The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin

Unlocking Success in the Creative Industry with Ernest Lupinacci

October 17, 2023 Jill Griffin, Ernest Lupinacci Season 5 Episode 139
The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin
Unlocking Success in the Creative Industry with Ernest Lupinacci
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Ernest Lupinacci, an award-winning creative talent, serves as the CEO of Ernest Industries, offering a distinctive fusion of creative and strategic consultancy. His career journey encompasses brand development, advertising, screenwriting, and technology. This journey has led him to collaborate with prestigious brands such as Apple, Google, CAA and Nike.

Whether you're plotting a career refresh or strategizing to dive deeper into the creative industry, this episode promises insights to tackle the challenges of a creative career. Filled with anecdotes and hilarious quotes, in this episode, we discuss the following:

  • The fine line between passion and talent
  • The art of writing and the power of precise words 
  • The value of networking 
  • Advice for job seekers
  • Importance of proactive networking
  • How the principles used in show business can be applied to personal branding 


Mentioned on the Show:

Book: Unreasonable Hospitality, By Will Guidara

Show Guest: 

Ernest Lupinacci is the Founder & CEO of Ernest Industries, a creative and strategic consultancy focused on brand development, emerging media, and new technology.

He was an award-winning creative at Wieden + Kennedy, a founding partner and Chief Creative Officer at Anomaly. He has worked for almost every major Advertising Network in the industry and a litany of well-known brands from Apple and Google to CAA and WME. 

He has sold feature film projects to both Dreamworks and Sony Pictures, and he is a co-producer of the Paramount+ miniseries THE OFFER, which details the incredible back story of the making of The Godfather.

Ernest is an advisor to the live-stream shopping giant TALKSHOPLIVE and currently consults for Viral Nation - one of the world's largest talent, marketing, and technology firms. Follow him on LinkedIn or IMDb


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Jill Griffin is committed to making workplaces more successful for everyone through leadership training and development, team dynamics workshops, and employee well-being programs. Her executive coaching, workshop facilitation, and innovative thinking have driven multi-million-dollar revenues for top agencies, startups, and renowned brands. Collaborating with individuals, teams, and organizations, Jill fosters high-performance and inclusive cultures while facilitating organizational growth.

Visit JillGriffinCoaching.com for more details on:

  • Book a 1:1 Career Strategy and Executive Coaching HERE
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Speaker 1:

Hey friends, this is the Career Refresh and I'm your host, jill Griffin. This week. I introduce you to Ernest Lupinacci. He's the founder and CEO of Ernest Industries, and this conversation is filled with quotes, stories and anecdotes and I know you are going to enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed chatting with Ernest. I had the pleasure of meeting Ernest when we both worked at Anomaly, where he was a founding partner and the chief creative officer, and there was a time at Anomaly where the other partners told me that I was no longer allowed to drink anything whenever I met or sat near Ernest, because I would always end up laughing so hard that I'd be spitting the water out my nose, which is completely gross, but a reality.

Speaker 1:

Ernest brings a distinguished career, blending creative and strategic consultancy, brand development and cutting edge technology. He's a history of award-winning recognition at Widen and Kennedy, and he's worked with eminent brands like Apple, google, caa and WME. Ernest's creativity transcends advertising. He's had successful sales of feature film projects to major studios like Dreamworks and Sony Pictures. Additionally, he co-produces the Paramount Plus miniseries, the Offer, shedding light on the Godfather's creation which, by the way, list an end, because Ernest and his family were all cast in the original Godfather and then he'd been listening for some time. I call myself the Courier Consigliari, and the Godfather is one of my favorite movies. In addition to his remarkable professional journey, ernest advises livestream shopping giant Talkshop Live and consults for Viral Nation, a global leader in talent, marketing and technology. You definitely want to grab your Notes app so that you can take notes on all of the goodies that Ernest drops on us.

Speaker 1:

Today. In this conversation, we delve into topics including the difference between passion versus talent and the art of writing and a creative life, how to maintain relevance in that dynamic world, why being of service is of maximum value, the law of inevitability. Throughout it all, we give advice for job seekers and we also talk throughout about the significance of career narrative and storytelling. So, friends, dig in. As always, if you have any questions, email me at hello at jillgriffincoachingcom, and we will definitely get those questions to Ernest and we will answer them on a follow-up show. Enjoy this episode, dig in and I'll see you next time. Hey, ernest, I am so excited that you are joining me today. Thank you for making the time All right, so I want to jump right in, and a question I ask most of my guests is take us back and tell us what did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

Speaker 2:

Well, that's a very interesting and existential question. I often I always do it when I'm currently working with a lot of colleagues who could easily be my children, and I tell them this funny anecdote that when I was growing up we all had the Fisher Price wooden people, the whole menagerie, and in retrospect, if the Fisher Price wooden people didn't do it as a job, I just assumed it wasn't a viable career choice.

Speaker 2:

But you were going to be a farmer or Because everyone I knew was like a farmer, like my father was a police officer and my best friend's father was a fireman and my first girlfriend's father was a salesman, and I didn't even know what he sold, but he was just a salesman, like things seemed very sort of archetypal, but there also only seemed to be like a dozen jobs, and there were more, but most people just knew what they were, you know, because the really interesting jobs used to be at the fringes of society, for lack of a better phrase. And then ultimately, you know now you know everybody's a Pilates instructor and everybody is a software coach. There seems to be more opportunities. But when I went away to university, I assumed I was going to get a liberal arts education because I was interested in becoming a lawyer. No, okay, and but part of the reason was because the things I really wanted to do just seemed incredibly impractical.

Speaker 2:

Like in retrospect, I would have loved to have pursued acting, okay, but growing up, where I grew up, when I grew up, the thought of asking my parents, who had four other children besides me, to put me through acting school, because, you know, the notion was well, there's a million to one chance that you'll be able to, you know, make a living as an actor, which means you'll probably be working in blockbuster video.

