Next Boston speaker
DIGIOVANNI 4 PREZ
In March we celebrated our last month at WeWork/General Assembly and listened as our favorite lifestyle coach and man about town Dillan DiGiovanni gave us some much needed motivation. For years Dillan has been spreading a message of self-love and acceptance to help others grow and find clarity. So it was only fitting that he gave the audience a breakdown on change, and how we can stop getting in the way of it. For those of us who hate “the process”, Dillan is the spirit guide/Beyonce we want on our side: who knows when to hand-hold, when to real talk, and when to show his crocus tattoo.
Dillan’s journey is an inspiration - one that the CreativeMornings community will continue to draw from. And because we love to spoil you, here’s EVEN MORE wisdom from DD, to help you live long and prosper:
What is the one thing you want everyone to know about you?
That I’m perfectly imperfect. I’ve learned many things about good health habits and how to change your life and how to be a better person but I do them all irregularly and imperfectly. I sometimes say unkind things. I’ve had dark thoughts. I’m insecure and confident in equal amounts. I eat less sugar than I used to but more than I should. I both crave and fear being loved for who I am. Ultimately, I’m just a regular person who has a lot of wisdom and tools and I learn more every day how much work I still have ahead of me. But that’s what life is for! To learn and practice. Rinse and repeat.
What is your advice for someone who feels stuck - in their career, or in their relationship or in their body?
My advice is to get honest with yourself. People usually feel stuck because they are more worried how other people will respond to a choice they make–whether it’s a job change or coming out or shaving their head. We live within these limits we set based on fear and it’s all unnecessary. Think big. Live outside the lines. Trust your instincts. Make choices that serve you, but with kindness and respect for others. Start with small steps and specific actions that get instant results because you will be more motivated to keep going. Don’t try to fix all the things at once or plan too far out ahead. And the source of all of this is taking impeccable care of yourself with healthy habits because when you feel REALLY GOOD physically and emotionally, you feel like you can do literally anything.
As a lifestyle coach, how do you balance listening and sharing? How can one learn to be a better listener? (Asking for a friend)
This is a great question. It IS a constant balance and I always need more practice!! What works well is to make listening my default and asking if sharing would actually help the person who’s talking. We interject from habit but it’s not always useful. Asking if someone just wants to be heard or if they actually want or need advice helps you offer something truly useful and they will be much more open to receiving it. Listening is a gift you give but you also get SO MUCH from it, because it’s such an intimate experience of real connection. It’s available to all of us if we just get out of our heads and self-preoccupation and really get curious about what other people are dealing with. Learning to be a better listener starts with listening to ourselves better. What we need and want, how we feel, what we think. When we learn to create that space for ourselves, it’s easier to make room for other people and truly listen to them.
Is life all green smoothies? Do we need to love kale to find inner peace?
No. Life is all coffee and bacon and donuts. haha. I don’t think we
need to love kale but it certainly helps ME find inner peace. Dark, leafy greens of any variety cleanse our blood and our gut and make us look and feel healthier from the inside out: Less bellyaches and headaches, fewer mood swings, clear, shining skin. If that doesn’t create inner peace, I don’t know what does.
Do you have a pump-up playlist? I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S ON IT!
Yaaaaaas! This is my current running/biking mix and I listen to it on the regular:
*(1812 Overture is not a joke - the last 3 minutes of this piece KICKS MAJOR ASS! It makes me cry every time I listen to it)
Photo courtesy of The Danger Booth
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? KATIE & AUDREY CLAIRE
Our favorite comedy duo has been selected to screen the Season 2 premier of their web-series, the K&A Show, at Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival on April 9th!
Since they spoke at CreativeMornings last year, Audrey Claire and Katie have appeared on The Girl Crowd LGBT+ podcast and were recently selected to screen Season 1 episode “Herps” at the SENE Film, Music and Arts Festival on April 22. Congrats ladies!
Fungai Takes February by Storm
Fungai Tichawangana humbled the CreativeMornings Boston community last month with compelling stories of young innovators and entrepreneurs from his home country of Zimbabwe. Fungai, Harvard University’s Nieman-Berkman Fellow for Journalism Innovation (can you say that five times fast?) gave voice to a generation of creators when he founded ZimboJam - Zimbabwe’s leading lifestyle, arts and culture website.
Fungai opened a window into Africa’s creative and innovation communities for us and it was downright inspiring. We were so lucky to get even more magic from him for the blog, so read up bb!
As a master multi-media storyteller, how do you evaluate which stories to tell, when to tell them and how to tell them?
