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Creative Mornings: Ben Chestnut

I recently started attending Creative Mornings a breakfast lecture series for creatives around the world, with a Chapter run by Creative Director, Nate Spees, here in San Diego. It was held in the Moniker Building of the East Village, a section of our city known for its growing arts community (think Williamsburg circa 2006). Immediately I was in awe of what I saw happening. Coming from Brooklyn I had grown quite used to seeing artists everywhere. It was an inherent part of moving to Brooklyn, to pursue your passion or at least spend time with artist types. Until my attendance at Creative Mornings I had no idea such a large amount of artists lived in San Diego. It was as if they all came out of hiding and rapidly created a line that wrapped around the block, and being Halloween was filled with costumes from Kermit the Frog to a Randy Macho Man Savage. 

The lecture I attended was that of Dane Danner of Consortium Holdings who provided talk revolved around the idea of SHOCK and how a shocking moment in life, particulary as a child, can resonate with you as an adult and how he used these moments to form a career.

My favorite new part of Creative Mornings however is access to the podcast series it provides, which captures some of the greatest talk from across the globe and provides it in a clean, easy to digest package online and on Itunes (find it here http://creativemornings.com/podcast)

The episode I would love to Reference is from Mail Chimps CEO Ben Chestnut and his concept of management in the creative field, something I've always been interested in especially after reading Laszlo Bock's, Work Rules and Eric Schmidt's How Google Works. Creatives undoubtedly work different than other positions and to understand the creative and empower them often proves to be the critical driving force behind successful companys. With Mr. Chestnut being a creative individual himself I think this further helped prove his theory on creative management. Its almost like you need to think like a creative to manage one...

I highly encourage those of you in a management position in a creative organizaton to listen to the entire podcast, found here http://creativemornings.com/podcast/episodes/ben-chestnut 

But just in case you dont have the time I jotted down a few of the major points I believe Eric was trying to drive home. 

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You have to set up a business to take advantage of generating creativity. Heres a scenario.

The entrepreneur starts a business and the business grow to success. Things go wrong when that original entrepreneur (the creative) steps out of the position and delegates (or hands off) the business to an unsuspecting manager without the original vision. 

"Before you know it your whole company is thinking like managers. You're not all managers but you are all thinking like managers. Defending the money machine you made 10 years ago.
No one is making new machines, no one is looking to improve it, you are just defending. Even worse the creative people at the bottom, the assume the only way to move up is to become a manager or think like a manager. Thats where things really start to end. To much order is really horrible. You have to balance it out with disorder and chaos."

From here Mr. Chesnut relates this to physics and entropy, the study of waste and disorder, stating the nature loves chaos.

"Lets say you have a nice orderly studio, but once you let humans in they are going to turn it into a pigsty. But managers hate disorder, its inefficient, it ruins their sorting and if they had their way entropy would be 0. No chaos=no work no output. No pigsty=no pigs, no pigs, no bacon. CHAOS is good! My job as a manager is to find ways to create chaos." 

An example of how Chestnut does this is to let innovation happen. Avoid meetings, let people create. What he does is find out what people are working on and how he can make those little pieces fit together. 

If you are in a management position for a creative company or a creative or really just anyone who may need to take the lead I think this way of thinking is incredibly applicable. In our modern world I think the new generations are quick to look at how things are down and try to improve it. If something is not working this generation is not afraid to voice their opinion, work to change it, and increase productivity as a result. Its just up to the managers to free themselves of their preconceived notions on management and learn to work together with the creative in symbiosis. 

Thats where the real magic happens. 

Alex 

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Everything is an Opportunity (If you choose to see it so)

WHEW!

This past month has been a whirl wind of experiences and opportunities.

From a family wedding trip gone solo vacation to New York City which lead me back into the offices of IMG Models and NEXT Models, allowing me to absorb information from the fashion and photography industries top leaders, to photographing for major clients, to stepping foot back into the classroom, to growing in demand for my work in the San Diego region, its been a hell of a month --  and yet amidst all the chaos I can surely say that I am enjoying every minute of it!

I'd love to share a personal reflection and what I was able to take away from these experiences, as to further elaborate my perspective to viewers drawn to my site to showcase who I am and why I do what I do. I hope that I can inspire you with these stories and provide some insight at the same time. 

I believe the best photographer isn't in who has the best camera, or the best photoshop skills, but the person who truly sees life differently and I hope in some way my writing helps accompany my visual point of view.

