15 Things To Learn From Don Draper of Mad Men

Sep 10, 2013 | Articles

15 Things To Learn From Don Draper of Mad Men
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This is the second installment to our blog series: Things to learn from the bosses of television. Check out our first one based on Harvey Specter of Suits here.

How would you describe Don Draper? He’s classy, cool, and embodies success. The bottom line – he’s pretty fucking awesome. Once again, I’ll help those of you who don’t know Don, play catch up. Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) on AMC’s hit drama Mad Men, is the creative director and senior partner of the fictional advertising agency – Sterling Cooper & Partners (formerly known as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Cutler Gleason Chaough, formerly known as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, formerly known as Sterling Cooper) (yes they have gone through a lot of restructuring). Every now and then a show as smart as Mad Men is created and lets the audience indulge in more than just pure entertainment. It allows viewers to learn from the character development and interaction, picking up tips for success in life, careers and relationships.

Here are 15 things to learn from Don Draper of Mad Men:

1. Say more with less – Why give a speech when you can get your point across with three words? Be brief, concise and straight to the point. People appreciate that more. Your client doesn’t have time for bullshit.

2. Know your worth – Don doesn’t live his life with self-doubt. He knows what he’s worth and he knows the value that he brings to his firm. He commands respect with his self confidence, which is something we can all learn from. When the partners decided to shorten the firm name by taking out Draper – Don didn’t give a shit. He knew his worth and it wasn’t defined by a name written on the office door.

3. If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation – Simple, but insightful.

4. Sell the experience, not the product – The greatest companies in the world don’t just sell a product. They sell an experience, a dream. Look beyond the physical aspects of what you are trying to promote and dig deep to initiate emotional responses from your clients. After Don’s pitch to Heinz, I can’t stop thinking about eating those damn baked beans.

5. Understand your market – And I don’t mean do market research. Know and understand the needs of your clients on an emotional level. If you can foresee or anticipate them, all the better. You need to be able to get into the minds of others and give them what they want or at least make them think they want it.

6. Don’t be afraid to go against the majority – Stand up for what you believe in. Going with the crowd just for the sake of fitting in almost never works in the long run. When Don’s firm got fired off of Lucky Strike cigarettes – an account that every agency was trying to grab, he came clean and told the world how shitty he felt about advertising for tobacco. Nobody from any other agency would have published such a statement. By being bold, Don earned himself an award, and attracted new potential business.

7. Don’t try to do everything yourself – You may be good at doing a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean you have to have your hand in every single aspect of a job. Make sure you know what you are responsible for and try not to be an overbearing control freak. Learning to delegate is an important skill to have and you can get much further with delegation than obsession. Don said it himself – he’s going to continue evaluating other people’s work instead of doing the work himself because that’s his job as creative director.

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8. Surround yourself with talented people – Just look at the people that Don is associated with. Roger Sterling, Peter Campbell, Peggy Olson, etc. They are all good at what they do. Everyone is a key component to the big picture aspect of the business. By surrounding yourself with talented people, you ensure that all of these components are up to standards – significantly increasing your chances for success.

9. Dress the part – Although a good suit is an essential component to any man’s wardrobe, you need to know how to dress appropriately. Over dressing is just as bad as under dressing. You can look just as good in a sweater vest than you can in a suit, as long as you know the occasion.

10. You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself  – Don’t expect respect. It has to be earned.

11. You don’t have to be loud to make your presence felt – When Don Draper walks into a room, he doesn’t even have to say anything and people know what the fuck is up.

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12. Don’t kill yourself over one client – “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing one.”

13. Don’t follow others blindly. Have your own sense of direction  – Don once said, “people want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.” Don’t be one of these people. You don’t want to go through life waiting on others to tell you what to do like a sheep. Follow your own instincts and do what you think needs to be done. Yes, throughout your career you are going to have superiors and people you have to report to, but those who sit around waiting for instructions don’t make it very far in life.

14. Know the distinction between what you want and what people expect of you – There’s a big difference between these two things. Don’t waste your life trying to become something you’re not. Go out there and get what you want instead of trying to live up to some sort of expectation that other people have set out for you. Fuck their expectations.


15. An Old Fashioned is the drink of choice – Mix bourbon whiskey, Angostura bitters, water, sugar, maraschino cherry and orange. Don’t order a cranberry juice.


Not enough inspiration? Check out

Business Tips To Learn From The Walking Dead.


  • Zain

    Having your own say is the most difficult of’em all. Everyone is looking for bonus and they don’t even care if they ruin you to get it.

  • Weng Xiu Mei

    Great! Thanks for posting 😀

  • KennedyBash

    Hell fucking yes. Great article! This is exactly what I was looking for.

    After a Mad Men marathon I had been thinking a lot about old Draper and the unique wisdom I felt his character had to offer.

    Googling something to the effect of ‘What we can learn from Don Draper’, I expected to find a few half-assed posts that merely say what everyone already knows if they watch Mad Men (and I found plenty)

    I figured I’d have to settle for those to get my fix.

    Wouldn’t you know it, the article I wanted to read was out there, and you wrote it. & to top it off, the article has BALLS… it was written very Draper esque.

    I wish I could buy you a drink. Cheers.

  • Devbrat Dubey

    I saw suits full episodes and searching for this

  • largeschemeofthings

    Well…you can observe things on Don Draper, you can’t monkey things off of Don Draper.
    Don Drapers are born, not monkeyed. For the most part, at least.