I believe we all possess the adventure gene, but most of us suppress it for one reason or another.
In college I went home to the farm for spring break while my friends did jello shots in Mexico.
Upon graduation, I landed an internship at my first ad agency. There would be no backpacking through Italy, pub crawls in Ireland or drug trips in Amsterdam. I had a career to build, and besides, there would be plenty of time for travel and adventure after I made my first million or two.
I was well on my way as the ’90’s brought prosperity and wealth to businesses large and small. These businesses had brands to build and required ad campaigns to help them stand out from their equally successful competitors. It was a great time to be an ad man. Hell, it was a great time to be an American. Bill Clinton raised taxes to encourage things like home ownership, 401k contribution, business ventures, capital investment, etc. All good, healthy, economy-boosting ways to avoid paying any more of those higher taxes than necessary. And still, even Uncle Sam’s budget got balanced, thanks to all the new and growing businesses–not to mention the 28 million new jobs–adding to government coffers.
Then we elected a “c” student from Texas who promptly lowered taxes, making it easier for the wealthy to bank their money rather than reinvest it. He called these people the “job creators” because it sounded much friendlier than “greedy bastards.” And over the next eight years, a measly 3 million more jobs would be added to Clinton’s 28 million; not even enough to keep up with population growth.
In 2008 the economy would finally collapse, clients would struggle or go bankrupt, and my personal compensation would be cut in half. In less than a year I would go from owning a house valued at more than twice what I payed for it, to having the sheriff post a vacate notice on my door. My 401k would get a 40% haircut. Bankruptcy and divorce would soon follow.
Lately, every time I hear the phrase “The American Dream” I throw up a little. I now understand that it was a marketing slogan all along. The kind of slogan I’ve been writing for banks, casinos, newspapers, fast-food joints, power companies, grocery chains and ski resorts for more than a quarter century.
The good news is I’m over the idea of waiting until I make my first million or two before I allow myself an adventure. And I’m also over the notion that this country holds some divine blessing for me anymore. In fact, if I managed to land the United State of America account today, the first thing I would propose is a new slogan:
America. It was good while it lasted.