Tragedy, Tributes, and Triumph: Griffin Farley's Beautiful Minds

Griffin Farley, a planner and strategist at the New York office of ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, died earlier this year after a battle with cancer.

In the industry, Griffin was known as an innovative thinker responsible for the concept of propagation planning, "planning not for the people you reach, but the people that they reach, by giving them assets to propagate."

Inside his agency, he was known as a kind, modest man with an interest in mentoring new talent.

Since the Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York (BBHNY) folk loved Griffin and they knew he had the respect of many potential collaborators, they decided to spin a small triumph out the tragedy of his passing.

Griffin's fellow strategists Sarah Watson and Angela Sun organized a tribute for him, called Griffin Farley's Beautiful Minds, which I attended this weekend.

It was the best kind of tribute, suitable for a man whose career as a planner embodied the notion of praxis -- applied thought in the service of a goal.

Instead of maudlin testimonials, the BBHNY team had many of the most talented planners and strategists in the business lecture young and in some cases (me) not so young kids interested in planning.

After all the uplifting and educational messages came the heavy lifting. The 10 teams had to come up with a message that would help boost annual membership in New York City's recently launched CitiBike program from 50,000 to 100,000.

I would like to say the competition was a lyrical voyage of discovery marked by dazzling epiphanies and eureka moments. It was mostly a tough slog. Competitors had less than 20 hours to craft a compelling brief. There was less time for those, like me, who opted for sleep, thereby fatefully defying David Boies' reputed exhortation to one of his teams: "Do you want to sleep or do you want to win?"

My team didn't make it to the finals. We were disappointed. Members of three of the four teams that did make it will be disappointed on Thursday night, when the Beautiful Minds Winners Showcase Gala takes place at BBH New York's offices.*

I hope they don't confuse disappointment for tragedy.

Sure, everyone wants the words on the marquee before their name to read "Oscar-winning actor" not " Oscar-nominated actor," but it truly is an honor to be nominated.

It reminds me a bit of when I volunteered for the New Hampshire primary campaign of long shot but suddenly credible candidate Senator Barack Obama. For many months, the aftermath of that experience was profound disappointment. We lost. Our Iowa momentum blunted, the Clinton machine resurgent, all our hard work for naught.

It was devastating. In my naïveté, I believed it was a true tragedy.

It wasn't.

It was a great experience that built for things to come.

If Griffin Farley's Beautiful Minds taught us anything, it must be that even the worst things can lead to some good. More bluntly, we'd have to be awfully narcissistic and myopic to think of ourselves unfortunate after attending a celebration of the life of someone who died far too young.

Tragedies are inevitable in life, but triumphs are where you find them.

As for disappointments, in the end, things worked out okay for Senator Obama, and they'll probably work out okay for you too.

Bartholomew Motes bounced back from New Hampshire and eventually became a staffer on President Obama's Florida campaign. He's a lawyer in Miami, but thinks advertising wouldn't be bad.

If you are interested in attending, you can fill out this RSVP form. A donation of $40 is suggested. Space is limited. If you can't make it but would like to donate to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in Griffin's name, you can do so here.

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