Julian Cole Planning Dirty Academy

by Joshua Strawczynski

Voiceover: 0:02

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Josh Strawczynski: 0:28

Welcome to another episode of business life hacks. Today we have got Julian Cole, who is a strategist advertising extraordinary and a really good friend of mine. And this is a super interesting episode. We’re going to talk about how a humble Australian boy got to the highest echelons of agency life in New York then left it all started his own business, working online and all the lessons that he’s learned along the way. I’m really excited to talk about this because Julian he’s been mentioned in the Gruen transfer book, he wrote one of the first posts. Post-grad academic papers on media addiction. He is a fascinating guy, Julian Cole. Welcome to the show.

Julian Cole: 1:18

Thanks for having me on Josh. And thanks for the introduction.

Josh Strawczynski: 1:22

This is a conversation I’ve wanted to have for quite a while because I’ve had a front-row seat to all of this and you are a super humble guy, but the story is really interesting. And I think it’s applicable, not just for people who are starting their career, but really any stage of it because yours is a story of doing unique things, being willing to stand out and just do something and see what happens as a little bit of oddball example. When you first moved to Brooklyn in the US, I remember you doing a couple of things like hanging bedsheets at your window and a Christmas tree in a batting cage. Tell us one of those stories and how that ended up getting you some media exposure.

Julian Cole: 2:09

So let’s talk about the Christmas tree. I think at the time I was actually pretty creatively frustrated. So I was at a creative agency, just moved to New York and I’d come from Australia where we create like 13 campaigns a year. And my first two years in America, I created zero pieces of creative work that actually went out, live in the world and that’s kind of depressing because that’s where you learn everything. And so I thought I needed another creative outlet, even though I was a strategist, I still loved the creative output. And so I created pieces of art to kind of keep my creative brain going.

And so one of those was the Brooklyn Christmas tree, which was in Williamsburg and was made from all kinds of iconic Brooklyn imagery. So I had tinsel made out of beer cans and then the light or the star at the top, sorry, was the MTA like the tickets for the MTA, which are all like yellow goldish color. So that made the top of it. So it was all kind of like a bit grungy and things that you’d find around Brooklyn. And so then that got picked up by the local kind of newspapers there and kind of shared around. So that’s the story.

And then the bedsheets was, it was actually during the election and it was hanging out to dry all the candidates because it was during the Republican primary and it was just all the different candidates. And now it’s hanging them out to try and I was painting their pictures on t-shirts. So that was an update there .

Josh Strawczynski: 3:51

I love those stories because the whole time I’ve known you, which now is pushing 20 years or so you’ve always been doing stuff like this, but without this intention of a payoff, those payoffs have come. And when they’ve come, they’ve come in big and small sizes, but I’m interested in the psychology, the mindset. Why do them in the first place, what drives you?

Julian Cole: 4:16

So I think that it was, I learn, I know that I learn the most when I have things out in the world. And so that has always been kind of a core premise of kind of what motivates me if kind of. Knowing that I’ll get smarter and I’ll learn more about life. The more I put myself out there or have outputs out there. And I think that like if there’s one core premise that kind of underlines everything I do is that if I produce and put content out in the world only good things will happen. And I think that’s the thing that holds a lot of people back.

They’re worried that they don’t know anything that they’re going to get. Someone’s going to come online and say, that’s bullshit and call them out or say that’s amateur art in the case of those pieces. Or when I talk about strategy online, that’s, you know, I’m worried that they are smarter, strategists are out there that are going to shame me for putting something out. And the interesting thing is, there’s a lot of smartest strategists out there, but it just never happens. And so I think being able to jump over that very first barrier and not let that stop me has been something that’s done me so well in my whole career and my life. So it’s something that I continue to do.

