Frequencies Podcast by WGI: From Pixels to People with Jessie White


Jessie White started as Instrument's first designer in 2011, and is now Executive Creative Director, playing a pivotal role in the studio's growth. She's led engagements for stand out brands like Stumptown Coffee, Nike, Google, The Met, and Dwell. In this episode of Frequencies we discuss a variety of topics that impact individuals and the creative process; the never ending pursuit of learning, the stories we tell ourselves, being the center of attention even when you don’t like it, and not waiting for someone else to solve your problems.

Here is the transcript from the conversation.

Please note we use an automated transcription process that is not 100% accurate. If you read something that seems a little off, it may not have been transcribed correctly. We try our best to catch them. If you catch one, shoot us a note so we can update it!

Jessie: [00:00:00] You're not just this one thing that you're doing each day. That's the learning. That's the practice. Really? What you're doing is training yourself in your particular strengths. To be able to help humanity. And I think as we get more practiced, as we become more aware about how we can, we can help humanity, it's our responsibility to connect back to that and apply it.

And whether we're able to do that now, whether we do it later, I think that's the ultimate training for us all.

Ian: [00:00:33] Welcome to frequencies a podcast by world's greatest internship and Butchershop creative. It's share stories and practical advice from creative leaders around the world. I may in, sir. And I hope you enjoy my conversation with the talented Jesse White. Jesse started his instruments first designer in 2011, in a sense risen to become executive creative director playing a pivotal role in the studio's growth.

She directs cross-disciplinary teams and uses her wide range of brand experience and knowledge of complex organizational objectives to drive digital brand and experience innovation. She's led engagements for standout brands like Stumptown coffee, Nike, Google, the met and dwell. And her goal as a leader in the company is to make teams more effective by fostering an exceptionally collaborative and creative culture.

Jesse White, welcome to frequencies. Thanks for joining me.

Jessie: [00:01:28] Thank you for having me.

Ian: [00:01:29] I want to start off by asking you, where are you from and what did you think you'd be when you grew up?

Jessie: [00:01:35] I am originally from Northern Idaho, a very small town, and I grew up on quite a bit of land. And my story of growing up is fairly career focused.

Like one of the benefits of growing up on. With quite a bit of freedom and space is you learn a lot of independence and you learn to entertain yourself. But what I always wanted was the fashion, the technology, the lifestyle that I saw in magazines that I didn't have access to. So pretty early on at, at age, and certainly with some smart support from my parents, I found a career in graphic design that combine my love of arts and computers.

I used to love even installing like the floppy, disks for programs. And, you know, there's like back in the day there were five or 10 that you had to put in, in sequence. For some reason I found so much joy in that. So it was really to my mom's credit that she said, well, you're an artist. You also have this weird love of technology.

Why don't you look at graphic design? And at the time it was also an upcoming industry. So it worked pretty well. If I'm considering what I would have, where I would have been either as a Wolf biologist or a veterinarian, I don't know that that would've led to REM now, but certainly I would have had a great connection to nature.

Ian: [00:03:03] So when people ask you what you do, what do you say? How do you answer that question? I

Jessie: [00:03:10] , to people who have no idea. From outside our industry all say all I'm, I do graphic design, like, apps and websites and, and strategy. And then even there, it starts to get the second IC star say strategy. It starts to roll, but, I will say I'm designer by trade.

I have a background in graphic design and I moved pretty quickly into loving digital design so that websites and apps, because it was making things move and there was. interaction elements, which started to tap into my love of psychology. I think I really discovered that love through design, even from the beginning, learning about colors and why people react to certain colors and layout and why people like certain layouts.

I think that uncovered this love of the Y that I didn't know I had early on. So over the years, I've just continued to develop that even stronger. And to what I do now, which is creative direction. And I love, right and creative teams. One of my favorite things to do is applying the same philosophies that I did as a designer for my own kind of creative processes and problem solving to teams now.

So I tell people, I went from pixels to people and I like designing systems. And I like, understanding why people. do the things they do and what makes a great creative work. Awesome. I've never heard that pixels to people. I love that. Cool. So you are actually the executive creative director at instrument, and I was wondering if you can share with me a little bit about what it's been like opening a new location in New York while leading teams during these abnormal times, it has been a wild ride.

I will say one of the interesting things that I've uncovered in this recent move to New York, I did, which is what to join an existing, smaller New York team for instrument. and in their leadership, there was, a transition and I don't know whether it was fully pandemic or whether it was the working from home or kind of all the things that the world, is.

Presenting to us today or making us more aware of today, but all the tools that I had previously for working through kind of my moments of ups and downs or moments of working through problems, I found that they didn't really apply in this new context as I went into New York. And it's not so much. The people or the teams.

I think that's where my knowledge would have transferred because I love starting new teams. I love, the formation process and getting people moving through, you know, the forming norming, performing stages. but there was something about my own personal process in this move. And working from home that was put under a lot of pressure.

requires a whole different type of way of responding and communicating and leading, leading, and integrating and just moving things forward. how, how has communication changed with the whole work remote becoming pretty much more of a norm these days? I think it just has to be more intentional. I think the mechanisms have changed, but the practices we're getting into are very important and probably should always be applied to when we're physically together.

