'Happy fit'
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno () - August 1, 2011 - 12:00am

Life is weird. One day, you think you’ve got it all figured out and you’re in full control. The next day, you’re being blown away; you go into a tailspin and have no clue where the hell you’re going. 

That happened to me around 16 years ago. I was working for a topnotch law firm. I should have been completely happy with my situation then. I was single, not completely hideous-looking, earning my own money, gainfully employed, facing a stable future, not completely hideous-looking (sorry, I said that already, but just wanted to drive home a point) and reasonably healthy. 

Yet I didn’t like my situation.

Why did I feel that way? At that time, to tell you honestly, I wasn’t really sure. I guess I was too busy analyzing whether or not I had made the wrong career choice, or if I had just wasted four and a half years in law school. I was in denial, and I didn’t want to admit that lawyering was not for me. But after 16 years, I know now why I wanted out. There were two reasons: (1) I didn’t like what I was doing, so I wasn’t happy, and (2) it wasn’t the right fit for my skill set and interests.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret going to law school and I don’t regret being a lawyer. Law school gave me the proper training for what I’m doing today. I love the fact that I’m a lawyer, and the fact that I have a strong legal background as knowledge of the law is key in any business. My being a lawyer has always “enhanced” my credentials, and it’s always been a good thing to put on my CV. However, there were some things that lawyers typically do that I didn’t particularly like. For starters, I didn’t enjoy arguing or debating. And as everyone knows, that’s what trial lawyers do: argue. That’s what lawyers do to earn a living. During my stint in a firm, I argued every day — mostly with people I didn’t even know — and who never did anything bad to me personally. And there was something about that whole situation that didn’t sit very well with me. I liked the legal analysis, the client meetings, the pursuit of justice, and planning out legal strategies. Heck, I even enjoyed the countless lawyer jokes (e.g., what’s the difference between a lawyer and a can of crap? Answer: The can. I liked that one). However, I detested the constant bickering, ass kissing with government officials, and all the under-the-table stuff. I am not trying to say I am a saint or anything. I’m not making this a moral debate (although it should be). And I must emphasize that there are certainly a good number of lawyers and judges out there who play by the rules. But it can’t be denied that in the legal profession, the culture of corruption is very strong, and if you’re not careful, you can get sucked in. And personally, I didn’t like that. I wanted to win, but I wanted to win based on sound legal strategy and the strength of logical and incisive reasoning. I didn’t want to win because I put money in someone’s pocket. There came a point when I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It was clear that the job wasn’t a perfect fit for me. I learned that it was just a game, and if you knew how to play around with the rules of the game, you’d most likely win.   And I didn’t want to do that. So to me, the sense of fulfillment wasn’t there.

When I resigned from the firm, I had two choices: be a legal counsel for a real estate firm, or be an AVP for Legal and Corporate Affairs for a medium-sized retail, licensing, and marketing company. I was torn.   But the reason I chose the latter was that my would-be boss told me that my role would not be limited to doing purely lawyer stuff. She said she’d allow me to dabble a little bit in operations, marketing, and business planning. And I liked that. I was going to do stuff other than lawyering, but I would still get to keep my “attorney” title, so my four years in law school would not be for naught. So I went ahead with the second option, and I learned a lot of stuff on marketing, advertising, PR, event management, arts and graphics, design, and retail operations.  

But while I was working there, again I was torn. I still wasn’t completely happy. I liked the marketing and creative part of my job. I liked the launch events and the creative ways to make noise about the products we were selling. But I didn’t enjoy the retail business, especially since we were mainly marketing stuffed toys and trinkets for little girls. Not exactly my cup of tea.   So I asked myself, “What do you really enjoy, Rod? What interests you?” My immediate answer was “sports.” I enjoyed sports, both as an athlete and a spectator. Sports made me happy. So I started telling people about my interest in sports. 

When you start telling people what you like, sooner or later, what you like will come to you. It’s the law of The Secret: what you think and desire will eventually come to you, if you desire it enough. And before I knew it, I was offered the country manager post at IMG, the largest sports marketing company in the world. It was in IMG that I think I really found my passion and my “mojo.” I liked how the whole sports business worked — how brands leveraged on the popularity of an athlete (e.g. Nike and Michael Jordan) — or a sporting event — to build brand loyalty and increase sales. It was also in IMG that I got very interested in media, because sports were essentially “distributed” to the people via media. Sports are not just events that happen before 20,000 people. Sports are compelling content that is broadcast to millions of people. 

So as I dabbled more in sports, I started dabbling more in media. Eventually I got offered a job at MTV. It was in MTV that I honed my skills in media sales, creative advertising, mass communications, and promotions.   This is where I finally discovered what I loved, and I personally call it “passion marketing.” Passion marketing is essentially leveraging on the “passions” of people to promote a brand or product. And the two passions I usually leverage on are music and sports. Those are the two human activities that can bring thousands — sometimes millions — of people together. And that’s what I want to be involved with: sports and music marketing.

Eventually, a Singaporean advertising company, Crush, hired me to head their operations here in the Philippines. The great thing about Crush is that the board didn’t restrict me. They didn’t limit me by saying, “Okay, set up an advertising agency.” They basically told me, “Build up Crush the way you want it to be.” So more than just creative advertising, I built Crush into what it is: a marketing communications problem solver. And most of the time, we use sports and music to solve the marketing communications challenges of our clients. So in the end, I found my niche.   I am happy with what I am doing. I found a job that I am genuinely interested in, and a job that is a perfect fit for my skill set and interests. Moreover, my law education and experience has not gone to waste because around 20 percent of what I do still involves knowledge of the law, i.e., drafting and reviewing contracts, negotiations, corporate governance, dealing with various government agencies, tax planning, etc. In the end, nothing has gone to waste.

Personally, I’d like to call my situation “happy fit.” The happiness factor is there because of the interest in what I do, and it fits with what I think I’m good at, which is being able to come up with creative ideas (usually involving sports and music) and being able to sell those ideas to clients. At the end of the day, those two things must define your career. It can’t be one or the other. You can’t just be happy with what you’re doing. What you’re doing has to fit your skill set and interests.

To use a metaphor that everyone can relate to, let’s compare all that I’ve said to love. When you’re finding someone to love, it’s always ideal that you find someone who is the right fit for you, personality-wise. But you also have to be happy with that person. You have to genuinely like that person. A person with whom you get along with may be cool because he/she validates you. But then again, the “oomph” factor might not be there. At the same time, the oomph may be there, and you can be happy being with that person, but if there’s no fit in terms of personality (likes, dislikes, sense of humor, interests), it can be a challenge. It doesn’t mean it’s destined to fail. But it can be difficult. The best is always to find the right mix.

In other words, “happy fit.” If you have it, believe me, you’ll never go wrong.

* * *

Thanks for your letters, folks! You may e-mail me at rodhnepo@yahoo.com.

 

BUT I DIDN HAPPY LAW MARKETING SO I SPORTS
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