Oh so smart, or oh so pleasant

ErinSloHeader As the newest member of Nelson Cash, I got a whole three days of work in before I boarded a plane and flew into the wild blue yonder with 11 practical strangers. Our destination was beautiful San Luis Obispo, California, our mission was team building, and I had no idea what to expect.

Human knots? Trust falls? Arts and crafts? I haven’t been the “new girl” in any situation, really, for years. And spending four days straight as a newbie with an already close-knit group I knew very little about was a little intimidating.

But, as I soon found out, when you’re with good people, you never feel like a stranger.
And lucky for me, everyone here is genuinely kind, smart and downright entertaining. There’s every brand of wit here: laconic, razor-sharp, off-the-wall — and as far as being bright, well, this group really shines.

But it’s the kindness that’s key.

As Josh carried the girls’ luggage to the campsite and I bonded with Carli and Becky over which cabin to choose, I was struck by how naturally these people reached out to treat me like one of their own. I was reminded of a line from a film called Harvey when the lead character, played by Jimmy Stewart, recalls how his mother used to say to him, “In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” He then concludes, “Well for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

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That line has always held special meaning for me as a reminder that, no matter how smart you are (whether in terms of intelligence or cleverness), it’s not as valuable as being pleasant. What worth is there in always getting the last word in or being obsessed with out-doing the next guy if nobody likes you and you’re not having any fun? At the end of the day, you can be the best designer, writer, developer or manager there is, but if you can’t all enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and genuinely care for one another, what’s the point?

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By no means am I saying that striving for excellence isn’t worth pursuing — on the contrary, passion for the quality of our work is essential — but quality of character is of even greater value. Nelson Cash gets that. In fact, they hire people based on that. And for a group this talented to be so grounded is very refreshing. Don’t get me wrong; nobody is perfect here. There’s always bound to be disagreements or differences of opinion, but at the end of the day everyone is united in their commitment not just to build a better agency, but to build better relationships. Value the work, yes, but above all else, value the people behind the work, and that’s when you get truly inspired results.

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And so there I was, relying on the kindness of strangers and having a great time doing it.
We ate, we drank, we brainstormed, we laughed, we saw a shooting star. And before I knew it, I was, well, comfortable. Comfortable enough to tease Link (only the biggest Bears fan to hail from Wisconsin ever) with the gift of a Green Bay Packers watercolor painting (yes, we actually DID have arts and crafts — Go Pack!). Comfortable enough to make the old pronoun switch — one of those early indicators that you feel like you belong — and no longer refer to Nelson Cash as “they” or “you guys,” but as “we.” I left Chicago with a group of 11 strangers. I returned with creative allies, partners in crime, and dare I say it, 11 new friends.

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And as for me, I’m taking a page from Elwood P. Dowd:

Here’s to the art of kindness and the start of a new adventure.

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