And when I say the practices, I mean like the intentionality of communicating to a whole group of people or the kind of through lines of how do you communicate. To clients at a time like this, like how do you do kickoffs? How do you do brainstorms? How do you develop relationships when you can't physically be with someone and you don't necessarily have those impromptu moments?

what's the word for when something just happens kind of spontaneously and beautifully and creates this connection that maybe wouldn't have been there. Otherwise, I think that's a big part of the communication shift. That has happened.

Ian: [00:07:33] Yeah. How do you, how do you help people remember that? Especially for people who are just starting off, like joining teams, maybe that are just learning how to communicate, learning, how to find their own voice and learning to present their work. How do you kind of coach them along and help keep them focused?

I mean, cause it's such a new, it's like it's uncharted territory, you know, for so many people who people have been doing this a long time also. So it's not like there's a, a formal playbook or a best practices guide that people can use. Really.

Jessie: [00:08:07] Totally. And, and I want to say that this is where, when we talk about empathy, This is where it comes to fruition.

Empathy is a pretty big word that we use a lot now, and it it's applied to almost everything. But I think the biggest thing is understanding what someone else needs in a moment and what you can do about that need, because ultimately we all want to do great work, right. We work at companies because we want to work with other people.

And not everybody works at a company. You know, people are freelance, everything, but I think communication is the through line to everything. And there's, there's ways that you can do that. And you know, your, how you establish trust with people and how you create those moments where. when something is put under pressure, you know, immediately what to fall back on

Ian: [00:09:09] the importance of communication, especially now with this uncharted territory and the threat of that is developing trust.

And so maybe there's a frequency that there's this thread of frequency and consistency that comes up, especially with, With everybody really, but clients as well. I mean, we've spoken about this previously about the idea of smaller and sooner, not larger and later. And. The more you communicate sort of with these smaller check-ins these drips kind of the quicker it is to develop trust.

And that's the same thing with your teams with relationships with client relationships.

Jessie: [00:09:50] Yeah. I find myself thinking a lot and talking a lot about processes that support this. And there's two processes that keep coming to mind and communication is absolutely a connect, a connection through them. One is your own creative process, and those are the things that you've developed throughout your own lifetime that allow you to work through your own problems or do your breasts creative work or, Pulling inspiration.

Like those are the, those are the things that you continually to work on yourself. Additionally, there's with others and that's our collaboration process. And that's where, how can I be effective, not just in myself, but with these, these other people that I'm working with. And I think a big through line or those two processes come together is in this.

Communication horizontal line. So you can imagine if you want a visual in your head, there's a, a wave of your creative process. That goes above and below this line. And there's a way of, of the collaboration process that goes above and below this line. And any moment they come together is that moment where communication happens.

And I think when we look, especially when we're looking at teams, when we start to look at the frequencies of communication or the styles of communication, or what moments meetings, video calls, whatever our act as catalysts. For that, for those moments of communication, the space between the waves may become greater or they may become shorter.

And it's very flexible, but I think what is helpful to understand that at any given time in your life, really, this isn't just about our work, but this is our relationship to humans out in the world. Those two processes are being developed. And sometimes one is more developed than the other. And it's helpful to understand where you kind of are in your understanding of those two so that you can continue to balance them.

Ian: [00:12:14] Oh, amazing. I've never thought of that intersection where people come together, you know, where that intersection is on those waves. I mean, the name of. The podcast is frequencies. And as we're chatting, I see your voice being recorded. And I see the frequency lines and that's a big reason for the naming of this con of this podcast is that there's frequencies, meaning the frequency of occasions and how often they happen.

But then there's also frequencies that we get on together. Right. When you say, get on the same frequency. Well, it's often because. We're talking about a certain type of context or language and the words we use, the language we use visually, you know, through audio, they're all frequencies, they're waves. And so it takes this sort of like self-awareness and understanding of knowing to context, switch.

And what frequency to get onto that way. You can find those intersections or even get on the same type of frequency.

Jessie: [00:13:19] There's an interesting book by, Leora Hogan that came out last year called resilient management. And I know it has management in the name, but I do think it is relevant for emerging creatives as we are continually interacting with each other.

And it's based on a theory by Bruce Truckman, who is an organizational psychologist about group development and how a team tackles a task from initial formation to completing the project. And the four phases that they talk about are forming, which is that moment where you first come together storming.

It's when you have to work through stuff. So you were talking about frequency and I think each of us have our own frequency and it's very easy to stay in our frequency and it takes work to match someone in theirs. So that storming inevitably is when the friction in a project happens. And if there isn't good communication that friction will stay, it won't go away because it's.

It takes someone who has desire to connect a frequency with someone else to shift into that space. But that also means that you have to be vulnerable. You have to be very open to changing maybe your own processes or your own skills that have gotten you to where you are today and learn new ones. So often people stay in this storming phase for quite a while, but because there's so much friction, it's very hard.

To do your best work. So if you're able to continue to work through that storming phase, you get into norming. Norming is like, okay, this feels good. This is how we do it. And that's when the frequencies start to come together. But the final stage performing is when you're actually aligned. And this is the stage where it feels so, so good to be connected.