Josh Strawczynski: 5:35

There are some things you’ve done over the journey that is a lot more daring than say just creating an art installation. I remember when you were at university, one of the things I’ve talked to students about many, many times is every time you went to a networking event, every time you met somebody who was important, you would ask if you could grab their email, I think you asked if you could put them on your mailing list and send them your viral trend of the week. And that for a lot of people, I’ll let you explain what that was in a second. But for a lot of people, that’s very confronting. You’re sending them something and saying, this is my best work judge me. And yet people got to know who you were by the time you were 20 years old or something like that. You were fielding calls from agencies.

Julian Cole: 6:21

It’s actually funny that you bring this up because I’ve got a funny story related to this. Josh, you and I were going on a road trip up to Canberra together. I think we, it was very impulsive. So you’ve kind of got that spirit to last minute. It was a Friday night, which shows, let’s just drive up. Your friend had a party in Canberra on a Saturday night, but when we were going up there, we stopped at a friend’s house.

Friend’s parents’ house, Cobby’s parents’ house. And I think I even asked Kelvin’s parents who I believe work in the tyre. Do they work in industrial tyres? Yes, that’s right. I asked them, I think I told them, I want to put you on my viral trends list. I put them on this newsletter, which we’re sending out weekly. And then about six months later, I get this angry email and probably one of the only angry emails that I got. And they’re like, how did I get on this list? What am I take me off this list? And like a pretty irate email. And it was from our friend’s father who was like, I had no idea how he ended up on that list.

And I was so embarrassed and I removed him from the list, but I was like, oh my God, this is when it turns bad. But let me tell you, that’s the 1% of times something like that happens, usually, people are like, this is helpful. So starting out, I guess I kind of credit my mother for driving this kind of my internal motivation for a lot of things of like, I need to get out there and start doing things. Because in first-year uni, she was asking me, what am I doing? What am I doing to help my career? Where, where am I going? What am I, you know, what am I putting in place to get my career, get a full-time job?

And the thing about that was I always had to answer that question, but it was coming every kind of two weeks. And I think that kind of gave me the motivation of like, okay, I need to put steps in motion in my career. So I was taking lots of internships. I was writing for the local newspaper. I was trying to get my name out there. And I think one of the things I had an internship at a digital agency and they wanted me to create trend reports. And at the time that kind of was my value because I was young and I didn’t know how advertising works, but I could research online and understand the latest digital trends. And so I did that at that agency. And then I realized, I think that’s my value here is that I’ve got my finger on the pulse.

I’m a little bit younger and maybe that’s my position of difference. And that kind of drove a lot of my early decisions was like, okay, this is something that people want to read about technology. And the internet is changing how people react and learn about life. So I’m going to do this trend reports, which was ad space pioneers, my original blog, and originally started out as a newsletter and actually have gone back to newsletters. I loved them now, that was the start of it, trying to get my mom off my back and then realizing that digital and kind of trends were going to be the way that technology was changing. The world was going to be my card in. It was something that I could be an expert in at a younger age than going the traditional path.

Josh Strawczynski: 9:44

We have two questions, both of them later, the first one being, so you saw this and you’re like, okay if I do this, I’m going to be a millionaire in the future. It was that simple?

Julian Cole: 9:54

I don’t think I was thinking about being a millionaire. I think my vision was always, I guess I wanted a great job and I wanted to be successful and powerful, but I guess I thought money will always follow the money. The thing that you need to start with, you know, I just wanted it to be in a powerful, important job. That’s what I thought back then and so these were the steps that were going to get me there and then the money would follow.

Josh Strawczynski: 10:20

Well you certainly, I mean, that was obviously me just joking around but were certain that doing this was going to have the outcome that you wanted to get a great Job because my understanding of views, much of what you’ve done, you’ve done because you enjoy it. Not necessarily knowing what the next opportunity is or what door that’s going to open.

Julian Cole: 10:40

I think I just had faith that this would pay off in the long-term and there were probably smaller signals along the way that suggested that that might happen. So I think, you know, sending the first couple of emails, I think I probably got a response from those earlier emails of like, I really love this. I think that little bit of gratification was really helpful. So I think that’s how I started, I didn’t expect the direct response straightaway.

