Subscribe to Curious Tribe, a weeklyish email from the brain of Justin Shiels, designed to spread a little love.
One thing that’s really important to me is taking the time to regularly step outside my comfort zone. This includes making up weekly, monthly, and quarterly challenges that force me to be a little bit uncomfortable. In the height of my state of indecision, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to keep illustrating, even though so much of my life was in flux.
Curious Mail was born out of a need to cultivate light in a time of uncertainty–both personally and for the greater world. The idea was simple: over the course of 3 months, I would create original illustrations and send them out to people via snail mail.
I’ll be honest, this was an interesting challenge. I love the idea of sending things directly to people’s mailboxes, but the reality of doing that monthly was drastically more difficult than I ever imagined.
I wanted to walk through 3 things I learned from the Curious Mail Project:
Honestly, I always knew that I loved drawing cartoons, but there’s something beautiful about having to create something on a recurring schedule. I enjoyed pushing the limits of my own creativity and loved being able to develop and send out a variety of new pieces within such a limited timeframe.
One of the major highlights of the project overall was getting regular direct feedback on the pieces. Very frequently I would run into someone that connected with a specific art piece. They would mention how they hung a certain piece in their home or gave it as a gift to a friend that they thought would love it.
This may seem obvious, but in practicality I quickly learned how much time it takes to do all the different parts of creating a successful subscription mail business. After finishing a piece, you have to order it from a printing company. That adds at least a week to any process. Then you have to pack the items. Even with only 25 participants, packing the orders took around 8 hours to prepare the batch of orders.
The final step, which was actually the most daunting, is printing the postage and getting the pieces to a mailbox. I used an online system through the USPS to print the postage, but the process was not incredibly intuitive and a lot of times, I found myself spending hours trying to figure out how to print the postage on the sticky paper. (I’ll fully accept that this probably has more to do with my personality type than a severe knock on the process)
Over the course of this 3 month project, I designed a variety of different art pieces, including a packet of postcards, 4 new 8×10 art prints, and a slew of cards. This was an exciting way to make each package feel special, but it also created a series of logistical challenges. The biggest one was that there was additional research necessary (and sometimes costs) in printing the variety of different pieces.
In hindsight, if I were to relaunch the Curious Mail project, it would probably be a singular art print every month. By simplifying the objective, I think I could spend more time on the individual piece that I created for that month.
Hello beautiful humans!Sending out the final Curious Mail filled me with so many different emotions. This week I’m sharing the final illustration I created for that campaign. What I love about this piece is that I drew things that I very rarely illustrate, but I was able to maintain my personal style. (I have a few more tiger illustrations coming soon.
Here are 8 interesting things that piqued my interest this week.
I’m totally inspired by illustrator, Linda Gobeta.
Anti To Do Lists are the best way to quantify all the hard work you do in a day
I LOVE this interview with E. Jean Carrol from Vogue. Such beautiful execution and such a beautiful mind.
No, you can’t pick my brain–and here’s why
As a small business, you have to be very in-tune with where you’re spending your resources. This includes your money, your assets, and your time.
You can be woke without waking up to the news
PS. There’s a huge difference between being nice and being kind. Choose kindness.
Hello beautiful humans! I usually send my illustrations to a group chat before I put them in this email. One of my friends captioned this photo: “Me every time I leave Canes.”
Here are 7 interesting things that piqued my interest this week.
A company just launched that doesn’t have branding AND I basically want to buy everything they have. Have we reached the end of capitalism?
Cyndie Spiegel just relaunched her website for The Collective of Us, a carefully curated small business accelerator designed with the mission of supporting women in powerfully leading profitable and strategic bold businesses. It’s awesome and she is a powerhouse.
Here’s a secret. One of my favorite conferences for creatives is called Circles. The first time I went, it literally changed my perspective on design. The next conference is scheduled for September 6-8 in Grapevine, TX.
instead of thinking through what they wanted their perfect day to look like, business partners at TIny thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it. This led to something they like to call Anti-Goals.
This is one of the most creative Instagram accounts I’ve seen in a long time.
This straight-forward article teaches you how to apologize properly.
PS. You are strong. You are important. You were designed to do something meaningful for the world.
Hello beautiful humans! This week I wanted to go back to my creative roots and send a roundup of things that piqued my interest this week.
I’m totally still obsessed with watching youtube videos of people drawing. LavenderTowne has become a genuine favorite
My internet homie, Puno, had cannabis cocktails in Chinatown. Her vlog makes Los Angeles look like heaven.
I’m in love with the trashy new TNT show “Claws” with Niecy Nash. Here’s what they said about the show on Vulture: “Perhaps the best thing about the show, aside from its excellent cast, is its insistence on revealing the humanity and nuance in flawed female characters struggling on society’s lower economic rungs. The worst things about it? A tendency to succumb to crime drama clichés and engage in tonal change-ups that sometimes make it difficult to know whether to laugh at Claws, laugh with it, or not laugh at all.”
