Why Design Matters with Debbie Millman
everybody What's up Chase, welcome to the episode of the show. The chase Jarvis live show here on Creative Live, you know the show where I sit down with incredible humans and I do everything I can to unpack their brains with the goal of helping you live your dreams in career, hobby and life. My guest today is a dear dear personal friend, she's been on the show before. She is the one and only Debbie Millman now. She describes herself as a writer, a designer educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the podcast Design Matters, one of the longest running podcasts of all time. It is absolutely incredible. I have been a guest there, I highly recommended uh we also talked today about a bunch of really important stuff. Of course she's got a new book out based largely on the podcast called Why Design Matters, but more importantly, we talk about a number of things, things like what it is that you truly love to do and why that is so important in your life. How do you spend more time doing w...
hat you love? In Debbie's case, it's the the craft of making of doing and for you, we're not sure what that is, but this is going to help you identify it and do more of it. We also talk about childhood trauma which is critical for everyone. Every single one of us has experiences in our childhood that affect who we are in his adult and how we make decisions, process information. Debbie's story about sharing that along with her friend and my friend tim Ferriss they did a podcast together. Talking about that. We revisit that and how important that is in understanding where you are and where you want to go with your life. We talk about one of the most profound pieces of advice that I think I've ever heard uh and she shares that she received this from Mr David lee Roth on her podcast about when you're at the top, there's only one way to go. So how to build a life where you are always growing. So, I'm going to get out of the way. This is an incredible episode with Debbie. Again, we're dear personal friends and we get to go to a bunch of very vulnerable and important places. I can't wait for you to enjoy the show. I'm going to step out of the way and let you get right to it yours truly. And Debbie Millman. Mhm, mm hmm. Yeah, we love you Debbie, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome back. Thank you Chase. It's so great to see you. I've not seen your beautiful face in far too long and it is incredible to feel like my heart is bursting into the screen here. Yeah, I do too. It's been so long. It's been what since pandemic or pre panda fact that uh we've spent any time together I am. Well of course I've been, we've been corresponding this whole time and I have been watching you from afar and many exciting things have been going on in your life uh all of which I would love to touch on at some point in our next uh the next hour here. But I first have to start off by congratulating you on this epic achievement. You've got a new book out your seventh, I think first of all, that's incredible in and of itself. But the fact that this thing is an absolute masterpiece um doesn't surprise me a bit because your uh so talented in so many different vectors in your life, from design to creativity to uh thought, thought leader, incredible on all of these. You have released a book called Why Design Matters that in some ways mirrors the podcast, but is also much much bigger. Um so first of all, congratulations! And second of all, I'll confess we were talking before we started recording that this thing is uh would you say your or two behind schedule because it turned into such a beast, Tell us the story. Well, I was supposed to deliver the manuscript to harpercollins in 20 at the beginning of 2019 and October October 9th 2018. I went to my very first date with Roxane Gay. We then proceeded to fall madly in love and everything else was like, I love who cares about life later. So, um somehow I magically thought that I'd find the inspiration to do it and still be able to make my deadline And then realized that that was never ever going to happen. And so I ended up getting in 2019 um a year extension. And then of course what happens in 2020 bob Bob Bob Bob Bob Bob. And my plans for a national photo shoot going all over the country shooting the subjects of my interviews also went up in smoke and I ended up having to do the entire book from my living room, which I actually have to say. I could definitely I can definitely say that there's lemonades here because rather than rely on my own I and having to ask multiple photographers to work with me. I ended up being able to buy the most beautiful shots that I could find of my subjects. And so that's where my advance went. But it was in many ways gratefully spent because I really am as proud of the photography in this book. And as a photographer, I think you know how important that is and what that means. That I'm saying this. Um I actually feel that I'm as proud of the photography that we were able to procure as I am of the interviews. Mm That says a lot because you are one of the best, best, best interviewers in the world. And so that that comes at a very, very high praise. Um if you think that that's true. And as again, I received this book from you and it is an absolute stunner. And very few books have the ability to feel like an art book and have so much depth and I want to say the title, it's why Design Matters, which is uh a um parallel, I'll call it a parallel track to your legendary podcast, Design Matters. But the sub subhead here is conversations with the world's most creative people, which is one of the reasons that you've been on the show before because you are one of the world's most creative people, certainly one of the most creative people in my life. You've been recognized by all of the places that recognize creative people, whether that's fast company or all the other. You've been on all of the lists, but you truly not only do you speak creativity, but your ability to pull it out of other people is unparalleled. And this is like if you are right now listening to the show and you are not subscribed to Debbie's podcast, stop everything. As pause on this show, go subscribe. Um, this, the fact that you were able to manage extracting this insane amount of wisdom as you would in a in a narrative oriented book from so many people in such a beautiful package. Um, I true as someone who's written books and done both art