Arrive:

New York City. Big city of dreams. I first arrived in NYC at the age of 22 geared up to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Full of dreams, but no idea what they were. Still to this day I have my own qualms with attending Graduate school as early as I did, but at the same time I think it is a necessary part of who I am today, my beliefs, and my experiences. My department of Digital Arts focussed more on the philosophical aspect of art from a Fine Art perspective rather than the commercial art field I went on to work in. Which is why I feel my photography is unique. Because in my mind each piece is a work of art, not a photograph.

I worked my ass off, quickly executing class projects while interning and working for some of the photo industries largest players. Beginning at Art Partner (owned by Giovanni Testino, brother of Mario Testino) , I worked my way from lowly intern to capable producer, leveraging myself onset whenever I could with famed photographers like Terry Richardson. From here to Art and Commerce with the PRODn team with Steven Meisel and IMG Models working under VP David Cunningham

Me with my former boss, mentor, and all around good guy, David Cunningham, VP of IMG Models. David has always been there to lend me advice, a helping hand, and a push to strive for perfection.’

 Despite an amazing opportunity my inner creative longed to be on the forefront rather than the backend and I left to pursue new opportunities back to my native west coast of San Diego, California. I risked it all in this pursuit, with no job lined up, no major plan. Just listening to myself.

Leaving NYC was a hard and complicated decision, but I ultimately new it meant starting again. Something as an artist I have never feared and often embraced. I began work a teacher and creative strategist for a non profit called Outside the Lens with a mission I really believe in, helping get cameras and digital skills into the hands of those schools that otherwise would not be able to provide such an experience. The result has been humbling and taught me more than I think I could teach my students whom I am constantly learning from. 

Determined to create a unique lane for myself, I can not say that I am there. Or that I am a success. Or that I know where the road ends. And I am okay with that. Everyday I am a work in progress and learning and growing in the process. I'm a firm believer in connecting the dots. I think life is a pattern, all the tools are there, all the paths are provided, and its up to us to put them all together. I'm still piecing my puzzle together, but can already say its weaving together beautifully. 

Return

Upon my return I was able to do some reflecting and compose a list of four bullets that have helped me push forward in life and in business. Come back tomorrow and I will share ten bullets from a man far wiser than myself from a book titled, Made in America. 

Me with friend and mentor, Kyle Hagler, President of Next Models. Kyle has always been there for advice and providing the attitude if you want something go and get it. ‘you know who you are and what you are capable of, go and do it!” I hope everyone that reads my page can take away this attitude and think of the things you can accomplish!

1. Look at everything as an opportunity (work a shitty job? Find out what you can take away from the experience rather than focussing on the negative? Why does one item sell more than another? How does your attitude effect customer service. Be a sponge!

2. Understand you aren't hot shit...yet. And that there are people better than you. You may be confident and feel like you know everything there is to know, but that just isn't true. There are people more talented and more knowledgable than yourself. LEARN FROM THEM. BEFRIEND THEM. UNDERSTAND THEM. They will be able to provide you a wealth of knowledge and resources that helped them along the way. Look to them as mentors. 

3. Treat everyone with respect. This is a big one. Not even to advance but just in general. You never know what someone is going through, what they've been through. Life isn't fair and sure as hell isn't easy so this is just a good rule of thumb for life. For business don't burn your bridges. That person that you thought was a doofus at your last job, may go on to create the biggest business you've ever seen. Treat them with respect and maybe when you need advice he'll open up the door to you.

4. Stay ahead of the curve. Stay learning. You can never know to much. Is there a new technology coming out that will impact your industry. Learn it. Use it. Free class or webinar you can attend? Go! The people that fail to succeed also fail to adapt. Don't let that happen.

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you! Send over a comment and share what lessons you have learned along the way! Maybe we can all learn from eachother! 

Alex 

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Inside Out - A play on psychology, art, and aesthetics

Inside-Out-Marshmallow.jpg

I was vetoed by my girlfriend the other day to go see my movie of choice, Ant Man, for the new Disney Pixar film, Inside Out. As a huge fan of animation and Pixar in general my reluctancy was minimal and I my anticipation grew to relive my childhood glory days filled with inspirational films like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. 

Inside Out features the story of a young girl during a traumatic move from small town life in Minnesota to the big city (San Francisco) and told through the personification of her emotions i.e. anger, joy, sadness, disgust, and fear. It is the first film I've seen for kids that addresses the topic of depression and handles it brilliantly using the emotions to display the main characters reaction to the world and events happening and changing around her as well as dabbling in explaining how our long term and short term memory work.

