I think I'm lucky enough to be interested in a lot of things, it's probably axiomatic to planners, but if I could pin down the stuff that has made me the most viscerally happy, apart from the obvious wife and children, it's doing sport.
I have an unhealthy interest with music, books, cooking, cinema and a very odd obsession with physics I'm just not clever enough for, but what has given the greatest joy is swimming and tennis.
Much of that was, and still is, the sheer joy of doing things well. That's swimming these days, I haven't picked up a racket in anger for much too long. The pleasure in bombing down a pool, heart just about to explode, but overflowing with ability and knowing this is something you were born to do is incomparable to me. I waffled about it here:
But there's also the pleasure in struggle. Knowing you've just overcome something ridiculously hard and performed beyond what you thought ever could. I remember when I was 12 and swam 200 metres butterfly for the first time. I really didn't want to do it, the pain in the shoulders, the lungs - everything, was overwhelming, but the sense of achievement, pride and self worth was amazing.Eventually it became routine.
Just like the times I played tennis against boys and girls who were much better than me, but pace and placement of their shots left no time to think - just do and survive. Then you adjust and the weight of their shot on your racket becomes less, you adjust to the pace and you begin to live with them, playing like you've never played before. You finish exhausted, mentally drained, but deliriously happy at surviving.
Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is the best possible place to be. Not just because it feels amazing when you survive, it's the quickest way to be able to do tomorrow what you couldn't do today. Humans are amazing at adapting to new harder challenges (think about the way video games are built in levels, you gradually become proficient at one, fail for awhile at the next level then you get past that one) and that's how you get better quickly.
Why am I banging on about this? Because if you work as a junior in an agency, the worse thing you can do is coast along. For example, if you're scared of presenting, the only way to get over it is grasp the nettle and find an opportunity to do one. Hopefully something where there isn't much pressure to perform, so when it matters, you've done it enough times to not have to worry. My old swim coach used to say there shouldn't be any pain you feel in a race you haven't felt ten times worse in training. It's the same in planning and stuff.
You want to get good at detail? Copy check 200 supermarket deal ads at 11pm on a Friday. I did and learned how to never fuck up, despite the fact my natural attention to detail is shocking, as the spelling and grammar on this blog will attest.
Most agencies only promote you when you're virtually doing that job anyway, so behave like you are and look for any opportunity you can to do the things people above you do.
On the other hand, one horrific trait in agencies is stretching people and seeing if they snap. It's good management to push people out of their comfort zone, but to leave people in a constant state of anxiety, unable to sleep and permanently feeling the clammy grip of terror is just not on in my view. Sometimes that's down to very disorganised directors, group heads and the like, who don't realise what they're putting you through.
But sometimes that's down to bastards who think the way to manage people is the sink or swim method. A certain agency head has been quoted saying that he has a massive churn rate of new staff, because the agency culture is to put them through absolute hell for the first three months and see it they can handle it.
If you're in a situation where you're terrified of what the day will bring and you think you're boss in unaware, for God's sake talk to them.
If you feel un-challenged demand to be pushed.
But if you think your boss is pushing you to the point of mental breakdown and either doesn't care, or thinks this is good management, get out as fast as you can.