and narrative books. Holy cow, you nailed it, Thank you. Chase. That means a lot coming from you. It really does. Um it was not an easy process. In fact, I think it would be fair to say it was a bit of a street fight me against the book, but I think we made our peace together at the end and now I'm really proud of it. Well, I want to circle back to the book in a moment and for the handful of people uh who are not familiar with your work um you know, they heard me gush about you in the intro. Um I'm curious how you would describe your own work because it has been, you've had numerous career arcs very intertwined with all kinds of interdisciplinary, your interdisciplinary artist. Um but I'm wondering in your own words, how would you describe uh your work? Well, um the first line to my bio is something like I am a designer, author educator and host of the podcast, design matters. Um and I think that's pretty accurate. I mean I've worked in the field of branding for plus years now, I've worked on the design and positioning of Over 200 of the world's leading brands, most of which you can find in a supermarket or drugstore, very fast moving consumer goods, carbonated, soft drinks, salty snacks over the counter, pharmaceuticals, you name it? I've touched it. Um so that's a big, big portion of my life and it still is in some way I worked, I started working at a company called sterling brands in 1995 And worked there until 2016, years. Um the last year was more of my year in a slow exit strategy so that the company would be as Little disrupted as possible, but the 1st 20 years were very intense. Um I got there when the company was about 15 people And when I left it was about 150 people in numerous offices in 2008. So about 13 years after I got there, we were able to sell the company to Omnicom. So we joined um one of the world's biggest advertising agency and marketing networks, which I loved being a part of. Um and always knew that once that happened there would be an expiration date on my tenure there because I've had this big dream of doing lots of other things and then my turn out finished five year earn out and in the meantime I started working at the School of Visual Arts and I found it a graduate program and branding, but I just kept staying at sterling. I just kept saying I was the president of the design division, it was super comfortable, I was making great money, I was renovating a house and one of my partners have had the courage to leave a couple of months before I was supposed to make a decision about whether or not I would take a position there as Ceo and I just, I felt like I had been so close to taking that step out into the unknown and then I get sort of tempted with this big fat title and part of me really wanted to do it. I thought it would be a wonderful experience. Part of me felt that I owed it to all the other women executives at Omnicom to be another woman Ceo. Um, It took me four months to decide that I didn't want to do it. My, my partner, one of my partners, came to me and said anything that takes you four months to decide to do or not to do is probably something you don't want to do. And so he gave me that easy out and I turned it down, which is one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life and then went and started doing All of my own thing. I still have my position at the school of visual arts, I still run the graduate program here, but it gives me an awful lot of freedom to do a lot of other things. I did decide back in 2016 when I left sterling that the only branding projects that I was going to do were ones that were beneficial to the world. So I still do a lot of work with a Joyful Heart foundation with mariska hargitay. I'm on the board now and I'm working to eradicate the rape kit backlog and sexual violence and our culture. Um, and I'm doing a couple of projects pro bono. Um, and I'm also doing some projects for foundations that suddenly have a lot of money because of really wonderful philanthropist. So I'm doing some of those projects as well and that's and that's the corporate work that I'm still doing. But mostly I spend my time now as an educator, as a podcaster and as an artist. Yeah, well just the fact that that is so rich and so multifaceted, I think underpins the point that I made, you know, when we were re acquainting there in the intro about the breadth of thought, the depth of experience that you've touched so many things and they're right now there's someone whose walking on a walking path or sitting in traffic in their car listening to this and they're saying that sounds like a dream. There are creative all over the world who have been told that you have to focus, focus, focus, focus in order to be able to be recognized in your field. And you know, if the longtime listeners here know that I have a prescription for this, but I'm dying to know how you are. Would advise or answer that question. Debbie, I want to do everything. I want to wake up and be a watercolour artist one day and an author of the next day and I want to run my brand agency and I want to do all these different things. And you know, the reality is that that there are a handful of people in the world who do that. I think there there may be more but a direct question, what's the advice that you give to somebody who wants to do that? Whether there, you know, wherever they are in their career, because that sounds what you just described. Sounds like the pen ultimate role in society, right? Only take the coolest projects and work with amazing people and touch everything. So help us figure it out. I am going to be 60 next month. So, that's that's not true. I can't be true. Can't be true. People can see some of the people who are not listening can see you and then you can't believe it. It's not yet. So it takes a long time. That's that's the easy answer and be patient. But what I can say is that the first From when I graduated college in 1983 to 1995, when I got my job at sterling brands, That was 12 years of what I now call experiments in rejection and failure. They were really tough. I had all these interests, didn't know where to put my energy was told on one of my first big interviews at Conde Nast of all places that I had to pick one I've written about that in look both ways. One of my books of illustrated essays, but I had never been able to pick one. I was even in high school and college was always running around doing lots of different things that all blurred into each