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The Wisdom of George Lois

George Lois’s brain is an interesting place.

Over the past 50 years, he’s spawned too many pop culture flash points to count—everything from the iconic ’60s Esquire covers to “I Want My MTV.” Now he’s pouring out a lifetime of hard-ass wisdom (including an unusually vicious attack on Don Draper) in a 192-page tome titled Damn Good Advice. And since the book won’t be out until March, we thought we’d pass along some of the best lines. Get inspired, gentlemen...

A thinking person must read, study, question, evaluate, and not let the bullshitters bullshit you.

Better to be reckless than careful. Better to be bold than safe. Better to have your work seen and remembered, or you’ve struck out. There is no middle ground.

Say something serious in a funny way, and you can win people over every time. Wit wakes up the mind.

If you don’t burn out at the end of each day, you’re a bum! People watching me work ask me all the time why I’m not burnt out, how (especially at my age) I manage to keep going. The fact is, I’m totally burnt out at the end of each day because I’ve given myself totally to my work—mentally, psychologically, physically. When I head home at night I can’t see straight. But I love that feeling of utter depletion: It is an ecstatic sense of having committed myself to the absolute limit.

If all else fails, threaten to commit suicide.

The 1960s was a heroic age in the history of the art of communication—the audacious movers and shakers of those times bear no resemblance to the cast of characters in Mad Men. This maddening show is nothing more than a soap opera, set in a glamorous office where stylish fools hump their appreciative, coiffured secretaries, suck up martinis, and smoke themselves to death as they produce dumb, lifeless advertising—oblivious to the inspiring Civil Rights movement, the burgeoning Women’s Lib movement, the evil Vietnam war, and the other seismic changes during the turbulent, roller-coaster 1960s that altered America forever. The more I think about Mad Men, the more I take the show as a personal insult. So, fuck you Mad Men—you phony, “Gray Flannel Suit,” male-chauvinist, no-talent, WASP, white-shirted, racist, anti-semitic, Republican SOBs.

Fight back, not with bare knuckles, but with a velvet glove.

I’ve always had the gnawing perception of sleep as a terrible enemy, one that robs each human being of a third of his time to work.... So if you sleep seven hours a day, train yourself to sleep six. If you sleep six hours a day...well, you get the point. And if you’re like me, sleep only three hours a day. (I’ve been awake more hours than any human being alive.)

Since my first job in advertising in 1950, right up until today, the very idea of a single day going by without “doing my job” absolutely panics me.