What Marvel’s CEO Taught Me About Clarity

I used to work with a guy named Avi Arad.


For those of you who are really big fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may recognize the name. Avi was the Chief Creative Officer, CEO and founder of Marvel Studios. But my time with Avi predates that or, at the very least, harkens back to the very beginnings of that.


Avi and I worked together prior to the very first Spider-Man movie. Before there even was, believe it or not, a Marvel Studios at all. Me as a young advertising agency copywriter and him as a creative director at Marvel Comics which, at the time, was fresh out of bankruptcy and trying to make a comeback.


It’s hard to conceive of it now, but there was a time when Marvel almost went away completely. After the boom-bust of the comic book resurgence of the 1980s and prior to Marvel being purchased by Disney and likely becoming the most powerful movie studio of the past 20 years.

Avi is Israeli and – having been part of an Israeli family my entire life – falls into the stereotypes. He always wore black from head to toe, had a thick accent that even decades in the US couldn’t dent and would always lean forward when you spoke in order to compensate for the hearing loss he sustained as a soldier in Israel’s famous Six Day War.


But the most Israeli thing about Avi was his directness. Never one to sugar coat, I can very vividly remember presenting some potential television commercials to Avi in a room packed with his team and my supervisors. I was enthusiastically reading out a slew of scripts and storyboards that I had worked months on, trying to convey the superheroeness of it all when after about 7 minutes, Avi stopped me dead in my tracks to give me some solid advice.


“Dan, Dan. This is all very nice but we don’t need this Emily Dickenson bullshit.”


In a way, particularly in that context, he was absolutely correct. We had 30 seconds to grab someone’s attention. To blurt out all the important stuff.


But, if I’m taking a good hard look at myself, I’ve never really been able to run away from the “Emily Dickenson bullshit”.


Using a blog as a personal therapy and meditation tool wrapped in the disguise of being about fitness does not always lend itself to directness and brevity. Maybe that is a mistake. My failing. But it is where I find myself. It’s a strange thing, really.


But the most odd thing, for me in any case, is that I don’t just send this out into the ether to never to be confronted by you, dear reader. While that is mostly the case, some of the most loyal readers are our in-person clients. People who see me week after week. Occasionally just moments after reading these words. And it makes me wonder what people think of me.


I’m almost universally showered with support. Like I’ve written about before, people appreciate vulnerability. This is probably as vulnerable as I get.


But, occasionally, I wonder if I should tone it down. If I should just deliver some straight up training and nutrition advice and be a little less like the aforementioned American poet from the 1800’s. If I should follow the powerful Israeli’s advice.


Mostly, I write this blog each week for you. To show you that training can be meaningful. To explain how it is greater than merely reps and sets. How the lessons learned in the gym can transcend into every other aspect of your life – relationships, mental health, well-being, business, anything. How its lessons are so easily transferable to other things that are of great value to you. Other things that are more complicated to understand. That are tougher nuts to crack.


But every so often, I write one just for me. Where I can just drop the veil of fitness and feel the feelings and show the vulnerability and just shoot you straight. Where I don’t even consider the critics – particularly the inner one. Where I write some Emily Dickenson bullshit.


I highly recommend it. Every once in a while, do one that is just for you.


Like this is one for me.