And I know that also, you know, you’ve got to acknowledge that there’s some privilege that comes along with that. Being able, to invest long-term knowing how to part-time job at university, but I wasn’t struggling. I wasn’t living out of home and looking paycheck to paycheck. And I think that’s a privilege that I now acknowledge is like a big reason for my success as well is that both of us were in an opportunity where we’re able to kind of invest longer-term and into our careers.

Josh Strawczynski: 11:48

That is absolutely true. And my hat off to everyone who lives paycheck to paycheck and still makes the opportunities to go and do these things in their spare time. So to the other part of this, what I’m really interested in, and this is coming back to the mindset. So people who are thinking, well, I could put myself out there, but what if X happens? You were sending these emails to all these agency owners, owners, CEOs, heads of strategy, important people who are established when you went and you later worked for Sputnik, you worked for naked communications, the population. When you went into these businesses to interview, presumably these guys had read your stuff, were you worried about the negative or you focused on the positive, at least this differentiates man?

Julian Cole: 12:42

I always saw it as a positive. I don’t think I ever saw it as a negative thing because I’m adding value. So I always thought that if they had read the email or they had read the blog, then they would see that as this is someone who’s passionate about this industry and probably has a level of expertise is something that I don’t completely know of. So I think that was the important thing and understanding, I think, early understanding what could I learn? What is something new that’s going to become a big thing in people’s lives?

If I was to start again, this is what I would do. What is something that is going to become an important part of people’s lives that is changing really rapidly, that there’s like a knowledge gap on? And that is where I would go. I would tend and say, I’m going to research, I’m going to invest all my hours into this because I know people are going to be really interested. But right now business owners, don’t have time to go down a rabbit hole and learn about all the latest social media trends because they’re running a business, they’re trying to keep everything afloat, like juggling a million plates. So I always thought I was coming from an area of expertise that I thought would be valuable to that company.

Josh Strawczynski: 14:02

Nice. I really like it. And so then how do you take that from an idea from something you’ve been putting time and effort into? And I know you’d been doing a little bit of networking, just getting the name out there. How does a guy in his early twenties then transition over the next few years to leave in Australia and joining a big powerful agency in New York? What’s the trip? What can people learn from that story?

Julian Cole: 14:28

I think the thing that I was looking to do was when I moved up and when I moved to different agencies because as you said, I went from Sputnik to naked communications, which had a really good reputation. And I think my first boss there really kind of like took a gamble on me, Adam Ferrier, who is quite recognized in probably the Australian advertising and the biggest thing. And he kind of said you keep doing what you’re doing. Kind of become the expert. And then when they span out a social media agency, which was the first social media agency in Australia, the population that was when I kind of got that opportunity, I think my time in Australia, what really stood me in good stead is I kind of got the campaigns under my belt to add to the theory or the expertise in the theory.

Now I had the practice side of things because I had a couple of campaigns that were really great. I made the move over to New York. And I think the thing that stood out for me then was I was still kind of riding that bubble of kind of social media. But I think the thing that helped a lot there was on my resume, the agencies were unknown. Like they weren’t big agencies apart from naked communications. None of them went global, like especially the last two, they were really small agencies. But the thing about them that was different that I held onto, which really helped me in good stead was they had iconic clients. So they were working for Coca Cola, fosters, boost mobile, Nestle.

And I think that if you don’t have the brand name or the recognition of an agency, that’s recognized globally, then you need to have the clients that are recognized globally and you either have to have one or the other if you’re transitioning countries. And I think that’s what stood me in good stead when I went to America, whether I knew it or not at the time, I think that opened a lot of doors. The fact that I had this experience that was in high demand at the time in social media and digital strategy, but it was kind of an emerging field, but then I had also recognizable brands. And so when I moved to America, it was very easy to get an intro to agencies that are kind of now world-class agencies.

