The ability to rebound.

An underrated talent that changes everything.

In every sport, there are key statistics and attributes that get a lot of attention because they’re big, obvious, flashy, and easy to see, record, and tie to success.

But, more often than not, the players that really make a difference have some of that, as well as ‘intangibles’. The grittier, attitudinal, hard-nosed stuff. Acts that don’t necessarily immediately register a score, but without them, the opportunity to do so would never have come about.

There’s some truth in this around what we do as well. Because one of the most critical attributes for a creative is the ability to rebound. (And strategists, and suits, and clients as well.)

If you’ve never seen or heard of this guy, it’s Dennis Rodman. The Chicago Bulls team of the early 90s was already a dynasty, but it wasn’t until the 95-96 season they entered ‘best team in history’ territory. Already boasting offensive giants in Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls made a left-field move by bringing in the wildly unconventional Rodman. A guy who shone when things weren’t going your way. Who relished not having the ball in his hands. Because he was most deadly when he was without it.

Rodman’s game wasn’t built on scoring, or passing, or dribbling. It was entirely built around rebounding. So much so, that no one even came close to Rodman in RPG (rebounds-per-game). It was almost as if the worse you were playing, the better he got. What this meant for his team, is that they were never out of the game. Even if they were missing shots, he would keep them in the contest by giving them another crack. And if the opposition was controlling possession, he was always there to win it back. His ability to do this better than anyone in the history of the game quite literally changed the game itself. And in 95-96, his first season with the Bulls, they set league records.

I’ve attended, and been part of, all sorts of creative courses and degrees and mentorship programs, and it’s amazing how little this stuff is spoken about. Because it doesn’t matter how many ‘copywriting tips’, ‘concepting hacks’, or Ogilvy books you’ve read if you don’t have the ability to rebound.

Our life is a life of rejection. It takes 100 shit ideas to come up with 1 good one. And even then, you have to agree with your creative partner that it is, in fact, actually good. And then get it through the Creative Director. And then the ECD. And then there’s a strategist. And then a client. And a CMO. And a CEO. And a CEO’s husband or wife. Then there’s media and budgets and research and production. Every idea you come up with has an almost infinite number of chances to bounce off the rim and miss the net. And if you can’t rebound quickly and go again, you just won’t make it. Natural talent becomes irrelevant if you can’t stay in the game.

It’s this kind of mental framing that is needed right throughout an agency and client team to get a good campaign up. Because there are no free throws. We’re always outnumbered. We’ve got defenders clamouring all over us to knock us down, 24/7. (Sometimes they’re even wearing the same jersey...)

And this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel the frustration and the anger and the disappointment, you should feel it, because it is real, but you have to use it as fuel to get control of the ball again and take another shot.

You have to be able to get knocked down, and get right up and go again. And again. And again. And again.

Because beyond the gloss of folio schools and advertising books and courses and classes on ‘coming up with ideas’, is the reality of actually stepping on to the court.

Because, there, in the most critical of moments, you often have to be a bit less Jordan and a bit more Rodman.

So don’t forget to practice your rebounds, not just your free throws.

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