Speaker 2:

And it wasn't that their, their advice was misguided, it was just not as informed. Meaning, the first time I stepped onto the set of a commercial that I had written, I just assumed it was going to be me, the director, the client and, you know, the actor, dressed as, like you know, the chicken spokesperson, when in reality there was an army of people on the set that make it work. Yeah, I was like who are all these people? And you know, the short answer is they were all the different skilled traits, people who work in the entertainment industry, who, by the way, all make great livings and are in unions and have incredible benefits. But I think we or at least I, you know we grew up in a very different time. Yeah, and it was like you, you were only, you could only kind of see towards the end of your nose, so you tended to do the things that seemed very familiar, right, Right, and it was like to your point around, you know, potentially being an actor.

Speaker 1:

To my point about being a musician, it was. It was often the idea of have your hobby but get a job.

Speaker 2:

So you want to play music.

Speaker 1:

You want to play the piano and Jill and do concerts, great, but but you got to make money. So you know, whether it's a doctor or a nurse or a lawyer, like whatever you want to be, but you have to have a job to make money. And it was very I completely agree with you very different, very different time. I mean my. I have a young man in my, in my orbit, who is now going to forestry school because his goal is to be working in a, you know, national park for the United States and be able to do that, I mean like it's amazing and not even on my radar as something that could have been possible, regardless of all the posters that you saw sticking up in like the college admissions office about you know, change, go into biology and forestry and in reality.

Speaker 2:

You know, as simplistic as it sounds with living now in the age of you know the wonders of the internet. You know you can go online and go. Oh, as a matter of fact, you know there is a pathway to this and there's an infrastructure to this. I always joke around that I'm always trying to pick up new skills or trying new things professionally, personally, and whenever I have like a gigantic anxiety attack because I'm like, well, how am I ever going to figure this out, I always remind myself and I even use this as a piece of advice to people I go everything is a wedding. You've probably been to a wedding in the last year and there's a pretty good chance that neither the bride nor the groom were geniuses and yet they planned a wedding. And the reason most people aren't intimidated to plan a wedding is because there's something that I'm going to refer to as the wedding industrial complex, like the military industrial complex. So we all take it for granted. It's like well, you know, there are caterers and there are bands and there are DJs and there are photographers and there are florists, and because you've experienced that supply chain and that infrastructure, you've demystified that concept. So, similarly, when I work with a lot of founders, I work with a lot of startups and I always remind them. I'm like there is a version of that for everything.

Speaker 2:

I have a lot of friends who because over the years one of the things I always described myself as a recovering Catholic. So, having now shamed myself into doing a lot of the things I wanted to do as I started writing long form content and getting involved in producing long form content, every once in a while a friend will reach out and say hey, gee, I saw that you published this book or you were a producer of this project. I really have this desire to say write a screenplay. I just I don't think I'm going to have the time to establish my own movie studio, and that's a bit of hyperbole. But again, it's that notion of like, no, no, no, no, no, like you don't have to start a movie studio to write a screenplay, right.

Speaker 2:

But again, we tend to think that way because to some degree it's just the kind of logic of it all and you take a step back from it, even because over the years, like some of the brands I worked on that I loved working on you know whether it was Nike or the Gap I used to work for these giant apparel companies and the reality is, you know, nike doesn't own factories and when I say that to colleagues or I'll mention that anecdotally in a meeting, someone will go what do you mean? I go. I remember the first time I was in a meeting where Phil Knight had to even point out to one of his lieutenants. He goes we are a design and marketing company. We literally do not manufacture things.

Speaker 1:

Right. So the takeaway for our listeners and all of that is that there's the part you're seeing, whether it's how you know, your interaction with a doctor, your interaction with a Broadway show, your interaction with a movie, but in order to bring that together, there are so many roles along the way, so that the idea is, well, what do you want to be? What are you good at? What do you? How do you work with someone or a mentor or a coach to figure out what you're good at? And there's probably a job for it that you can, you can, look into.

Speaker 2:

You know, this time of year my son is beginning college this fall. I have a lot of friends whose children are either, you know, starting college, graduating, and I love to have the conversation. You know, what do you want to do for a living? And what's funny is most of the young adults I talk to. They're actually surprisingly practical. They're like well, I'm very interested in it. No, no, no, no, no, no. I'm talking dream jobs. And the reason, you know, I sort of go down this route is I end to sort of rephrase but you just said, you, we are living in a moment of time where you could pretty much make a living doing almost anything.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, which is inspiring or scary, depending on your mindset. Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

But again, that ability to really think you know what are my talents not necessarily my passions because you know, as a writer, you know at the end of the day, if somebody asked me what I do, I like to be able to say I write. I take a lot of pride in saying you know I make a living writing. So words are really important to me and the words you know. When I work with a client, if I'm writing a screenplay, like, it's kind of fun to choose very precise words. But you know I have a lot of passions but they aren't necessarily talents and you know you can't choose your talent.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, it chooses you. It chooses you, and then it's whether you practice it with time, and knowledge and additional skills.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and for me that's a real benefit of self-awareness when you're like these are the things I'm really good at, these are the things that bring me fulfillment versus happiness. Again, happiness is a reaction. There's a lot of things I do that one of my favorite quotes about writing is Martin Scorsese once said writers don't finish, they just give up. Like you, just get to the point where you go. I can't revise it anymore.

Speaker 2:

But when I talk to people about what they're doing, what they want to do or what they like to do, I'm always surprised. I feel very lucky, because if somebody says, would you know what you like to do, I go yeah, I could spend all day reading and writing. One thing I always encourage people to do is really think it's like if you could spend your day doing anything, getting paid to do anything, what is it? Where do you really find fulfillment? It's a great place to start. Then, something I had this epiphany years ago that people in general the clients that we worked with in our lives as marketers, people in general, but companies and businesses specifically they tend to think quantitatively when they should think qualitatively and vice versa.

Speaker 2:

I had done some branding, did a big B2B campaign for the cybersecurity company and they loved the presentation and I thought we were all set. And before the elevator I was taking down to the lobby of the building they were in got to the ground floor, they texted me you have to come back up here. We have an emergency. I couldn't imagine what would have happened. We had a good enough relationship that I could rid them. When I returned to the conference room, they were huddled around the whiteboard. I have a theory that whoever is specifically writing on the whiteboard is the one person who has the worst handwriting, because they're really writing, or they went with me to Catholic school.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, they're just punctuating as they're writing. I walked in and I said what's going on here? They said we love your idea, but we don't think it's going to apply to all of the different clients we have. I said well, don't all of your clients need cybersecurity? They said look at the whiteboard, look at all the different types of clients we have. We have big clients and small clients, and pre-IPO and post-IPO and national and regional, and they had in some ways they had credibly come up with two dozen types of clients. But I said no, no, no.