This is when you get into the flow. And that's the feeling that all of us want to achieve every day. When you have that moment, when the ideas are just coming, but communication is easy. the creative is fulfilling. That's that performing flow, but it takes active calibration to get there. And there's a lot of.

Tricks and tools and mechanisms and meetings that can help facilitate or help be catalyst Torrance. getting through this whole process  

Ian: [00:15:55] seems like so many people get hung up on the, the initial phase, really being afraid of, The friction avoiding friction at almost all costs sometimes because they're afraid to be vulnerable.

And they're afraid. I think a lot of people, even very far into their career, they attach themselves to the work. They see themselves in the work and identify with the work. It's I think it's a natural thing, right. We're naturally sort of. Defensive creatures. And so to be able to move past that phase takes a lot of work and discipline.

How do you see people getting past that, that friction phase or even going into it? There's that saying? Like the only way out is through,

Jessie: [00:16:39] yeah. This is where those two processes I've personally found really helpful to your creative and your collaboration and in those moments, I think it's helpful too.

Kind of be able to take a look at which one is happening. So which one has the friction in it and then say, well, what can I do in this moment? Cause that's, that's really being able to reconnect to yourself, gives you that bit of control. And I don't think I'm the only one in the creative. Industry that likes a bit of control, likes to likes to make things.

so being able to connect back to myself and say, well, in this moment, what can I do? I can do nothing and I can let this kind of sit and say, well, it's not me. I have no control in this it's something else. Or I can do something and start to communicate about, or I can do everything. And. The, the interesting thing about imposter syndrome is this is pseudoscience.

Certainly it's my own opinion, but I find that in myself, that voice of the imposter is exactly a voice. It's a story I'm telling myself about how others perceive me. That is disconnected from how I desire to be perceived. And so when I, this conversation earlier today about someone who was, had the opportunity to work with a speaking coach and, that's a wonderful thing to do.

And she was saying, well, in this moment, I can do everything. I understand that I have this voice and I'm going to put my finger right on the pulse of the uncomfortableness and work with someone who's going to just help me put in the repetitions of getting over it. But I think, yeah. One other thing that helps is understanding that those voices in your head are not your own they're external voices that have been internalized, and they're trying to help you.

Their intention is to protect you at one time you internalize them because it was something, that didn't go well and you didn't want to repeat it. It didn't feel good. Or it was something said by someone who was important to you and you wanted to remember it, there are loyal soldiers that we keep, but as we grow in our careers and in our life, some of those loyal soldiers or some of those voices are no longer helpful, they're inhibiting and.

That really strong voices. The imposter is something that we actively have to retrain ourselves to listen to. And that's why I think it's really important for us to when someone does give you a compliment or when you do are able to take a training that helps adjust the story you're telling yourself, keep, keep that story strong.

Another trick that I have for myself is early on. I realized that I don't enjoy being the center of attention. And as a designer, as a creative person to now lead, I have to present a lot of work and I have to, lead a team and project this confidence. And I realized that I wanted to be effective in that.

And I needed to separate myself fairly intentionally from this imposter voice. And it was a bit of a trick for myself in that I said, well, okay, these, this is you Jesse, with all of your inner insecurities. This is your inner child, and you're desperately trying to protect her. However, your team needs someone who.

Can lead them or someone who can, not surface all of your insecurities. So in this moment, you are no longer Jesse, you are a design lead, or you are a creative director, or you are this role that needs these certain qualities and you will embody those. There's no other option because success. Only exists in one of them.

So it's a bit of a mental hack that I did to say show up in this way. There's no way that you can't, because failure is not an option in that. So whether you feel the confidence truly, or whether you think people perceive you being confident or not, I think actually that's the interesting point in this that I, I would like to unpack more, which is that perception piece.

What is real versus not what is real and what is a healthy way to work through this stuff and what perhaps is not so healthy.

Ian: [00:21:51] Yeah, let's do that. I mean, in life and in the work that we do, you can do three things. You can accept it, you can change it or you can leave it. And it's our role as creatives. To fall, right in number two is to change it, right?

It's like, no, no, no. There's a better way. And that can be turned back on ourselves as well when it comes to communicating or confidence. you've told me that, you know, you're not in your role because you always have the right idea or the best idea or that you have the answer to everything, but it's because what you were just saying is like, somebody needs to, somebody needs to step up.

Like, failure's not an option here and you're okay. Being the person to speak up and potentially say something wrong. But to at least start putting data out there and to get people, responding to things and not, not retreat and not shut down and say nothing, but to start making more noise and start naming those things that go on.

Jessie: [00:22:51] Yeah. Somewhere early in my life, I got this sentence in my head, which was, if you see a gap. That needs to be filled. You can either point at it and continue to constantly walk around it or continually, to, for it to be a friction point. In your path or you can fill it. And I started to apply that to, I mean, that's, that's really where, why I'm in this role.

I am today is because as a designer, and this is a benefit of being able to work at smaller places or places without a process, a lot of process, there was a lot of opportunity for creating. Good communication and good flows and, trying to remove blockers that were getting in the way. So I would do this thing where if someone, if someone wasn't doing something that I thought they should be, or that I didn't have some bit of information that I needed.