other and I wanted to live my life that way, but just didn't know how so what I can say to anybody that's listening that is interested in doing, having multiple paths, The one watch out is if you do believe as I do that, it takes about 10,000 hours to really achieve some level of mastery, that the more you spread out those hours in different paths, the longer it's going to take for you to achieve mastery and any one of them if you are able to at all. So I attribute a lot of my sort of later in life success because of that, because I wanted to write, because I wanted to illustrate because I wanted to teach because I wanted to have a corporate career, all of these things meant that every single one of those things was going to take longer to really happen, quote unquote. So that's what I would tell people. But I would also, I'm going to quote David Lee Roth, who I interviewed two years ago on the podcast Because I was at that we're at burning, remember that. I don't know if you remember this chase hanging out, but one of the things he said is maybe one of the most profound things that anyone has ever said in any podcast I've done and I've done close to 500 at this point. So we were talking about what it felt like in 1984, so one year after I graduated college to have the biggest album on the planet, the biggest videos on the planet, the biggest tours on the planet to be like the god of sex drugs and rock and roll. And I asked him, how did it feel like to be the most popular dude on the planet, which in undeniably he was, and he paused and I'll paraphrase what he said, but essentially he said, when you get to the top of the tallest mountain, the tippy tippy, top of the tallest mountain that exists, you're almost always alone. It's always cold. And there's one direction. And what that told me in that moment was pace yourself, pace yourself. I don't want to peek, I don't want to peek now at 60, I wouldn't have wanted to peek in my 40s or 50s. I'd like to think I'd like to hope that I could peak the day before I die. I don't want to thank ever that my best work is behind me. And so the longer it takes, my feeling is, the longer it will last, the more you can build a career that has Multiple meanings in multiple paths, but at your own pace, the problem in society today is because of social media, everybody's comparing, you know, there's only so many people that are going to make it big at 30. I was definitely not one of them. Um thinking back on it now, of course it's easy in hindsight, like I would not have wanted to, first of all, I couldn't have handled it. Second of all, Where would that mean? When I was 40? I would hate to think that my best work is behind me. I always hope that I can do better the next day. Mm That is definitely I've asked that question of many people and that's the most eloquent answer I have heard, comparing your uh, impression of what David lee Roth said that it resonates deeply with me because this idea of mastery, of course I advocate mastery in one area and that won't know, you don't, you're, you're an entrepreneur, you're a photographer, you're an artist, you're an investor. I mean, please, you're, you're the epitome of a polymath. But the journey there, as you mentioned, it could be spread out over many things that you're doing that will take you Later in life to achieve mastery in one, if not more or there's this a focus and an application or whatever what I personally appreciate about the focus and the uh, and the application in a primary discipline is that that actually allows you to taste mastery and then once you've tasted master you start to understand and be able to deconstruct what mastery looks like in other areas. So there's like in our, our dear friend tim Ferriss is a legendary at that, right, deconstructing um uh, all kinds of different disciplines from salsa dancing too? You know, writing books and beyond. So yours though this idea of you can either go, you know, narrow or broad and long, I think that's a fascinating way for someone at that same person who's sitting in traffic listening to this right now, you ought to think of that. And there are, it's true, there are no, there's not one path, but I would like to understand um are also mutual friend Burn A brown who's been, obviously we can talk about her, she's a superhero, so close to both of our heart. Yeah, so she talks about a thing called gold plated grit and what she means by that to paraphrase is we're able to talk about the hard things in life, but we really just say, oh gosh, that was such a hard time. And then we pivot a nanosecond later too. But here I am on the cover of the magazine or launching my new book or, and to in service of avoiding the gold plated, Great, you mentioned something earlier about experiments in failure and rejection. I'm hoping we can spend a little bit of time there because for anyone watching listening right now, you're on top of the world, launching your sixth or seventh book and you know, achieving heights in all these different disciplines. There have been hard parts and in order to avoid gold plating them talk us through some of those hard parts, Was it, was it personal? Was it professional? Was it both what you know and now having mastered so many things and you look back are there patterns that you could share with anyone who's listening? Well, of course I can't talk about my history without referencing tim tim Ferriss our friend because he and I have talked very candidly about our early childhood experiences that still impact us to this day. Part of the reason I think that Those 1st 12 years of my professional career were so difficult was because I didn't know who I was. I didn't understand my value. I didn't understand what I could contribute. I suffered from extreme self loathing. Um, was depressed a lot of the time. Um, because the first 18 or so years of my life before I went to college were what I call the dark years of the black ears. Um, I grew up in a very challenging manner. My parents between them are married six times different people. They never remarried each other. Um, after my parents got divorced, I was in 5th grade when that happened, my mother quickly, we married a man who was brutally abusive to me and other family members. In my case, he was physically emotionally and sexually abusive for many years and told me that if I told anybody he would kill my brother and I believed him. He was a very big strong dude and had been a boxer and his