One of the things I try and do in my work is tell the stories of young people doing amazing things in spite of great odds. If we can place these stories on the same pages as stories about well known people who drive lots of traffic, then we help create new audiences and support structures for young innovators.
Has your time in Boston changed you as a storyteller? If so, how?
My time here has enabled me to step away from daily deadlines and meetings to refocus, learn new things and meet some great journalists and digital media innovators from all over the world. I feel invigorated to go back and share what I have learnt and try new things.
Accountability was a recurring theme in your presentation. What do you think is the most effective way to create accountability for leaders?
It starts with how we educate our children. Unfortunately, too many of us were educated to always say yes to those who lead us, to believe that because someone dresses better than us or has more money than us or is from a different social class then they have all the ideas. Constructive dissent and critical thinking are not encouraged. Accountability belongs as much to the person asking for it as the person giving it. If we do not relentlessly seek it, we will not get it.
One of the lessons from young Zimbabweans you highlighted is “keep learning.” What’s the most valuable skill you’ve learned in the past year? What are you looking forward to learning this year?
The most valuable thing I learnt last year was actually not a skill. I learnt that it’s important to work hard, but it’s just as important to get to know people. Like they say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I’ll also add, “It’s how you know them too.” Americans are masterful at leveraging relationships to get things done. This year? I’m currently learning about trans media documentary at MIT and it’s opening up all sorts of doors in my mind.
How can the creative community best create opportunities for others?
I have found that simple things like sharing links to resources online, can make a big difference. A friend of mine calls it ‘voting with your click.’ That’s one place to start. Another way is to create communities and groups that meet face to face and not just online. Human interaction is the stuff of magic and the more we can bring people together to share ideas, argue, ask questions and spark each others flames, the better.
Photo courtesy of Dan Powell
Adam Connor Gives Good Vibes
Happy February, creatives! We hope you had just as much fun as we did at last month’s event. We could not have been happier to kick off the new year with a sold-out event, new swag, a kickass speaker and, of course, donuts (RIP #whole30).
Adam Connor of Mad*Pow gave the community an instructional on how to find harmony in the feedback process, AND luckily we had stunning notebooks to write down every word. Or doodle. Or play hangman with neighbors.
We did some more Q&A with our bearded hero for you, because we know you just can’t get enough.
One of the most interesting points you mentioned in your presentation was about practicing critique. How can eager humans like myself practice? Does writing Yelp reviews count?
Sure. Yelp reviews can count. Whenever you think about giving feedback, you can think through the four elements of critique:
- intent or objectives of the creator
- related aspects of the thing(s) you’re analyzing
- the effectiveness of those aspects
- and why they are or aren’t effective
But perhaps more importantly is to remember that the best critique comes in the form of a dialog, both parties–the giver and the receiver–are able to ask questions and gather more information. To that extent, it’s important to look for ways to practice that provide opportunities for discussion. Ask someone for 15 minutes of their spare time to look at something with you. Try asking different kinds of questions in meetings and reviews to see what happens. If you’ve got a local design community like UXPA or IxDA, try using that network or it’s meet-ups.
What’s the most memorable piece of feedback you’ve ever received?
In my first year of film school, there was an end of the year film festival. Students from all four years were required to show their final projects in an auditorium full of film students, faculty, friends, family, and students. After each film, the student was required to stand at the podium in front of the auditorium and take questions and comments. My film, “World’s Finest,” was about two friends debating over who the better superhero is: Batman or Superman over the course of a day. It was effectively an homage or ripoff (depending on whether you like me or hate me) of Kevin Smith’s films. After it ran, I nervously walked up to the front of the room and waited. After a brief silence, one professor decided to take the allowed 5 minutes of comment time to berate me and trash the piece. I honestly can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was full of expletives and questions about any possibility of me ever making a worthwhile film. I was lucky in that, another professor later took see under their wing and taught me what critique really is. I later dropped out of school for a brief time and then enrolled at another school in a different major. I don’t attribute my leaving film school to that incident, but I don’t doubt that it made the decision to do so a little easier.
You spoke about the lack of honesty in work environments today. Is there such a thing as too much honesty?
Yes. Humans are emotional beings. Critique is an analytical process. It involves logic, rationality and inductive reasoning. If that was all humans needed in order to take action then the world would be a very different place. The fact is that we need more than that, we need motivation, and very very often, motivation is closely tied with emotion. And emotions are so embedded in our cognition that most of us can’t separate them. This is why emotionless characters in films and stories tend to stand out to us.
