“What does it take to open an ad agency?”

The girl promised it would be a quick Q&A. One question, five minutes. Then she wouldn’t bother me again. 

I pressed the iPhone to my ear, and spun to face the window. What the hell. A college marketing student got me on the line; least I could do is pay it forward and answer the question.

I start laying out the sensible path. Learn how advertising, branding and marketing work. Master a specialty. Get an agency job. Work your ass off and get noticed. Make friends with the most talented people you meet, and stay close to the smartest clients you meet. One day, you’re going to join forces with those talented people and smart clients. That’s what it takes.

Now, if she’d been like me, she would have taken notes and started making a plan. But, it turned out, she wasn’t like me. A different animal entirely.

She wanted to know: how could she open an agency, like, NOW?

It became clear she had a real passion for advertising. She talked about her favorite ads (she had good taste; loved Nike’s work during the World Cup). She talked about how she’d make up ads for her sponsors, in her mind, while she was trying to set the record for the youngest person to bike around the world solo…

Hold the phone.

Yeah, turns out she had just settled back into normal American life after two years on a bicycle. Left home at 18. Got back at 20. Circled the freaking planet. Started getting the communication bug.

It made me think about my answer. I still think needs to learn a craft, study the business, and master one or two of the storytelling and branding arts. 

But she reminded me it takes something else. You need to be able to say, “what the f**k.” You need to be able to launch yourself on a journey the likes of which you’ve never done before, and you need to be able to stick with it day in and day out, even when common sense is telling you to quit.

The kid’s got that one locked down cold, I reckon. I’m a little jealous.