Like they are on a different level like it was playing in the reserves league here. And then I was like, these A-class like world-class agencies and I wasn’t getting in there on my strategy talent. That’s for sure because I really didn’t have that much. I remember one of the biggest pitchers we won in RMA, which was an amazing pitch. And we were pitching against really big agencies. This is in Melbourne. I mean, in Sydney when I was working at TCO, which was a small agency and we beat out a creative agency and I was so happy, I was like, we’ve beaten one of the best agencies, creative agencies in Sydney.

And the thing about it was that we went to the next pitch because we’re presenting it to now the board. And I was talking to the marketing director and I said, tell me about the pitch. What stood out to you? And he’s like, well, to be honest, it was the creative idea. I think the strategy was actually way better at these other agencies, but your creative idea was great. That was like a massive kick in the guts. It was like, I thought the strategy was the good part. I did the creative as well, but I always thought my strategy was the thing that won it.

And so definitely had imposter syndrome over that. After that moving to the states, I thought, that’s not great, but I’ve still got this experience in social and digital, that was quite new and quite in demand at the time. So when I made the move over, I think the thing that helped me out as I had the theory. I had the experience. I had a couple of those iconic brands. This is how agencies work in the agency world.

So I think it opened the door to a lot of those agencies that I think would have been closed if I just worked at smaller agencies. And then I kind of fell up I guess, because working at BBH and then that is no one for having one of the best strategy departments in the world. And so then I was in there and then working on bigger brands like Google, Johnnie Walker, Axe, PlayStation, and so working on better brands working with world-class strategists kind of just brings you up into that other league .

Josh Strawczynski: 19:06

That’s interesting because a lot of people in all levels of business, don’t need to be an agency to feel imposter syndrome. I remember when I used to walk into businesses with CEOs who were twice my age asking me questions. If it wasn’t in the area of my wheelhouse, where I had 10,000 hours of expertise, I was worried. I figured these are a different breed of an officiant. How, what happened? What was that? What did you learn about overcoming that feeling of imposter syndrome and getting ahead, standing on equal footing?

Julian Cole: 19:43

I think what I’ve realized with time is for strategists, it is so common because with strategy, firstly, it’s subjective, it’s not analytics. There’s a leap that you have to make. You know, you can read as much data as you want, but there is going to be a leap that you have to make. And so the first thing is it’s subjective. The second thing about it is it’s closer to trade than a profession. So in a trade, you learn through an apprenticeship with a profession, you usually get certified and then you’ll let out, you know, like an accountant, you do your CFA or you sit at the bar.

So you learn on the job with strategy. The problem is, you’re only learning from the people around you. So when I was at BBH, the four walls there, amazing chance to grow before that maybe not as great or as learning off the people I could. So they are the two drawbacks and then you’re always walking in because you’ve never been given the strategy one on one on your first day, you’re learning from picking things up. And the problem is that when your managers or strategy directors get up to the next level, the loop continues because then you’re a young strategist, they’ll hire a young strategist and they’ll ask, how do you do strategy?

It’s like, you just got to trust your gut or, you know, you learn it on the job. Just trust me. That’s horrible advice. Like no one wants that advice when you’re young, like, learn it on the job. That’s going to lead to some sleepless nights and fearing that I’m going to get fired at any moment. So I think the only way that you get around that is two things to understand the theory and then practice it and get feedback on that practice.

And it’s actually the reason that I left agencies and have started my own thing, which is planning dirty academy because I realized there’s this gap. We can’t, you know, no one is teaching this next generation of strategists and everyone is dealing with this imposter syndrome. So if you want strategy confidence, and to be able to walk into any room and feel like I am going to add value here, you need to understand the theory, which is what I teach and then be able to practice it and learn and get feedback on that, which is what the academy does.

Josh Strawczynski: 22:06

Okay, so that’s a great transition because when you were at BBDO worldwide, you are the head of communications planning. You had a following online, I’ve always been jealous of how a sense people follow you on LinkedIn. And you’ve put out one seemingly innocuous comment and there are a hundred or two hundred comments left below it, it’s quite incredible to me. When you’re at the top of that pinnacle or the pinnacle rather you then turn around and say, you know what? I can see a gap in the market and I’m just going to go for it. A lot of people would say that as a huge gamble, what is it that gave you the confidence to take that leap and just try something on?

