Just do it. Eight simple letters took on a mystical life of their own because they form a well of inspiration welcoming souls to imbibe. Just Do It meant selling sneakers to the Nike execs who agreed to run with their now iconic tagline, but to the rest of the world the message outgrew the confines of shoes. These free-spirited, one-syllable words have spurred individuals to propose marriage, quit dead-end jobs, finish diplomas, and dust-off dreams left for dead.
Nike's brand message is an ally in attempting to clear life's hurdles: we'd love it if you buy our gear but, whether or not you do, believe in yourself, live with courage, and know that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.
Great work by great ad agencies liberates mores because those very same agencies understand that brand building is more about building community than it is about hawking a product. People matter, every person matters, so if a brand isn't working to solve a problem or to create positive change or to make someone's life better, it's wasting its audience's time.
When I was piecing together my portfolio at The Creative Circus, Dan Wieden visited the school and chatted with a standing-room-only crowd of students and instructors and staff. I asked him about the genesis of the world's most famous tagline.
He mentioned that, back in the day, he was presenting options for taglines to executives from Nike. Sitting around a crowded conference-room table, he flipped through art boards displaying prospective lines until he got to the board revealing the words Just Do It. The response? "Meh. What else you got?"
As a fledgling copywriter, I was dumbfounded; encouragement replaced it. Here was one of the sages of the ad biz talking about his über-famous work and the backstory was that he got panned. The folks at Wieden + Kennedy, though, knew what was good and they fought for it. And won.
Winston Churchill once said: "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense."
Whether you're a designer or an electrical engineer or a nurse or a carpenter or a CEO or a _______, you know what good work looks like. You know what it feels like. Good work speaks to your heart and to your mind and to your soul. It makes you proud. It brings you joy. It fortifies your integrity. And it touches the space around you in positive, widening circles.
The caveat is that sweating the details requires that you sweat; it means respecting yourself, your abilities, your craft, your client, your community, your world.
The next time you question yourself about whether it's worth it to make your work as good as it can be, take a break. Go to a movie. Catch some Zzzzzs. Go for a run. Ask someone out on a date. Sit quietly and breathe. Come back tomorrow. Then return to your desk or to your workbench or to your office and, with renewed purpose, just do it.