He's a Legend and You Suck: A Millennial Reveals Hard Truths at SXSW

Written by
Garett Sloane
Advertising Age

Mar 15, 2017

Mar 15, 2017 • Author: Garett Sloane

Japie Stoppelenburg was just trying to share his genius with the world, but no one would listen.

He was a fresh, young creative at an agency in Holland, and a millennial.

"I really was convinced when I started working that I was like super talented and basically a genius," Mr. Stoppelenburg said, his voice consciously sliding from a slight Dutch accent into Valley girl upspeak when he recalls his talent entitlement. "And then when everyone else refused to bend to my opinion, I was like well everyone else sucks."

To be clear, this was the old Stoppelenburg. Before he worked through his early creative frustrations, and he found a kind of Zen in the ad industry.

He blames his attitude when he was younger -- he's now 29 -- on being a millennial, that age group that roughly fits people born between 1980 and 2000.

Mr. Stoppelenburg was in Austin at SXSW, and he gave a talk titled, "You're a Legend and Everyone Else Sucks."

That's also the title of his new book, which he wrote to help any millennials that might face the same problems.

Millennials have certainly splashed into the workforce with a "we're here" attitude, and many companies are learning to adapt to this latest generation. There is no shortage of essays, articles, tweets, videos, Facebook posts and all other media dissecting what it means to be millennial and how to communicate with millennials if you're not one.

Millennials are likely sick of the stereotypes, too, that they are entitled, they don't want to work as hard, they want immediate gratification.

"I'm a millennial," Mr. Stoppelenburg said. "That's why I feel the straight-up authority to bitch-slap them."

Mr. Stoppelenburg had to get out of the way of his own ego before he could find happiness and success, but before that, there were years of frustration, he said. He was made lead creative on a cable company account, and he met the kind of roadblocks anyone in advertising has met for the past 100 years -- rejection.

"I must have presented them 12 genius concepts and they were all brilliant, and they wouldn't, like, approve any of them," Mr. Stoppelenburg said, laughing at his own sense of self. "They should understand. They have to listen to me because I am a genius and they need to shut up."

Well, needless to even say, this led to some real creative disappointment. He had to cope with a work-life that couldn't possibly match his inflated sense of self.

He even went into therapy, and eventually, he figured it out.

"I started entertaining this thought," Mr. Stoppelenburg said. "What if they are not all bullshit. What if I'm bullshit."

He felt the need to write his provocative book because he has since joined a smaller creative firm where he is in a position of leadership. He sees younger people coming up and running into the same problems he had.

Some of them were at his SXSW talk, like Richard Wols, 25, a programmer at a major tech company, which he didn't want to name.

"I was that genius," Mr. Wols said.

It took Mr. Wols about a year before he realized he worked with people just as talented as himself and more so.

He had gotten really good at taking credit for work by being vocal in front of the right people; meanwhile, more talented programmers were being overlooked.

"At some point, I started looking at what other people were doing," Mr. Wols said. "And I was like, 'They are actually better than me, they just don't shout it off the roofs, and I should just shut up.'"

The article He's a Legend and You Suck: A Millennial Reveals Hard Truths at SXSW first appeared on Advertising Age. 

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