Julian Cole: 22:51

I think it’s easier for me to look, you know, you can create a narrative on the way back that makes sense. But to get to that epiphany of imposter syndrome was synonymous with all strategists and that there was a massive gap in this market actually happened afterwards. So if I was to replay the story I was working at, BBDO is amazing as the top of working on the most awarded, creatively awarded agencies in the world, winning strategy and creative awards and having like a team of 18. I couldn’t you know, there wasn’t much higher to go. You’re not going to go to chief strategy officer, which was going to be great.

But what I realized was my wife and I had been working in New York for eight years and we realized that we could keep working full-time for eight years, but being Australians, we love holidays. We need to take a break. We’re going to have kids soon. There’ll be responsibility around there. So in 2018, we actually took a year off and travelled the world. And during that year off, we decided that we weren’t going to move to back to New York. We’re going to move to LA and always going to freelance. I started looking for some jobs and I thought I’m going to move brand side. I think I want to move brand style for a startup. Looked couldn’t really find any jobs at the same time.

I was like, maybe I’ll start my own agency. And I read this book because that had always been a goal of mine. I’m going to start my own agency. And I read this book. It was really funny because I and Amber both read this book, which was starting a digital agency by Rick Webb who started the Barbarian Group, one of the most iconic digital agencies. They did subservient chicken, the Burger King ad, which was pretty amazing. And it talks about his journey of eight years starting the agency and then selling it out to a parent company and for what looked like a lot of money at the time.

And I read that book and it sounded horrendous like the journey he had to go on. And at the end of it, he was kind of like a bit like was it worth it? Like, it was really hard for him. Amber read the same book and was like, I want to start an agency tomorrow. And so it’s really weird. You read the same book. And then one of us is like, oh, that’s just killed my childhood during this only known agency and then, and wanted to start our own agency. At the same time, I read another book called Alan Weiss’s consulting Bible. And it sounded really exciting. Consulting sounded like, oh my God, this is like something that I can do.

It was all about staying lean and growing that way. And so I thought to myself, if I don’t get a job in startups, I’m going to try to do a little bit of freelance for the time being, and consultant. And while I was doing that, I had an amazing first run year run. I consulted for some of the best companies in the world, like Apple, Disney, Facebook, Uber in my first 12 months. And I was like, oh my God, this is like my dream come true. And just going in there, helping on projects. And they were really like globally iconic work. And I was really loving it. And at the same time I had had this massive newsletter list, which was up to, I think, around 30,000 strategists to read this newsletter every two weeks.

And I was like, what am I doing with this? What am I, where am I going with this? And I was like, I’d done online courses before with Skillshare. And I thought I’m going to try to launch an online course again and did some offline workshops with a friend Mark Puller as well. And that became part of my business. And then it became a bigger part of my business as I was growing. I was like, oh my God, this is like a bigger opportunity, not just selling hours, but this thing’s like really scaling at a different level.

And then in 2020 I just kind of jumped all in. I said, actually, this thing could be way bigger than the consulting. And so I kind of retired my consulting dream that kind of like ended. And I said I’m going to go full time at creating an online course. And this online planning, dirty academy, and since then 2020, it’s been, like 18 months, 20 months, actually, it’s been three years. I realized it was three years. For some reason, in 2019, I started September 2019. I started and it’s now been three years of the academy.

Josh Strawczynski: 27:27

I remember catching up with you in Poland and sitting in the back of a tourist bus, talking about this list that you had and what the plan was. And so to me, the fact that scales so ridiculously you’d found this gap in the market, but this is so quintessentially Julian Cole because it comes all the way back to the start of our conversation. You were just doing stuff that had your interest, making sure you paid the bills, you weren’t living in a cardboard box, but you were doing this.