Instead of sitting there and saying, well, this person needs to do it. Or, I don't have this thing, so I can't move forward. I just started to do it myself. And one of those things was looking at project, a project kind of processes. So going from being a designer that focuses on tasks to a designer that starts to look at the project as a whole, or then a designer that started to really value client communication, because I can have a thousand ideas, but if someone doesn't understand them, one of them.

Then how effective are they really? So I can make beautiful things all the time, but clients want to understand how is this valuable to my business? How is this going to help me with my problem and how does this attach to what I care about? So I became really interested in that piece of it as well, and that just continual learning and continuing to step into whatever gap I saw.

Created this really interesting path. And that path opened up this idea of a perspective about learning and that we go to school for whatever kind of discipline or industry we're in. And then we graduate and we expect to be done with the learning. We expect to go in our careers and then just apply everything we learned.

And that's where. We run into more challenges because we think the learning is done. But what was valuable for me was to understand that these careers that we're in now are our continued education, if you will. So we work in different buildings, work in different companies. We're working different homes, cities, our spaces now, and those are just our buildings, but really what we're doing is we're continuing to learn.

Through different mediums through different perspectives, through different industries and that learning ultimately. Never stops in life. So though that working through that going like through the hard part of the learning is a forever process. And if you just understand when things are hard, it means you're actively in it.

You're actively in the learning and you start to kind of in maybe a sick way, love this feeling when things are hard. It's very, it's, it's very difficult to. Be able to step back and say like, well, why is this hard is as good as this bad because you don't like it. It doesn't feel good, but rarely do you learn something without having some of this moment of not knowing it to kind of knowing it, to knowing it really well.

And I think what I see a lot of like what I work on on myself and work on in teams and other emerging creatives is working through these moments where it just. Doesn't feel good and trying to figure out what are the zigs and zags and what are all the ways we can move to create momentum like through this.

Learning phase of anything.

Ian: [00:27:00] Yeah. It's so hard in the moment when you're in the thick of it and having a hard time and struggling and all you want for something to be over. And it's so difficult to take a step back and get that perspective and say, Oh yeah, well, th there's a lesson in this. It takes that reflection afterwards, almost a post-mortem.

You know, if you're with a team or some self-reflection individually, if it's, you know, something you're working on or going through yourself, but it takes that it takes that reflection. You have to get through the process. It's this idea of the hero's journey, right? Like coming to the end and just that cycle, that one goes through, you know, there's like for anybody, any team you start off with.

With a goal, right? And then you run into a problem and then you diagnose the problem and then you design the solution and then you start putting it into practice. Right. And that's that kind of cycle that you go through and you're either on the upwards trend or you're on the downwards trend. And obviously you want to be on the Headingtons towards the up and right.

But to have the, where with all in the moment and to have the confidence in the moment of, through these hard situations, that's where that resilience really starts to show up.

Jessie: [00:28:07] You gave me an interesting visual in my head, which is I'll try and describe it. If you can imagine that there is a horizontal line and there is a vertical line that connects, let's say in the center of it and it, it originates from the horizontal line and then goes up.

So it's almost like an upside down T and. I feel like these two axes are experience is the horizontal line and that is gathering and using tools in new, different contexts over time. And then there's this idea of perspective, or even transcendence starts to illustrate the feeling of it. And so, as you.

You know, early in your career or earlier in life, you know, your perspective is very close to you. I mean, you quite literally, can't see very far in front of your, in front of your face, but I think there's a mental aspect there too, where you think your kind of perspective is pretty close to you. And then as you gain experience in new contexts, you gather a lot of different mental models for things and, and mental models are.

in the very basic way of saying it, that helps me remember, or just ways of seeing the world. And those can be collected through, different industries or different disciplines or, and different perspectives. That's why it's so important to have different perspectives. And your ability to be adaptable is definitely dependent on how many different mental models you have.

So I think those mental models are things you collect. Over time in different contexts. And then your application of them are what allow you to transcend ascend to this ability to see both a 20,000 foot view and a one-foot view. And what makes what's really helpful when working through different challenges or different life scenarios or the world it is as it is today is their ability to kind of bounce back and forth.

Between them. And that's both in like the tools you have and, you know, the speed at which you can connect the dots of what something much larger or much greater is than maybe the thing that's right in front of our face to the thing that's right in front of our face. And the application of that knowledge.

I think there's also a connection in here between the collection of data, which in its raw form is. You know, points of something, putting it together, which is, you know, insights, which turns into knowledge. And then this ultimate kind of goal, which is wisdom. And I think like there's kind of this linear path and then wisdom comes from this place of adding in.

A bit more of the, the less tactile or less visible aspects of what knowledge is or the application of it or the creativity of it. Really.

Ian: [00:31:26] Yeah. I love the mental models because they can be looked at as tools for a job. And when you have tools that are effective, they give you the confidence to do a job.

You know what to grab when to use it, the context that's where the wisdom comes into play is, you know, which tool to use for the job. What are some other mental models that you use when it comes to creativity?

