This is the episode where you get to ask me anything about work and life. I do a deep dive on purpose, you learn more about how I actually make money, and you learn simple ways to be more consistent with your creativity.
Here’s the full transcript:
Uh uhhh, yall nosey nosey. (laughs)
This is Justin and you’re listening to SoCurious About. And this week I’m doing a very special episode where you all, the audience get to ask me anything about creativity and career. And lemme tell you, y’all were so curious about work-life balance, conquering self-doubt and how to build a creative practice.
So I want you to pretend like we’re one on one having a little coffee catchup. Just me and you. Talking about life and work.
I’ve got my cold brew. No sugar, no milk. And we’re gonna chop it up for a bit.
But before we dive in, let’s get real for a moment.
Life isn’t just a series of straightforward answers, is it?
It’s this beautifully intricate tapestry of experiences, uncertainties, and moments that challenge us to grow.
And that’s why I’m here – to tell you about my experiences and maybe, just maybe, help us all find a little more clarity, a sprinkle of joy, or a dash of inspiration.
Because ya boy doesn’t have all the answers. I have no interest in being anybody’s guru. I’m just a normal human being figuring it out as I go.
So what works for me, might not work for you. And that’s okay. We just chopping it up.
Okay, let’s dive in.
Rodney asked: How have you, as a working creative professional, found balance between your passions and your relationship with money and finances? How do you make the right choices when you have to make money, you have to be creative, and you have to take care of yourself?
I wanted to start here, so I can contextualize what I do and who I am. And specifically, I wanted to demystify my online persona versus my real-life experience.
So professionally I’m a creative director. I lead creative teams of copywriters, art directors, and designers to develop campaign creative for clients. Most recently the majority of my time has been dedicated to working on developing campaigns and branding for public health causes in the mental health space.
I also do some creative consulting for small independent brands and I’m recently really energized with doing more career coaching for creative people.
So that’s professional Justin – like how I actually make money so I can afford these expensive apartment prices in Austin TX.
But then there’s a whole other side of me.
And I think that’s the side that most people (at least on the internet) no me for. And that’s as a mental health advocate, writer, and illustrator. I started illustrating the things I was learning in therapy and it has grown into a newsletter called the Weekly Reset, a vibrant Instagram account – you can follow me @justinmadethat, this podcast you’re listening to, and it all lives under the SoCurious brand.
That’s my passion project. I genuinely wake up and the first thing I think is what can I make today? It lights my soul on fire to share the things I’m working through or struggling with because I have a very singular goal. I want to encourage all people, but especially POC and the LGBT+ community to make space for deep self-reflection. And beyond that to go to therapy and counseling.
There’s so much stigma still around seeking mental health support. And I want to literally shout from the rooftop, that we all need and deserve that support. Life is hard. And we all hold so much pain and trauma in our bodies. And there are trained mental health professionals that can help us untangle those bits and pieces so we can live a more joyful life.
So going back to the question: how do I balance it all?
For me, I know I need to make X amount every month to live comfortably. So that’s a non-negotiable. Now ya boy is great at living beneath his means and prioritizing saving money for rainy days, but I gotta make this amount so I can live comfy.
But then I also know, I have to make things very frequently. I draw or write every single day. And most days it’s both.
There have been times in my life, where I put my personal creative expression on the back burner because I was too busy at work or I was overcommitted with activities. And those were the most challenging times of my life. Because I was not living within my purpose.
And it’s so simple, my purpose is to create and share.
So even if that doesn’t make a single dollar, I have to do it.
Now sometimes it doe make money. And that’s awesome! But I have another way to make money because I don’t want my passion to die because it also needs to support me financially.
And so I think the core piece of wisdom, at least from my experience is that you’ve got to make money. We live in a capitalist society and rent or your mortgage is due on the first of the month and late on the 5th. So you have to be a responsible adult and handle your business.
But also you need to make room for your passion and your purpose. That means dedicating time to it. And committing to it fully. Whether it makes you money or not.
And that’s actually the perfect dovetail into the second question.
Alison asked: How did you find your purpose? I don’t even know where to start.
So a part of the reason why I’m such a proponent of deep self-reflection is because I think all of the answers to the most important questions already live inside of ourselves. We just have to dig deep enough to find them.
I actually plan on doing a full episode on finding your purpose because this is a meaningful section in the Reset Workbook, my guided journal that comes out in December 2023, but here’s the really super short version.
There’s this Japanese concept called ikigai, meaning reason for being. And I genuinely feel like it’s the most clear framework for finding your purpose.
So you ask yourself some questions:
- What do you love doing?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for?
And the answer that fits into all four of these is your purpose.
Now, it’s worth noting, and I mentioned this earlier. Your purpose doesn’t have to be monetized. I wanna say that again for the people in the back. You do not have to monetize your purpose. In fact, I think most people should not monetize their purpose. Because money can be a distraction for so many of us. It will get in the way of us doing what we need to do because we’ll change our focus to doing what will make us more money.
So I’ll say it one last time: you don’t have to monetize your purpose.