Speaker 2:

At the end of the day, I'm a salesman. If I needed to sell you Jill cybersecurity, I'd say Jill, you run exactly the kind of company we do our best work for. You run an extraordinary company. This extraordinary is a quality, and it is a quality that no one would deny having. Also, as a job seeker, you can do yourself a disservice when you think about what you do quantitatively or you think about what you describe what you want to do quantitatively. I would say to people it's like I'll work on anything as long as it's interesting.

Speaker 1:

Right, let's take a step back and let's talk about you grew up, I think, in the New York area, correct? Yeah, you went to university and did you go right into working within copywriting and no, in fact just the opposite.

Speaker 2:

When I was in high school I did a lot of extracurricular activities that satisfied the creative part of my identity.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Speaker 2:

But again, I was very practical and I was going to get a liberal arts degree and apply to law school. When I went to university I started rowing, which takes a tremendous amount of time. There just wasn't a lot of time to do a lot of things other than row and study. I was feeling really unmotivated and in the second semester of freshman year I pledged a fraternity. I was drawn to. When we were to have a party or something, I was always designing t-shirts or doing basically promotion. I'll never forget one of the fraternity brothers who had already. He was an upperclassman. We were chatting one day and he goes. So are you studying marketing? I was like why would you say that he goes? Well, I just assumed you were studying marketing because you have a preternatural ability for it. So good at it, right. That's when the light went off, where I was like it's something creative but it's not acting, which seems like a huge risk. It's not being an artist. There was this sense of it was a profession with a career track, right.

Speaker 1:

An easier way to monetize it or a more obvious way to monetize it?

Speaker 2:

Well, also for me it was like the idea of being an accountant or a stock. It's like I can barely do addition. So that was again one of those weird happy accidents. When I returned to university for my sophomore year, I dropped all the classes I had registered for, changed my major and all of a sudden my GPA went up and it was like the beginning of this sense of like.

Speaker 1:

The truly playing to your strengths which we talk about a lot. It's like when you're playing to your strengths, the least amount of effort all of a sudden results in 10X results versus. Yeah, we can make improvement against things that we're like mediocre at, but we're not going to make the same impact when versus going in what you're good at.

Speaker 2:

I do think in a strange way, because I basically became a fine arts student, a fine arts major, and classes were three hours long. This was a point of time where all my friends were trying to never take a class before noon. How little time could I spend in class a week? There were days where I would have three studio art classes. I was in class nine hours a day, but in retrospect it had that sort of it's like revving your engine.

Speaker 1:

You were getting.

Speaker 2:

Also, there's a fantastic documentary called the Deadline Artists. It's basically the story of when Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill were both writing daily articles for, like the New York Post and the Daily News, but neither one of them, they didn't go to journalism school. When they were 14 years old they became copy boys. That notion of like again like vocation, yeah, like so many, just grinding it out, one of the things I mean I've worked on a commercial production in a while, but the thing I was loved about being on a set was these were literally, they were craftspeople. They learned their craft by doing it over and over and over and over, which is why you better enjoy what you're doing, because there's a chance you're going to do it over and over and over. Right, right.

Speaker 1:

So I'd love for you to tell you know, you and I worked together at Anomaly years ago, which is where I first had the pleasure of meeting you, you being the Chief Creative Officer and founding partner. I was a communications digital lead on various businesses and you know you just had such this fresh way of thinking and I always wondered, like how you got there. So I know that you spent time at Wyden, but take our listeners through, at a high level, a bit of your trajectory so that people understand. You know, a lot of times people think that it's a linear path and it's not always linear.

Speaker 2:

I mean, and the funny thing is you can sort of berate yourself after the fact of thinking, you know, I should have done this, I should have done, and for a long, for the first few years of my career, I remember you know you like to your point about you know you, you meet people and you start networking and you get together, especially when you're younger, you know, and you're always commiserating and I was always complaining.

Speaker 2:

I thought, you know, oh, you know, I should have gone to Syracuse and got to the new house, new house school, and my friends who had gone on those paths, you know they would go sure, but you know you just got hired to go work at Wyden Kennedy, amsterdam and we didn't. So part of it is there's, there's certain, there's certainly simpler ways to do it right, but at the same time, one of my mentors and best friends is Tom Carroll, who was the CEO of TBWA Shia Day, and he worked, you know, side by side with Lee Clough forever and he always said, lee, lee always said that the real definition of creativity is receptivity. You know that that ability to be open to new ideas is so important, and so when I started looking for jobs and advertising, I was very lucky. I worked at the small boutique called Vice Wyden Carroll Stagliano. Tom was the Carroll Carroll, although people would send mail to the agency and they thought there was a woman who worked at the agency named Carroll Stagliano Of course, although it kind of sounds like a law firm.

Speaker 2:

Well, again, like those were, the days were like you know. You know, traditionally the agency's were just the names of the party of Doyle, dane, bernbach, right, right, and it was a great place. And what was, what was, I think, crucial for me is Stagliano was Adam Stagliano, and he was the first planner in America who was a partner, who had his name on the door. So there were agencies where planners were partners but their names weren't on the door.

Speaker 2:

So you know, from a very young age in the industry, planning and strategy was really you know, a big part of the creative process and there was a whole group of, you know, contemporaries, you know writers in our direction my age you. I'm still friends with a lot of them. They were really smart. And then the four partners, marty Weiss, nat Wyden, tom Carroll and Adam Stagliano. You know they had all worked at really great agencies. Specifically, most of them had come from shy at day. So you know, a lot of that information was like sort of passed down to us and you know it was just that sense of you know how could you apply this and what ways could you apply it. And it was. And the truth is, you know I loved Working in advertising. To me it was such a fun, fantastic.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely agree, career yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So always looking you know like and then sort of thinking, like you know like, it became my fantasy to go work at Wyden and Kennedy. So you know, in that sense of One of my heroes is Robert Evans. He was the producer who ran Paramount. Yeah, and-.