Jessie: [00:31:46] I think I, a lot of the mental models I have are more related to perhaps hacks for working through, problems related to like your own.

Ability to show up in the way you want to this isn't actually a mental model, but this is what comes to mind when I think about the application of it. And these are things like, how do I develop my voice or. How do I? And like an example of that is let's say an emerging, creative is finds themselves in a meeting that they haven't been in before, or with a lot of people around them for faci as this immense talent.

And they kind of look around the room, Oh, look around your video call and you think, Oh my gosh, what am I doing here? This is the imposter syndrome coming back in. And I'm very interested in, in like the steps it takes to create the space. For yourself around that. So for example, I have worked with someone who was finding it hard to express their ideas, even though they had incredible ideas and they just like their voice just wouldn't.

Come out. So one of the things we did was take a set of sticky notes and any time they had an idea to write a word of that, or a part of the idea on a sticky note, and then physically put it either in front of them, if they were, they were in a meeting room with other people, or, like I have this behind me right now, put it on the wall.

So that other people can see it. And the step there, it seems so little, but the step there is like physical space taking up physical space, starting to cue other people that you have thoughts and I, a great partner would see that. And create space for you, but once you get comfortable with the sticky note exercise, then you can start to say in a moment why I have some ideas I want to share, and then you have all the sticky notes down and you can start to just read off of the words.

And then after a while you don't even really need the sticky notes. You may be. I still do this as my own process, not to lose my train of thought, but then you are so comfortable with your own ideas that you're able to put them out there and you don't necessarily need a cue because your voice is already being established.

But I think the little hacks like that of like, what is the micro step that starts to get me to the end result, which is I'm able to show up in my full form with my full voice, which allows me to. Yes, my best ideas. And that return on that is I have confidence in my own self and my own process.

Ian: [00:34:40] That's great. And you've told me that you really enjoy helping people understand their value in a room of other people and understand their responsibility of finding new ways that looking, you know, looking at things and moving things forward and being okay. A thought starter or a multiplier, and that helping them recognize that their idea might be a key for others to unlock an idea or a solution.

And so that's just such a great way just to get it out there and not be afraid. And as a step to just start getting more comfortable with just speaking up and throwing things out and again, not getting attached to attaching yourself to the thought or the idea.

Jessie: [00:35:17] Exactly. I it's, it's so helpful to understand that creativity is just an absolute, a morphous kind of moving object in any given time.

We're trying to capture it and use it and apply it. And that's very, very difficult to do because it kind of strikes where it. Wants to. And so the ways that we do that is by what we input into our heads and then what we have time to kind of incubate if you will. So a very easy way for our brains to start to remember some of these like nuggets, if you will, of, or like sparks of creativity is by his catalysts.

So it's either by having other people. Say a word and then your brain will find an association with that. Or, it's also being out in the world. I find that I'm often in two places, especially at the beginnings of projects, but a lot of times in the middle where you start to fatigue with ideas or you've been through multiple rounds of design or strategy or writing or, or like whatever the project is, you're in some rounds.

I either have a blank brain or I have a brain that's so filled with information that it's having trouble sorting through. What is useful, what is garbage and to bring sticky notes back again. I do find that the sticky notes, like being able to talk about things, being able to get things out of my brain and into the world is very.

Helpful. So like what you were saying in the case of, both creating space for your voice and being a creative catalyst for other people, it's knowing that your ideas, they might be garbage, but it might be incredibly helpful to kick start someone else. I would rather have someone. Have a thousand garbage ideas, then not a single idea because there's no momentum and silence.

And when someone is talking, there's things that you're trying to do to connect. You're trying to multiply. It's like the improv game of yes. And that's what this is. But what I was saying before was in that space of, I have no ideas or I have too many ideas. The sticky notes helped me also clear my brain.

So in the no ideas, I'll write down, I'll spend like maybe five minutes writing down. Key words that I read from a brief or keywords about the client or keywords about the industry that the project is in and all again, put them up on a wall and then I'll go for a walk and I'll walk around. I love. I do love cities for this, because I think a lot of what I do is about interactions between customers and products or customers and people and services.

So Citi has helped me. See how people are interacting with each other. And I'll walk around for 10 minutes. And I find that my brain creates these connections that I didn't have when I was sitting in front of a computer. I think there's a couple reasons for that. I've heard that. Your brain is most active early in the morning, which I do think some people will debate.

Some people who aren't morning people will absolutely debate that. There's also right before you go to bed, which is why some of us have difficulty sleeping or shutting off our minds. The writing exercise will actually help that as well. But then the other is exercise. So when you're moving, your brain is active and for an industry that sits in front of computers, That can be very counteractive to what we want it to achieve, which is some critical thinking, creative thinking.

So I find that the walking really helps and the same process I apply for too much data, too much noise in my head. I'll write down everything that's in my head. I'll clear it out and I'll go for a walk and I'll see what connections stay or what new connections form. And this is really helpful when you have to work through a lot of ideas.

And we always do. It's never the first idea that takes you the full way through. There's always new day that it kind of comes in new connections that need to be made. And it's helpful to remember that, you know, a client, a person, a, a brief can kind of kill one idea, but this is what we do. This is our.

