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Like millions of other people, we were glued to the TV as the final bars of the Ballad of Don Draper/Dick Whitman played out. Mad Men has captivated our attention for the last 8 years from the highest of highs (stealing the agency out from under the Brits (#1776 #neverforget) to the lowest of lows (take your pick)). We’re not in the review business, but will say that this was one of the better finales in recent memory. So, what can we take away from the story of Don Draper & Friends? Here are 3 life lessons we gleaned from the Mad Men finale.

  1. The Bottom Is Only The Beginning Have we ever seen Don Draper more broken than when he is on the phone with Peggy? His ex-wife is dying and wants him nowhere near his children after she’s gone, the one person who truly knows him ditches him amongst strangers, and has no idea what he wants. The last scene of Don meditating was actually a death scene. What we saw there was the death of Don Draper; a selfish person concerned with only attaining status and attention. Dick Whitman came back to life; perhaps not in name, but in the way Don/Dick conducts himself. Remember Don saying in the first season that love and happiness was an emotion invented by the advertising industry? The implication is that Don/Dick was behind the famous Coke ad (you can watch it here). The old Don would never have had that idea because true happiness was something he didn’t believe in. Don Draper is dead, but Dick Whitman is very much alive.
  2. mad-men-finaleWhat You’re Looking For Is Never What You Expect Peggy ends up with Stan. Pete takes a job with Lear Jet that sees him reunite with Trudy and move to Wichita (Kansas? Really?). Would you have predicted either of those outcomes at the start of the final 7 episodes? We can never be sure what the “end” of our story will be, but often it looks nothing like what we had in mind. Peggy saw only her professional accomplishments as worthy of her time and attention. Pete had no intention of leaving the advertising business. Yet, Peggy’s final scene is of personal success, not professional. Pete’s happiness is more about reuniting with his family rather than his new job. Bottom line? Enjoy the ride because you can’t predict the future.
  3. Always Bet On Yourself If you’re looking to sum up the entire episode in one line, it is this. Do what makes you happy. Joan chooses to start her own production company at the expense of a budding relationship. Don/Dick discovers he truly loves advertising. Peggy and Roger choose personal happiness. All of them, in the end, chose to do what makes them the most happy and satisfied. Bet on yourself, because you’re the only person with control over what you can do. Work towards personal happiness; whatever form that may take.

And so ends one of the greatest TV series of all time, and one of our favorites. What are your thoughts on the Mad Men finale?