Psychology Today article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-heroes-and-villains/201506/inside-out-emotional-truths-way-pixar

From an artists standpoint the film was magnificent. And not just for the dazzling display of effects we have all grown to love from Disney and Pixar, but for one scene in particular that crosses into an experimental territory for Pixar that I loved. As the characters head through the imagination section of the brain, their bodies are contorted to the different stages of abstract thought such as 2 dimensional and non figurative. Eventually the characters simply become lines running along the plain, a hilarious nod to artists and abstract theory. 

While in my opinion Inside Out dragged on a bit, overall I'd give it an A rating and a must see, especially for those interested in the workings of the mind and those looking for a lead in to the conversation of depression, especially with children.

Alex 

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Relearning Yourself - How photography and digital media changed my life

One of the most amazing parts of teaching is being constantly reminded why it is you do what you do.

As part of the Outside the Lens team, I am currently out of my traditional structured High School classroom element and over the past three weeks have been trekking throughout downtown La Jolla teaching multiple age ranges in multiple locations. The experience has had its challenges --lugging heavy equipment around in the San Diego summer heat, memorizing a new group of names and faces each week, balancing the brain from your high school vernacular and toning it down to your middle school speak --but nonetheless rewarding. It has proven to me that really in any circumstance as a teacher, no matter the type of student or the age range, that I can succeed and achieve rave reviews from students and parents. All this at the same time learning a completely new part of San Diego and finding a way to navigate through it (thank you NYC for conditioning me for this).This has lead me in some awesome spaces including the Coast Room of the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla and the La Jolla Historical Society. 

This summer I have been teaching a little of everything - The Big Picture ( aNature and Architectural Photography class, to Street Photography, to a new class I created called #Trending.  I have been able to collectively tap into the resources that inspired me as a youth, all the while learning to hone and perfect the craft myself. In the Big Picture it was the work of artists such as the famed Ansel Adams and Julius Schulman who inspired us me in films like Visual Acoustics where Schulman explains how elements like adding people to his work really helped it take off and showcase a time past. The trailer for Visual Acoustics below and the full movie can be found on Hulu for free at http://www.hulu.com/watch/678465 .

On the nature spectrum we visited the work of world renowned photographer, Peter Lik, and with the help of Krystal Lawler, the Gallery Director for the Peter Lik Gallery we were able to engage in our own personal tour of the collection.

As my work began in fashion and portraiture it was fun to become a tourist along with my students and document the sites here in San Diego. Heres a few shots I got that I really love. 

For Street Photography it was artists like Scott Schuman aka The Satorialist (whom I've had the opportunity to meet several times during NYFW with IMG Models) where I learned the principles and building blocks of my own website and ideology, the work behind starting your own website, the hours behind the scenes, and the laborious task of making sure you are sticking to the script EVERY day. Intels video for Mr. Schuman has always been a source of inspiration for myself as I began learning the fashion and street landscape so it was none other than imperative that I showed the clip.  

 

In #trending I was given the task of teaching the social media landscape to middle school students in a way that empowers them to create content and share, but with caution and with purpose. To question the students with things like filters for their photographs and challenge them to understand why we hashtag, if a filter is necessary or important to a photograph, and examine what items and elements make a video/photo successful via social media. For the answers I looked to brands that have dedicated themselves meticulously and with much success to their social efforts such as a formed company I had worked for like IMG models, and how they use the page to document of the moment information as well as the videos of Levi Maestro, a young entrepreneur I had the pleasure of meeting at Reed Space in New York City a few years ago. Levi also is a self made photographer/videographer who started from humble beginnings documenting moments with his friends which lead him to success in the digital field all through the promotion he put out there on platforms like vimeo, instagram, twitter etc. In this class I was able to put my extensive knowledge of social media marketing to the task with years of experience from both companies big and small, trial and error as an entrepreneur for my own sites and ideas, and studies from San Diego resources such as Immersive Youtha youth marketing agency that regular publishes tips and tricks to reach young audience viewership.

Levi and Alex circa 2012 at Reed Space

Levi and Alex circa 2012 at Reed Space

Learning new things is one of my favorite things to do. But there is something to be said about revisiting a topic you have already learned. It can make it feel new; feel fresh. For me, having the opportunity to relearn photography and media and disect it on the stage for each age group has been a learning experience for me as well. Passion, even the strongest kind, can fade. But only if you let it. The secret is to discover and remember and find new reasons why you love doing something everyday. Hell I think thats the secret to life. 

Tell everyone.

O ya and we had some fun in slowmo. Shout out to Hilary from Outside the Lens for the edit. 

