Always In Trouble
Is creativity punishable by death?
This is not a scientific approach to this question rather a method by which I discovered how to define my creative process. From Woody Woodpecker to Bill Gates nobody respects a troublemaker until their way of thinking becomes popularized and makes people lots of money. I’ve spent the last week thinking about creativity and reading Key Person of Influence by author Daniel Priestley. He states,
“You are standing on a mountain of value. Your story, your experiences, your insights and your ideas are the key to your growth.”
In the book’s simplicity, elegance, and insightfulness it challenges you to do exercises like map out a timeline of your life looking for skills, talents and general themes surrounding your mountain of value. I have been punished for my creativity and rewarded, but mostly punished until now. Originally this article was going to highlight my creative process. The first roadblock was how to label creativity in an interesting way for the reader. If the audience doesn’t understand the person behind the process how could they understand why they do what they do. The mountain of value exercise helped tremendously because it put into perspective the importance of an individual’s story. To gain valuable insights into their creativity first you must walk in their shoes.
To summarize my story I’ve labeled them in the themes I discovered in that exercise. Lucky for you my story is full of troublemaking, rule-breaking and funny encounters with nuns, after-school clubs and a male dancer (not the exotic kind).
Kindergarteners Can’t Write In Cursive
A memory etched in my story was the first day of kindergarten. We had been told to write our full names and when I wrote it perfectly the teacher told my dad, “Excuse me your son needs to write his name, not you!” He explained that my son had written the calligraphy and prints better than I. Ok, that’s not the type of rule-breaking story you want to hear but might have insights into my dry sense of humor and how I like to be defiant. Not sure how I feel about being told, day one of my academic journey that I couldn’t have written my name that well.
In first grade which I define as the journal year, we would write and draw every day in our green composition notebooks about the day and even stations of the cross. Let us pray. Did I mention I attended private Catholic school with nuns? More encounters with nuns further ahead. A theme began to develop quickly as I jotted down more engagements like being told I can’t use the classroom tools and always having my desk moved next to the teachers. So I like to take stuff apart, isn’t that deconstructionism?
Tragedy — A classmate of mine lost his eye in an accident with a golf club and that was the first time consequence was in my subconscious. This incident although terrible has become part of his story and therefore identity. A part of my identity is my kindergarten signature because it’s something I worked hard for and might have relation to why I persevere forward when I’m told I can’t achieve something.
Doodle Boy — This is just stupidly funny. I was notorious for drawing on anything and everything, even given the nickname, “Doodle Boy by a teacher and it stuck for many years.
Jeeps and Beats
The first experience with music I can remember was listening to the local rock radio station with my older brother and stealing his walkman every day before school to listen to Paradise City — by Guns & Roses and Master of Puppets — by Metallica. It wasn’t until a hot summer day when my aunt picked my family up in her convertible Jeep blasting Action — by Terror Fabulous that I became passionate about R&B, Hip Hop, and Ragge. After that day my sisters and I would record mixtapes from the radio and even had our own radio show that I, of course, was the host of. The Rich, Julie and Ashley Show… The title could use some work but it was the 90’s before even the internet… I think…
Only later in life did I pick up a guitar, production program and start to create original music under the title of, “The Lightheads.” This was my gateway into graphic design, branding and eventually filmmaking. Without becoming savvy with production software I wouldn’t have acquired the skills to use other software. I know I was judged by relatives and friends for locking myself away for hours doing this activity but it was my spirituality and outlet for many confusing years. Friends would come over to record raps and funny jingles so I started calling them — Rich Marks the Spots
The Punishment Must Fit The Crime
The principle nun with clenched fists slams them down on the wood desk repeating, “The punishment must fit the crime!, The punishment must fit the crime!” over and over again turning red while my mother listens terrified thinking I killed somebody. She recalls leaving work to come down to the office ready to kill me herself then thinking I had done the unforgivable and being nervous. What did he do? He was going to write a swear on the brick wall during recess.
I doodle, have nice handwriting and love drawing so I wanted to display this graffiti style tag in the recess yard. I even gathered my friends to watch not realizing the nun was right behind me. As the crowd gathered and yielding a rock I began to carve my name and was abruptly grabbed by my ear and dragged away. There it was a nice big letter P! I didn’t even have time to make the full letter R. My mom knew I was writing my name and not a swear word. This was way before the penis game was even invented. The link is included for those who don’t know this ridiculously stupid game. If you win you lose and might get reported as a sexual predator. It was a different time in the early 2000’s.
