Jose Llorens worked at Google for over three years, eventually becoming creative lead of “The Zoo” in Europe — Google’s creative think tank for brands and agencies. Llorens chose to leave Google in 2016 to write a novel. Here’s why:
Last year I took the biggest decision of my career and left behind a life of comfort to venture into the unknown. I worked at Google’s creative think-tank, known as The Zoo, where my job consisted of playing with the latest technologies and finding creative ways of using them.
From creating experiences in virtual reality, to interactive 360 videos or augmented reality coloring books, there was no limit to our imagination. Our working area was more like a playground than an office and we had access to every resource we needed to generate new ideas.
If someone had told me when I was a student that I would have ended up there I wouldn’t have believed it. Quite often, I’d get contacted by people asking me how did I get the job and how could they join my team too, which reminded me how lucky I was. However, a few reasons led me to leave it all behind and embark in a new challenge: Writing a novel.
I didn’t think it was my true vocation
In the age of globalism and connectivity it’s easy to be overwhelmed. We have in front of us the broadest range of choices to ever be available to humans, which means we need to make more decisions. There are so many roads to choose that we keep asking ourselves if the one we are walking is the best one. Is this the right career path? What about changing countries again? Is this my true vocation? These were the common doubts that kept me awake at night.
I envy my father on this, he’s an airline captain who knew since he was six years old that he wanted to fly airplanes, and now that he’s close to retiring he still enjoys every flight. I wish I had that, but there isn’t one single job that will give me that boost. I have worn many hats already: Photographer, editor, art director, teacher, entrepreneur, freelancer, account manager, construction worker, public relations, creative director, barman, and extra in “Game of Thrones.” I enjoyed them all but I wouldn’t do only one of those for the rest of my life and I’ve realised that maybe I want to do everything. I won’t be an expert on one thing but know a bit about many things. Therefore, learning to become a writer seemed like an interesting new thing to do.
The need for a challenge
Working at Google was challenging, don’t get me wrong. You are surrounded by some of the smartest people around and overachievers that keep you in a constant state of stimulation. I had to sell ideas to big audiences, deal with C-level executives and come up with constant innovation. However, since it’s a huge company, if at the end of the presentation the client didn’t buy the idea, you still get paid. Things can go wrong but you will get your salary and free meals, which is a good thing if you seek for stability, but misses the emotional rollercoaster of the entrepreneurs and self-workers, where your pay is strictly related to the outcome of your work.
I had a good job and a network within tech and advertising, so I could have stopped pressing the gas pedal and relaxed to enjoy the ride, but my mind wouldn’t let me rest. The idea of jumping into a new industry in which I had no contacts or knowledge seemed exciting enough just for the challenge of trying to succeed in a new discipline. Sometimes the brain is a sucker for drama.
I had a moral conflict with consumerism
This is the dark side of advertising that we don’t want to think about so I’ll say it clearly: Advertising fosters consumerism and there’s no way around it. Even though our focus as creatives is to create beautiful and engaging content, the underlying goal most of the time is to increase sales.
Sometimes you can do great work, and I got the chance to help NGOs that are fighting Alzheimer’s, cancer, and climate change, as well as produce work for companies and startups in whose products I believed in. But many others, you have to work for brands that might not be that appealing to you and advertise products that you don’t feel are that necessary to the world, because they pay too.
In a time when we hear news every day about global warming, pollution, scarcity of resources, mass extinction of species and an increasing gap between the richest and the poorest, it’s hard not to realise that you are a part of the problem when you’re putting your efforts on stimulating consumerism and increasing sales. As small as my contribution was, I was a soldier in that war and couldn’t help to feel guilty for it.
It was the right timing
I’m turning 30 this year, which means I’m still young enough to make mistakes and fail, so I had to take the chance. In a few years I hope to be married and have kids, and in such a scenario I can’t see myself going bankrupt or not bringing home an income for a long time, because my kids will be dependent on me and my partner, and I wouldn’t gamble with their future.
Now I’m free in that sense. I can live anywhere in the world, be rich, be poor, it doesn’t matter as long as no one relies on my income, so this is the time to risk and win big, fail, or maybe just something in between and sell a few books. I remember when I quit my job that some of my older colleagues felt happy for me, but at the same time jealous that they couldn’t do the same because they had families. They’d rather be great parents and ensure a stable future to their kids than follow their crazy dreams, which I completely understand. It was now or wait until I retired.
I wanted to tell the story of my generation
Last but not least, I’ve had this story in my mind for the last five years. The more I travelled and the more people I met, the more the narrative took shape in my mind, up the point that I had to take the time to spill it out on the pages. I have lived and worked in seven countries, and in every one of them, from Mexico to Berlin, I found a common trait amongst my generation which is the will to adhere meaning to our lives. It’s no longer enough with just having a job, we want to change the world for the better and have a positive impact. We want to be successful whilst having time to enjoy life at its fullest, and this is why we struggle so much when managing our most precious resource, time. Hence the title for the novel, “Time on Earth.”
You can find it here, and if you read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It has been a cathartic experience, locking myself up for ten months, alone with my mind until I found the sequence of 94.717 words that tell the exact story I wanted to tell. Next challenge: Turning the novel into a movie directed by David Fincher, so if anyone knows someone who knows someone … please let me know!