59 Days Later

Last week, part one of my #TGAA wrap up was a rather lengthy blog about one of my main takeaways from our journey. Well, as I mentioned, there were plenty of other lessons too. So, here are 8 more crucial things I learned along the way. While I won’t go into as much detail about these, they do carry the same weight in my eyes.

2. The career you have may not be the one you’re destined for.

This lesson comes from Wesley Hoffman at the TreehouseNetworkshop. If you were to look at his LinkedIn page, you’d see that he’s had quite a diverse career. Yet, I think I can safely say that he’s happier now than he’s ever been. Learning about how he came up with, nurtured and executed Treehouse is a lesson all its own—and one he'll happily share. That’s why I shall forever push for him to speak anywhere and everywhere I go. It wasn’t the career he thought he’d have, but it’s the one he certainly fit right into.

3. Don’t horde your talent. Share it.

Get involved with your creative community. Do pro-bono work. Share your insights, knowledge and opinions. The more we collaborate with each other, the better the results. I saw creative communities that seemed more like family than rival businesses; but I also came across creative communities who had shut themselves off from one another. Want to take a guess as to which ones did more impressive work? St. Louis is the prime example of a close-knit creative community. I met people from nearly every agency in town and they were all extremely kind, inviting and willing to talk shop with me. Why? They all shared the same attitude—the better we all do, the better the city does and the better the city does, the better we all do.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no.

This may be the scariest of all the lessons I learned, because no one likes saying “no”, especially to their boss. However, to keep your sanity intact, you have to go out on a limb every now and then. I learned this lesson, when I discovered a co-worker had missed their best friend’s wedding because of a looming deadline. Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of the situation, but it’s important to understand that some things need to take precedence over our work—especially things that only happen once in our lifetime. Don’t go hurling “no’s” left and right, but use them when you have to. People will understand. On a side note, I’d also recommend reading David Oakley’s Book, “Why Is Your Name Upside Down”. He talks about a few ‘no’s’ he had to deliver in his career and they're pretty amusing to boot. 

5. If you love something, go after it.

I learned this lesson through the likes of Alex Kocher and Maria Roepke—two individuals who fell in love with a city and went after it. For Alex it was Portland and for Maria it was Austin. They were so passionate about being there that they threw caution to the wind and made a move; and now they’re both happier for it. It can be a bit frightening, but also very worthwhile. Several years ago, I did something similar when I made my move to NYC. I sold my car and left for the Big Apple without so much as a job in mind. But my persistence and hard work paid off in the end. And I wouldn't be surprised if I moved back there one day.  

6. Never stop exploring your city.    

I’ll admit that in a few of my stops, I stayed in the wrong part of town. Not because of crime or anything (well… sometimes), but because there just wasn’t anything going on. Heck, I’ve lived in northeast Ohio for a combined total of about 23 years and I’m still finding new neighborhoods here. What the whole thing made me realize was that a few blocks can make a big difference. You might write off an entire area, without ever finding that art district tucked away down the street. Plus, you might just discover something you fall in love with—a place that can change your entire opinion of where you live. St. Louis, Memphis, Portland and San Francisco were prime examples of this in my case.

7. Create your ideal work environment.

Before I embarked on #TGAA, I pretty much assumed everyone worked at a desk. Boy, was I wrong! Some people work on couches, some stand all day, some work from home, others prefer to relax in a beanbag chair. There are those who need silence when they work and those who blast Arcade Fire into their headphones. I never knew you had so many options or that they’d be so widely accepted. That’s why I bounce around on an exercise ball nowadays. It keeps me moving, which I love, and helps me get the creative juices flowing. I found my ideal work environment and I hope you do too. Try some things out and see what works best for you.

8. Don’t limit your creativity after 5pm.

Don’t limit yourself to the 9-5. If you have passions other than what you do for a living, explore them! Play sports, paint, dance, sing, perform, parent—do whatever it is you love to do. Some days it might be a little difficult to get up the energy, but I promise you it’s worth it. As I mentioned last week, I met people who had put their life on a constant loop—wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. You could see they’d lost their passion, because they'd given everything they had to their careers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your damnedest at what you do, just make sure you leave a little left over for yourself. It’ll make you happier and even help you in the office too.

9. Know that learning isn’t limited to students. 

There will always be people who refuse to learn and you shouldn’t be one of them. They’re the ones who still see social media as a “fad” and still insist overheads are the best way to give a presentation—the late adopters. The problem is, as things change, these individuals get pushed further and further out until one day, their skill set is completely outdated. While I didn’t see many of these situations along the way, I did come across a few. If you have an opportunity to learn something new—take it. It may come in handy one day and if you’re passionate enough about it, it might lead to some rather interesting opportunities.

10. Give others a chance.

Something that surprised me was the individuals who'd write me off for one reason of another. Some immediately assumed I was an intern and treated me as such. Others were hostile from the get-go, worried that I’d be taking work from them. Thankfully, both sets of people were in the minority. I met so many passionate individuals, who constantly inspired me and I shall be forever grateful to them, But every now and then, someone would come along and belittle me before even getting to know me. While I expressed my frustrations about the whole “intern” thing during the project (again, I’ve been in the industry for 7 years), a few of those situations still linger with me. It was like biting into an apple and finding you sunk your teeth into that one rotten spot. It immediately put a bad taste in my mouth about the agency. Especially the few who took it upon themselves to try and sabotage the project. So, I encourage everyone out there to just give people a chance. Listen to their stories, figure out who they are and then pass judgment—never begin with step #3. 

-Steve-