Speaker 1:

Is it he the kid that says the kid stays in the picture.

Speaker 2:

The kid stays in the picture, of course. Of course. One of his apocryphal quotes that's attributed to other people, but I always associate it with him is he would say the definition of luck is when preparation and opportunity meet. And I always think about that because at the moment in my life where I got as lucky as I could be, when I was hired at Widenar, I remember friends going wow, that's, you're so incredibly lucky because I was hired to go work in Amsterdam and they were only I think there were only like 16 employees in the entire office, including the receptionist, but I had worked on my portfolio obsessively. I had sent them a spec book Because I just even at that point in my career, I didn't feel like I had to produce enough work that would get me the job I wanted.

Speaker 2:

So I think pursuing that's why I always encourage people whatever that thing you're doing is where you go. Oh my God, I should be doing my taxes, or should I be finishing this PowerPoint? Or I should be finishing this, but instead I'm doing this. You have to figure out how to commercialize it and monetize it Right, because it's going to make the days. Yeah, it's the thing you want to be doing, right.

Speaker 1:

Right. So you've had this amazing again experience between working at most almost every major advertising network. You've worked for brands like Apple, nike, google, et cetera again through your agency relationship, and one of the things I mean I admire many things about Uranus, but one of the things that I've always admired is just this going from an employee to a consultant and the impressive tenure in which you have continued to stay in it, relevant, producing great work. I mean, we'll talk a bit about some of your film projects too during this conversation. But what would you attribute your ability to stay in that level of a freelance well, not freelance, but consultancy through this level of time? I mean that is no small feat.

Speaker 2:

I think again. Some of this it sounds like psychology, some of it sounds like strategy and some of it is just the things you say to yourself while you're having an anxiety attack, but a lot of it is. A few years ago, howard Stern interviewed Jimmy Iovine and it was such, I mean just it's one of those incredible interviews where I remember, after listening to it, thinking well, you can go to Harvard Business School, you could listen to this Jimmy Iovine interview a couple of times. And he just told, at any given moment, he would be telling Howard some great anecdote about a suggestion he made to an artist or a decision he made about how to produce an album, and Howard would go well, how did you think of doing that? And he would just say, almost like, his motif was be of service. He just kept saying be of service, be of service, be of service.

Speaker 2:

So for me we literally, if you're a consultant, you work in the service industry, and I always joke around that. From years and years and years of pitching ideas, presenting concepts of all different types to all different types of people, through the process of trying to try and error, I determined that there is a three word phrase that we should all use when we put an idea on the table, no matter what the idea is, no matter who's listening to the pitch, and the three word phrase is you know how? Because it requires empathy. It's an empathetic gesture. It's also the sort of thing where it's a great firewall, because you need to be very confident that the person is going to go yes, right, right.

Speaker 2:

So often when I would reach out to colleagues or I can't tell you how many times I would send someone an email, like if I heard someone had gotten a promotion or won a piece of business or took a really great job, I would send them an email and I go gee, just congratulations, this is so happy for you, excited for you.

Speaker 2:

This sounds fantastic. And more often than not they would write back and say gee, I'm really grateful, Can you do me a favor and come over here and help me, because I don't know what the hell I'm doing Right. So it wasn't so much that I was looking for a project, but also it was the sense of. I realized that we all assume that everybody has it figured out besides us and, more often than not, everyone's kind of scratching their head. I felt like it was my responsibility. If I was going to reach out to somebody to really like to do my homework and not just say, gee, I'd really love to come work on this. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun and it's like maybe.

Speaker 1:

Is that you've made it about you versus that?

Speaker 2:

Again, it's like I would say to people what's in it for them.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, you mentioned B of service. Did you read Unreasonable Hospitality, the?

Speaker 2:

Will Hager book.

Speaker 1:

I haven't, but I'll say this I cried tears of joy reading it because it's completely aligned with my own personal values. You will love it. I mean, I see you, I get you, it's my pleasure to service you Like. It's effectively what my personal mantra is and that's the thing you will love.

Speaker 2:

And for everyone listening, I'll put that in the show notes so you can fucking that's a great reminder, Excellent, excellent book and one of the reasons a few people had recommended to me. But the reason it's stuck in my head is that you watched the bear.

Speaker 1:

That and and it was in it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's a phrase I coined that I refer to as the desirable duality. Okay, and the notion is really great things, but really great stories possess a desirable duality. So, for instance, james Bond is licensed to kill. It makes absolutely no sense in retrospect. He's been authorized by one of the world's most famous authorities to commit the worst crime imaginable to uphold justice. But as a writer you can do a lot with that. So he's not a vigilante extracting vengeance with a crowbar that's always fun. He's also not a barrister writing wrongs with a law book, which is always entertaining. He's a British gentleman in a bespoke tuxedo strangling a double agent with his bare hands in the lieu of a five star hotel in Monte Carlo. And there's a sense of like. I didn't even know that you could get that Right. And then, when you apply that to say a brand like I, really like.

Speaker 2:

My version of going to the Harvard Business School was working at Wyden and Kennedy on Nike. The people I worked with, the people I worked for the brand at that moment, I mean, I learned so much at a really important and impressionable age. But in retrospect I always thought well, gee, you know, the appeal of Nike has created glory for the masses. Now the line is to the victor, goes to the spoils, to the one and only goes the prize. But Nike created the sensibility of that. No, like there's. There's a potential for all of us to experience that.

Speaker 1:

I can do it too.

Speaker 2:

It doesn't seem possible and yet. And yet there is is like unreasonable hospitality, like it's it's a great phrase because it creates that sort of tension where you go what, what could or would that be, what would be unreasonable Right.

Speaker 2:

Right, like I was joking around. If I ever had the ability to brand Warren Buffett, I would say he's a glutton for value, because you shouldn't be a glutton for value, Exactly. But he is and I can understand it and I can explain it and those you know the ability. One of my favorite constructive criticisms I ever, you know, picked up as a writer, is the best way to approach any writing assignment, but kind of anything is to simplify, then exaggerate, oh, okay.

Speaker 1:

That's a good takeaway for everyone, but you know, when you think about you know a point.