And the wheels just started to turn and you found an opportunity. And what I’m about to ask you about is how you’ve now identified that audience and changed and learnt as you went. But before we get there, what a lot of people, I know business owners, we consult to business owners or with a lot of money who will sit and think about how to make something perfect before they actually do anything. I really want to know, how did you just turn the wheels every day and do stuff? What’s your, hack or your even self-psychology hack to get you doing things and completing tasks.

Julian Cole: 28:36

It’s a good question. I think I have got, which is not true. A version of, I remember when I used to have the blog posts, I realized I could always, like, I get feedback on my ideas and I could always like edit that post and make it better later, but I’ve just needed to get it out in the world and more people seeing it. And I think once you realize, once you get over that initial fear of publishing something, you realize that it’s actually, that’s when you start learning when things are out in the world, not when you’re writing it.

And so that has been always essential to me. And I guess I think it’s also part of me. I’m a bit scrappy. I’m a bit 80% done guy. I’d rather push it early, ship it early, than ship it late. And perfectionism has never been a thing for me. I’m never perfect, I’ve always got 80% in my grade. So it was never the nineties or the 95. Maybe that’s maybe I’m thankful that I was never an A+ student. I was always a B+. So I realized, you know, that’s fine, B+ are fine. So that’s kind of been my reality now is that you can always put something out and you can always edit it if you really need it, or you can always take it down, but you’ve got to have it out there.

Josh Strawczynski: 29:58

This is the lesson, that was the sound clip that everybody should hear, to share a story from my life. We have so many clients that obsess over websites and making sure every word is right. What is this image really communicating? And they lose months and months of just learning by doing. They are so worried about what might happen if someone sees the apostrophe after the S instead of before, that our publisher, and it’s craziness.

To tell one more story before we get into your students and then start to wrap up. I remember you presenting to a bunch of high-level executives wearing a jumper or a sweatshirt around Americans, fans that might be described as a little bit out there. Do you remember what I’m talking about?

Julian Cole: 30:54

No. Which one? Leopard print? I think I’ve done that for a while. I think what I wear if you’re in a creative industry, then you probably are trying to hire. If you think about the wardrobe that you wear and what image you’re trying to put out there, someone comes to a creative agency, they want creativity. So they’re not looking for an accountant or someone who looks like an accountant.

And I think I learned that lesson pretty early on. I think I also realized that confidence comes from the clothes that you wear. And if you push yourself and say, I’d never wear that or I’d be embarrassed to wear that. They were actually the clothes that I liked to wear. And I actually learned that from our mutual friend, Rick Liston, who would wear a Hansen t-shirt when we’re in university. He was wearing a Hansen T-shirt from Lubbock, the song. And he’s like a tall six-foot, three big guy. And here he is wearing a Hansen fan shirt.

And I always took from that, he’s like, you know, his whole thing was like, no one would ever wear this. Like, no one, like this is so bad. It’s good. And I think I got to that point as well, if wearing so bad, it’s good. And creativity is about taking risks. And so a lot of my wardrobe is still, and I’ve probably toned it down a little bit, but I always try to wear shirts that are a little bit more interesting or like got some type of print. So leopard print is definitely something that I would wear because I think you’ve got to lean into that if that’s what you’re selling, which was creativity.

Josh Strawczynski: 32:42

The thing that I took from it, and this again, is the theme of Julian Cole was unwilling to stand out and be judged. I really like Matt Manson talks about the quote, the bolder, the action, the more polarized, the reaction, meaning hate me or love me. I just don’t want to waste my time in the middle. And the people that I know that love you absolutely love you. I never hear someone say, that’s really cool. But that has never ever happened with you. So for me, and when I’m coaching, offering students a little bit of advice, I regularly quote the Julian Cole methodology, which dares to be different, dares to stand out. And the positive far outweighs the negative.

