Mad Men: “Living in the ‘not knowing’” [Season 7]

What motivates me as a lawyer is helping my clients tap into their sense of control and power.  Both as a preventive measure and in dealing with conflict and controversies. This post and my next couple of posts center on the idea of our own power.

Realizing life in large part is “not knowing” should point us all in a direction of living with a sense of power, rather than dependence.  A key point is we cannot wait and expect others to take care of us or seek direction and oversight from others.  We have the power to help frame our own circumstances.

My sense is that many people were taught a “go-along-get-along” perspective. History is replete with political and religious reasons why this attitude has been prevalent.  A view of life in the direction of power, regrettably, has not always been a predominant notion in our society.

As an important aside, it is the hope and desire that someone else let us know what we should think or do that causes so much dissatisfaction and conflict in life.  We simply don’t want to rock the boat.  And not rocking the boat requires us to rely on others to chart our course in life.  But, this makes us half-dead in my view.

So, what prompted this blog post?

This stems from earlier this week when I watched the Mad Men season 7 episode “The Strategy”.  For many reasons I could state that would make this blog post much too long, Mad Men has done a phenomenal job of making character Don Draper an extremely substantive person.  Many of the other characters appear simply to go along without examining their actions and responses to life.

Regardless of what one thinks about his difficulties with alcohol and women (I touch in this in my next post), Don Draper is an excellent example of the power I describe in this post. To his applaudable credit, Don is self-reflective, creative, smart, tenacious, and not simply a go-along-get-along character.

Below is dialogue from “The Strategy” episode between Don Draper and Peggy Olson, just before Peggy is to pitch a national ad campaign for Burger Chef with the hope of landing Burger Chef as a new client.

Don’s last lines below in addition to his “Living in the ‘not knowing’” comment I use in the caption to this post both hit the bullseye for me. This is also an epiphany for Peggy to begin tuning-in to her own power.

Excerpt from Mad Men Season 7 “The Strategy”:

Peggy Olson:

So you’re going to pitch the hell out of my sh*tty idea, and I’m going to fail.

Don Draper:

Peggy, I’m here to help you do whatever you want to do.


Well, how am I supposed to know?


That’s a tough one.


You love this.


Not really. I want you to feel good about what you’re doing, but you’ll never know. That’s just the job.


What’s the job?


Living in the “not knowing”.


You know, I wouldn’t have argued if it was me.
I would have just given you a hundred ideas and never questioned why.

You really want to help me? Show me how you think.
Do it out loud.


You can’t tell people what they want.
It has to be what you want.

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