Now back to the question, the challenge with finding your purpose is that the best way to find it is to follow your curiosity.
That means trying new hobbies, meeting new people, and learning new skills.
Deep down we know who we are. And most of us at 4 or 5 were already very much aligned with what our path should be.
Okay so for example, when I was 8 years old I knew I wanted to be a Creative Director because I saw the movie Boomerang. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that on this podcast or a blog post or some video. But even before that I intrinsically understand the power of words and pictures to change hearts and minds.
From the first time I put pen to paper, I knew that it had power. So I was making comics and greeting cards and in the first grade, I created a little printed newsletter for the class.
I’ve been lucky enough to know who I was and what I wanted to do from a very young age. And I think we all know from a young age. But I think I was also lucky enough that the world didn’t take me too far from my path. Like I had my mom and my sister, my aunties and my cousins encouraging that version of me, even when they didn’t fully understand it.
Like they def would give funny looks or sometimes even laugh at some of the things I would make, but they also were the first to be like: here are some new markers. Here are those drawing books you said you wanted. I’m putting you in computer class after school.
I think the second challenge that pops up when it comes to purpose though is that we can sometimes feel like it needs to be some big, bold, earth-shattering thing. And I understand why that pops up.
The questions are:
What do you love doing?
What are you good at?
What does the world need?
What can you be paid for?
When you ask me: What does the world need? That feels so big and scary and overwhelming.
But like let’s take one small example.
The world needs a lot. Ike a whole lot.
Like big things like equality and universal healthcare and higher minimum wage. And that’s stuff I might not be able to make a meaningful dent in my lifetime.
But the world also needs more kindness.
The world needs more joy.
People need a reminder to laugh and smile and not take everything so seriously.
And no single one of us is on the hook to change the whole world.
But we can start where we are. With our city. Or our community. Or our friends and family. And that is enough.
Being a loving and kind parent to a child has a ripple effect that could change the entire world for the better.
Registering people in your city to vote could have a significant impact in a future election.
Being the person in your friend group that hosts gatherings can help people feel less alone.
That’s meaningful work that the world needs.
It’s small. But it’s mighty.
And the thing is, if more people were really paying attention to what they love doing, what they’re good at, and what the world needs the world will be better.
I think we can move to the next question.
So Renee asked: How do you keep making new things? What do you think you’re doing that keeps you innovative?
I’ve been creating things for the Internet for as long as I can imagine. And I think the reason I’m able to create so many things is because I wrap them into an idea that’s bigger than one specific creative execution.
So there’s a big idea around the projects that I work on and then the idea can come to life in all these different ways from that support that big idea.
For example, when I lived in New Orleans, I ran a publication called goInvade. So my focus was really about telling the stories of a changing city and giving a highlight to the millennial creative community that was attracted to that incredible city. That was the big idea.
But then I would execute creative projects that aligned with the work. There was an interview series with creative professionals. There was a weekly newsletter that highlighted things to do in the city. There was a quarterly print publication. And a few times a year I would host events.
But the key is that all the individual executions would ladder up to the big idea, how can we highlight the millennial creative community in New Orleans?
Over the course of my career, I just follow my curiosity. And I try not to think too deeply about if something will be financially viable and instead focus on if it would be fun to commit to it for a specific period of time.
So now I think in chunks of time. Like could i do this for 30 days, like my Instagram reels challenge?
Do I want to spend 3 months to learn how to launch a project, that’s what led me to launching the Joy Bombs affirmation cards.
Do I want to spend a year trying to launch a conference? I did with my cofounders when we launched the VenturePOP conference in New Orleans. I ended up doing that for 2 years.
And ironically the SoCurious website really came from the hyper-specific goal of writing 365 inspirational messages for people. I knew I couldn’t commit to doing it daily. But my assumption was that if I worked on this project for 5 years, I could write them and publish them as a book. Ironically, on the path to that, I found a new passion and ended up getting a book deal for a guided journal.
So for me at least, I follow my passion. I create and I share publicly.
And I try to do it for extended periods of time. 1 month. 3 months. A year. Two years. Commit to it. And then decide if you want to continue it.
Now there is a confession here that’s worth nothing tho.
I have these sparks of ideas that I often let die off because I’m committed to these bigger missions.
And if I’m honest sometimes that bums me out.
Recently, I drew my version of Barbie leading up to the movie’s release. I called them Blarbies. And when I tell you this was one of the most fun tasks I’ve done in a long time because I was drawing just for the sake of doing it.
I came up with all these funny taglines and designed all these cute outfits.
And I even came up with a bomb name for them. And even saw how this could expand into a whole mobile game.
But when I looked at my current schedule I was like dang.
There’s only so much time in the day and I only have so much energy. And unfortunately, I can’t chase every creative whim because I also want to make enough money to support these high ass rent costs in Austin.
But that’s okay.
Because also I have the opportunity to work on it slowly on the backburner or I can prioritize it at a later date when my schedule frees up.
Oh my goodness, wait. This is like only 3 of the 10 questions. I think I’m going to have to bring this back as a recurring series.