much money the other kid was bringing to the party.
And the Story Continues…
Sohn mentioned me and a handful of other people—Cindy Gallop, Alex Murrell, Ian David, and Bob Hoffman—working to turn the tide of ageism against the ageists, (so they float out to sea, never to be heard from or seen again).
I appreciate Sohn’s recognition of my contributions to the topic. As with the battles for gender and racial equality, there’s always more to do. More to understand and more to explain.
Sohn wisely admits that his success has something to do with being a white male. I’m also a white male and many privileges come my way because of it. Even this article is a result of my privilege. If I wasn’t privileged, I wouldn’t have the time or capacity to make this argument or any other argument. Nor would I have this digital platform to host my arguments, because it costs money to create and then provide this information.
Some activists in other civil rights spaces wonder if the aging white men now in the fight to defeat ageism, were careless and clueless before it impacted them directly. I suppose it’s a question that can’t be avoided, and maybe that’s okay. I will speak for myself. I cared about gender and racial equality long before ageism began to impact my career. But I care more now. Empathy is something conscious people hopefully acquire in time.