Speaker 2:

you're trying to make, a brand you're trying to create, or even you know, like I'm going to go to parish for a weekend, I'm not going to try to get out to Versailles. I'm going to simplify and go to. And then I'm going to exaggerate, right and again those sorts of things. It's like you know, at any given moment, these are things that, like you know, when I'm struggling, when I'm looking for ideas, I kind of go to the well and I go calm down, take a deep breath, simplify and exaggerate.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think everyone, that's definitely one. You want to grab your notes up and make it, make note of that to remember as a way to get through whatever it is that you're you're working on, which brings me to the next question I have for you, which is around the job search. You know, I know that you have this, a few concepts that you and I have talked about before around the, both the attention economy and also the law of inevitability, when we think about what's going on in the marketplace right now. Right. So we're in this ridiculously unique time where wages are still very high I'm talking US folks Unemployment is still at all time lows. There is something like two jobs posted for every person who would actually be available out there.

Speaker 1:

Yet we have the actors' strike, we have the writer's strike, we have all of this interesting time of like paradoxical. How are we working through this? I've said to many people that this 4th of July I mean, I had three clients receive offers on July 3rd, which was a Monday this year, which is normally the sleepiest week ever in advertising, outside the week between Christmas and New Year right? So when you think about this and you're thinking about how you can attract attention, whether you want a new job or whether you're coming from unemployment. I love this idea of attracting attention, the attention economy, and how would you apply that, or the advice that you would apply to job seekers today?

Speaker 2:

So there's a couple of things, and the way you phrase that and delivered it is so apropos because it's almost like the conversations I'll have with someone. Well, they'll call me up and they'll, you know, in an exasperated tone. So, again, a lot of this is just like having lived this. So I have this fantastic entertainment lawyer named Jeff Finkelstein. He's amazing and we have this incredible relationship because I do not come from a traditional Hollywood background. So often I'll present ideas to him, I'll share concepts with him and he'll listen to everything and I'll entertain everything. But we have this longstanding joke because at the point at which it's time to sort of like do the pitch, I'll say well, where do you think the chances are? They're going to buy it, and I always say the same thing 50-50. But they'll buy it or they won't. And he always goes well, it doesn't really work that way and I go no, but that does.

Speaker 2:

It does. There's only two answers. Why is it going to go? They can't not buy it a million to one times, right, right. And the first thing I would encourage anybody like I'm not a big gambler, but if I'm in Las Vegas it's fun to play Blackjack. Sorry, blackjack is not a team sport. I don't mean to social dog with us, but you only have to beat the dealer. Well, back off now, bye. So at any given moment where people go, everybody's looking for a job and it's like, but you don't have to get everybody a job, you just have to get yourself a job. Exactly as soon as you let your brain drift and start thinking everybody is looking and it's like, sure, but you just have to get yourself a job. Then, to your point, at any given moment, if you go on to LinkedIn, I mean, companies are in fact hiring.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they are.

Speaker 2:

A friend of mine who does HR had this great insight years ago. She said look, you can write a job opening and you could say what you're looking for, but if you're looking for somebody who has five years experience working for NASA and has 12 degrees and started, you could write that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you just have to find that unicorn.

Speaker 2:

It doesn't mean that everything exists Right. So I always think again in the spirit of simplifying, exaggerate. It's like stop worrying about how many people are looking for jobs and how bad it is. Because years ago I was selling the first piece of property I had ever bought. At the time, all the headlines in the real estate. I said record buyers, record buyers. And I said, oh my God, why am I selling if everybody's buying? And then I thought well, wait a minute.

Speaker 1:

If everyone's buying, then everybody is selling. It's basic supply and demand.

Speaker 2:

And it's funny because, again going back to semantics, if you look at the history of how to your point, there's an act to strike. Well, labor always makes demands and management always makes concessions. But that's not the reality. Everyone makes demands.

Speaker 1:

And everybody makes confessions.

Speaker 2:

There's a vernacular. So the first thing you have to remind yourself is am I applying for a job that I'm actually qualified for? And then am I going about it in the sanest, most logical way, and I will say that the ability to have a network, build a network, is extraordinary. There's really nothing like it, because in Iowa State Ground there's this I'm good at butchering, but I think it was called Hall Dane's Law and it's this overview of like. It applies to science specifically, and the idea is we know what we know and we know what we don't know, but we don't know what we don't know.

Speaker 2:

I always remind people at any given moment someone will go. I really want this job. I go hold on a minute To your point about three colleagues being given offers on July 3rd. I'll always hold somebody on the shoulders and look them in the eye and go. You don't know that. You don't know that there's someone at the company you want to work for right now who doesn't even know. Do you know? Jim Rizwald?

Speaker 2:

Have you heard of him. So Jim again is one of those people that I owe my career and my livelihood. Before I even started working for Jim Rizwald at Widen and Kennedy, I was learning how to write ads, because Jim Rizwald did all the great Nike ads. And years ago he called me up, we were chatting one day and he goes. You know, I just heard that Joe Blow got this job and I was wondering why people don't call me for those kinds of jobs and I said, jim, everyone just assumes you own Widen and Kennedy, like no one would ever think to offer you a job, because they would be embarrassed, because they would just assume that you're not looking for a job. And he goes. Well, I am looking for a job and I go, but I don't know that and I'm not hiring.

Speaker 2:

So part of it too is it's like and again like are you saying the right thing to the right person at the right time at the right way? You know, like LinkedIn, you know they have this sort of you know you kind of put a filter on your profile that says open to work, but it's like, it's just like it's like, almost like the filter should say recently laid off, desperate for job. So even the sense of like, how? Do you go. Which people were not?

Speaker 1:

going to do that from the executive coach standpoint. I'm going to tell you yeah, don't put that on your resume, don't put that on your LinkedIn profile. We don't like that.

