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The Influencers
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2016: Losing The Fear

Mullen Lowe North America, 9 months ago

Rebekah Pagis, Senior VP, Group Account Director, Mullen Lowe Boston, with a very heartfelt reflection on a family experience

2016: Losing The Fear

I recently read an article in the NY Times about a rare genetic condition called Williams Syndrome. It’s a tiny genetic deletion of about 25 genes (out of a total of 30,000) that occurs randomly (one per every 25,000 births in the US) that creates a distinctive behavioural profile. People with this syndrome lack social fear – literally all they see are friendly faces.

Advertising is not an easy place. It can be cutthroat and crazy competitive - a real life Hunger Games. We have to show we can work well with others but also that we can out compete them in terms of our smarts, our creativity, our ability to move faster, and be more efficient.

But what if we dropped all that?

What if we went against our very nature?

What if we stopped cutting down each other’s work, thinking, and ideas.

Could we as an industry only see friendly faces when we looked around at award shows. Could we lose the fear of being judged?

A year and a half ago my two-year-old son was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome.

The first six months of understanding it all was hard- extremely hard. Williams Syndrome is technically classified as a developmental disorder that is characterised by mild to moderate intellectual disability or learning problems, unique personality characteristics, distinctive facial features, and cardiovascular problems (which stem from the absence of the gene that makes blood vessels, heart valves and other tissue elastic). It’s rare. No one knows about it and I spent a good chunk of time in the sad  “why us” phase.

But in 2015 I set out to focus on all the amazing things my little man is instead of what he isn’t.

Doing so has markedly changed my worldview. I set out to not feel threatened or fearful of new ideas, different approaches, or even difficult people. I try to be nicer, to think nicer thoughts, to see the world as my son would- filled with friendly faces, and it has been a pretty damn good year.

So in the year ahead, I challenge all of you to focus on all the friendly faces and to celebrate what they bring to the table instead of what they don’t.


Rebekah Pagis is Senior Vice President, Group Account Director at Mullen Lowe U.S., Boston and Account Lead on American Greetings, National Geographic & Capital One