Real Punishments For The Successful
I actually liked getting sent to the principles office. It gave me one on one’s with academics and real-world interaction with professionals. Convincing a disciplinary with a law degree that what I had done is not punishable is a tricky task. I’m proud to say my imagination and debate skills often earned respect from the disciplinary and sometimes a smirk of enjoyment.
The best and worst punishment ever — I had been kicked out of 8th grade in the last month of school for receiving 18 disciplinary referrals. My mother, bless her heart had to always leave work to come down to the school. They told her I was not welcome back for high school and she replied, “That wasn’t an option and that my punishment needed to be crafted better. He will be better behaved, oh he will.” Scary coming from my mother whos punishments are top notch and borderline psycho. And trust me when I say that they needed to be and she could craft a punishment encyclopedia for all those bratty kids out in the world. Fix them one at a time.
That whole summer I worked Monday-Friday 8 am to noon for free landscaping the high school grounds. The best part was I had to walk to the school and walk home most of the time. I gained my spot back and the success is that next year was offered a paid job at the school. Had a 3rd less disciplinary referrals on average too over the next couple years.
Quit Playing Sports To Dance
In 6th grade everything changed, I had a teacher that encouraged my creativity and met my first mentor. My sisters were in the after school play and I had to wait for them to take the bus home. Jo Ann Warren is a professional choreographer, talent agent and business owner who saw me waiting and dragged me into the play. She has this power to grab even the most ADHD ridden individuals and bring out the best in them through performance. I quickly became a star pupil of the show leaving all my teacher in awe of what she was able to accomplish in such a short time. Seriously, they assumed I must have been finally medicated.
Being a kind person she allowed me to attend her performance summer camp for free encouraging me to pursue the performing arts. Hesitant she reassured me that signing, dancing, and acting was hard work and for only skilled athletes. I quit playing traditional sports that summer and will forever be grateful. Bush Gardens Festhaus, BLDE Modern Dance Troupe, and in the Foothills Theater production of Beauty and the Beast along with countless master classes, competitions, charity events, teaching, and assisting jobs are some of my professional accolades. Eventually, I moved on from performing but in a way only moved onto a different type of performance onto a different stage.
Professionally there isn’t a time in the day that I don’t reflect back, creating choreography in my head, assembling music to the world and learning new routines. These astonishing skills add tremendous value to my life in every facet. Producing and directing cinematic marketing films can be forever etched into history available online and running 24hours a day. This is until Mindnet takes over the internet and we are all cyborg. Scary.
Earrings, Graduations, and Budweiser Hats
Intellectual property can define you along with your personal style to create a perception. Think about style choices you’ve made good and bad that tell your story and sense of fashion. Are you a CEO that wears plastic floppy Nikes around the office or the best dressed Starbucks employee.
Graduations & Trouble — I wanted to be cool at Kindergarten graduation so I stole my brothers Budweiser hat and put it on right before crossing the stage. The nuns and teachers were flabbergasted and I’m pretty sure my parents a bit embarrassed but I was the only kid rocking that style. Nothing changed greatly as I entered high school putting my gold hoop earrings in every day the bell would ring and thrifting for brightly colored gear to wear to dances. We received our white senior sweaters and I put designs all over it with a permanent marker. I was told I could no longer wear it immediately. #alwaysintrouble Personally I am totally for uniforms but also for stirring up the administration’s idea of what a uniform can be.
I missed my high school graduation because of a job I had accepted in Virginia to perform at Bush Gardens. Told all my friends I would not be in attendance but they didn’t believe me because who misses their high school graduation. The administration dropped the ball and called my name with what I was told was a hilarious silence. Defiant applauding and some of the best voicemails I ever received after the graduation explaining what had happened was truly brilliant.
Mustaches and Highlights— Not many people predate my hipster mustache journey. Growing it out I was labeled a fool like many times in my life but stuck with the choice and it paid off and is now a signature look. Don’t be that person that says I could never pull that off. Look at Eminem and his signature bleach blonde hair. You don’t even have to see his face to know who it is. Obscure reference — The MTV awards performance of, The Real Slim Shady.
Cystic Fibrosis in Georgia
Part of the exercise is to not leave out the low points of your life’s journey. In 3rd grade, I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and hospitalized for two weeks. Thus I entered a new chapter, one with nebulizer treatments and recurring antibiotic regiments. With no cure for CF, the only option you have is to always be managing your symptoms. Having access to the right medicines and frequent doctor’s appointments, I went about my life doing everything and anything I wanted.