Currency. This is our medium is his ideas. So finding ways to generate more and knowing that you'll always have more, you will always have more ideas and that's removing the fear from not having ideas will help you start to intake a lot of new, different things so that, you know, no matter what, I'll just find a new input, plug it in and see what comes out.

Ian: [00:40:11] That's great. Just to coattail on that, what I find it's helpful to put it into a framework and start going deep around these data points around who, what, how much, when, how, why, and you start to like create these points. And then from there you have these, all these inputs that you can then start to contextualize and build around.

And that's like such a good way just to get data recording, which as you said, you go from data to insights that then. Gives you knowledge, and then you can apply, creates this sort of like holistic wisdom, which can be experience in different scenarios. So it's just good. You know, like, like you said, just start barfing it out, get it down on paper, no feelings attached, put it down, get them up.

And then you can start to really allow them to surface up or connect the dots. You can then go from the 40 stickies you have on the wall down to one, the big idea. I love the idea of, if it doesn't fit on a sticky note, then the idea is too complicated. And that's, what's great about stickies is it gives you that restraint where you have to fit it on there.

And it's like, you're not going to write a whole paragraph on one sticky note. Some people might really tiny little handwriting, but it's so good just to get the thoughts up on the wall.

Jessie: [00:41:26] Yeah. We talked about confidence a little bit earlier and there, this is definitely a, an exercise in getting out of your own way.

It's. It's generation to its fullest. It is quantity, not quality. And that's, I think that's the best part of our industry too, is that forever in this space of design and technology things will. Constantly be changing. That's what keeps us going. That's what keeps us looking at the world in new ways and being really curious about everything, because it will never be stagnant.

So these processes we learn for getting through these roadblocks, if you will, that will help us forever into the future.

Ian: [00:42:17] Yeah. It's a never ending pursuit, right? It's like the, it's a constant conversation and we're, we're ingrained in it. And again, you either accept it. You change it or you ignore it and when you want to change it.

So you're contributing to the conversation. You're contributing to the culture and it's an opportunity to make things better. And it's not just with products and services and clients we work with, but it's our culture of our workplace and our teams as well. It's kind of like that concept of must be present to vote.

If you're not there and you're not contributing, then you're not making an impact. And so again, voice comes up and the confidence to speak up. And be a contributor or a multiplier, is just so, so crucial, not just in the culture, but in your work and in yourself as well.

Jessie: [00:43:02] Yeah. I fully agree with this.

I believe that this learning and this training we're doing in our respective companies and our.

Respective roles ultimately is giving us the tools for some greater calling. I mean, we are so lucky to play in this space where we learn different ways to see the world. We are actively learning how people think and how people see and how we can connect to that. And they're sure we're working on websites or we're working on whatever our medium is.

It's still the processes that we're learning. And there will be a time where this other person who maybe is at a competing agency or a competing company. And I actually can do something together that helps humanity. I think that is what keeps me deeply connected to the creative world and very interested in emerging talent.

Is helping people see that greater picture of, you're not just this one thing that you're doing each day. That's the learning, that's the practice. Really? What you're doing is training yourself in your particular strengths. To be able to help humanity. And I think as we get more practiced, not even more practice, like as we become more aware about how we can, we can help humanity, it's our responsibility to connect back to that and apply it.

And whether we're able to do that now, whether we do it later, I think that's the ultimate training for us all,

Ian: [00:44:45] having that sense of purpose or vision, knowing your purpose and why you show up every day. You were telling me about, you know, when people ask, when people show up and it's like, what of this can I control?

And what, when we talk about purpose, it's like, not even just, what can I control, but how can I contribute? And it's this concept of change, what you can touch and knowing how you're contributing to the culture, the project, the vision. And I think it's difficult for people to see how they contribute sometimes.

Do you find yourself having to kind of remind people. What their purpose is in projects.

Jessie: [00:45:23] Yeah. I find myself needing to remind myself what it is. Because that's, that's a bit of that like, transcendence layer that we were talking about. So much of what we do is very, we're making something right now that has to achieve something very specifically.

And it's easy to get this pinhole of vision where you're so focused. And I do think that focus is. Very important to be able to be productive, especially as there's so much happening in the world right now. How do you show up every day? Period? That's a big question. And so I even find myself asking a larger question, which is, this is kind of existential, but, you know, what makes life worth living for me?

And when I think about that big. Have an idea, the themes that come out of it. Ultimately I can start to connect back down to what I am doing in my day to day. And it may look very different than what I thought I was looking at when I first started asking myself this question, because we don't always get to pick our ideal.

Projects or the perfect task that suits what makes us feel good in the moment? So I do think it is a interesting exercise of finding actually what you care about in each of these moments. Like, is it actually that you care about your connection to your teammates? And even though you have, let's say a website that you're working on, which is what we're getting paid to do.

It's so wonderful that we get paid to be creative. That's incredible. but that does mean that we're very deeply connected to our own creativity and what that starts to look like. So sometimes in the moment is actually, well, what is powering me right now? What is recharging me? Is this. Being able to riff or multiply off of another teammate.

