Hello, I'm so happy to meet you all. Thank you, and thank you everybody for tuning in out there in TV Land. I've been waiting to say that my whole life. (laughter)
So today I'm going to take you through a course that I've actually been working on with students for the last 10 years. I started teaching a class at the School of Visual Arts a little over 10 years ago, and the class there is called "Differentiate or Die: How to Get a Job When You Graduate" and so I have been helping students - seniors in undergraduate education trying to get jobs. Get jobs that not only help them pay their rent, and provide them with a decent living, but also fulfill their hearts and their souls, and doing this with sincerity and with passion, and with meaning and with purpose. And so what I've done is take a lot of the best practices that I've developed over the last 10 years, both with my undergrads and my graduate students that I teach in my Branding Masters program at the School of Visual Arts, and p...
ut it into a day-long class today that I'm going to hopefully inspire you with. So I want to talk a little bit about why I do this. I am really fascinated by the arc of a life, by the trajectory that people take, by the choices that they make, by how they become who they are. And over the years I have become really obsessed with asking young people a very specific question, and the question is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and I hear all sorts of answers. Mostly I hear "I don't know." (laughter)
But I also hear things like "baseball player" and "fireman", and increasingly more and more, I have been hearing "famous", but I heard an answer to this question a couple of years ago that has stuck with me, and has been this sort-of benchmark for what I hope people can feel when they're asked that question at any stage of their life. So when I asked this young woman what she wanted to be when she grew up, she looked at me without missing a beat and said "everything". And that just slayed me. The idea that someone could have in their heart the notion that they could do or be anything was completely foreign to me when I was growing up. I didn't have that sense. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I not only felt like I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I also felt like I wasn't qualified to do much of anything. When I graduated college I actually felt like I wasn't smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, rich enough to do anything. The most important thing to me, when I graduated was just being able to be self-sufficient, let alone be satisfied or inspired, or have a sense of meaning and purpose. It was "I just need to make sure I can pay my rent, so I don't ever have to go back and live with my parents." But I did find a drawing recently, my mother moved from Queens to Florida and gave me a big box of things that she had accumulated over the course of my childhood. And I came across an illustration that I did when I was about 8, that I realized subconsciously that I had plotted my entire future. So it was there, I just didn't know it. And so I want to share that illustration with you. This is the illustration. So I'm a native New Yorker, I was born in Brooklyn, then we moved to Queens, then we moved to Staten Island, then we went to Long Island, then I went to school in Albany and then I came and lived in Manhattan. I've lived there since 1983. So this is a drawing that I did when I was about 8 years old and I had never been to Manhattan at that point, I was only living at that point in Brooklyn and in Queens and so I drew the streets of Manhattan, and I think I probably figured this out from the television or movies, and it's a fairly innocuous drawing, I think this is my mother and she is wearing a very popular Barbie outfit at the time, Tangerine Dream, if anyone is interested. And I think that's me, and so here's the city streets, and the bank, and the cleaners, and the taxi, and the thing that really stopped me in my tracks when I saw this and sort of gave me that sense of "Oh my god, what's this?" The Lay's potato chips delivery truck, that didn't just say "potato chips". It says "Lay's Potato Chips", and it wasn't just in block type the way I did everything else. I drew the logo. At 8 years old I drew the logo. Now that might say an awful lot about the way I was brought up, but I think it also says a lot about what resonated with me, and how I wanted to document that reality in this little drawing. And had I just kept this little drawing as my sort-of Holy Grail I would have realized that here, 40... 50 years later it all came true. I live in Manhattan. I've been drawing logos for a living for over two decades, and I do spend a lot of time at the bank, and the cleaners, and in taxis. So there you have it. But I went to school in Albany. I went to the State University of New York in Albany. I went to public school high school, junior high school, elementary school and state school for college. Wonderful education. I graduated with a degree in English Literature with a minor in Russian Literature. So I often joke now that I have a degree in reading. Reading. And it didn't really prepare me for much of anything, other than being well read at dinner parties. I can talk about Dostoevsky for hours. But, when I was a senior I joined the student newspaper and became ultimate the Arts and Features Editor in my senior year, which meant that I was responsible for doing all of the