17 Days Later

After being on the road for 14 months straight, I feel incredibly blessed that I’m able to look back at the journey with bright, optimistic eyes. So many things could’ve went wrong along the way, yet due to the kind nature of everyone I met, I was able to make it out unscathed and with my sanity intact.

Of course, nothing in life is perfect and there were a few times I considered packing my bags and heading home. Some of those moments were brought on by exhaustion, others from simply missing home. However, I made a commitment to the project and was determined to see it through regardless of the circumstances. In fact, there was only one time those thoughts ever made me pause and second guess our journey.

Before I get into that though, I need to preface it with a bit of backstory.

During my last week in each city, I took time to reach out to local organizations and publications at our next stop. Being that I am only one person, I often relied on those outlets to help me spread the word to other creatives in the area. In turn, many of those people would reach out to me and I was able to connect with so many individuals at agencies and schools around the country. That’s why I’m so grateful for the Creative Group, the Art Directors Club and The Egotist Network. They continually promoted the project each and every month and without them, things would’ve turned out much different.

Not everyone saw the value in our project though. 10 months in, I reached out to the Seattle branch of a prominent “creative” organization—one whose other branches had helped me in several other cities along the way. I sent their President a personalized email describing the project and asking for his assistance in spreading the word around town. It was an email I had been sent many times before. Yet, the reply I received this time was far different. To call it a shot in the heart would be an understatement.

While I no longer have the email (I deleted it), there were three sentences in particular that will linger with me for the rest of my career.

1. “I don’t understand how your project would benefit our members.”

While I try not to take anything personally, especially in this business, this statement took me by surprise. I had explained the project to a lot of people at that point and I actually took pride in my ability to succinctly tout the project’s value. Yet, in my road-weary state, it made me second-guess all of the progress we had made. Were there others who didn’t understand the project? How many opportunities had we missed out because of it? 

2. “To me, your project just seems like a drawn-out attempt to land a job somewhere.”

This is a question I received many times during the first few months of the project. As it continued, however, that question dwindled and I heard less of it with each passing day. But there I was, nearing the 11-month mark and someone was still unsure of my commitment. It, again, brought me to wonder if others still thought this whole thing to be an elaborate resume stunt. If I couldn’t win some people over in a year’s time, would I ever?

3. “You might want to rethink the copy on your site, because I didn’t understand what the project was until you described it to me.”

Now, this sentence came further into our back and forth e-mail conversation. After I was finally able to convince the person why #TGAA was important to me, he placed the blame on my site copy for the misunderstanding. And you know what? I’m really glad he did. His statement made me realize that I didn’t care what he thought. Especially since I described the project to him using my site copy word-for-word. It took any doubt he had placed in my mind and instantly erased it. It let me know that he had passed judgment on the project, without ever looking into what it was about. Sadly, that email didn't come until three days into the whole ordeal. So, I spent several nights wallowing in doubt. It wasn't a good time—at all. 

Once I read that sentence though, it reminded me that we had already met and won over hundreds of other people across the country. My mind snapped back to reality and I realized everything this man was saying to me was personal opinion. I can never change what people thought or continue to think about #TGAA. However, no one can ever take away what we accomplished. The friendships we’ve made, the lives we’ve touched and the places we’ve gone. Fact will always trump opinion.

Was #TGAA a way for me to land a job? In a way, I guess so. Then again, shouldn’t everything we do be a step toward improving our lives or the lives of others? Was it an excuse for me to travel the country? Sort of; but how else can a writer know the world without having seen it? The point of #TGAA was to have a shared experience and see what we could accomplish together.

And that’s exactly what we did.

So, no matter how tough things get; no matter how far you are from home, just keep doing what you love because no one can ever take away your accomplishments… unless you’re juicing... or cheating (Sorry, it was getting a tad too serious there).

-Steve-

7 Days Later

Being home feels weird. 

I'm not 100% sure what I expected, but ever since I returned to Ohio it all just feels like "business as usual". I was ready to field an endless number of questions from friends and family, but very few people have even asked me about the trip. In many ways, it kind of feels as if the whole thing was some sort of dream I had, since so much remains unchanged. I did manage to organize 12 months' worth of receipts and tax forms though. So, I'm well aware that it really did happen. 