And that's what starts to feel good. And what comes out of that is that I love this connection to people. And I love when I get to see new perspectives and that's what feels really good. And so I think there's a bit of that exercise that I work through, which is. Like, what am I actually doing in a moment that connects me to what feels good in my life?

And it's not always an easy answer because there are times where maybe you come back down to what you're doing at a moment. And there isn't a connection there. And sometimes you just have to power through. And that's where you start to come back and say, well, is this something that is recurring and constantly making me unhappy?

And do I want to change it? Can I change it? And if you can change it could heavens change it. If you can't change it, are there different ways to connect to it or different ways to look at it? and th that's kind of the constant back and forth that I go through in my own head and that I talk a lot about.

And then, you know, I try and think about what can I do in this moment as well, to help someone else. So, can I change something for them, whether it's actually understanding. That their favorite part of the project or a favorite kind of project. Isn't the one they're on. And can I get them in that space on a new project where they will be successful?

Because I can, you know, I can keep anyone on a project, but. If they're just butting their heads and they're miserable to come to work. And I also look at the, the makeup of teams too. So people are working together and there isn't chemistry there and it's not working. What can I change in that? So there's a lot of different things that I play with, but if it comes down to what can I change?

What connects people to what they're doing and how ultimately can I keep moving the parts around in myself or in someone else so that it clicks into place in a way that feels good.

Ian: [00:49:29] I love what you said about thinking about how you show up every day. And that has a lot to do with attitude. Each individual is in charge of their own attitude and it's up to you to show up and have the right attitude.

You know, so many people are hired, not just on the skills, but on their attitude as well.

Jessie: [00:49:46] Yeah. It takes an insane amount of work. To generate ideas and to show up to work and to interact with people very intelligently. And sometimes we run out of energy straight up, and that's where we fall back on our habits when we're in a non-optimal place and, and all be straight forward.

There's so much happening in the world. That people intake and is very hard to show up in your work, in a disconnected way. And I say disconnected in the sense that it's difficult not to bring your whole self to work, but it's a very real reality for a lot of people that that's not. Perhaps acceptable or appropriate in a work environment.

And so how are you required to be creative and be empathetic and be able to generate ideas that come from inside? If half the shit inside you is trying to find a piece of hope or a way to. Feel safe in the world. And I do, I don't have an answer for this. I think I would be very interested to hear from other people what they do.

I think it's like a constant kind of thing that we're having to work on in ourselves and work on also with other people is, is there's a bit of a friction there of saying, yeah, show up, be creative, generate ideas from inside, right. be connected to culture, be connected to society, use all your knowledge, about how people do things.

And also not too much of you, not much of yourself, you need to be able to perform so that energy and that recharging of energy is different for everybody. But it's also, how do we do that collectively? And how do we give people a bit more? Let's say space or grace in these moments to move around in their processing of the world or their ability to tap into their own creative processes in a time where.

There's a lot of interruptions and there's a lot of things to be thinking about that are greater than let's say making a website. I hate to say it because I love the interaction. I love the psychology of what we do in the technology of what we do, but let's be honest. There's many times where there's things that impact the world that are very heavy on our minds that maybe our brains are collecting to try and keep us safe.

In these moments where really we just need to finish this one task, and this is directly connected to burnout. There's a common idea that burnout is tied to pace. And I've read a few articles recently that helped me shift how I thought about it, because I can take a vacation and I can still come back or the weekend.

Right. We have a weekend. Why would I come back on Monday? Am I not fully recharged again. And I think that's because burnout is more closely linked to emotion. It's more closely linked to our purpose and how we connect to what we're doing. And. You know, pace can certainly affect that. But think about those times where you've ended up working late by your own fruition, just because you were like on, in the flow of something.

So for me, that, that indicates there's something additional happening with the idea of burnout and that in order to address it, It's not going to be simply shutting my computer down at a certain time. I think there's boundaries that help with that, and help make sure that we create space for ourselves to recharge and other ways in space to connect to maybe things that are very important to that.

What makes life worth living question. But in our day to day, I think our ability to connect to what we're doing and why we're doing it and who we're doing with. Is more connected to burnout than just time I can get behind that.

Ian: [00:54:12] I think it's easy to kind of cop out and say, Oh, I'm burned out. I'm working too many hours.  There's so many other considerations that go into that.

Jessie: [00:54:21] Yeah, I'll, I'll try and help people with, I love when people vocalize that kind of stuff to me. So like, when we talk about expression at work or being good to work with, or being frustrated in a moment, I would rather have someone who feels like they have the space to vocalize something so that I can understand what's in their head where their head is at.

Because if I don't know as much empathy as I have. For someone, if I actually, there's no possible way for me to fully understand what someone is going through, I can have all the empathy in the world. I can intake their emotions, but unless I understand something, I can't interact with it. So if someone says in a moment of frustration, Ugh, I'm over this.

I don't like this. Kind of work or I'm frustrated or I'm tired. I can do something with that. That's data now that I can respond to. And so I look at well, what can we control in this scenario? Is it something where I can give them more space to create something? if there's a meeting coming up and they're feeling the pressure and that pressure is.