Speaker 2:

Or, like I've even said to people I was, I was very fortunate because after six years of widening Kennedy, having been able to work in the Amsterdam office, then the Portland office, then the New York office, so being able to work for the same company for six years and the great thing about widening Kennedy is is it is one ad agency. It doesn't matter what office you work in, it's one ad agency. Yeah, and I worked with the same people for six years in three different offices Low, Cal, yeah, but after six years I was ready for change and I and I I was getting job offers. But I thought, gee, you know, after the incredible experience I had at widening Kennedy, I don't know that I could make this sort of emotional and mental commitment to another company without getting to kind of know them. So I thought, oh, I'm going to, I'm going to freelance for the summer and sort of speed date. And that actually turned into like a six year adventure.

Speaker 2:

But and that that that suited me, because I was very lucky, because one of the first things I did was the William Shatterpriceline campaign, which sort of established this notion of like, oh well, you hire this guy, but he'll do the whole thing Like he'll conceive it and pitch it and sell it and produce it and get it on the air. But I always said to people now too, I go. Look, you know, you say you'll go work anywhere because you really want to job, but you won't go work and like, once you get the job, you still have to go to it. So also think about like a lot of companies are open to you consulting.

Speaker 1:

Fractional I mean fractional wasn't even a thing like two years ago and now we're hearing about you know, fractional Chief Creative Officer, fractional COO Opportunities are in different places. You have to figure out the spin it. And what I love about the way you approach things, ernest, is that it is this idea where you said like every business is a show business, but so are you as a. You are the product you are marketing. So you have to think about it.

Speaker 1:

Again, working with someone it's sometimes really hard to read the label from inside the jar and market your own stuff. So, working with a friend, finding someone who could help you again a mentor, a coach, whatever works for you, but being able to tell that story. Because the end of the day, when someone says to you, tell me about yourself, I assure you they may be a very nice human being they don't care. They don't care. What they care is how are you going to make my life easier, how are you going to make sure that I get my year end bonus? And tell me about you? To make sure, because in my head I'm checking off the boxes. So we have to tell the story based on who is the recipient.

Speaker 2:

And then you will say, well, I don't.

Speaker 1:

I don't know who I'm going to be meeting with Great. Then have a couple of stories in your pockets that you can pull it out of your file cabinet when you actually need to do it.

Speaker 2:

Well, it's funny. You mentioned this anecdote that I use all the time, which is every business is like show business, and that was the result of. So I'm a big believer in the marketing notion that people don't buy what you make, they buy what you believe. So when I would work with a client, we'd sit down and I would say well, listen, I understand you do X, y and Z and it requires these widgets and Ruby on Rails, but I want to know what you believe. So it would become the sort of, like you know, socratic method and we'd really kind of go at it and I would just never give in. I'm like listen, here's the reality. The reason people buy fire extinguishers is because they extinguish fires. Fire extinguishers extinguish fires. Do you know how they work? Who cares?

Speaker 1:

Right by the way.

Speaker 2:

Here's how they work. They spray foam on the fire. But I beg of you, do not call it a foam sprayer, fire extinguisher. That's the easiest way that I would kind of prove that point. But a couple of years ago I had a client look at me and he goes all right, well, what is your brand belief? And I thought, oh, this is awkward. And in the spirit of eating your own dog food, I'm like well, let me really think about this.

Speaker 2:

And I remember you know, there's the cliche there's no business like show business. And I thought no, on the contrary, every business is like show business, but I don't mean like star fuckery and blitz and glam, it's well, it's more the notion of you. You at the time and you'll be able to relate to this about 15 years ago I remember I think I was consulting at Google and all of a sudden everyone was talking about narrative, brand narrative. We need brand narrative. It was a copyrighter. I thought, wait a minute, like I've been writing ads since I was 11. Like, why is people, why are people, suddenly transfixed on the notion of narrative? Now, some of it was just, it was like a highfalutin' way of saying we need better ads but in reality, real narrative is more sophisticated and complicated and powerful than just writing ads. So I thought, well, wait a minute. If all of my clients want to apply the rules of narrative to their businesses, what one category of business has done the best job of monetizing narrative historically? And the answer is show business. So if you take all the best practices of quote unquote show business and you apply them to bringing narrative to a brand, then yes, as a matter of fact, all businesses are like show business, because the only way you can explain something to someone or change somebody's mind or convince somebody of something or motivate them or at least the most effective way to do it is with a better story. So I'll write the owner's manual for your doula toaster, but I will endeavor to write a better version of it Better story.

Speaker 2:

So that became my sort of lens through which I saw the world, and I do think that there was a period of time when I freelanced everywhere and one of my clients joked around. He used to call me Winston Wolfe. He said you were the Winston Wolfe of advertising. Winston Wolfe is the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction, because my version of a good time was getting a frantic call from one of my clients and like we're going to lose the Spacely Sprockets account and I could show up the next morning at six o'clock in a double breasted tuxedo with my LL Bean camouflage tote bag and I would literally go.

Speaker 2:

You, gentlemen, have a body in a trunk, find us ahead in a garage, take me to it. But likewise, that's how I positioned myself, my job it's like, and one of my friends who was one of the recruiters, the creative manager and recruiter for a big agency, she said sometimes the chief creative officer comes in and says we're going to need a couple of creative teams on a pitch and she said other times he runs and goes, find Ernest, he'll do it all, but again that idea of, like, what is your brand in the marketplace?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, what do you bring to the table that other people can't Right?

Speaker 1:

And you've had the luxury well, maybe the luxury, but you've had the necessity to think about this throughout your career. Again, because you have stayed a regularly employed consultant. I think what happens very often is when we're in companies or we're in career trajectories where we're even if we move to the competing company, we're doing similar work, where it's like inside baseball, everybody knows what we do, so we just keep doing that and we get hired to that. But at a certain point, if you want to pivot, you want to step out, or if, unfortunately, you're made redundant, you have to know how to tell your story. Whether you work in legal or healthcare or accounting, I don't care you have to know how to tell that story so that everyone can hear it. We talked a bit, obviously, about narrative and story and as we sit here with the Godfather book over my shoulder I think I, like you, am a huge fan. I always laugh. My husband watches Harry Potter all the time. I watch the Godfather because it's also a Christmas movie. There's a Christmas tree in there, what was that?

Speaker 2:

And die hard or both. Officially Christmas movies A thousand percent.

Speaker 1:

So tell everyone because I only found this out recently, which I cannot believe didn't come out in the time that we worked together that you were actually in the Godfather movie.