P.S. Special thank you to Outside the Lens for giving me the opportunity to teach what I want in these amazing locations, to MCASD and the La Jolla Historical Society for allowing us to use your facilities and show the students why La Jolla is so amazing!

Alex 

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Social Media in Space

If your a space nerd like myself I'm certain your already aware of the social media upheaval that has emerged throughout Outer Space in the last few years. NASA and astronauts alike have take to the phenomenon expanding on our real time documentation is able to shorten our wait time and receive live viewing of our universe from the Cosmos. 

Over the past two weeks Astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, host of Star Talk radio and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, engaged in the conversation with the likes of twitter and social media in space calling in the likes of twitters own Biz Stone and Chris Hadfield to expand on the phenomenon.  

Link to Star Talk Radio episodes: 

The Impact of Twitter on Society with Boz Stone:

http://soundcloud.com/startalk/sets/podcasts

Social Media in Space with Chris Hadfield: 

http://www.startalkradio.net/share-our-podcast/

More with Neil can be found here: Star Talk 

Lastly, and a little of topic, but still in space theme I leave you with a bit from the Bombay Bicycle Club called Home By Now. With a Wes Anderson feel they have children reenact Stanley Kubrick's classic work, 2001 Space Odyssey.  

 


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Outside the Lens Blog Contributor

In addition to my writing contributions here on my own page I have also writing for the Outside the Lens blog page hosted on the website www.outsidethelens.org 

My most recent post can be viewed on the OTL website live here

 http://outsidethelens.org/post.php?s=2015-06-10-outside-the-lens-at-the-mcasd-25-and-under-exhibition

or simply viewing below. This month's article features the story of a true go getter and one of my students V, whose confidence and dedication is paying off, projecting him as the winner of the GUHSD Art Show and a finalist in the Museum of Contemporary San Diego art show! 

Outside the Lens at the MCASD 25 and Under Exhibition

 

By Alex Ingram, Outside the Lens Media Educator 

There is no greater feeling as a teacher than to see your students succeed in ways you could only dream of.

 

Over the past few weeks, several of my Outside the Lens students at Chaparral High School and I have been diligently working together to find new ways to get their work exposed. Whether it was for their recent exhibition, "Daydreamers", at the Outside the Lens Media Lab for which they created an Instagram page specifically for the exhibition's promotion (follow @daydreamers.otl), or applying to various gallery opportunities throughout the San Diego/Los Angeles region. 

 

Vince "V" Anelli next to his photograph, One Time, which was selected as a finalist in the MCASD 25 and Under Art Contest

One of my students in particular, named V, asked me how he could get his work out there, and of course I was up to the task! We began scouring the vast internet landscape plotting a list of shows and deadlines. Fortunately, V is a self starter and his tenacity to meet deadlines was impeccable. It's a refreshing to see a young person so motivated and knowledgeable seek his way into the art world, determine his place therein, and navigate through with ease. On the momentum of his past win at the Grossmmont Unified High School District Art Show (First Place) and his class exhibition, "Daydreamers", held at the Outside the Lens Media Lab + Gallery at Liberty Station, V was also ranked as a finalist at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego 25 and Under Art Contest held at the MCASD Downtown location. 

 

I was able to meet V at the MCASD show personally to congratulate him, document the work, and to support the budding artist. While he did not walk away with the win, he was not discouraged in the least and returned to class the following Monday, shooting and editing a self portrait and asking me the deadline for the Museum of Photographic Arts exhibition!

 

Interview with V on Soundcloud - LISTEN

Over the course of the two trimesters I've spent with V, I have come to know him not only as a student, but as a person. Never letting adversity stand in his way he holds his head high, proud, and confident as ever. It's a rare thing to witness someone truly develop into their own person, and I believe V is remarkably already doing what most of us only ever aspire to do - being himself and thriving in the process.

At Outside the Lens, we strive to empower all youth to find their voice and share their stories through photography and digital media.

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A Trip to the Moon

Netflix has recently added the 1902 classic film, A Trip to the Moon, to its roster and I have to say if you get a chance watch it, due so immediately. This short is nothing short of groundbreaking. The sheer way that is filmed has a cinematic quality that I feel rivals that of major motion pictures filled with beautiful sets, an enthusiastic cast, and a simple plot that develops into an epic tale of human achievement. Theres a psychedelic quality to the film that takes you completely out of the real world and into the world of the explorers and their spacial endeavors. 

Originally created and directed by Georges Méliès in black and white the film has been completely restored and painted with a new soundtrack from the band Air. 