Then again, since I'm in that weird lull between ending our journey and beginning the next chapter of my life, perhaps I'm just getting anxious about things. I'm definitely ready to get myself a car, a new apartment and hit the ground running. Yet, here I am waiting and waiting and waiting. I have made a lot of progress over the past week, but it just doesn't feel like enough. 

The thing that makes it so stressful for me is that I'm heading back to Charlotte for a week to visit with my brother. While I'm excited to spend some time with my family, I already know it will be a lot of wondering and worrying on my part. Every time I find myself sitting for more than an hour, I just kind of feel as if I'm wasting time. 

I know this isn't the most eventful of updates, but I do want to keep everyone abreast of how things are going as I readjust back into the "non-traveling-every-month" lifestyle. So, stay tuned as I continue my job hunt and all that good (and surely exciting) stuff. 

-Steve-

Day 425

WE DID IT! As of tomorrow evening, we've officially completed The Great Agency Adventure and although it took 14 months to get here, a part of me wishes it could continue for another 14.

For the past few months, I’ve constantly found myself wondering how best to close out this unbelievable journey. I’d write down some ideas here and there, but they were all deleted out of frustration. I just couldn't come up with a summary that gives this tremendous experience the curtain call it deserves. There’s too much to discuss; too many people to thank.

I’ve met so many wonderful individuals across this great nation of ours and connected with thousands more via social media. I’ve found friends in places I’d only read about in books. I’ve seen sights that some only experience through pictures. This project has been a dream come true and I hope everyone enjoyed taking part in it. That’s why I’ve decided to use this blog to highlight the individuals that helped make #TGAA not only possible, but incredible. If there’s one thing I learned time and time again, it’s that friends make all the difference. Friends are a constant that transcend boundaries, borders and state lines. Friends open up your world, introduce you to new things and stand by you regardless of where you are.

So, while I know this list is available on the “Great People” page of the site, I wanted to include it in my final #TGAA blog as well. Everyone below deserves an endless amount of praise, because they helped make this entire thing happen and I’ll never forget that.