Understanding where there might be too much critique or honesty has to do with sensing where it is becoming counterproductive by demotivating someone. Helping someone understand where their idea needs additional work is great, but if it has the side-effect of leading them to give up on doing anything with their idea at all, then is it really worth it? I talk a lot about the importance of designers separating themselves from their creations. And it is hugely important, but I don’t think it’s really possible to do it completely. And I think that there are benefits to the attachment as well. Finding the balance between detachment, honesty, and motivation is not easy, and it really only comes from practice, both on the part of the recipient as well and the person or people giving the critique (and often collaborating with the recipient).
Empathy seems to be a buzzword at design and tech companies right now. Is there a right or wrong way to instill empathy in workplace culture?
The classic designer answer of “it depends” applies. The most common challenges I encounter with teams around empathy have to do with balance in one way or another. For example, empathy – typically emotional empathy – can often be a catalyst for action. When we feel pain or discomfort because of a situation someone else is in, our empathy can cause us to take action to try to improve the situation. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing on the surface, but sometimes the actions we take may end up being detrimental. Think of how many stories you know from your own past with friends and family, where someone was just trying to help but ended up making things worse. This is a situation we hear about often in health and financial industries. Emotional empathy needs to be balanced with cognitive empathy, and both need to be balanced with an understanding of the various “systems”, contexts, and constraints of a situation in order to find the most effective course of action.
Who are your mentors? How have they shaped your approach to work?
My greatest mentor outside of my parents is Jennifer Fabrizi. Jen and I worked together at MassMutual for years where she was my manager. I was pretty young, stupid and had a bit of an attitude problem, especially in my early time there. I had a tendency to get overly frustrated at business and IT partners who just couldn’t see things the way I saw them, and the processes, infrastructure, and legal hoops that made things feel like the were slower than molasses drove me crazy. Jen taught me so much about pragmatism and how to take the empathy and understanding we were so focused on for our customers and turn it inward toward our partners. There is a line she used to say to me when I would get all riled up about something and start running my mouth, “Are you adding more light or heat?” which essentially means, “Is what you’re saying (or about to say) furthering the conversation by uncovering new information or is it just adding energy without rallying moving things forward?”
What sort of magical powers do you hold in your beard?
My beard is where I keep all of my good ideas.
Happy New Year from CreativeMornings Boston!
2015 was a big year for CreativeMornings Boston - we celebrated our first birthday, hung out in some of the city’s newest spaces, took ALLOFTHEPHOTOS in the Danger Booth and ate an incalculable amount of donuts.
The team is working hard to bring the CreativeMornings community incredible events in 2016. If you have ideas, feedback or slam poetry please get at us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Piascik on How to Make a Donut Vomit on a Loop
Remember when Chris Piascik became the first speaker to use the theme twice in a three-word sentence? That was so real.
The CM Boston community was incredibly #blessed last month to hear from Chris on how to be a general hustler. Chris, a self-proclaimed accidental illustrator, is a published author and winner of way too many awards to list here. When he’s not creating posters for bands that don’t exist anymore, he posts his daily drawings here and teaches at Hartford Art School.
Here’s our lightning interview with our epic November speaker:
You just completed your second Kickstarter campaign. What has been the most surprising part of crowdfunding?
I’d have to say the genuine excitement people seem to have about being involved. It’s really an amazing feeling to know people out there like your work enough to put their own hard-earned money behind it.
Does your process as an illustrator differ from your process as a designer? If so, how?
At this point in my career I see myself as an illustrator, and as a result of that I am bringing my unique voice to each project whereas that isn’t always the case in design. Design aesthetics and execution are particular to each specific project, and often times the designer’s voice is not, and should not, be a part of that. I still love design and enjoy doing it for my own projects—I’m just not really designing for clients at this point.
What has been your favorite project this year? Why?
Working on a few different sets of stickers for Facebook was probably my favorite project this year. Since the stickers are used almost as emoticons it was a fun challenge to think about the story or message each sticker would express and how people might use them in conversation.
Do you ever feel competitive with other creatives? How do you deal?
I don’t know if I’d say “competitive” but I do sometimes see amazing things by other illustrators that make me want to step my game up. There’s plenty of work to go around and it never seems like I am competing directly with anyone. Seeing other great work just makes me happy to see illustration as a whole thriving.
Related: Who wins a thumb-wrestling competition between you and (previous CreativeMornings speaker) Josh LaFayette?
I asked Josh, he say’s that I would probably break his thumb. I don’t think that would be the outcome, but I do feel confident in my thumb-wrestling skills.
CHECK OUT THE FULL DANGER BOOTH ALBUM HERE!
Rock, Paper, SHOCK!