Compare the new version to the original and let me know what you think.

New 


Original

Which version do you like better and why? 

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Lending a Hand

Being able to share a gift is a tremendous part of my being and a large part of why I gravitate towards the arts. It allows self expression through a lot of soul searching and perseverance, along with all the research, technique, and technical training that one is able to expend.  

As a teacher being able to use that wisdom to impart to your students is something beautiful. They can learn from your follies, build from your triumphs, and soak up your knowledge like a sponge.

I have been able to experience this with each and every one of my students and seeing it come full force as one of my students, V, was accepted into the Museum of Contemporary Art of San Diego 25 and Under competition. Its moments like this as a teacher where you can look back and truly feel proud to at least be apart of the process and hoping for each and everyone of them to reach higher and higher! 

To anyone interested in voting for V's work in the competition log into facebook, search for MCASD, and like the post shown below under the album 25 and under contest! The competition ends June 5 so be sure to vote!

Link to MCASD Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/mcasd

Link to MCASD website: http://www.mcasd.org/

 

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Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow

Self help books are everywhere. And advice of all sorts. Some with words of wisdom that help stretch and expand our mind and put us at ease - others that make us overwhelmed as we heed the advice making our missteps ever more present. 

This is a short post I wanted to share and part of a greater hashtag I will be looking to share as June approaches.

As a southern California the beach for me is therapeutic and I'm not even much of a swim/surf type of person. Its just the sounds of the waves rushing back and forth in accordant rhythm, the wind feathering through your hair, the acknowledgement of being so small in a world that clearly has a lot more going on than any problem or worry you have in your own head.

My place of peace is the beach. And this month Id love to hear in comments from my readers where their place of peace lies. 

 

Alex 

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Business as Usual is Unusual

Close your eyes and image going into your office...

Dragging your feet, you drudge over to your desk, plopping into your semi cushioned swivel chair. After a short reprieve in energy you walk over to the kitchen and load up the good ol' Keurig. Popping in the pod you suck in a deep breath and exhaust in frustration. You get back to your desk to sip your coffee - digesting the morning news. Ah, the New York Times. Get up to go pee. Type and email. Engage your coworker in monotonous conversation about last night and end up plotting plans for the summer. O no, its 3:00pm? How did the day escape you? You write another email. What did you do with the time? What do you even do? 

Sounds like a bit like the Mike Judge film "Office Space" -- the horrifying tale of a man stuck in work limbo.

Did you put the new coversheet on your TPS report - Lumbergh, Office Space

Did you put the new coversheet on your TPS report - Lumbergh, Office Space

 

While carrying the title of millennial doesn't always constitute as a positive description of oneself in some ways I think millennials are the answer. So what the hell is the question?

We've all heard the term "business as usual" referring to a state of standard functions and processes within an organization. While some may long for this structure of business as usual promises one thing. Stagnancy. It removes the aspect that most businesses crave, but few are bold enough to make the leap towards. CHANGE. I feel growing up in an error of predicted doom economically with the financial collapse and an uncertain recovery, severe climate change, education underfunded and prisons overcrowded, Millennials are keen to the fact that something needs to change. And whether its wanted or not change is coming and in a very big way. 

Change comes in all forms, but undoubtedly is a necessity when growing a company and imperative to the success. Take the companies we value most in our society in terms of financial success and innovation and they have clearly followed the mark. From a company who began with computers and last I heard is now in the watch business, or a search engine that wants to sell me glasses. Or look to the latter with once inventive companies like Facebook, whose popularity still proves to be a driving force for the company but a staggering lack of change and a lackluster CEO has continued to drive shares down. 

Change resolves the age old power structures and destroys the notion that scarcity is a means to build a successful business. (scarcity of information, distribution, market reach, choice, and shelf space) How Google Works, Eric Schmidt.

This revolution in mind set is not only coming from vets like Apple or Google, but is followed and repeated in newcomers like tech giant Elon Musk and his groundbreaking Tesla. And believe it or not it looks to be the future of tried and true classics. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and maybe thats true in some cases, but you can get another dog. And run it alongside the old dog. Hell maybe they become friends, learn from each other, and open the door to new possibilities.

Fortune Magazine recently reported this occurrence in the May 2015 Issue in the article Startups Inside Giant Companies where we are seeing big companies fund and seek the next big thing within their own four walls, attracting new talent and letting creatives run with ideas that may have otherwise not seek the light of day outside of moms garage in the front and center stage with the funding of a corporate giant such as Coca Cola. 