Connie Taylor — John E. Taylor — Louis Maldarelli — Peter Gargiulo — Tim Horak — Andrew Brienza — Tom Albrighton — Shawn Webster — Joe Meadows — The lovely individuals at Kreative.com — Birch Norton — Brittany Birkett — Chris Jungjohann — David Oakley — Dion Hughes — Jason Schwartz — Jim Harper — Kim Berndt — Laura Kubinski — Leila Thabet — Maureen Morrison — Rufina Chang — Steve O'Connell — Tim Dyer — Tim Zeller — Vera Fischer — Alison Strickland — Barbara Levy — Dave McMurray — Monica Saylor — Kelly White — John R. Taylor — Tom Lix — Jillian Kurvers — Mark Gross — Juan Sanchez — Theresa and Dennis Balogh — Kyle Klein — Becky Gorman —Orlando Rosas — Holly Jee — Bria Topper —Alison Murphy — Zack Kinslow — Allan Kneale — Kristina Jansons — Jared Scott — June Leddy — Dave Batista — Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Smith — Jared Wicker — Ben Whitla — Jeremy Borthwick — Andy Primeau — Josh Sims — Richard Shideler — Josh Teixeira — Scott Niejadlik — Marita Stapleton — Josh Deane— Tim T. at This Advertising Life — Levi Patterson — Scott Huber — Davis Cox — Stephen Swift — Ryan Work — Ashley Riehlin — Miranda Fung — Rebecca Gibson — Ceci Menchetti — Grace Gordon — Luke Carrell — Jillian Pavsner — Melanie Hope — Nicole Ghobrial — Jacob Wilson —Alexandra Skae — Melanie Niklas — Fiona Callaghan — Jay Newell — Garrett Close — Kristen DiLandro — Kristen DiLandro — Benjamin Arnold — Connor Rose — Roxanne Oliver — Charlie Glover — Dan Kleinman — Daniel Stein — Todd Taylor — Woodbine — Ben McCool — The great people at DesignTaxi.com — Allison Berger — Dan Orlando — Jillian Wong — Pete Norwood — Rafael Oliveira — Meg Dibley — Andy Joos — Bryan McGee — Vic Carreno — Doug Keith — Allison Berger — Steve Red — Kelsey Kovalcik — Annie Heckenberger — Mark Likosky at the Philly Egotist — Farheen Aqueel — Jason Sicilliano — Abbas Naqvi — Ray Bartkus — Daniel Harris at IWG — Gordon Young at TheDrum.com — Philip Di Salvo at Wired.it — Jason Schoch — Drew Shaman — Cristen Capron — Mike Borell — Nick Nemeth — Danny Gassaway — Ashley Reker — Mary Gross — Maggie Deininger — Emily Haney — David Hamrick — Fran Taylor — Curtis Petraglia — Matt Mroczka — Ben Santoriello — Matt Rubel — Jennifer Faull — Kenya Madyun — Eliza Carney — Lindsey King — Adam Oldfield — Claire Oakley — Geri Holmes — Ben Couvillion — Mandy Young — Kelsey Taylor — Blaine Loyd — Hallie Miller — Laura Drangmeister — Martin Wilford — Ben Colar — Warner Russell — Michael Phillips — Andrew Lebowitz — Casey Latiolais — Sara Latiolais — Jeff Rifkin — Sarah Rockwell — Holly Whitfield — Jake Houvenagle — Dave Scott — Parker Gibson — Rick Hecke — Monica Castello — Darrick Hays — Wesley Hoffman — Javier Leiva — Kevin Kelly — Matt Reedy — Joe Stephens — Archie McKinlay — Claire Wasserman — Jon Copp — Tony Biaggne — Heather Durham — Craig Miller — Ben Ruggiero — Aleksa Westwater — Gary Hudson — Amado Carrasco — Louis Feider — Kyle Goethals — Jeff Canzona — Angela Vitzthum — Luke Hausman — Eric Guth — Aleksa Westwater — Bob Berg — Judy Oskam — Eric Fawcett — Kevin Hughes — Eric Fawcett — Lotti Anderson — Danielle Fullerton — Bill Roden — Debbie Fischer — Heath Rudduck — Dustin Naugle – Matt Thompson — Elyse Ash — Sam Johnsrud — Russ LeBlanc — Perry Morris — Maria Roepke — Heather McCollum — Brian Skalak — Chris Spong — Andy Sims — Tim Letscher — Eric Husband — Victoria Sullivan — Russ LeBlanc — Mary Funk — Briana Chenkin — Olivia Claypool — Zoe Cooper — Kristen Humphrey — Daniel Alvarez — Carson Barker — E. Gigi Taylor Ph.D. — Larry Coffman — Amanda Wood — Jim Haven — Phil Shigo — Matt Peterson — Elise Drake — Hilary Lee — Gage Mitchell — Michelle Taraba —  Alison Tintle — Jaclyn Hardgrove — Chelsea Nybo — Jaime Diskin — Benj Burke — David Alkire — Nicole Gleadle — Chet Ford — Ryan Hammill — Ryan Mitchell — Jake Ferrigno — M'Elena Holder — Anna Taylor — Maria Scheleen — Lauren Willoughby — Erin Leach-Kemon — Ben Waldron — Rob Rosenthal — Maschell Cha — Josh Schield — Barry Amundson — Travis Fulton — Katelyn Kerns — Ann Kaleshnik — Craig Schommer — Dave Becker — Lenny Self — Chad Wallace — Duncan Alexander — Scott Carver — Adam Shaylor —  Simeon Roane — Buck Wise — Jesus Cameron — Ursula Tran — Christine Hurty — David Bird — Miranda Maney — Patrick Maravi — Alex Grinton — Steve Babcock — Lee McKenna — Shane Ginsberg — James Gassel — Michelle Sjöberg — Michelle Maben — Jacqui Abel — Karin Djelaj — Matt Dimmer — Ryan Scott — Joanna Mostov — Aaron Thompson 

As for my blog, I’ll continue to update it once I’ve had some time to reconnect with my family (I haven’t seen them in over a year after all). I’m not sure what’s next for me or where I’ll end up, but until I figure all of that out I can’t consider the project over. So, be sure to stay tuned as we begin the next chapter.

I hope to see you again soon,

-Steve-