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Success, Depression, and Awakening

I’ve been an artist with big dreams ever since I was a kid. I wanted to grow up and make movies like Steven Spielberg or design video games like Mortal Kombat or Final Fantasy. I ended up going to art school and majored in Computer Animation, but I got burned out before I graduated. I finished my degree, but didn’t put a lot of effort into finding a job in the field because I lost interest.

I fell in love with punk rock music and breakdancing oddly enough. I started making my own beats and that helped me escape the drudgery of keyframes and hours of rendering – the life of the animator. I also started noticing who was doing the artwork for my favorite punk bands at the time and they inspired something within me that made me want to do it myself. I didn’t need a real job, so I started freelancing for bands I liked.

I ended up making a name for myself in short time and I loved it. I had aspirations of being a famous designer that influenced the industry. Around this time I met with some fellow designers and entrepreneurs who went by the name Go Media. After some collaborations together we joined forces and I became a partner.

In less than a year later, Go Media started blowing up. We started getting known for our illustration and t-shirt designs and started developing a following. We wanted to earn a side income so we sold leftover vector art on a website we called The Arsenal. We would write tutorials on how we created our work and we started getting a lot of traffic and sales on our vector art. Then we started selling fonts, textures, and mockup template packs. We couldn’t keep up with the demand and we ended up making our first million dollars as a company.

In 2008, we ended up buying our own  office building and moved out of my business partner’s townhouse. We also grew our staff to roughly 15 people at the time. But in 2009, the recession hit and sales bottomed out. We had to lay off some of our staff and it was a crushing blow to morale.

Around this time I wrote Thread’s Not Dead, which was a book about design for the apparel industry. It became widely considered “the bible of t-shirt design” by the t-shirt community. I was very excited to write this book because I got to help a LOT of people and received many emails about how much I inspired someone to finally take the leap and do what they loved.

Around this time I started a small design and music festival called Weapons of Mass Creation. It featured a lot of my designer friends and punk rock bands. We would get on stage and share our stories and we tried to help each other with our struggles. I wanted to showcase those that inspired me along the way.

Little did I know that this would really transform my career as I knew it. We are working on our 5th event and we seem to be on to something. I’ve always known I wanted to help people, and to see thousands of people come to the event and leave inspired by something I helped create, it’s an amazing feeling.

But despite all this success and fame, something inside me just wasn’t being fulfilled. Every year we struggled to break even financially at Go Media and with WMC Fest. We couldn’t get back to our financial success before the layoffs. I started losing my desire for fame and fortune and I was questioning everything I was doing. I felt into a deep depression in 2011 into 2012.

I kept creating and keeping on but something was killing me from the inside. I didn’t feel like it was ok to be depressed because my job depended on me so much and I wasn’t able to give 100%. But in June of 2013 I started having one thing after another unfold before me that would change my life. I started having epiphanies about life. About who I am and why I do the things I do. It took me by surprise but it opened my eyes and heart to my own spirituality. Before that I was not a spiritual person in the slightest, but suddenly life took on new meaning. I couldn’t explain it.

Since then I’ve been on a quest to find my own personal Truth. I’m discovering that my life purpose is awaken myself to my true potential as a creator, and help others do the same. It’s been a crazy rapid-fire journey that has expanded my awareness and perspective on life.

While this development is relatively new, I’m eager to discover where it will lead me next.

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One comment

  1. Another great story Jeff. I think most designers struggle with these thoughts. We see things different than most people. We want to make an impact. Make things better. Are we doing enough? Will others understand and like our ideas?

    Lets look at Ink Wars. I personally could never do it. Hundreds of strangers watching every marker stroke, judging your work. Should I draw this? Or that? Will the audience hate it? Will I be drawing next to OKPants? He’ll crush me! Confidence is key.

    WMC Fest has helped me grow and develop over the years. I understand how others deal with creativity, success, and failure. I’ve seen designers cry on stage telling a group of strangers about their struggles and finish with a standing ovation, cheers, and hugs. I have seen the Fest grow from year one with more volunteers than attendees and realized with enough passion and desire any dream can come true.

    My daily inspiration comes from the WMC Fest 4 poster – “Defy The Hand You’re Dealt”. When you have a problem, accept the challenge – and defeat it!

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