Letter To My Younger self: Derek Manning, Collider

Derek Manning, creative director of Collider, writes to his 18-year-old self in Belfast about the trials and successes that lie ahead.

Letter To My Younger self: Derek Manning, We Are Collider
Letter To My Younger self: Derek Manning, We Are Collider

Dear 18-year-old-Del,

I’m writing this ‘letter’ to you as, of course, you have no idea what the internet is and are still blissful of the hours you will waste checking emails in years to come.

Right now it’s probably raining in Ireland. You are ambivalent about your A-Level exams next week and instead dream of where you will go next in life as a creative. Ignore your mum’s protests that ‘sure you can never make money from art’ – you will prove her wrong and she will be proud one day soon.

Today you are creative director in a pretty successful agency in sunny London (yes it is worth moving south if only for the climate). But our journey here wasn’t a breeze I’m afraid.

So you have set your heart on Brighton to do ‘illustration’. Don’t worry about the rejection letter coming soon – Kingston will offer you ‘Graphics & Photography’. I know you have no idea what ‘graphics’ is right now – you will love it as much as you love taking pics. Kingston will give you life-long friends and the most special of these – your amazing wife Flip. 

Your Welsh art tutor in Belfast will tell you in a couple of years that you are ‘green’ – a green, Irish, always-smiling creative. Stay green in heart  – keep smiling, be proud you are Irish. Smile more.

But lose the naïve ‘green’, which is over trusting of others. People are fallible and will let you down. Plus, there is money in marketing and not everyone puts friendship over a quick buck.

Life is not straight. It is at best a zig-zag. It took me a long time and many headaches to learn to face problems less head on and more ‘side on’ – take what life throws at you and work it! If you don’t work with what life blows your way you will never make progress on your journey.

‘Passive’ is your enemy. Stop coasting. Be active in the decisions you are asked to make. Seize the day and opportunities ahead with both hands and squeeze out all the potential. You never know where it could lead you.

In about 10 years time you will have no job, be fighting a litigation case in the High Court (which you will win) and be trying to start a new business. You will look back on that year as your ‘best of times and worst of times’. You will always learn more in the painful times than the good times. It will teach you that the most important thing in life is friends. Enjoy the good times. Take more holidays.

In your first job, your boss will tell you on day one that the most important device in that studio is not the computer – it’s the telephone. Don’t hide behind emails and text messages (it will make sense one day) – get out and meet people face to face.

You will always achieve more in a conversation in person than abdicating responsibility to other ‘powers’ like accountants and lawyers. You are the most important power in your life. They will never make a decision for you. It’s your life – take responsibility.

Always read the small print.

Always employ the best. Your business is based on the quality of the brains and smiles inside it.

Life is too short for bad coffee and bad wine. 



More: For more letters to my younger self from the likes of RPM's Hugh Robertson, TRO's Michael Wyrley-Birch and London & Partners Tracy Halliwell, visit here.

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