I voraciously read the first volume in this young adult horror series about witches and vampires set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The second book has yet to disappoint. You have to read The Romeo Catchers (The Casquette Girls Series Book 2) by Alys Arden
Here’s my one sentence review of SZA’s “CTRL”: Post-Tumblr insecurities over a cute dance beat. They were much more eloquent on the NPR blog: “Listening to SZA’s new R&B album, Ctrl, is like floating into a dream. Filled with her silvery voice, electronic production and an unabashed openness about her stage in life — she’s 26-year-old woman trying to balance relationships and honesty with herself.”
I’m loving this new podcast “By the Book.” It’s half reality show, half self-help podcast, and one wild social experiment. Join comedian Jolenta Greenberg and her skeptical friend Kristen Meinzer as they live by the rules of a different self-help book each episode. I started with their review of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and I died laughing at their results.
I’m totally inspired by Mad Men style — especially now that I have this new job. Life magazine did a feature on the dapper rebels of Los Angeles in 1966. These men look so hip.
I’m such a sucker for good branding.This asian eatery takes good vibes and good eats to a whole new level. Check this out.
PS. Take a deep breath and remember that you have the power to recreate your life.
I’ve talked about how 2016 was a difficult year. There was the election, the breakup, and the general malaise of living in an apartment filled with too many memories.
One month ago, I cleared out my old apartment and moved into a summer sublet with 10 boxes, literally no furniture, and no clear vision on what was next. The only thing I was sure about was that I wanted things to be different.
I was sure that I was leaving New Orleans. Things had gotten too expensive and everywhere I looked, I saw reminders of a life that hadn’t worked out quite as I expected.
I was sure that I wanted to get a job. I have the spirit of an entrepreneur and will always have solo projects, but I genuinely missed the camaraderie of working on a larger team.
I knew I wanted to transition into digital marketing. While the majority of my career has been connected to creating things, I was heavily influenced by a new personal interest in metrics, data, and conversion. And I was more than willing to start at the bottom and work my way back up.
So I applied for jobs all across the country. I had a few good leads, but nothing felt quite right.
A funny thing happened though–a chance encounter with two friends turned into an unexpected opportunity. A college friend was leaving New Orleans, opening up a position I thought was impossible to find in New Orleans at a company I had watched for years.
That brings us up to now.
Two weeks ago, I accepted a full-time position as Creative Director at FSC Interactive, a digital marketing company in New Orleans. It’s a huge transition professionally from solo entrepreneur responsible for producing graphic and web design for clients to now managing a team of six incredible content producers. It’s the perfect culmination of 10 years of varying experience.
The best part, though, is that honestly, it’s my dream job.
Here’s my message:
If you feel stuck, make a drastic change.
Let the universe know you’re ready with your actions.
But don’t get stuck on the outcome taking a certain shape.
Opportunity often comes unexpectedly, but you have to be open to receiving it.
Only a few months ago, I was waking up feeling like I was already behind. I’d jump into the shower while brushing my teeth, throw on the cleanest smelling t-shirt and run out the door to start the day. I started my mornings in a total rush and carried that frenetic energy through the rest of my day.
As I’ve worked to establish balance in my life, I’ve slowly started to build a morning routine that works me. This set of daily actions makes me feel energized, optimistic, and ready to conquer the day.
Skip the Social Media and give thanks.
I used to rush to my phone scanning my social media and email the second I woke up. In this half daze, I would plan out the things I needed to accomplish for the day.
To better start my day and ensure that I don’t read an upsetting article about our 45th president, I spend the first moments of the morning giving thanks for waking up and the opportunity to walk in my purpose.
Find Your Daily Mantra.
After the moment of praise I read my morning mantra. I discovered this during a dark moment in business when I was having trouble with a difficult client. This Abundance prayer, helped to reframe my mindset and shape my attitude to encourage opportunity, instead of focusing on lack.
From The Light of God that I Am.
From The Love of God that I Am.
From The Power of God that I Am.
From The Heart of God that I Am.
I Decree–I dwell in the midst of Infinite Abundance. The Abundance of God is my Infinite Source. The River of Life never stops flowing. It flows through me into lavish expression. Good comes to me through unexpected avenues and God works in a myriad of ways to bless me. I now open my mind to receive my good. Nothing is too good to be true. Nothing is too wonderful to have happen. With God as my Source, nothing amazes me. I Am not burdened by thoughts of past or future. One is gone. The other is yet to come. By the power of my belief, coupled with my purposeful fearless actions and my deep rapport with God, my future is created and my abundance made manifest. I ask and accept that I am lifted in this and every moment into Higher Truth. My mind is quiet. From this day forward I give freely and fearlessly into life and Life gives back to me with magnificent increase. Blessings come in expected and unexpected ways. God provides for me in wondrous ways. I AM indeed grateful. And I let it be so.
Note: While I do consider myself a Christian, I totally encourage you to adjust the mantra to suit your individual needs. Here are some non-denominational options to check out.
Set the Intention with a Morning Podcast.
After showering and brushing my teeth, I listen to “How I Built This” while getting dressed. This NPR podcast follows the stories of interesting business owners and their personal process of starting their multibillion dollar companies. I enjoy it because it’s a daily reminder that even the largest companies all started somewhere.