Julian Cole: 33:30

You’ll get the one angry tyre salesman going, get me off your f ricking list. But no, I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that, you know, don’t appreciate what I’m doing. But I also think it comes back to at least what I’m doing is always coming back to the thing of always like offering value in some, some respect. It’s not like from the very beginning, it was like viral trends were all about giving people the knowledge that they need and saving them time and teaching strategy. So that’s always been the intention to, it’s never been to just like sell myself, but the intention is to help people solve a problem. They don’t have time to read. Well, here are the three things you need to know.

Josh Strawczynski: 34:12

Well, that’s another great segue in to, so now you coaching this course, you’ve got, how many people have been through already or a signed up?

Julian Cole: 34:21

I think it’s around 1,100.

Josh Strawczynski: 34:23

That’s an enormous amount of the world’s strategy as strategists going through and then planners. Amazing. What have you learned about how to communicate to them, how to deliver to them and in that, how have you adjusted what you’re doing so that it’s getting bigger and bigger and snowballing as you go?

Julian Cole: 34:45

I think the thing that I realized was a lot of my insecurities are kind of quite common across the industry. So the name planning dirty actually came from being down in the weeds and the creative development process. Because when I was at a lot of these bigger agencies, I always had a chip on my shoulder or not a chip on my shoulder, but I was always worried and concerned that I’d never had this traditional strategy training.

And so I was more the strategist who would be down there with the creatives making or work. And what I realized is that narrative is actually everyone, no one has had the traditional or there’s, you know, there’s probably 5% of the population that have been at those great agencies where they’ve got great training. What I realized over time is that my narrative is the same as everyone else and I was insecure and hiding that for a long time. But now I tell that story and I’m happy about it. I’m happy to tell you that I didn’t know what strategy was for so long and I had it in my title.

So I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned, how to communicate with people is also like you can teach the theory. And that’s what I did for a long time was teach theory and give the templates. But you’ve actually got to get people doing the exercises and doing strategy. One of the biggest problems with strategy is you only do it a couple of times a year. Maybe you’re only writing the strategy once a year, or you’re only writing 10 briefs a year.

You’ve got to get in the repetition. So you got to practice on not serious work, you know, and for strategists, when you’re junior strategists, you going to play, you’re going up to bat when you’ve never done it before, there’s no training. And so that’s what I’m trying to create is that training and give people a lot of chances to get the repetitions up.

Josh Strawczynski: 36:36

And as a result, are you getting feedback from young strategists who are saying, this is making a difference in my progress, my confidence, all of those things?

Julian Cole: 36:46

Definitely. And that’s what I love. Like hearing those stories. There are so many stories from people in the academy of rising up, getting the respect of like their creative team or changing from like small agencies then going and working as the global brand strategist at Amazon to these amazing transformation stories of people, finding their confidence and feeling alone at the start of like, I don’t know, strategy and I’m going to get found out to walking into a room and feeling confident that you can add value straight away .

Josh Strawczynski: 37:18

It’s so interesting because I remember when I had been in advertising agencies, maybe five years, maybe longer, and I wanted to go and do my own thing. And one of the partners said you do not do that. You need to go and work under a world-class strategist or whatever it was. He was recommending at the time and learn from them. Now I was, I’ve always been a little on the arrogant side. I was like, no, no, no, I can do this myself.

And so I went and did up myself, 10 years later, I had the epiphany that had I taken his advice. Then I would have shortcuts so much of the journey. Now it has, I’ve surrounded myself with people who have been there, done that made their millions and the insights that they’ve given me come years and years and years off what I needed to learn. And so really what you’re telling me is you’re creating that structure that everyone can access today and see the results immediately.

Julian Cole: 38:21

And that’s a great way of kind of summing it up. It’s like taking, I always say there’s like four or five companies in the world that are going to invest in your strategy, education and your career in strategy. And if you’re not at those four or five companies, what do you do? And that’s what I’m offering is the alternative. If you work where you are, but you’re going to your career is going to keep going up and you’re going to get that world-class training and education.

