As told to Landry Allred
I was a competitive gymnast for the first half of my life. Standing on a four-inch-wide balance beam, in front of hundreds of people doing backflips — that’ll teach you how to be tough.
Many things have helped me to the place I am now, but I think it is that tough skin and competitiveness that are mostly responsible.
I was born in Connecticut but grew up in the Illinois suburbs, 45 minutes outside of Chicago. I grew up in a super creative family, so I knew I wanted to do something creative. My mom is an interior designer, my dad owns three businesses, my aunt was a creative writer and my grandpa was an art director.
My sophomore year of high school, I took an advertising class and our first project was to make an ad for a juice brand and shoot a movie trailer. We got this movie trailer in my backyard on a little digital camera, designed a cereal box, and I fell in love with advertising. I felt, “This is actually a fun way to make art and money.”
It was the best of both worlds — business and art.
I'm the first child, so my parents went way over the top with college applications. I applied to 10 schools and ended up getting into UT Austin and a couple others, but UT is one of the only schools that had a creative advertising portfolio program as an undergrad.
When I started Texas Creative, our first assignment was to pick a brand. We had to do our Sharpie drawings, and I came into the next class nervous to present and put them on the wall. Everyone walked around, and it was cool to see some people wrote a bunch of words. Mine was 99% pictures.
I started to find it fascinating that people’s brains work differently.
This industry is not easy. Everyone is trying to come up with the smartest, silliest, most fun or most emotional idea. Competitiveness inspires such a creative environment. Part of being competitive is looking for the right opportunities.
I always wanted to do the best work, and sometimes it's a sacrifice. The reason I learned so much is because of the effort my copywriting partner put in raising our hand and asking to be a part of things. Alternatively, there were people who wanted to go home at 5:30 every day. They didn't want to bring the midnight oil, and I don't blame them. Everyone has a different mentality, but we have that more competitive mentality.
I don’t know what my next big move is yet, but I think it’ll be less learning about the industry and more learning about myself and what I’m capable of as a leader.
This is hard work — for sure — but in general, I think it's about learning how to be a leader and leading with that fearless attitude.