Every week I ask the subscribers of my email newsletter a simple question and randomly choose a winner to receive a small gift.
This week’s question:
What’s one small act of kindness you’ve recently done for yourself or someone else?
The winning response:
Last week while I was driving, there was a homeless man on a corner with a “Please help” cardboard sign. Feeling like I couldn’t help because I don’t carry cash, I kept driving. But as I turned the corner, I glanced over at the box of Triscuits in the passenger seat. That was the only thing I could give. So I drove around the corner, hoping he would still be there (sometimes when I double back around, the person needing help is gone????????♀️). Thankfully, the man was still there.
I rolled down the passenger window and said, “I don’t have any cash, but would you like this box of crackers?”
He replied yes and took the box with a heartfelt “thank you.”
More answers from The Weekly Reset community:
“We just moved from California to Georgia about 4 weeks ago. As a wife, mother of 3 boys and career woman I needed a break. So yesterday I decided to be kind to myself and enjoy a Mom Self-Care Day. I scheduled myself a full body hot stone massage, went and had some sushi for lunch and did a little shopping. It was such a beautiful day with nice weather. I did end the evening with a family movie night watching Spider Man with the boys. The joys of motherhood never stops. Rest, Recharge and Keep going!” – Raina
“The LinkedIn profile of the acquaintance of an acquaintance needed improvement. She was job searching unsuccessfully. I kindly offered to help so we met via Zoom and did a LinkedIn profile makeover. For free of course. :)” – Laura
“Small act of kindness: planning a short hike to a waterfall with my family since some other plans for our day fell through.
For me: revisiting things that bring me joy, such as sketching, writing, and making my own exercise plan.
Both are basically just showing up, for myself and others, but the act of showing up makes a huge impact!!” – Kelli
“I have been taking a few extra minutes to dress up in the morning and it feels great. I approach the day a bit differently and feel more confident.” – Femy
“Dropped off flowers to my friend, her grandpa is sick and she’s been feeling down.” – Maria
“Cleaned my apartment!!” – Emily
“Scheduling myself for a massage…which is a huge leap in self-care and feeling like I am worthy of feeling well. – Aimee
“My daughter left for a three week pilgrimage (World Youth Day 2023). I wrote a little note for her to read each morning and evening of her journey. NEXT time I will use JOY BOMBS!” – Jennifer
“I cleaned my boyfriend’s golf clubs & bag, along with his friends. I sent dinner and dessert to my neighbor lady, she lives alone.” – Megan
1. I make art about mental health because I want to encourage humans (but especially people of color and the lgbt community) to find the courage to seek therapy or counseling.
I want to be a small part in reframing ideas around seeking support because learning that I have anxiety helped me to better love and accept myself.
If you haven’t seen my work, you should definitely be following me on Instagram.
2. I became a creative director because I watched Boomerang when I was 8 years old.
The cult classic is about a Black advertising agency and features a young Eddie Murphy. I wanted to be him when I grew up. Rewatching it as an adult I realized it’s pretty problematic, but I can also honestly say that it set me on my current life trajectory.
Representation truly matters.
3. I have big thick glasses that nobody sees but family and boo thang.
Recently I was at the optometrist and you bring in your glasses so they can polish them and tighten the screws. One of the ladies working there asks: “Do you wear these outside?”
I of course gave her a meaningful side eye, and replied: “No, only at home.”
I’m still waiting on the technology to catch up to my “special eyes.”
4. My favorite meal is fried catfish and macaroni.
My second favorite meal is salmon and broccoli. I intentionally refuse to learn how to fry catfish because I want it to remain a special occasion meal for me.
5. My favorite color is maroon or green or pink.
It depends on the day.
By day, I’m a Creative Director at Clarion Media Group, a publishing tech company in Austin. Outside my professional career, I create projects that focus on empathy, design, and culture.
But the road to becoming a creative director has been a little bit all over the place. Including running a magazine about New Orleans, hosting a conference, and doing communications for an arts high school.
But it’s the combination of these skills that really got me to where I am now.
In this article I will cover 5 things I learned in my creative journey from Junior Graphic Designer to Creative Director.
1. Define a vision for your life, but be okay if it all doesn’t go to plan
I decided I wanted to be a Creative Director when I was 8 or 9 years old and Eddie Murphy is the reason why.
It’s actually kinda silly.
I watched the movie Boomerang. Have you heard of this?
Basically the story of an all black ad agency in the 90s. So you have all the biggest actors of the time.
Robin Givens is the Director of Accounts.
Halle Berry is an Art Director.
And Eddie Murphy is a Creative Director.
Now the story is all over the place and in retrospect, it was probably not appropriate for little kid Justin to be watching this misogynistic ass movie where a man treats the women he’s dating incredibly poorly.