If podcasts aren’t your thing, I recommend finding a song that can be your morning anthem–something that makes you feel hype, encouraged, and ready to kick some ass.
Eat a simple, healthy breakfast.
I’m usually not hungry in the mornings, but I’ve started eating breakfast because it leads me to making better food decisions throughout the day (primarily because I’m not starving by lunchtime.) I normally add fresh avocado to a couple pieces of toast or eat a fried egg with an apple.
Add pinch of Cinnamon to your Coffee.
My other morning trick is making cold brew coffee at home with a pinch of cinnamon instead of cream and sugar. Not only does it save a few bucks every day, it ensures that I am fully caffeinated by the time I get to work. It also saves a few calories and has some unverified, but potentially meaningful benefits. According to Greatist it:
- Reduces blood sugar levels
- Softens sugar spikes and reduces cravings
- Relieves congestion
- Reduces stiffness in joints and muscles
- Increases brain function
With my coffee in hand, I take the short walk to work.
In total my morning routine is right under an hour and helps me to feel ready to create and conquer. Most importantly, it has set my mind on being positive, reaching for the big goals, and having a productive, meaningful day.
Added Bonus: I recently let go of the alarm clock.
From an article in Forbes, I learned that Pharrell Williams doesn’t use an alarm clock. I quickly decided that I would try this technique and after months of sleep training, my body naturally wakes up around 6:45am every single morning. Letting go of the alarm clock was a truly liberating experience. Being shaken awake by the stressful buzz of my cellphone has been replaced by a natural connection with my personal rhythm and my connection to the universe.
Let’s be real though: There are a few times I do use an alarm clock. If I have a meeting before 9am, I will set the alarm just in case. Also Daylight Savings Time almost always is an incredibly difficult adjustment for up to a month.
Since childhood, reading has been a fundamental part of my relaxation. I remember spending full days during the summer flipping between novels and illustrating scenes from the books.
Like most people, after college, I stopped reading for a bit. I had my fill of textbooks (and learning for that matter) and needed some time to totally let go. It was short lived–I soon realized that the best way to wind down before bed is to read a chapter or two from a good book.
Now, it’s time for a little confession. As much as I want to be an erudite cycling through the New York Times Bestsellers, I’m more basic bruh when it comes to my reading selection. I prefer to get immersed in a vivid, imaginary world and fall asleep thinking about magic. So my list of books runs the gamut of young adult fiction, sci-fi, humor, and incredibly cheesy romance. Here’s a list of every fiction book I’ve purchased from my iPad.
I’m embarrassed already.
Young Adult Fiction that runs the gamut of falling in love to battling Egyptian gods
- Passenger (series) – Alexandra Bracken
- The Kane Chronicles (series) – Rick Riordan and Katherine Kellgren
- Matched – Ally Conois
- Divergent (series) – Veronica Roth
- Mirror in the Sky – Aditi Khorana
- The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black
- Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
- Sidekicked – John David Anderson
- Carry On – Rainbow Rowell
- Dumplin – Julie Murphy
- The Iron Trial – Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
- Minion – John David Anderson
- The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series) – Rick Riordan
- The Casquette Girls – Alys Arden
Science Fiction, Witches, and Magic, but intended for actual adults
- Off to Be the Wizard (series) – Scott Meyer
- The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
- The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Catherine Webb
- All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Anders
- Welcome to Border Town – Edited by Holly Black
- Witches of East End (series) – Melissa de la Cruz
- Landline – Rainbow Rowell
- The Ex Boyfriend’s Handbook – Matt Dunn
- How to Be Single – Liz Tuccillo
- Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
- The Hopefuls – Jennifer Close
- The Knockoff – Jo Piazza and Lucy Sykes
- The Assistants – Camille Perri
- A Day at the Office – Matt Dunn
I’m not sure how to categorize these, but they’re good
- Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
- Modern Lovers – Emma Straub
- Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
- The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
- I am not Sidney Portier – Percival Everett
- The Family Fang – Kevin Wilson
- Nefertiti: A Novel – Michelle Moran
Have you read any of the books on this list? Do you have any recommendations? Send me a tweet to let me know.
Shonda, stop trying to make liv and fitz a thing
This week was my mother’s birthday and I wanted to highlight 5 things I learned from the most important woman in my life.
1. Guard your light. Mom has always been a proponent of reading self help books and practicing spirituality as a way to fill yourself with joy. I’ve worked really hard over the past few years to build my own spiritual practice that fits the life I want to build.
2. Be kind even when it’s hard. One of the qualities that I inherited from my mom is to try your best to consistently treat people right even when they don’t deserve it. She would always remind me that the things people do rarely have anything to do with us.
3. Talk to strangers. There has never been a time in my life where my mom didn’t strike up a random conversation with someone in the grocery store. I’m not nearly as extroverted as she, but I learned that some of your best friends can come from putting yourself out there.
4. Show up every single day. There are very few times I can remember my mom missing work, church or choir rehearsal. She continually teaches me the importance of honoring your commitments.
5. Life is so much more than money. Being a light in the world has nothing to do with financial compensation. Happiness is defined by the hard work you do, the people you love, and the experiences you have.