previous wife had died. So I wasn't entirely sure like how she died. And so I really believed him and so I spent four years of my life wearing as many pairs of pajamas as I could put on before I went to sleep so that it would take him longer to get to me. Um and in constant her for for my life and my brother's life. And after they got divorced, my mother got involved with another person who was um also verbally and mentally abusive, essentially abusive in a different way, not so much physically but verbally. And he and my brother didn't get along at all. And at that point my brother just decided I can't take this anymore and went to live with my father. And so it was just me, my mother and this other dude for a long time. So I got away as fast as I possibly could was 18 years old, went to college, never looked back and um started college wanting so much but not knowing how to get anything, you know, not knowing how to ask for things, not knowing how to put myself in a position of risk or experiment. I was so terrified all the time. And my lead jean at that point and even the first I would say 20 years of my career wasn't even artistic achievement, it was self sufficiency mai lee jean was being able to take care of myself and that's what drove a lot of my ambition and that's also what drove my going into a corporate career. I remember in the summer of 1983 thinking what am I going to do, which path am I going to take? Am I going to be a fine artist? Am I going to be a commercial artist? I want to live in Manhattan, I wanted to take care of myself. So I chose a path of commercial art in an effort to be able to take care of myself and know that I could be secure. And that was the most important thing to me Through my early 30s. And it was only when I finally could Pretty reliably take care of myself that I started to realize just how unhappy I was and at 30 went into therapy and that changed my life and I've been doing that ever since. So with the same therapist, you know, there's like a world record happening here I think um and I've talked again a lot about this with tim because there's so many different paths that one could take for healing, whether it be um medicinal, whether it could be spiritual, whether it could be psychological tim. And I talked quite a lot about that on his podcast because while we are so simpatico in so many ways emotionally, we've taken very different paths to arrive at where we are in our lives right now. Okay, the healing converse, the conversation you two had about healing. um of course you, there's a handful of friends that you shared with internally that you guys were going to do this and I felt very grateful to be um aware that you you were doing that work together and that was one of the most powerful podcasts I've ever listened to uh for anyone who is listening now, you you're gonna wanna go check that out. Um the role of childhood trauma. I think that's a really important connection that having icons like yourself share that very publicly. That that is a not just a thing that happened. It's a process that you have worked at least half of your adult life to to heal from, but I do have to say excuse me for interrupting because I don't want to interrupt you, but this is a really important thing to acknowledge. I don't know if I would have had the courage, the balls, whatever you call it, to actually disclose to the world that this had been part of my history. Not that I was ever interested in gold covered grit, because I talked very freely about how difficult the early years of my career were and I've been doing that for a long time mostly because I want people to understand that they don't have to give up if they don't make it to Forbes under 30 at 30. Yeah, but when tim interviewed me the first time, because I had already been working for the joyful Heart Foundation with mariska and on the no more movement, he very astutely asked me something that no one else had ever asked and of course it happened to be on the world's most popular podcast and you know, he said I noticed on the Joyful Heart Foundation website that you say your work there makes your life makes sense how come. And I had no idea that question was coming. Chase tim doesn't give me the questions ahead of time. He didn't say play the way can we talk about this? It was just like, you know, he didn't even know really what I was going to say and in that instant I remember it's like my whole life passed before my eyes and I was okay, this is this is my friend Tim and this is like the biggest podcast in the world, so should I make up a story on the spot, which because he's a really smart dude, he's probably going to know. So I just like took the step into the unknown and and shared with him why it made my life makes sense to do this really important work. And after that the shame was gone after that I had so much inner shame, so much inner self loathing about ever having anyone know about this, it was always such a big deal to tell someone and then have to worry about pity and just the notion of somebody feeling sorry for me or being seen as a victim or being seen as hopeless or helpless. All of those things disappeared. And it was suddenly this happened kind of happens to one in three women, one in six dudes. So maybe it's important to share and it's one of the most important things that I've done and I thanked him for that because I don't think had he not asked me that question, I don't think I ever would have been public about it at all. I remember listening to that episode and again when you shared it with a handful of your friends before going public with that episode, I was able to I went really listened to two previous interviews, one where I was on your podcast design Matters and another where you were on my podcast and you had talked in great detail about this process as a young person trying to make it in new york and doing all these things and not being, not having a direction and you know it's incredible. I just got chills when you describe that now as you didn't have an answer to the question why did you, why did that help your life make sense? And to me, I I it all made sense to me to hear, you know why we have attacked or why in this case you have attached um you know the different experiences of your life, you know, either correctly or incorrectly or as a mechanism for coping is that's what all this is about really is that that's your body in your world's ability to protect yourself and