Josh Strawczynski: 38:49

Fantastic. Alright, well to finish off today, cause this has been a long but awesome chat, exactly what I was hoping to get from you. A couple of quick soundbites for us, what are the most influential book or books or podcasts that you would recommend? Not necessarily just a strategist, but anyone who’s got that entrepreneurial spirit to read.

Julian Cole: 39:12

So I think there’s a few, depending on where you are in your journey, if you’re interested in getting into strategy, there’s a free guide online, which is the JWT guide to planning, which was written by the godfather of planning. Planning has only been around since the sixties. And it’s a great foundation to understand what strategy looks like at a creative agency. I’d say that’s number one. If you’re a freelancer, then you definitely need to look at Alan Weiss’s consulting Bible. If you are a business owner, and this is what I’ve learned as a business owner, I think E-Myth mastery, even though it’s kind of a classic has foundationally helped me. And the way I run my business now.

Josh Strawczynski: 39:59

That last one in particular definitely changes the way that you think about running businesses and managing processes and people it’s also a pretty easy read.

Julian Cole: 40:09

It’s great. It took me a while though. It took me a while to implement that. Like I read it and then it took a good four months to actually implement what I’d read. I was like, that sounds great. And then I made all the mistakes, same mistakes. And then I had to come back to it four months later.

Josh Strawczynski: 40:27

And to finish this off, biggest either psychological or motivational hack, you’ve learned to drive you to get the results out of yourself.

Julian Cole: 40:38

So often I come up with this piece, which is excitement around something new. And this is what always happens with my business. The excitement in something new is the entree to being overwhelmed. And the dessert to that is planning or creating standards like SOPs. So what happens is often I’ll hear something like my wife and I have the exact same businesses and she’ll say something that she’s doing. And I’m like, oh my God, that could really change my business. I see excitement coming in. And then I get completely overwhelmed. I’m like, there is no chance I can do this. This is so hard.

And I get dejected, work out all the reasons. It won’t work in my business. The thing that we’ve done is we skipped to dessert now and start planning it. And so what I do is every time I get that excitement feeling, I know the overwhelmed feelings are going to come, so what we do is try to bypass that by going, okay, go write down something that gets you closer to that goal that takes under five minutes. Go do that right now. And that has been super helpful because that overwhelmed anxiety, it always comes it’s, you know, it’s the main course, the excitement’s just the entree. So I always try to skip that, get to the dessert of writing something down, getting a plan, feel like I’m in motion. Moving towards that goal.

Josh Strawczynski: 42:08

I love it. President Obama loved the saying better is good. And what that meant was it doesn’t need to solve the problem. It needs to move the problem in the right direction. We won’t fix hunger overnight, but we can make 3% of people less hungered. That if anyone is interested in that concept, you cannot do better than reading, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. It is a fantastic book about creating systems that nudge you in the right direction.

And the soundbite that I loved from Thaler in a recent interview on Freakonomics was that to create nudges is not difficult. The thing that we should ask ourselves is how stupid did we need to be, to be the person who created the system in the first place that needed the nudge. I often feel that reflects my own mindset when I feel overwhelmed that I created a system that was so chaotic when all I had to do in the first place was do some planning.

Julian Cole: 43:17

I love It. It’s great.

Josh Strawczynski: 43:19

Julian Cole, thank you so much for joining us. I really meant it, when I said I’ve been wanting to get this on recording for a long time with you. And the result was something that I’m certain, anyone that listens to this is going to find a lot of gems of wisdom. And do you have any final words, anything that you’d say to up and coming planners or anyone for that matter that’s resonated with what we talked about today?

Julian Cole: 43:47

I think it’s just, you’ve got to put stuff out there. You’ve got to, I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Put it out, just get in movement. And so I often talk about just moving and it was back to this final point of just moving your body in the right direction. And moving is just about getting your ideas out of your brain, onto words into the world.

Josh Strawczynski: 44:11

What a great way to sum it all up. Julian Cole thank you so much for your time.

Julian Cole: 44:16

No worries.

About the Author

Joshua Strawczynski
Managing Director

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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