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Greg Bardsley

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Pranks

The communicator’s anti-climax

Wednesday night, I was in the midst of suffering a common malady in my profession — the communicator’s anti-climax.

Here’s how it works. The communicator, a total junkie for creating things that “connect” with viewers or readers, works his or her tail off to complete a big project. Lots of effort and thought goes into the project. Along the way, he has a blast — a blast creating, a blast getting feedback, a blast collaborating with other communicators.

This is part of the high.

The other part of the high is anticipating the connection that he hopes to make with the audience — the hope of connecting with strangers, of evoking emotions out of them that might range from laughter to glee to nostalgia to even sadness. And when it happens, when his work is unveiled, and people are affected in these human ways, the high is about as sweet as it can get. And in today’s world of blogs, metrics and email, never has the communicator enjoyed more immediate, direct and pure access to this juice, this “connection” juice.

But there’s a danger — the communicator’s anti-climax.

It happens as the “dust” starts to settle. Suddenly, there’s a void. Suddenly, the “connection” with the audience is over; they have moved on to something else. And in some cases, the reaction is not what one had hoped and the “connection” wasn’t as strong as he’d expected. And in the case of big efforts, like my work on an April Fools prank, the audience reaction, no matter how pronounced, will sometimes feel somewhat less than expected.

This is what happened to me the other night. I was crashing. I was crashing hard.

And yet, I was in denial. I kept checking hit counts and email messages, kept looking for signs that the “connection” with viewers was still there. But deep down inside, I knew it was gone. As a former newspaper reporter, and as a guy with a novel in a literary agent’s hands, I know from experience that the anti-climax is marked by a sense of failure, and subsequent exhaustion.

Luckily, my psyche re-balances, and my view of reality is more accurate, and I can better appreciate the work that has been completed, and before I know it, I’m back — ready to start something new, hoping to get another shot of that juice.

Does this happen to you with your professions/passions?

And suddenly I’m sitting down with a titan

Back in January, I took a call from a recruiter.

I was busy when she called. More importantly, I wasn’t interested in leaving Sun Microsystems. I loved my job, my boss, the Sun leadership and my colleagues. Even so, when the recruiter told me about the new job, and how much it would pay, I found myself firing off my resume.

The job was a speechwriting gig for the CEO of one of the largest companies on the planet. It would be a promotion in title, and it would pay a boatload of money. I’d been a speechwriter for a titan before, so I knew it would be a pretty challenging gig. But I also knew this was the kind of opportunity that didn’t come around very often, and the money would make a big difference in my household, where my wife stays home with our two sons.

Well, one thing led to another, and things got more and more serious. First it was a conference call with an executive recruiter in New York, then it was half a day at the company itself, then it was another visit with the chief marketing officer as well as the chief technology and strategy officer. They liked me, and I liked them.

Only one problem: I still loved Sun.

I still loved what I was doing at Sun — creating journalistic, reality-based videos for our CEO, explaining our vision and strategy to our 33,000 employees, getting tapped for humor projects and trying my best to make Sun a fun place to work. My boss had always encouraged me to use my creativity to do new and cool things, and I knew that leaders like her don’t come around too often. I can’t tell you how many times I had friends and acquaintances tell me that mine was the coolest job around.

But the other company was calling; their CEO wanted to meet with me. This obviously would be the final interview. Me and the titan, in his office.

Maybe I should have been thrilled. Maybe I should have been salivating. Maybe I should have been ready to do jumping jacks for this guy. Maybe I should have looked at the bigger title, the promise of more money — all of that — and let my eyes cross in corporate lust.

But I didn’t. I was too busy having fun at Sun.

Then came the kicker. I was in the midst of producing a video about courage and integrity at Sun. Along the way, I was able to listen in on a high-level discussion about Sun’s core values and how they are “interwoven into the fabric of who we are” as a company of integrity, transparency and mutual respect, as CEO Jonathan Schwartz put it. It was a special moment for me, because I knew he wasn’t just feeding us a line. I had been at Sun for more than eight years, and I had seen how Jonathan and his team have not only made some important moves to turn in consistent profitability, but also have emphasized the importance of treating people with respect. It’s one thing to talk about being high-integrity; it’s quite another to show it day in and day out with your actions. Jerks, bullies and self-important snobs are a lot harder to find at Sun these days, and that means a lot to me.

I kept my date with the titan. He seemed like a great guy, and he was smart. In fact, really smart. Despite my best efforts to show extreme interest in the gig, he could tell my heart wasn’t in it. At one point, he put my resume down and announced, “Well, it sounds like you’re in a great situation over there at Sun.” According to the executive recruiter, he later declared, “Greg doesn’t want this job.”

He was right.

And I got to produce an April Fools prank on Schwartz. See below for all the drooling details. Is it any wonder why Sun is such a great place to work?

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