5 Life and Business Lessons You Can Take from Don Draper


Don Draper Lessons

Don Draper is easily one of my favorite characters on “Mad Men.” As a self-described digital Mad Man, I take great pleasure in watching his character manoeuvre through a day of ideation and marketing. Don Draper is what many would describe as an elite marketer, from his business antics to the way he carries himself in and outside of the office.

Although most may not agree with Don’s approach to life and business; we cannot discount that within Don, each of us can see a little bit of ourselves. That said, when push comes to shove you can always count on Don to deliver great work. Whether it’s a Carousel or Lucky Strip Cigarettes; he has the midas touch.

With that said there are many life and business lessons that we can learn from Don. Follow these lessons and you will be successful in any field of your choosing outside of just advertising.

Here are 5 Lessons you can take from Don Draper:

“Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.”

In life, the one constant that we can all look forward to is the consistency of change. Day to day, week to week and month to month we witness and are met with the consistency of change. Our looks change, our perceptions change and along the way the world as we know it continues to also change.

It’s not always easy to embrace change. In business, a lot of organizations struggle coping with changes in their industries and fail because of it. Companies like Kodak were unable to recognize the emergence of digital cameras and as a result, they missed out on millions of dollars of revenue. At the same time, organizations like Sony were able to recognize the shift to digital and ultimately create a handful of products that generated a serious amount of revenue.

As seen with cameras, change is indifferent to who you are. All that matters is how you react. Change is going to happen whether you like it or not. The biggest challenge is identifying and making the decisions that push you forward. Whether that’s how you cope with the loss of a friend or with a shift in your industry; your reaction to change is more important than change itself (tweet this idea).

Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make different choices.

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

If life is like a movie, you’re not only the main character but you’re also the director and writer. You control your actions and your actions always will overcome the rumours, the stories and the questions.  If you don’t like the way you’re being portrayed by friends, colleagues, employers or even the media; do something about it. Change the conversation (tweet this idea).

For years, many brands have been constrained by negative perceptions and stories associated with them. A great example is Hyundai, a brand which came into North America being seen as a fragile, cheap and tiny little car. The stories and conversations led to many jokes. When my cousin first bought a Hyundai in the 90’s, I recall my uncles reaction clear as day: He asked, “What’s on the back cover of the Hyundai owner’s manual?” We waited for a response as we couldn’t guess. “The bus schedule.” he said and we all burst out into laughter.

Since then, Hyndai has changed the conversation to be about customer service, loyalty and safety. In doing so, they have been met with year over year revenue growth and no sign of slowing down. All because they focused on improving their product and ultimately changing the conversation.

“Why does everybody need to talk about everything?”

I’ve found that the folks who do the most talking are typically the same folks who do the least working. Instead of diving in, putting on the gloves and making things happen; they sit around and talk about how they’ll do it. At the end of the day, action trumps everything. Whether we’re talking about a favour for a friend, meeting to discuss current projects or an idea for a new business. Talk is easy, getting in and doing it is where things get challenging.

The folks at 37Signals are a software company that really hates meetings. In fact, they believe that meetings are toxic.Why? Well mainly because they recognize that meetings are rarely productive. They recognize that talking about things isn’t the best way to get things done. The best way to get things done is to wire in and actually do the work.

“You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself.”

Don Draper Life Lessons

Do you feel as if your boss is holding you back from your full potential? Maybe you feel you’re not being given a fair shot or a chance in life? Well I’m here to tell you to get over it. In fact, I’m here to say get over it by doing something about it. If you don’t like your job; quit. If you’re struggling to get local investments in your idea; move. Do whatever it takes to get what you believe you deserve.

Stop complaining about the cards you’ve been dealt and go change your hand (tweet this idea). One of the most recognizable traits of Don Draper is his ability to control a room with confidence and brilliance. His actions and the way he carries himself is a conscious effort. Whether it’s when he’s pitching new business or communicating with his love interest; he recognizes and embraces the idea of having complete control over his actions.

“I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system, the universe is indifferent.”

The biggest lie in the world isn’t one that says everything is going to be okay. There’s no rumour or truth in which you should be told that life is easy. Life isn’t easy and the world around us is indifferent. The universe doesn’t care if you didn’t get an A on your exam or that you decided to put off that project until the last minute. Don’t play the victim.

Many people think they are entitled to good treatment and a good life. The truth is that they are neither entitled nor not entitled to it. It’s simply something in which you have to make constant decisions around whether or not this is something that you can achieve.

If you’re reading this, you’re already ahead of most people in the world. Now get up, stop making excuses and take a cold hard look at the man in the mirror. Now step back and recognize that the person staring back at you is your one and only opponent.

Are there any other lessons we can take from Don Draper? Will you be watching this season?