Here’s what went down at our October Creative Mornings in order of awesomeness:
- Our first speaker duo, Audrey Claire Johnson and Katie Shannon, dishing on their acclaimed web series, the K&A Show
- a boss indoor swingset
- a cut-throat rock-paper-scissors battle
- Keith’s cool YouTube playlists
We invaded Hatch Fenway for the first of three months in their new co-working space. More importantly, we met a lot of new faces and, as usual, ate way too many donuts. For those of you who couldn’t make it, or those who just couldn’t get enough of Audrey & Katie, we’ve got your lunch read on lock.
How did the two of you meet?
AC: Our planets aligned on my first legit audition in Boston for an original comedy series called “617,” which was created by Katie. I wore a criminally tight James Perse dress, and my strategy was to hoard all the printed scenes in my portfolio so the other auditioners would have less time to prep. Miraculously this worked, and I was asked to come in for a second round of casting, this time with Katie officially back from LA. I wore a fantastically inappropriate bold striped French Connection dress, and apparently did something right because I got the role. Being on such a large set as a lead was like a sweaty dream, and I trusted Katie to direct my unpolished chops into a fully developed character. Over the course of two seasons our working relationship grew, and when she approached me with the idea for “K&A” I screamed yes before she even finished her question.
KS: My first web series I did was called “617” and I was living in LA at the time when we were casting and had the tapes sent to me. I remember seeing Audrey’s audition and I knew immediately I wanted her for the role. I loved working with her on 617 and when I created K&A, I had not doubt in my mind that I wanted her to play Karly.
Are there any downsides to working with friends?
AC: No. With the restrictions of producing ultra-mega-laughably low budget projects, the personal connection and shared drive to make your work happen is priceless. Over the years working in comedy, you inevitably find your circle of creative types that nourish you. Ideas are flying around like a ball pit, someone’s excited about this sketch, so-and-so’s script is on it’s final draft, do you want to help make it happen? These people are your peers, your friends, and eventually a family of nutters who are trying to make cool shit happen in Boston.
KS: The quality of the show is so good because you are working with friends. Most of the crew have been working together for over five years now so its just a very comfortable feeling. You are all there for the right reason and that shows in the final product.
What was the last video you watched on YouTube?
AC: “Balloon Cops” by Human Giant. I was at a bar and brought it up to impress a date with my knowledge of the niches of sketch comedy. My Saturday nights are raging.
KS: Adele going undercover as an Adele impersonator
What’s next for the K&A show?
AC: I’m thinking, in this order, national tour, lifestyle brand, bid for office, HUGE scandal, rehab, movie deal, for starters. Real answer is that season 2 is just waiting on funding, we have about 15 episodes written and they are brilliant. Recently we submitted a pitch video for the Project Greenlight Digital Series competition and praying every night to our patron saints Matt and Ben that we get chosen. Also we’re sitting on a finished long format episode that may be used as a crowd funding incentive in the new year, called “Gay Camp” which was made possibly by a grant we won from the iTV Festival in Dover, Vermont. Planning to have new content out there for all our fans and haters very soon!
KS: We are in the process of editing now an episode called “Gay Camp” which I think it is the best thing we have done to date. We were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the town of Dover in Vermont and we filmed 3 days up there. We are hoping to use this episode to raise money for the rest of season 2 because it is all written and ready to go.
F*ck, marry, kill: donuts, muffin tops, breakfast tacos - go!
AC: F*ck: donuts. I was born without a sweet tooth, never EVER eat sugary breakfast. To be clear I don’t want to have sex with donuts, I want donuts to go f*ck themselves. Kill: muffin tops. After Thanksgiving which is also my birthday, I double-indulge myself every year. Also, what’s with the sweet food theme?
Marry: Breakfast Tacos! Salty breakfast option, easy to make, cheap to buy. Mine and Breakfast Taco’s wedding would be like Mary Kate Olsen and Oliver Sarkozy’s, with “bowls of cigarettes on every table.” I read that in Vanity Fair about an hour ago and can’t stop laughing.
KS: F*ck: Breakfast: Its like your sloppy one night stand. Kill: Muffin Tops: No one likes a muffin top. Marry: Donut: I could eat a glazed donut every day of my life.
Check out the trailer from their first season, which you can watch in its entirety on their YouTube channel.
We’ll be wrapping up 2015 at Hatch Fenway so be sure to mark your calendars and set your alarms for the next Creative Mornings! And we are always looking for sponsors, venues and speakers - so if you see something, SAY SOMETHING: email@example.com
Photos courtesy of Dan Powell
HANNAH CHUNG ON EMPATHY
If you didn’t get to share in the mimosas and baby donuts at our very awesome September CreativeMornings, you really missed out kid.