how that plays out in your life. I would like to understand and take this in a direction of how did that? Because as you said, one in three women, one in six men have experienced this. So that's a big chunk of the listeners right now and I'm wondering clearly there is all kinds of work and you specified different modalities for you and tim and lots of other folks, how do you feel like this contributed positive? Frankly, I'm not interested in value judgment here, but how did it contribute? Two who you are today, The success that you've had in relationships with your you know now a few years in love with Roxanne gaye and obvious you know, huge commercial and professional success is it is, can you tie those things together? Well I sort of have to, yeah, I sort of have to because it's all one life. I think that a lot of my drive and need for achievement came from profound self loathing. So if I could succeed at this or if I could prove myself like that, then I'm worth something, then I'm worthy of being alive then I deserve to be here and to some extent I still think that's true, these things just don't disappear. Well maybe they do, but they haven't for me um I still find myself conflicted in, in in that way very often, and Roxanne is said to me recently, every time you raise the bar and reach it, you then raise up a little higher, can never just relax. And that's very true. It is very true. Um Still working on that, hope to be able to get over that before I die. Um So a lot of that early drive came from trying to be safe, trying to be secured, trying to I feel like I mattered in some way, but I was also profoundly afraid of revealing who I was certainly about my childhood trauma and then my growing suspicion. I don't even know if that's the right word, my growing inclination or my growing acceptance, that's the word, my growing acceptance. Um that I was a gay woman. I was married to men in my twenties and my thirties. I had two marriages, one from the time I was 27-30, and then another in my late thirties. So I married one marriage in my twenties, one marriage in my thirties, and I remember when I hit 50 I was like, I did it, I made it through my forties without getting edged again and never ever thought and was very vocal about the fact that I never thought I was going to get married again, that I had no interest in getting married again. Um It didn't help that I had to pay alimony to the second husband, but whatever, little snarky. Um and then when I fell in love with a woman for the first time with Maria sharapova, she was like, I'm out and proud, I'm not going to be involved with a woman who's not interested in being out. And so I came out, I came out when I was 50 years old and Marie and I were together for five years, we're still very close friends and um everything in my life changed from there, everything um it was really hard for me to come out to everybody that I knew, I was worried that I'd be judged, had a lot of my own inner homophobia, I also was so worried about being so damaged from my early childhood trauma that this would further make me like, damaged goods, that I was just not worthy of being alive. And again, a lot of inner homophobia that I've since gotten over and really truly understand why the word pride is used, I didn't understand that before, and now I do, and um after after Marie and I broke up, I went on a sort of self imposed solo life, you know, I had gone from relationship to relationship to relationship. I I joked, I think on Bearnaise podcast about how my love life, I was like, I operated my love life like a taxi driver and I drive around with an available sign, somebody would help me, they get in. I drive around with them for a while, they'd asked to get out and then I put the sign back on again and pick up the next person. I had very little agency in choosing people, I was always afraid of rejection and I just waited for people to approach me. But when, after, after two years on my own, I aggressively went after Roxanne and so that was a very big turning point for me to go after what I wanted and that was one of the most significant things I've ever done. Put myself in a position where somebody could say yea or nay and thankfully they said yeah, well I find it just so beautiful, inspirational, insightful that you were able to go after things that you wanted professionally, you know, to get the job to get the, the gig is a desire to be the corporate boss to do all these things and then, but on a personal side you, you know pitch yourself as a taxi and to, to shift to shift gears um it's just so courageous and beautiful and inspiring. Um so thank you for being such an incredible example and again, the relationship between who we are and the work that we do to put out in the world again, you can really only connect the dots looking backwards and it's just so powerful to see all of the work out in the world and knowing now what you were managing um personally in those those years is um it's very inspirational. So thank you for being as vocal and vulnerable and um present as you've been through all this stuff. It's an inspiration to me and obviously thousands if not millions of others. Well, you've been a really good friend to me and I appreciate that a lot. Is this the same good friend that took you out to Sushi and then forgot his wallet? Believe that that's the least of my worries. I'm the girl that played alimony. Remember a true story. What's the name of that name in that restaurant? Wasn't Patti smith there that night with re fine, Patti smith was there? Patti smith was there and only the table. What's the artist with the, with the fabric christo christo? Yeah. Christo, Yes, yeah. As a classic new york. It's like celebrities surrounding everywhere. That was, that's Patti smith. That's actually Patti smith uh here that her book is incredible. Just kids there. It's such a, such an amazing book. Um so speaking of books, uh we got to go back because again, the work that you put into that was uh is genius. And I'm curious about creative process. You know, there's and there's 100 different vectors on which I could ask you about your creative process and all these different mediums. What was the process for creating the book, Why Design matters, conversations with the world's most creative people. It was really hard because I've had a lot of amazing conversations with people on on the podcast. Um I knew that I had a limit to how big the book could be. Um initially