I often think that the thing that probably causes the most “quiet desperation” in modern society, is the relentless pursuit of “Having it all”.
“Who says you can’t have it all?” were the lyrics of an annoyingly upbeat beer jingle from the mid-1980s.
This campaign for Michelob Lite tritely asked the question, “Who says you can’t love your work, and leave it too?” as an allegory to the question, “Who says you can’t get great, satisfying taste in a beer, that also happens to be kinda light and watery?”
I remember seeing the ad as a kid. Some yuppie who looked good in a suit, looked good in a corporate office, but also looked pretty good on the basketball court with his buddies, and who also looked good wielding an electric guitar surrounded by an admiring group of ladies. Loving his work, and leaving it too, as the jingle reaches its triumphant climax. “Oh YES you caaaaan… have it ALL!” How stirring for the soul etc. Tolstoy or Beethoven would be proud etc etc.
If you read the article from 1987 that I linked to above, you’ll find the campaign wasn’t that successful.
Of course it wasn’t. Why? Because as we all know, life isn’t like that.
How many PhD’s have quit their stellar careers in academe, to go play for the NFL? How many NBA stars, after they retired from basketball, go off to run a division of IBM?
To be the best in the world at something- or even REALLY good at it- the sacrifices are utterly, utterly enormous. “Have it all?” Are you insane?
We ALL know this.
Except Michelob Lite back in 1987, it seems. Which is why, twenty-plus years later after declaring their ability to be all things to all people, their brand is still struggling away, trying hard to be something- ANYTHING- other than unexceptional. I wish them well.
Of course, this “Have It All”, sacrifice-free attitude isn’t just the domain of unexceptional beer brands. It’s the domain of unexceptional individual careers, as well. We can only hope that ours is not one of them.
[UPDATE: Just added this blog post to “Evil Plans”.]