Speaker 2:

Well, my whole family, we were extras in the Godfather.

Speaker 1:

part two which is arguably the best. Well, maybe not, I don't know.

Speaker 2:

Well, it's funny, I'll send you the. I just was invited to be on a podcast to settle the debate. Which one is better, one or two? Spoiler alert. It's one. My father was a New York City police detective and his partner on the police force he started consulting when he left, when he retired, he started consulting on all the cop shows that were filming in New York, like Kojak Amazing, and he was a good looking guy and they started casting him and he started getting his sag residuals and he thought, wait a minute, this is great. And then he was hired to do casting for the Godfather part two and he called my father and he said listen, if you all come in, we're going to cast you because we need hundreds of extras. What was interesting is if you shoot a movie in its contemporary, sometimes they could literally just use people on the street. But this was a period piece, so we had costumes and we had to get our hair cut. I was only in first grade when the filming was done, but it was very vivid.

Speaker 1:

What scene were you in? Because when I watch it this week and I want to go find it If you watch two.

Speaker 2:

It is literally part two because the material is really it's all in the one book. But so two is both a prequel and a sequel. So we were in the scene when the young Don, vito Corleone well, vito Corleone is not the Don, it's the scene where the feast is going on and he kills Don Finucci the Don and the light suit. But we were the Italian immigrants who were on the street while they were in the scene For the San Gennaro feast absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Amazing. So it's funny because again, that movie has played this huge part of my life. And then, years later, I cast Robert Evans. I mean talk about networking. I cast Robert Evans as voiceover talent and in the ESPN Sunday Night Football campaign and I always joke around that there's in the spirit of unreasonable hospitality.

Speaker 2:

One of my trademarked, desirable dualities is I always tell people to try and be responsibly selfish. So whenever I would get a brief I would go. Who do I want to meet, where do I want to go, what do I want to learn and how can I do it in a way that I'm being responsibly selfish? So I wanted to meet Robert Evans. So I just cast him as the voiceover for ESPN Sunday Night Football and meeting him was like my Make-A-Wish Foundation day and that you know I could draw a straight line from meeting him and my fascination with him to then writing the graphic novel the Godfather Gang, which tells the backstory about the Godfather, and then finding myself as a co-producer of the mini series, the Offer on Paramount Plus.

Speaker 2:

And again, what's interesting is it is this one piece of pop culture amongst others that I've been fascinated with my whole life and you know it's like I've kind of turned it into a cottage industry. The greatest thing you could say in a job interview is I love to solve problems, because a lot of people love to create problems, right, but being able to solve them, whether they realize it or not but that I'm like a child of the space race, like we were still putting men on the moon and I was always fascinated and obsessed with the Apollo missions. And there's this really fantastic anecdote that when in the early days of NASA, you know, kennedy makes this outrageous promise, he says we will put a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth by the end of the decade, and he said it. Everyone working at NASA and the jet propulsion, everyone said what is he talking about? Right?

Speaker 1:

But we gotta go figure it out.

Speaker 2:

He didn't have to do any of this Right. So in the early days of you know the quote, unquote space race, he, you know he pays a visit to Cape Canaveral and they line up, you know, 100 employees of NASA and they represent I think at the time like 450,000 people worked at NASA, but they're meant to represent every possible thing. You could do it and ask them from you know the lunch ladies to Verner von Braun who runs the whole shebang, and Kennedy walks into this giant. You know hangar where they're building the Saturn V5 booster rockets and he introduces himself to every single employee as if they don't know who he is. He, literally, he goes down the line and goes I'm Jack Kennedy, I'm president of the United States. What do you do here, sir? I'm the guy who goes. Well, you know, I train the. You know I train the guys, I train the monkeys for the. You know the test rockets. And well, he gets to the janitor. Now the janitor is wearing the khaki jumpsuit with the oval patch that says janitor and he's holding them up.

Speaker 2:

Straight out of central casting and when Kennedy puts out his hand, he goes I'm Jack Kennedy, I'm president of the United States, what are you doing here, sir? And the guy grabs his hand, he shakes his arm off and he goes I'm putting a man on the moon, Mr President.

Speaker 2:

No and I love to tell that story because it's like that's what you're doing here and regardless of your contribution, you know that's what you're doing here and you know, again to your point about if you want to get the job, you want the person who's sitting there, you want to put themselves, you want to put yourself in their position. You know if this person is stressed out and they're overworked and they want to know that you're the kind of person who goes.

Speaker 2:

I'm going to solve more problems than I create. You know, look in the movie version of our life. We do something and there's, you know, the feedback loop is right there. But the idea of you know, putting in the time, putting in the effort and just sooner or later going, you know what. There's a value to this, directly or indirectly, Right.

Speaker 1:

Right and, to that point, a value and evaluate right, being able to check in and like what worked, what didn't work. All right, what would I do differently? What would I do it? And that's how you kind of move it forward.

Speaker 2:

There's a great quote by Kurt Vonnegut. Someone once said to him gee, you're such an incredibly prolific author, but you're also such an incredibly eclectic author. I just can't imagine how you come up with these wild ideas. And he looked at the journalist conspiratorially and he said you want to hear a great idea for story? And the guy was like, yeah, and he goes guy gets in with jam, guy gets out of a jam. You know, and the reality is that's it, there's nothing else to talk about. So those sorts of you know, because we've seen those, you know we've gotten the briefs and we've gotten the, and at some point you just kind of calm down and again it's like simplifying and exaggerate. You know it's like, whatever it is, it probably is going to resonate with the audience. If you could put it, if you put it in the context of guy gets into a jam, guy gets out of a jam.

Speaker 1:

Okay, last question what would you, what are you reading? Or what's podcast, what do you recommend for people? Okay, a couple of things.

Speaker 2:

One is as an elder statesman now, by the end of the day, my eyes are so tired from reading and writing that I love listening to books or pod, like I really do. I also think that different people learn different ways, so I know that if I hear things I'll retain the information better than even if I read them. Okay, so a couple of years ago I discovered Gilbert Gottfried's amazing, colossal podcast and I just assumed it was like kind of Gilbert doing his shtick, and it's not. It was Gilbert, who tragically passed away last summer, and his producer and cohost, frank Santopadurai, and the two of them are two of the greatest fans and repository of great entertainment knowledge. So they would get the pick these fantastic topics, they would attract these incredible guests and they would just deconstruct the most wonderful, fantastic stories.