the book was supposed to be 70,000 words. If I looked at it once I transcribed more of the Say podcasts I've done in the last five years. Each one is about 10,000 words. So I had to include more than seven podcast, seven interviews. So I had 200 interviews transcript and then I had to read them all to see if they were ever green. So what I mean by Evergreen is that they weren't specifically about one initiative or one book or one performance. It was really the arc of a life and talking about my guests creative process or obstacles or journey to making whatever they make. So I felt like there needed to be something in each interview that that last passed the test of time, then I needed to make sure that they could be condensed. So some of the interviews that were 10, words, the one that you and I did for example, there was nothing I could cut out of that that would allow it to live on its own as an interview. That made sense. You know, your life was we talked so deeply and so that now we'll live in a separate online version where there's a lot more content available. Although you do, you are represented in the book by a full page typographic quote of course. But in some cases it was really difficult, Stefan sack. Mr another great interview, profound interview. Couldn't cut it down, eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, couldn't cut it down. Just taking the anything out. It was all muscle, there was no fact. So that was a really difficult process. So, I only had I ended up having room for about 58 interviews. The criteria from my editor was no more than 4000 words. That was so hard. And then I had to find photography that also would have one connective tissue. It was easy to find great photography that was stylistically defendable. Oh, noble to the photographer, Annie Liebowitz for example, like, but there was no way for that photography to work in an arc alongside other photographers. So, the criteria for the photography was also, photography needs to have soul, I need to see the soul of the person in their eyes and they could be close ups, they could be portraits, they no matter what they are, as long as their sole then that's that's really what I was looking for. And then they also had to be beautiful. So, a couple of people that I interviewed, I just couldn't get that I wanted in the book. Couldn't get great photography. So then they didn't make it in unfortunately. And then there were some people whose interviews were so wonderful that I had to find, I had to literally find better photography because whatever they gave me, I couldn't use Oliver jeffers ended up at the very last minute doing a whole photo shoot just for me so that I could get a photograph that would work in the book. Thank you Oliver. I found finally found a photograph of Elizabeth alexander that represented her beauty in a way that I felt was necessary. So that was also a big challenge. And then, you know, everything else, just the whole nature of putting together a book. Oh the first, the first designer that I worked with, my dear friend paul, say, or quit, because working with harper Collins was too difficult and he decided you know what, he had already quit on steely dan, So quitting on Debbie Millman was not going to be that hard. Um it was a really challenging process and then my agent charlotte Sheedy recommended that I asked Alex Kalman who I knew because of Maira Kalman and because Tibor Kalman Was one of my personal heroes in the 80s and 90s and helped me make some really big decisions about the direction I wanted to take my life. In so then suddenly to be working with Alex, Kalman. whose parents helped create me, that was incredible and Alex just knocked it out of the park for me, he did a beautiful, beautiful job and put up with every little nudge e thing I wanted, Can you what if we try this? Let's how about we make 68 individual scribbles to end each chapter. It was like he was willing to try anything for me. Well I think it's pretty uh I think a lot of the world, a lot of the people in your life would do anything for you. Maybe Debbie Beach. So charming and freaking awesome. Uh I just want to mention a short list of people who are in this book. Uh creative minds like Laurie Anderson Burn a brown Shepard, Fairey, tim Ferriss, Malcolm, Gladwell Glacier, ira, Glass Seth, Godin, uh steven, Heller and Lamont. Alumina, um Marilyn, minter, Amanda, Palmer, Preah parker Esther Perel Maria papo. I mean the list goes on our different Brandon standard list of epic minds is, it's a incredible, truly, truly a gathering of visionary folks. So this is my personal plug to say if um this is a a personal request from me. If you see yourself as a creative entrepreneur or someone who is, was I called creative curious. Please pick up this book. It is a stunner. Um in the same way that when you were interviewing people as a part of your creative process, you'd like to talk about things that were beyond that were timeless. I do believe the book would be timeless. But these concepts that you have talked about the, you know, your experience uh as a young person um in a tough environment, your experience as an adult. Um finding your way in the world being performance oriented because of trying to define ourselves with self worth. There's all kinds of huge huge themes. Um one that also stands out to me is leadership. Um Part of my experience of leadership is um someone who shines the light back on others and there's never been a single time we've gotten together where you haven't made me feel so special to be in your presence and I'm wondering I'll use that as an example. But what are some of the other characteristics that you feel that you are aware of about yourself that have made you such uh powerful voice, a powerful leader in the creative world? It's an excellent question really hard. I think I'd have to go back to being taught by Milton Glaser Who was my teacher in 2005 at S. P. A. And one of the big things that he taught us was that if you see the universe as a as a as a universe of abundance it will be and if you see the universe as a world of scarcity it will be. And he felt that there was enough to go around and we had to share. And then if we hold onto our own stuff tightly that that's when you get consumed by it. And I've really taken that to heart. Um I find that any time that I've been generous, it's always something that I feel really good about and whenever I've been petty or stingy or jealous, I feel