"For now, the Silicon Valley mind-set is in. GE has enlisted 500 coaches to train executives to embrace concepts like risk taking and learning from failure. Mondelez sends its brand managers to work inside partnering startups to learn how they operate, while Tyco, the fire and security giant, invites venture capitalists to speak on behaving like a startup. “It’s the new way of working that eventually every large company will embrace,” says David Butler, Coca-Cola’s vice president of innovation." (Fortune Magazine, Startups Inside Giant Companies) 

It’s not that big companies don’t get what startups do, says Coca-Cola’s Butler. It’s just that replicating the unstructured, unfettered moves of, say, a five-person outfit is difficult to do with the systems and vast teams needed to operate on a global scale. “Big companies tend to hire managers, not explorers,” Butler says. “You tell them to do this and keep doing it, not explore new ways to do it. Early-stage companies employ nothing but explorers.” (Fortune Magazine, Startups Inside Giant Companies) 

Startups offer revitalization, newness, potential, and a alleviation to that age of fear of sitting at a desk working for the weekend.

Close your eyes. Slug back into that desk. Wow you've been reading this and let more time slip away. You forgot to send that email. And left the coversheet off your TPS report. Lumbergh is very disappointed. Get back to work.

Alex 

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No one sees the world the same way you do...

Amazing writing of Aaron Sorken housed under an acting staff equally as adept in quality - the like of Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet. Call it a hunch - but something tells me this is going to be infinitely better than the Ashton Kutcher version.

Alex 

 

 

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Mad Men - The End of An Era - And the Lessons Therein

Mad Men has played an integral part in my life. I know. It sounds silly. It’s a TV show written about a 1960/70’s advertising agency, a time period I did not live in and a job description I am not currently pursuing.

To describe the show in its entirety in the scale of a few paragraphs is almost an impossible task. Is it about advertising? Certainly. For anyone working in the field you will no doubt relate to the pace, the types of people, the day to day of the Accounts, Media, and Creative Team that you either love or hate. But beyond the front facing theme of advertising Mad Men is at its core about people, our relationships with them, and an attempt to understand human nature. 

So who is Don?

Why is Don?

I had a conversation with one of my best friends the other day. It began in the day to day and as per usual drifted much deeper. Relationships. The way we were raised in the Midwest. How the neighborhoods we grew up in shaped our definition of self into manhood. Family. The recent riots in Baltimore and race relations in America.

The beauty of Mad Men is that the messages and symbolism aren't as blunt as other shows and not easily deciphered. I . We are merely guided through the through a series of complex events through the eyes of our lead (protagonist/antagonist?). That all comes from your perception and how you see things. The show is very similar to the conversation I had. Not objective. We weren't solving any problems --we weren't doing it the sake of narrative -- we were just recounting our tale, the lives that we lived, the ups and the downs. And in the process understanding who we are in the process. Thats how I view Mad Men

So what have I learned from Mad Men, what is my personal take away that can make you understand why I liken Mad Men to a some sort of life epiphany. Here it is in 2 short bullets.

  • Your family is everything. And there are those who will stop at nothing to escape them. But what makes life so much more sweet is when you realize that they are the key. Cheating will catch up to you and never worth it. Cherish your kids. And be there for them. 
  • Your job isn’t everything. I think it can be glamorized that when one attains x,y,and z you have it all, whatever that all might be to you -- power, money, women.. Mad Men showed me that you can have all of those things and still be left alone. From the outside looking in Don is everything we want to be -- smart, handsome, charismatic, charming, cool calm and collected. But after spending the time to look inwards Don is lost. But with hope, Don is searching and with some hope he will find what he is looking for. 

Mad Men really is the end of an era. 

And wherever Don choose to go, I wish him the best. I hope that he continues his pursuit to find himself and what he truly wants. And I hope above all it leads him to a sense of happiness and purpose that money and Madison Avenue could never provide him.


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Connecting the Dots - How To Find Your Voice

"It's an incredibly meaninngful role to be able to help spark a young mind."

Working as an educator with Outside the Lens I am able to put into play all the minds that have helped build my repertoire of advice - pulling from stories and examples from those who have inspired me - all with different points of views and pathways to success. From the teachers before me who lead and inspired me from my photography instructor at CSUSM like Deborah Small, my thesis advisor at Pratt, Claudia Herbst Tait. Employers and leaders like David Cunningham and Kyle Hagler of IMG Models, Marianne Tesler of Art Partner. My mother and father. All teaching different lessons, but all with an overarching theme of dedication, hard work, and perseverance.