Speaker 2:

And, to your point, they interviewed the great film director, richard Donner. Now, I didn't know that he shot the pilot for Twilight Zone. So again, it was like all these incredible stories we go. Oh well, yes, mel Brooks was a genius, but Mel Brooks wrote for Sid Cesar on the show of a show for 10 years when it was the number one show. So Gilbert's podcast, which is still on demand, it's a fantastic podcast. I love that. But one thing I really love to do now is, you know, I'll listen to books on tape Like well, it's so funny, I call them books on tape On tape right.

Speaker 2:

But, and one of the things I enjoy doing and part of it is it's like I literally think of it. As you know, professional research is I'm always fascinated by. You know what is required to adapt a book into, say, for instance, a screenplay. So if I I don't know, did you see the Queen's Gambit? Of course, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So when that came out the afternoon Friday it premiered I followed Stephen King on Twitter and he wrote I just saw this show on Netflix called the Queen's Gambit. It is as good as anything I have ever seen anywhere and I thought, well, that's a great idea. So I thought, well, let me start watching it. So I watched six episodes Friday night. I woke up Saturday morning and just watched the rest. And you know when you're binging like that, as one there's one show ends, you just skip to the next one.

Speaker 2:

So when the very, very last episode ended, I finally got to see the credits and I noticed that the writer, the co-writer of the show, was also the director of the show and I thought, if this individual conceived of this from scratch, I'm going to kill myself, because this is just too much talent for one person I have. So I went online and I found out that the Queen's Gambit was published in 1983. Wow, which means the author probably started writing it in the late 70s, and I thought why did it take almost 40 years Now? The simple answer is because, historically, great books had to be made into great films, because there was no prestigious television.

Speaker 2:

And now there is. So, at any given moment, I love to go back and listen. It's so funny that you have the Godfather book there, because a lot of my friends have gone back and read it, and what's interesting is, you can make a movie about Johnny Fonte. So I'm trying to think again. The Gilbert podcast is one of my favorite things. I'm still a sucker for Howard Stern, and then, likewise, there was a fantastic article in the recent issue of the New Yorker about Elon Musk's lawyer, alex Spiro, who also happens to be a very good friend of mine. But what I love is even those sorts of articles now, they tend to record. You could read, or you can listen. You can read them, sure, but it's funny because what I'm listening to or reading is it's the point.

Speaker 1:

You don't necessarily distinguish what form it's in.

Speaker 2:

Well, again what's fun is I only read one thing. I read things that are interesting.

Speaker 1:

All right, this was great. I mean just your stories, your insight, your wisdom, your ability to continue to keep it relevant and keep it fresh. I love it, and I know that our listeners are going to find this to be a real treat too, so I think, well, I hope so.

Speaker 2:

I'm going to read this and I said it's like I'll leave you because again, someone once said to me they said are you making up all these quotes or are they actually verifiable?

Speaker 1:

You do imagine.

Speaker 2:

But well, one thing I like to do is to make sure people in a meeting are paying attention. I'll say, you know, as I'd sign. One said to me in a dream, but in real life, at the height of which you've been to. Churchill is known for giving those rousing speeches and at one point, you know, members of his cabinet sort of pulled them aside and I said you know, mr Churchill, it's great that, like you get everybody fired up. But things aren't going well and you know we really need to manage expectations. And Churchill said well, you know, I've always been accused of being an optimist, but what's the alternative? So I always encourage people. I go, look, the chances you're going to get the job are 50-50. And you are, you're not. But you know, opportunities present themselves as opportunities are seized and you might have. You know, there might be a step between what you're doing, what you really want to do, and you just kind of have to say you know.

Speaker 1:

It's not always about finding the perfect job, and I understand that if you're looking for work, whether because you're in between jobs or you're choosing to leave your job, or whatever the scenario is, look, it's not. I'm not going to say it's not a serious thing, Of course it is. But wearing it like a loose garment is going to help you a lot more in. Let me be curious, let me be in the space of what's possible. You know I, I already know you have a similar philosophy to me and that I often say, like I'm creating my next corporate give right now. You're creating your next assignment right now. I don't know when it's going to. It could be next month, it could be tomorrow, it could be, you know, but an hour from now, who knows?

Speaker 1:

But you're coming with the energy of that curiosity. What do I need to do? What do I need to learn? Who needs to reach out to what's possible? And you're wearing it loosely versus graspy, Because when it's graspy, that's when people go the resume or the CV, the portfolio looks great. There's something a little off about this person and that's where you don't want to be bringing that in there.

Speaker 2:

So I've often said to friends who you know they were like oh you know, I always let go or I go, just pretend you still have a job. Lots of people look for jobs while they're so hired. Don't lie about it.

Speaker 2:

Don't, yeah, no, don't lie, don't lie and the funny thing is you know at the end of the day. I think one of the things that's helped me over the years besides medication, meditation and caffeination is when you really understand the concept of drama, right where the good stories take place, at the extremes. I always remind myself that's like in real life. It's not like that, like every moment is in death of war. If you tell yourself the news, you're watching a movie in your head. That's a great movie, but it's not accurate.

Speaker 1:

You also can't think strategically, as though it's operating from fear and anxiety. It's evolutionary biology. You cannot be doing both fight or flight.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's fight or flight. So part of it is just reminding yourself. It's like, what can I do now? And then am I doing it? Right, right, all right, sister.

Speaker 1:

All right Again. This was great.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much Fantastic, thank you.

Speaker 1:

If we have any questions, we'll do a follow up and send you the FAQs of the questions and we'll do a follow up and, in the end, emight.

Speaker 2:

Slash'Er.

Career Refresh With Ernest Lupinacci
Passion and Self-Awareness in Career Choices
Finding a Creative Path in Advertising
Staying Successful in Advertising and Consulting
Finding and Pitching Job Opportunities
Power of Narrative in Show Business
Connections to the Godfather and Solutions
Podcasts, Books, and Job Seeking