We crammed a bunch of old and new faces into Society of Grownups to hear designer/maker/ladyboss extraordinaire Hannah Chung speak about empathy. Hannah, co-founder of Providence-based Sproutel, has spoken at numerous conferences including Design & Emotion, TEDxSomerville, IFTF, SXSW, Big Ideas Fest, and Women@TheFrontier by Singularity University and NASA. We’ll be posting the video soon, but in the meantime, check out our lightning round with this month’s speaker:
What does your morning routine look like?
I snooze my alarm 3 times (unless I have to catch a flight) and I read Skimm emails in my bed. Then I take a shower and ready to go! I try to catch 8-9 hours of sleep so that I can power through the day without the help of coffee.
Who is the most empathetic person you know and why?
Elmo from Sesame Street. I don’t know Elmo personally, but I think it’s amazing how Elmo can show love and bring laughter to anyone who is having a bad day with his cheerfulness. I’ve seen so many clips about Elmo talking about family’s death, divorce, all those serious topics with little kids. Elmo also teaches about feelings and emotions with them too. It’s so cool how a little 3-year-old character, Elmo, can relate to so many kids from different backgrounds and give them hope. I would love to meet Elmo someday.
What was your favorite toy as a child? As an adult?
I absolutely loved my Chinese checkers set. It was one of those few toys that I didn’t feel the age difference while playing the game with my parents or other older folks (like my babysitter who was a college student). I LOVE Legos and 1000 pieces or more puzzles. I’m a nerd.
Is there any chance Jerry the Bear will become intelligent enough to take over the world?
I hope Jerry takes over the world like Elmo in a positive way. Jerry will not be a cyborg or a terminator - he’s too nice and loves kids.
What’s the most important thing you do as a maker?
I always ask for help when I don’t know things. I try to evolve my skill sets and my thought process as a maker all the time. I’m a perfectionist and I have infinite room to improve :)
ACTION IN AUGUST!
We had the best time last week at District Hall celebrating ACTION! Josh Lafayette, illustrator and pizza-lover, taught us some important lessons, including but not limited to: how to be a tornado, why hotdogs are amazing, and that it gets worse.
Before he heads to Atlanta forever, we just had to ask:
What’s your biggest motivator?
My family- and I’m not just saying that. They rule.
Favorite breakfast spot?
I really love Trident on Newbury, Clover the food truck, and Tory Row in Harvard Square (breakfast pizza!)
Favorite tattoo of yours?
That’s a very hard one. I really like the hen that I got for (my son) Henry but I really like the one I got of Lou (my wife).
What else? Thoughts on lettuce?
Iceberg is not as good as arugula.
Check out The Danger Booth gallery here!
Photos courtesy of Dan Powell.
July Recap: Collaborate
This month’s speaker, George Mumford, concentrates most of his waking hours coaching legendary athletes in the sport of self-consciousness. The Dorchester native and published author had a lot of wisdom to share with the Creative Mornings community. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from George:
When we engage in something, if we can have some fun, it enhances our cognitive functioning. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
Negative emotions hinder our ability to be present. Laughter is a great way to start out. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
How we habitually see ourselves becomes us. We need a willingness to be clear about who we are. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
We decide who we become and how we experience the world. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings It’s stressful being responsible for others, not taking care of yourself.
Manage your relationships. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
Kobe, Jordan, they weren’t competing for themselves. They compete for the greater good. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
Our conscience is easily drowned out. It happens to all of us. We are afraid of peace because we have to face things. - @gtmumford | #CMBos
It’s comfortable not knowing what we are doing, we can avoid responsibility. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
1 Of the 10 things you need to do, if you take 2 and do it well, you will get 80% of the benefit. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
Learn to self-manage, understanding what to focus on and what you can archive as junk. - @gtmumford | #CMBos #CreativeMornings
GET TO KNOW GEORGE!
We nabbed George to answer some of our burning questions in a post-event lightning round.
What’s the collaboration you’re most proud of?
GM: My mind, body, heart and spirit being aligned, connected.
What’s your biggest passion outside work?
GM: Easy: love of people.
What’s something no one knows about Michael Jordan?
GM: How sensitive he is and how much he cares about others.
Who has been your biggest role model?
GM: It has been different people at different times: Buddha, Jesus Christ, JFK, Martin Luther King - my mother had pictures of all of when I was growing up. Growing up in Boston, I’ve always looked up to Bill Russell. In sports: Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Dr. J. The list goes on… It’s more about people who embody compassion and love and wisdom.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
GM: Usually the classics: scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, english muffin and turkey bacon.