Work hard and be nice

I have a poster in my kitchen. It’s simple. It’s light grey with big, bold condensed typography printed on it using the traditional letterpress method. Its message, on the face of it, is simple too. It says WORK HARD & BE NICE TO PEOPLE. The poster was made by a graphic designer named Anthony Burrill who overheard the sage advice being given from a lady behind the checkout in a supermarket to her young customer. I hung it in my kitchen because I love it. I love it because of its blatant simplicity. I love it because of its deep complexity. Trying to live by it every day is anything but simple.

I’ve tried to pick up a new habit over the last few months. Every night, we sit down as a family for dinner. And we all tell each other how we worked hard today and how we were nice to people. “I did extra reading in school” my oldest kid will say. “I told my teacher she’s the best teacher” his younger brother will say. “hi Daddy butt butt” my two-year old will say (still working on him). Then it’s our turn, my wife and I. At the moment, everything can feel like hard work. Even being nice to people can somehow feel like hard work. We always come up with something.

We’re living impersonal lives, quarantined from our people and our communities. We’re communicating through digital filters that strip away emotion. A lot of things have been slowly eroded and quietly suffered during this pandemic. Things we’re not yet aware of — things that will reveal themselves over time. We’ll bear the weight of some these things for years to come.

In addition to the fallout, we have many other real issues to tackle in 2021. Climate change, institutional racism, poverty, disillusionment and disenfranchisement. We don’t have the answers now, but human ingenuity and resilience are powerful forces. One thing that’s true for brands and people alike is that we’re going to have to work exceptionally hard and be really nice to each other to get the job done. Start today.