ashamed. And so that's just one of the ways that I try to manage my life. Now, if you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, you have managed to spend some time with some incredible, incredible people. Um, you attract these people into your life as I like to think of. Um, is there anything, is there a consciousness conscious awareness of choosing who you spend time with? Um, Covid has made that a little bit easier. One thing that I did realize pre code, One thing that I did realize during Covid was how much of my life was organized around not disappointing people and not letting them down or getting them upset with me for not doing something that didn't really want to do that they wanted me to do. Um, and the freedom not to have to do that is something I'm searching for because I still am a people pleaser and never want to rock the boat. Never wanted to have conflict. And so that's something that I'm much more cognizant of now. All that being said, it was kind of blissful just spending The last 18 months with Roxanne, thankfully we've remained healthy. I'm very grateful that we have been safe. And during the riots that we experienced last year, there were times when I was really worried for Roxanne safety. Um, I still worry because just driving well black could get you killed. And I've also learned a lot and I've witnessed a lot about and of racism. That's something that I think a lot more about now, which is necessary. But, but having that time with her, you know, initially because we didn't live together before Covid people were like, how you guys doing really worried that now that we were living together, the truth was going to come out and we were going to realize how much we hated each other when in fact the opposite really happened. We just realized how can that ridiculously compatible we are. There's really something quite wonderful about being married to someone that likes to watch the exact same television reruns that you do ad infinitum. There's something and you also have you also got some new furry friends in the family and it's not a secret on the internet that in addition to be one of the best writers in this generation, Roxanne is also a total badass cook. Following her instagram is just, oh my gosh, I'm like gosh, Debbie gets to eat that every day. It's so good. Yeah, she's an amazing, I enjoy it. And now she's an amazing dog mama. She was never, she was definitely afraid of dogs before me and took a chance on getting a little little monkey, little furry monkey. And now we have max the wonder dog. Yeah. Uh, and he is featured uh beautifully featured in both of your social feeds and he is very handsome, very handsome gent um on these other large topics that um I think you have, whether intentionally or otherwise been able to, to get to ground um on a very large scale again, talking so openly and so vulnerably about um so many different things. And I'm wondering if you have a, if you see yourself in a new chapter and if so, what are some of the phrases or ideas or parameters that are defining this like the word season better than chapter, but this season of your life and I'm wondering if you could share your thoughts on that. Oh jeez, you're gonna such questions. Um hey, I've been interviewed, I take it back, take it back. Well, I think one thing that I've recognized is that I'm happiest when I'm making things like in the actual process of making, once I'm done making not so interested. So it's the process of making something that I find so life affirming and you know, it could be a lesson plan, could be a book, could be a podcast. I just love making something from nothing. There's something magical about that process that I've come to really move here and and see as a gift. So I try to do that as much as I can. I mean it's scary to turn 60. I do have to say like, whoa, time is running out. I remember when my aunt IDa was 60 and I was always so concerned about why she always had stuff on her teeth and I'm really worried that that's what I'm going to turn into. So I become a floss aholic. But I am consumed by the idea of if not now, when what does it mean to live a full life? When do you feel like it's full enough and to have that constant beam running through your life now because everything becomes more urgent and everything that is an urgent becomes unimportant. And so I'm in the process now in this I guess new season um of starting to think more about the urgency of what I do and what I don't do that I'm I'm connecting dots and these are my words not yours. But that's it seems to be to be related to the there's just you've created such an orbit on this urgency that if not now when I mean just your marriage to Roxanne. Um I mean Gloria steinem married you to well no, she didn't because we didn't, she agreed to marry but because we eloped. Yeah, she agreed. Can you believe that we had an opportunity to be married by Gloria steinem instead we went to a place in la and Encino called instant wedding dot com L. A. With two of our Dearest friends and our Family on facetime. But see that's actually a better story now in a weird way the juxtaposition of those series. That's that's what I mean like this this this and even sort of what's pregnant in that concept that you just mentioned is exactly what I'm talking about, right? If not now, when we could be, you know, we could do this thing which was is legendary or we can do this other thing, which in a way is is more legendary. So it's just it's fun, you know, being a friend of yours and watching this season of your life be so rich. Um and to see it poured out in your work in the book. Um I wanna shift our attention if we can to an area where I think you are um able to be expressly helpful to people and that's one of the missions and visions of this show, is to help people find their calling in life and pursue that with vigor and inspired passionate way. Um and stems indirectly from you did a class at Creativelive called a Brand called You, which if you haven't, you know, if you're listening again, you haven't checked it out and your subscriber, you ought to, it's incredible. Uh I'm wondering this it that's kind of as I zoom out on the things that the orbit here of my notes of what I wanted to talk to you today. It is very much about a life well lived, it's about finding yourself, losing yourself. You know, there's all these, its life with the capital L and art with a capital, a creativity, the capital C in many ways