The darkest part of my life was actually awesome. With an associate’s degree in graphic design, I moved to Savannah Georgia with some friends to attend Savannah College of Art and Design. Turning 25 at this point and very unhealthy it was a wake-up call. I had constant lung infections, my weight was very low and I was always breaking ribs from coughing. The care I sought was nowhere to be found so after one year I packed it up and moved back to Massachusetts.
After one day in the hospital, seriously one day it was like I was reborn. I had no clue I could feel this healthy and normal. It was my stupidity for falling away from managing my CF that lead to my downfall. Being older I stay as healthy as possible and feel lucky to have a case of CF that’s manageable. Just like health, a creative idea needs to be managed into maturity to have the greatest outcome.
Masters Degree In Waiting Tables
At this point in my life, I felt like I had no option but to finish my college education even if that meant being in student debt. Waiting tables full time and being enrolled in four classes a semester I would make up the extra classes over the winter and summer. This chapter of my life was my most organized.
I could wait tables on autopilot and so began my receipt paper lists. My homework, tasks, ideas and creative poems became my outlet and hope for the future. Every time I would get discouraged, tired and just plain upset about my life I would write rhymes and plan creative projects. It was planning these side projects that kept me motivated more so than the education. Those ideas and tasks were the gateways to better times.
Guess what? Graduated and just like high school never walked across the stage to receive my degree. I remember leaving the last final feeling not a sense of accomplishment but of genuine agony. Driving to my next night shift at the restaurant in silence was peaceful. Why don’t I have this euphoric feeling and who is going to hire someone with no corporate experience? The answer must be to get my MBA, that would do the trick. Nope, the same feeling but it’s an accomplishment.
3:1 Ratio And What I’ve Learned About Creation
It might seem like I’m bashing education but that’s not true. I was lost at what to do with my life and school seemed to help fill a void for many years. During that time I became highly organized not only with time but with digital asset management and how to research and problem solve at a higher level than before. The true education I received was in realizing failing is ok and that intelligent people seek help with things they don’t understand and never give up on something they undertake.
As I learn more and more on a daily quest for knowledge and find inspiration I realize my creative process has been molding me for asset creation and not management. I will never be someone who improves on processes of a business or system that is already working rather am better fitted for think outside the box and creating new processes.
Are you a person who gets hired to improve on a functional asset or someone who creates the asset? Both are highly sought after and needed.
Entrepreneurs Are Failures
An entrepreneur likes failing, learning, improving and occasionally causing trouble for which you better explain. Most likely they are all a bit crazy. Secretly I like losing in games of ping pong at the office because as I improve it will only make the victory that much sweeter. Now I have the same philosophy about business creating small wins that can be scaled up and automated for larger payoffs. Who cares about instant gratification? The best part is the struggle and if I ever reach my comfort zone I’m sure I will start causing trouble.
I create using a 3:1 ratio as my structured blueprint. Three ideas that are normal and one very outside the box. Keeping a journal (1st grade & doodling) always by my side I can write any ideas down to reference later. Inspiration is my next step and it’s all around us (culture & performing). Researching how others have had success or failure allows you to pivot and stay alert at a roadblock. Form an outline and always be checking off tasks to stay within a timeline. Find the wins and losses at each step and keep improving. (education & choreography)
Lastly, conceive an idea that in theory would cause trouble (defiance & detention). It would disrupt the natural order of things and might be innovative. Look for polite responses and take that as offensive. When pitching an idea the audience should be so interested that they either think it will never work or will desire more information. Keep working the idea until it becomes second nature and is seamless. More importantly, the idea is pointless if it’s only that. Develop the product or service as quickly as possible.
Purpose, Perspective, and Creativity
Specific life events make up our regimented blueprint that is our creative process. Every day we sit organized or not and somehow figure out what’s going on in our brain to deliver the best possible results. Whether it’s in business or for pleasure our brain’s 100 billion neurons are firing off these signals and its all connected to our story.
By bringing you into my world and showing you the moments that have shaped my creativity I hope you gain a deeper perspective into your story and discover your mountain of value.
Is creativity punishable by death? Only if it stays on paper and is never implemented. Be ready to explain yourself and accept the punishment when you are wrong.
Stay in trouble, be an individual, and go with your gut.