I'm a firm believer of connecting the dots. That all of these people and stories are brought into your life for a reason, imparted knowledge to you for a reason, and its up to you to pull and decipher what that knowledge was for, why the seed was planted, and how and why you will use it. 

This week my students are in preparation for their second show, and progress and understanding of the process has come through full force, in terms of their work, submission process, and relaxed feeling - coming off the confidence and success of the previous show. In conjunction to their school work the students are actively submitting student work to statewide exhibitions and we got our first winner this weekend - V - who took first place at the Grossmont Unified School District Art Show. The show included works from all 13 High Schools in the District and its amazing to see what hard work and dedication to a craft can do. V is the type of person who constantly seeks advice, formulates new ideas, spends his time working on the weekends to hone the craft.

Everyday I'm inspired by my students and while for now I may the "know it all" imparting my 2 cents, I know its only a matter of time before they take my place. In fact I look forward to it.

Alex  

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The Last Mile - Teaching Inmates Technology

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Controlling what you listen to in this day and age is an art form. Bombarded by advertising, games, internet and television we are constantly being programmed. Within the last 3 years something came over me - a call to do more I suppose - telling me to cut the crap.

And slowly but surely the noise was reduced more and more to a point now that my free time is most often spent on ways to grow - though I still sneak in time to watch Mad Men which I have convinced myself is really just another learning experience in fictional form. 

One of my favorite things to keep in my ear are podcasts -- especially one titled "This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis." who finds inspirational stories and startups from across the spectrum--  non profit to for profit all with different goals, methods, and structure yet all bound by the same underlying goal that is critical to success - a leader who doesn't sleep, a team to follow, and a goal that improves the current functionality of an idea or concept. 

This week he featured the story of The Last Mile, linked here https://thelastmile.org/, a non profit that helps gain inmates in prison access to the internet to better themselves and begin entrepreneurship.

The concept is incredible. Theres the humanity aspect that questions society and the prison system as a whole. Folks that made a wrong turn in life are removed from society and placed into incarceration. As the world grows and undoubtedly becomes more technologically adept the prisoner sits in a world void of this evolution. Then when these people are thrust back into society now lacking the proper skills needed for economical advancement, leaving many of them broken and reverting back to the same habits. It becomes a never ending cycle. Through the Last Mile inmates are able to learn internet skills in order to start entrepreneurial ideas. This gives them something to build on so they can be functional members of society when released and give them a since of purpose and hope while locked away. Calacanis questions our society to debate whether or not it is ethical to keep prisoners away from whats happening technologically which I agree is a great question. How can one succeed in a modern society without tech experience. With many of the prisoners going in already with an entrepreneurial mindset through crime, The Last Mile is able to help reform the individual and use their skills for the greater good. 

There are questions raised from the program especially in regards to having people use the program for good, rather than to further use the technology to commit crimes. That is factored into those selected for the program, their status in the prison system etc. But undoubtedly I believe that a reform such as this is necessary. The prison system needs to be looked up as a reform system rather than a temporary place holder. Rather than removing people part time and placing them back into society the goal should be to help rejuvenate them - make them understand what they have done is wrong of course, but also find way to help and eliminate the problems causing their stint in the first place. Long term solutions over short term reactionary answers.

Link to This Week in Startups http://thisweekinstartups.com/ also available in the Apple Store (podcasts)

Link to The Last Mile https://thelastmile.org/

Alex 

 

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My Mama Told Me Go to School Get Your Doctorate

I have to admit Kanye West has and continues to be one of the most influential artists to play a part in my life, shape my definition of what an artist is, and help me to understand that largely the dream of being an artist is not fashioned for those who simply wish it, but those who tire with interminable ferocity. 

Yeezy is a hero. With College Dropout coming out my senior year of High School he had me questioning everything from societies degradation and treatment of black people to the value of hard work. Reminding me in an era of 50 Cent and Eminem, hip hop could also be fun and poignant, vulnerable and self reflecting, and above all else real. I don't think theres any dispute that Kanye paved the way for artists of a similar caliber today including Drake and Kendrick Lamar. It was Kanye that brought my old school father and me to bond over the lyrics on a daily drive to Temecula Valley High, discussing the lyrics, the relevance, and reminiscing to familiar samples of a time past. 

I may not agree with all things Kanye, and have to admit I take a rather negatively biased approach when it comes to dealing with the Kardashian's - but with that being said I always will define Kanye as an artist, more than a rapper, more than a producer, designer, activist. Kanye West is an artist and deserves at every level his honorary doctorate from the Art Institute of Chicago. Made me think back to the Kanye of years back proclaiming in Hey Mama, "My mama told me go to school get your doctorate, something to fall back on that you could profit with, but still supported me when I did the opposite." 