But the important part is that I knew exactly what I wanted to be at a very early age.
If you look back to your early life, oftentimes you already knew what you wanted to do for a living.
I enjoyed making art of course. But I knew early on that I wanted to lead the people that made that art.
And I had no idea what that meant. Or how I would get there.
But Eddie Murphy was the catalyst.
All I knew was that I needed to learn everything I could about the visual side of creativity.
So I drew. I always loved to draw.
I made comics primarily. And in high school I also took AP art. I liked it a lot. But I didn’t love it.
Then when we got our first PC… it was life changing.
I illegally downloaded Photoshop and quickly taught myself how to make flyers.
It was like I had fallen in love.
I could make art, but I made it on the computer.
And the things that I made also had purpose. It was like magic to me.
2. Start with an expertise. Then become a jack of all trades.
So there’s this diagram, originally concepted by Tim Brown from IDEO that explains the way you should think about your skills.
So if you were looking at an uppercase “T” the top of the “T” is you knowing a little bit about a lot of things. And then the bottom part of the “T,” that vertical line is your deep experience into one area. T
here’s value in being a generalist these days. But that depth is really what takes you to the next level.
Now in college I started as a Business major. Then switched to Visual Arts. and ultimately landed on Graphic Design.
A short little tangent
what was dope about the Loyola Graphic design department was that I got to learn everything about being a visual creative. So they have you in multiple art history courses, you have to take book making and print making. You’re learning sculpture and painting. And on top of that you’re 3 semesters of practical design and 3 semesters of conceptual design.
This is power of learning graphic design
So I chose graphic design because it was the type of job where I knew that if I had to, I could make an idea come to life.
So many people talk about things. And when they are just words and ideas they are nebulous, floating around in the air. But when you start writing those ideas they become a little more real. And then when you build that logo it becomes even more real. And then when you launch that website all of sudden it’s a business.
And being a designer, I knew that I could make my own logos. I knew that I could build my own websites. And me having years of experience in this task added a layer of legitimacy to everything I created.
And most importantly, I didn’t have to pay someone to make my vision become a reality.
But I also wanted a little knowledge in a lot of other areas, so I focused on Marketing, and Psychology, Music Business, and Writing.
If I knew something about these things, then it would lead me to being a better Graphic Designer. But it also felt like these were the skills that were necessary to get me to where I wanted to go. Eddie Murphy in Boomerang. A Creative Director.
How to become a Creative Director
So I took the normal career trajectory.
My first job out of college was as a web and graphic designer for a small black owned marketing company.
And I learned how to manage clients and how to create under pressure. Like a lot of pressure.
The big key learning was web design. I had taken one class at school, but this was my opportunity to make ideas happen on a larger scale. I learned the basics of CSS. Bought a few books. And in less than three months, I was building WordPress sites for clients.
It was beautiful and challenging and one day maybe I’ll tell you about how that all blew up and I ended up having to get a job at Urban Outfitters.
But then I landed on a job at the biggest ad agency in New Orleans.
It’s called Peter Mayer and if you are an advertising person in NOLA, you’ve either worked there or had someone you know work there before.
I loved it. I learned how to become precise.
How to deeply pay attention to detail.
And most importantly how to clearly communicate my ideas without fear.
This was a true ad agency and the first taste of my dream.
We built print ad campaigns and made TV commercials.
I mostly resized ads.
But through the process of resizing sooooo many ads, all of a sudden I became an incredibly fast designer.
And as I grew, they gave me bigger and bigger opportunities. Culminating in my idea being chosen for the rebranding of New Orleans Tourism after Hurricane Katrina.
I created a logo, brand book, a new tour guide, and lots of ads.
And best of all, my first two TV commercials. It was a dream.
But in my annual review my boss asked me, what do you want to do in the next 5 years?
My answer: I’m not sure how long it will take, but my goal is to become a Creative Director. That’s why I’m here. I want to lead teams.
I was 24 and that was not the thing to say, but his response was a catalyst.
“Stay with us 10 or 15 years and you just might be…one day.” He said it with love. And he was actually a very supportive manager.
But 15 years!
15 years bruh!
This was definitely that part of the romantic comedy where the couple you’re rooting for has that big miscommunication and they end up breaking up.
3. Self initiated projects lead to your most career growth
So my boss had just told me it would take 15 years to become a Creative Director and aint nobody got time for that.
That week I launched InvadeNOLA. A culture magazine about the changing millennial scene in a Post-Katrina New Orleans.
I had been blogging for a long time. Primarily about general pop culture. But I felt like there was a renaissance happening in New Orleans and the local media wasn’t really writing about the young and up and coming creatives.