design and the editorial for this Arts and Features section of the Albany Student Press. And it was there that I first began to realize that design was actually a discipline, and realized that I loved putting the paper together far more than even writing the articles. And hence my career in design was born. I learned everything about design that semester in the student newspaper and then on on the job after I graduated. And after I graduated as I said, I was just looking for a way in which to make a living. The idea at that time that I could do whatever I wanted to do, whatever I dreamed of doing was completely foreign to me. And I remember the moment that it happened. I remember being on the streets of the intersection of 6th Avenue and Bleecker Street in New York City. It was that summer that I graduated - 1983, the summer of what I call "Police Desynchronicity and David Bowie's Modern Love" because that's all that was on the air waves. And I remember looking, like peering into my future, and feeling like, "I don't know how to make a life. I don't know how to make anything happen. What should I do?" And the choice at that moment was "go for self-sufficiency, go for safety, go for security." because that's the most important thing. You need to be able to survive. So the idea of any of the dreams that I might have had, seemed like "I'll do that later. Once I'm safe and once I'm secure." Like that ever happens. I'll talk about that later. So the first 10 years of my career were really what I call "Experiments in Rejection and Failure". I went after things halfheartedly, I had a whole sort-of sense of "maybe I should do that", or "Maybe I should do that", or "maybe I should do that". And a lot of it was just disappointing. A lot of it was disappointing. A lot. It took about 12 years for me to find a path, and again that path was based on security and safety. Now the thing about security and safety is that we are hardwired as human beings, our species, we need that. Our brain is composed of 3 parts - a triune brain is what it's called. And the brain has the neocortex, that's the part that we designers love. The part that's all about reasoning and awareness and abstract thinking. And then the lymbic brain is all about connection and love. But that pre-wired part, the oldest, deepest part of our brain is the reptilian brain. What Seth Roden calls the "lizard brain". And that's the Brian that we can't really control. If I were to walk outside and almost get hit by an Uber, I wouldn't will the adrenaline. The adrenaline would just surge through me. And that's the same way we respond to anything that we are uncertain about, and who here is ever certain about the future? And so if you're not certain about the future, you tend to brace for it. And you tend to worry. And you tend to have all of these scenarios wherein you imagine "what will I do when this doesn't work?" And "what will I do when this doesn't work?" and I spent almost my entire career in that mindset. "When will I ever be safe?" "When will I ever be secure?" "When will ever enough be enough?" Reptilian brain doesn't ever let you feel that, and so it's a hedonistic treadmill. Over and over and over and over, and so what I want to talk a little bit about today, is how to live a life with all of that there, because we're never going to be able to push it away. But how to try to dig deep inside and find what really matters, and work on developing those characteristics, those attributes with all of those fears that are still there, there. And how can we make a life with meaning? So it took me about 12 years to get on this path, and as I said, lots of experiments in rejection and failure. Lots. That's a whole other talk for a whole other day. I can outline all the rejections for you. And ultimately when I did find a modicum of success, one of the first things I started to do was teach. One of the first things I decided to do was try to impart the knowledge that I had been given by learning, in many ways, the hard way and try to teach that to young people mostly in an effort to keep them from making a lot of the same mistakes that I did. So that when they're there at that intersection of 6th Avenue and Bleecker Street one summer after they graduate, they don't think "I'm going to do this because I'm afraid that if I do anything else, I won't be safe, I won't be secure, and maybe I'll die." That doesn't - that won't happen. So that is why we're here in this class called "A Brand Called You", because ultimately everything starts first from your heart, and then you can work outward. So this is what I hope you're going to get from the class. We have bullets. The truth about what it takes. So a little privy is out. I'm a straight shooter, and I'm going to tell you the truth. I'm not going to tell you that you need to be a people-person. I'm not going to tell you that you need to do this and this and this and have a positive attitude and be happy all the time. Because that doesn't work and it's not true. I'll tell you what I believe it really takes to get something that you really love. Tools to articulate who you are. Who are you, why are you here, what are you doing, what do you want, how can you make that happen. Techniques to "sell" yourself - because you do have to sell who you are, but in a way that is meaningful and honest and authentic. It is not about selling out or selling your soul. And then lastly, tactics to help you get out there. "What can I do to really get out there?"