Favorite line: "This honor is going to make your lives alot easier - you dont have to defend me as much" 


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PIVOT - artists are entrepreneurs

As an artist I think instinctively you are already an entrepreneur.

Essentially the two terms evoke emotions and actions that are one in the same. The passion and drive to do something that you are passionate about - even at the ill reception of others. The relentless hours of dedication to this vision. The find a way, can do attitude. The confidence. The swagger.

Artists and entrepreneurs alike are no stranger to ego centric thought. We live and breathe by our ideas and often dismiss any thoughts that do not align directly with our own. I was guilty myself of this during grad school - while pitching my thesis idea- to loathe the criticism of my professors and even question their merit, talent, and own artistic abilities despite the years of professional and teaching experience they had acquired. 

Entrepreneurs face similar moments, especially as an idea is not proving as fruitful as was once expected. While to any degree this is normal (even a great idea takes time, experience, and a great team around you) to grow and succeed there is also a point that a business will face where success, in the current model, has not and will not succeed. This is a harsh reality to face, but one that must be examined - quickly- before negative consequences follow. As an owner or founder these consequences become all too real and personal - not only affecting your own situation but also that of your staff, your funders, and the people who believed in you.

Just because an idea isn't working doesn't mean the idea in itself is bad. It just may need to be retooled. I relate this back to my Grad school critiques at Pratt, the professors always eager to toss in another nugget of reference, another viewpoint, to see how the initial concept would grow and change over time. In business we see this as a pivot. A hard and fast transition point in a company where failed strategies are retooled and reassessed to correct error and find new ways to grow.

A pivot point can be a scary moment, but also an overwhelmingly exciting time. Its a moment to reflect, to change gears - redirect and redirect fast. A pivot can completely change the face of a company and has built some of the major organizations we know today such as Groupon.

Bottom line if someone comes to you with a new idea, or a position that they might know or see something better than you, dont immediately write this off as a negative thing. Maybe they do know more, or see something you overlooked. Maybe you are aging out of relevancy in your field, or lack the motivation/drive to move it to a new market. Whatever it is don't be hard and fast in your ways, like they always say "change is a good thing"

O and go watch Silicon Valley. Hilarious.

Alex 

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Work Rules! and adding life balance through commuting.

My day is typically dispersed through a number of locations. Finding a since of balance therein is not only something I had hoped to find since joining Outside the Lens, but rather an imperative quality that I knew would be necessary to work efficiently, manage multiple classrooms at multiple sites, and somehow still grow in the process.

Since joining audible on a discounted rate I was able to negotiate I have picked up a number of books to make my travels more tolerable, and task myself in the meantime to create a booklist that helps me evolve as a man, teacher, and entrepreneur. Of these reads I try to learn from great minds I admire, the likes of Einstein, Obama and the Clintons,  Steve Jobs, and Eric Schmidt. 

For anyone looking to mange the scale of work and life (and maybe even pair them to one in the same) I highly recommend Work Rules by Mr. Bock. Bock attempts to break down Googles structure in an attempt to show why and how it has grown into one of the most respected and sought after companies to work for on the planet. And given his expertise in the area or hiring and managing he does it from a humble perspective not failing to not Googles's flaws and failed attempts along the road. 

Some of the major insights I was able to acquire from this book will translate instantly to anyone in a managerial role or hoping to start a business of their own. Particularly in regards to hiring reform which Google believes should not be one managers and rather it should be a deeper screening process. Be willing to concentrate your people investment on hiring. Rather than join and then have to prove yourself, you hire folks who are already capable and let them hit the ground running.

One of the biggest confirmations I received was a thought I have always had regarding short training sessions are a waste of company time. Companies often use the illusion of seminars and certifications to allow employees to feel empowered and "learn new skills" when in fact nothing is genuinely acquired in these short periods and serve little purpose in the office. I have been to many of these both in the education and advertising world, leaving with a feeling that I have simply put another check on my resume rather than gaining any real world value and experience. Hire people smarter than themselves, steer away from micro management, and let the magic unfold. You'ld be amazed what workers like this are capable of. 

Finally --  think like a founder. Even if you are the founder.

“Building an exceptional team or institution starts with a founder. But being a founder doesn’t mean starting a new company. It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.” 

If you pick it up let me know what you think. Glorified HR consultant telling why his company is the best or the blueprint on how to build the next best company? 

Alex 

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