Vital Life Lessons from Mad Men

Mad Men
Mad Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With Mad Men finally, finally returning Sunday night, it’s got me thinking about the show’s most memorable moments. Moments that are not just memorable, but instructive.

I talk a lot about the lessons we can draw from Mad Men. In a world so often full of needless jibber-jabber, Mad Men reminds us of the power of occasional silences and spare dialogue.

And as I’ve mentioned before, the brilliant montage video Don Draper Says What vividly shows us that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it:

But one of my all-time favorite moments, both as a viewer and a student of communications, is the famous “carousel” scene from Season One, in which Don is pitching Kodak on a campaign for their new slide carousel. (Or “the wheel,” as they call it, prior to getting schooled by Don Draper.)

The scene is absolutely brilliant. And deeply touching. It speaks to the power of emotion and stories and images to move audiences.┬áThis one can’t be embedded, apparently, but here is the link.

And if you’re more of a reader than a watcher, here’s an excerpt:

“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent … In Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

Not sure how it all translates if you haven’t seen the show. (And shame on you if you haven’t!) Part of the subtext is the contrast between Don’s words and pictures and the mess he’s made of his own family life. Not to mention his lifelong search for (and run from) his own identity and sense of belonging.

There are many qualities not to emulate about Don Draper, but if you can create moments like this one — in your job interviews, sales pitches, presentations and other communications — you will drive your audiences absolutely mad.

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