that is if I had to sum up your life, I feel like those are some of the concepts that I would try and put my arms around which are big and here you are teaching other people too, be able to brand themselves to position themselves. And you've talked about it in largely in the professional sense because it was a cross on class on creative live, but I feel like there's a bigger narrative there. I'm wondering if as you hit this season, this new stride or this new season of life as we're referring to it, would you change anything from the way you have taught or is there a are there what's the lens that you would coach people? Because again, people right now are like, oh my God, what an incredible soul. I can feel it just oozing out of this woman, I want some of that. And, you know, from a very practical standpoint, from a coaching standpoint of teaching. Again, I'm referring to your classic creative life, but here that if we could do a little addendum to that, people want some of this, how what would you say to them? What are you, could you steer them towards the well, the name of that class and I also teach a class with the same name at school of Visual Arts, to my students, is a brand called View, which is a riff on tom Peters book and his 1995 I think fast company cover story called the brand called you, which kind of changed the game. But I don't know that I make it clear enough in my creative live class that there's a sort of tongue in cheekiness to that title. And I want to help people create better ways of finding their path in that class and defending their ideas, presenting who they are. But I do have to say. And this is the big a dent. Um, and maybe it needs to be refreshed for the class. I have a really big distinction now in what it means to brand yourself versus renting a product. And a lot of it comes from the research that I've done in the last five years in understanding how much humans manufacture meaning. And we thank manufacturer meaning through symbols, through artifacts, through objects. We've been doing that on this planet for about 10, years. We started creating a way to articulate our view of reality and record our experiences on the caves of less cow 10,000 years ago. We started to create marks to signify our beliefs. They didn't have a. P. And L. Associated with them. They didn't have a return on investment that was expected by shareholders. But these marks allowed us to tell a graphically communicate our beliefs in a way that allowed others that we're seeing them to believe that we were all part of the same tribe literally. And figuratively, we were able to telegraph that communication in an effort to be safe in an effort to feel part of something bigger than we were on our own. We've been doing that ever since in a more and more and more and more sophisticated manner. There's really no difference in the way that we've created religious symbols and communicated those across the planet and created consensus through those marks and behaviors and rituals. And then in how we create behaviors and rituals using the Nike logo, there's no difference. The common denominator in both or all is that they're manufactured. They're not alive. You don't birth them. You don't in the traditional sense, in a very literal traditional sense, they don't bleed. They don't have a soul, a real living soul, They don't breathe. Okay, so there's a big difference between a brand and a person. People can own brands. They can market brands, they can create brands, but to see oneself as a brand freezes you in time, you become a slave to that identity. Humans are messy. We lie, we evolved, we cry, we celebrate, we do all sorts of things that brands could should and never try and never will be able to. So rather than grow your brand, which is a manufactured entity. I suggest that you work on growing your reputation and your character and then all of those other things that you want in terms of awareness in terms of acknowledgement, Those things come from, that people know that brands are manufactured entities? The last thing? I think personal brand is an oxymoron because brands aren't personal. You can project your personality into them, but they're never going to give you anything back because they're not alive and we are. And so I suggest for anybody that's looking to build a brand concentrate first and foremost on your character, concentrated on your reputation, concentrate on the mastery of what you're making and then everything else comes from there. I'll get off my soapbox, that's the best set box you stand on that thing and shout as long and as loud as you can because that was absolutely beautiful and I can't think of a better way to end our conversation as much as I could talk to you, dear friend for another infinite number of hours. I'm that is absolutely a beautiful sentiment. It's um one of the most applicable pieces of advice this I think ever on the show. So thank you very, very much, congrats on the book. Again, Why Design Matters conversations with the world's most creative people. Uh this show will drop the same week, It is out, this is available under its just go to your indie bookstore or amazon online whenever you get your books and um congratulations. It's a stunner and thanks for being on the show. Thank you. I love you. I miss you. I want to be in the same room, I want to be in the same room. Crazy. When are we going to be able to do that again? Um, Thanks until next time. Is there anywhere else you'd like to steer people and their energy around the work that you're doing? I know the book is the, is uh what we're excited to share today. But anything else where you just creative life? It's the best place. It's a great really. It really is such a great class. And uh the conversation with Roxanne is also over there. That is just a, it was such a Important and timely one. Thanks for sharing her with me early on in your, in your experience. And um, good luck with the documentary for those who don't know that if you're watching the show, there are some cameras that have been moving in the background and that's another example of this, all of the different vectors you've got going on. Congratulations friend. I'm so happy to celebrate you and your moment. Um, please give my best to Roxanne and signing off until the next time we get to be together again. I bid you and everyone else out there on the internet in the world. I bid you all that you Thank you. Chase. Thank you. Yeah, Yeah, yeah.