At the time I was also working on New Orleans Tourism as a client and had recently done a campaign trying to get more people to come to the city. And to be honest, I felt like the way we presented the city just wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t New Orleans that I had fallen so deeply in love with.
So I blogged. And I found writers. And photographers. It was a whole thing. At it’s height we were posting three posts a day and getting tens of thousands of visitors a week. It was never huge. But it was a meaningful extension of my growth. And an important part of the greater community.
I did it for 6 years. It was primarily digital. But we had a daily blog. A weekly newsletter. We published a few print publications. And hosted a lot of events.
Creating this project taught me project management. And sales. And how to manage creatives. How to encourage and how to give feedback. When to push and when to let go.
It thickened my skin.
And helped me to give critical feedback and be kind.
And it gave me the confidence to start my own freelance business.
Then starting my own design studio led to me becoming a Creative Director at a social media agency called FSC Interactive.
And that led me to being a Creative Director at a B2B ad agency called Springbox.
And moving from the B2B Agency to the tech and publishing company, Clarion Media Group, where I work now.
All of these steps in my career taught me the next big lesson.
4. Literally everyone is just making it up as they go.
You can have all the experience in the world and still not really know what you’re doing.
They don’t talk about this in college enough.
They don’t talk about this on Twitter enough.
It never comes up at conferences.
Everybody is winging it.
You do the best you can with the information that’s available. You listen and try and sometimes you make big mistakes. But you learn and try again. And you bring those lessons and that experience into the next gig. And then you’re confronted with new challenges you never expected all over again. And the cycle continues.
That’s real career growth. Having the confidence to step into just about any situation and trust yourself and your capacity to figure it out.
That’s leadership, to be honest, figuring it out as you go.
So when I started my design studio I was forced to level up because I had to do my own sales. I had to get confident managing contractors. I had to be my own account executive and make sure that clients were happy.
Then at FSC Interactive, I had bigger clients and bigger projects. And used those skills and expanded in other areas. So now I’m learning about social and search ads. And leading strategy sessions. And selling bigger projects. And producing video. I was even interim President and managed ALLLLL of the day to day.
And when I moved to Austin now I’m at a bigger agency. Bigger budgets. Greater expectations.
Instead of working with hospitality companies like the Hotel Monteleone and New Orleans Tourism, now I’m working with B2B companies like Planful and Amazon Business.
It’s the same skills for sure, but the stakes are higher.
Learning how to be more of a consultant. Crafting giant presentations. Learning to wine and dine clients.
The point of it all is that. Regardless of the experience, there’s always something new to be learned. Something unexpected. Something challenging that you will have to figure out.
But then that’s the good news. Everything is figureoutable.
Do the research. Ask the questions. Listen deeply. And make the best decision you can given the information available to you.
And most importantly, when things go wrong, don’t beat yourself up too much. Take the loss and learn from it for the next round.
There’s not some magic book that has all the answers. It’s just doing the best you can with what you have.
That leads me to my final thought.
5. Keep creating for creativity’s sake. Your creative skills are your super power.
My career trajectory has been interesting.
There’s the logical steps that led to me becoming a Creative Director, but then there are the detours that helped me to skip a few steps here and there.
You won’t know what you love until you try a lot of things.
So I didn’t mention this, but I got my Masters in Arts Administration because I wanted to open an art gallery.
I worked at an art gallery and hated it.
Then I worked at a museum and liked some parts of it and hated other parts of it.
That led me to doing communications for an Arts High school. I coordinated the marketing and wrote press releases and got kids on the news. And did tours.. Lots of tours.
I had a brief stint as a professional photographer – even though I am not a professional photographer.
And I cofounded a conference for Creatives called Pursuit, with two incredible women Ciera and Kristy.
And even today I still have side projects. My most notable one is that weekly email called SoCurious that shares practical wellness tips to help people live a happier, healthier life.
And recently I launched a live audio show on Twitter called Create and Conquer.
Here’s your invitation to Create and Conquer
In conclusion, I genuinely believe your creative skills are your superpower.
But there’s also this thing that happens with creative people, where we’re almost more scared than other people. Less confident than people with way worse taste.
And so other people launch things and try, because they’re not afraid to put themselves out there.
But then the most creative people sit on their big ideas because their inner critic is way too loud shouting in their ear. They’re afraid to put themselves all the way out there. Afraid of failing publicly and living out loud.
But with my whole heart I believe that each of us was designed to create and conquer.
Each of us was specifically created to make a small but meaningful impact with our gifts.
Ok that was a lot.
And it’s weird because that’s just scratching the surface.
This post was originally featured on my new live audio show. Create and Conquer is a live social audio show hosted by Justin Shiels that shares strategies and tips to help you grow in the creator economy.
Listen live on Mondays and Thursdays at 7:00pm CST on Twitter Spaces.