Increasing the volume of voice in their head that is saying you don't have ideas or this isn't the right idea, or why are you here? Or someone's going to find out that you're not as good of a designer as you think you are. That was the voice in my own head. If that pressure is a catalyst for increasing the volume, can I reduce the pressure?

So can I either shift how we're talking about the work that we're doing? Let's say we have a client review or meant to show this kind of work. Can I move the client review, just release the pressure valve come completely shifted off. Can I keep the client review and shift the conversation? So sometimes there's formal reviews where you need very specific feedback about work.

Sometimes there's. More work sessions where I want it to feel like a collaborative should always feel like a collaborative process. We're building these ideas together, but can I show work in progress? And maybe instead of taking the time to put it into a presentation, can we just organize it in our sketch and our Figma files or whatever program we're using and say, Hey, here's a, here's a start of an idea.

We'd love your feedback, but the format is different and it takes less time for them to. Build a different artifact, if you will. or is there something actually that has nothing to do with the work that is taking up quite a bit of cognitive load in their head and that's, what's distracting. Is there, You know, an Instagram posts that they saw that was very disruptive or very alarming, or was there an event that happened outside that their mind is still focused on?

Can I be someone who is creating a safe space for that processing to happen? Or can I identify someone for them to talk to for that? I think it's just really important to understand that when a frustration is expressed, the intention is there is a hope. For something better, something different that it's not a personal attack, regardless of the tone, man.

If I responded to every time someone said something to me in the way that I didn't want them to say it to me either with the words or the tone, I would be absolutely. I would never get anything done. I think for me, it's understanding that I'm here to help people as a coach, as a mentor, as someone who ultimately wants.

People to be the most creative they can be. And I love the learning of it. So if I can help them in any kind of way, I'm happy to do that. And it's easier to do if I'm create the space for someone to express how they're feeling at any given moment, either good or bad,

Ian: [00:58:19] such great advice around not responding to tone. Jesse, I only have you for a short amount of time. So I'd like to move into our lightning round. I'm going to fire off a couple of questions to you. If you're keen,

Jessie: [00:58:32] I am keen.

Ian: [00:58:33] All right. What is the best advice you've ever received?

Jessie: [00:58:38] I feel like everything I talk about is a culmination of the advice I received.

So the voices in my head and understanding that those are. External voices internalized. At some point, someone said that to me and it absolutely stucked, mental models and your ability to collect different mental models is directly related to your ability to be adaptive. And then what can I do about it?

Nothing, something, everything. That's another piece. I think those three are in this constant loop of. How do I handle a moment? What do I do

Ian: [00:59:21] if I were to, if I were to extrapolate what you just said and turn it into advice that you just gave me, I would say Jesse's advice to me is make it your own because that's what you're doing.

You know, you're taking all these inputs and all these ideas and you're contextualizing them and making them your own practice, your own toolbox.

Jessie: [00:59:42] And what my ego is hearing is that you're saying I'm that one step closer to that wisdom  so desire.

Ian: [00:59:52] That's like, you know what an asemtope is?  An asemtope is it's, it's a place that you strive for that you never actually reach a vision is like an asymptote.

It's a thing you strive for that you never actually arrive to. Right. But it's this guiding light.

Okay. So what's the best advice you have for other people?

Jessie: [01:00:13] Oh, I would say, yeah, the best advice is basically I just regurgitate everything that anyone has told me. So when I talk about advice for other people, when I kind of sometimes get on these preachy, yeah, exactly.

That. I'm talking to myself as a reminder, as I'm talking to anyone else. So there's no moment where something I'm saying. Isn't something that I've personally deeply connected with. I just, I don't even know how to remember anything that doesn't deeply connect to me. So all the advice that I have for others is something that someone told me that I found really helpful as a way to work through.

Ian: [01:01:03] Awesome. That's great. Do you have a daily ritual or practice? I have a lot of daily rituals and practices.

Jessie: [01:01:11] I've, I've some interesting, weird ones around. I was talking about the sticky notes earlier, but the idea of clearing my own cache, clearing my own kind of brain making space for new things to come in.

I, I find that this, so from whether it's coffee, Like, I love making coffee in the morning and having it as I sit down for my first meeting, that to me is like a trigger that now I'm activating my collaborative processes. Right? There's like these little cues. I also have a ritual where if I'm in a long meeting or a lot of meetings back to back, if I just need a moment, I will literally restart my computer.

Pour out my coffee, get a new coffee or get a glass of water and reset again. There's like, I think there's probably something connected to control and this as well in a world where there's so much chaos having these moments of just, okay, I have, I have my water now I'm back to do my job. It's like the mental mindset of getting myself in the space where I can.

Maybe, maybe it is a bit like disconnect from what's happening outside and connect to what's happening right now is grounding. It's a lot of grounding. So a lot of my rituals are in that grounding space.

Ian: [01:02:41] Turn the computer off, even if it's just for 15 seconds, you're like, no, I'm in control here.

Jessie: [01:02:46] I love it. I get to reboot. Yeah. Cause it's all those, all those tabs I had open my brain is quite literally saying, keep track of this. You want to read this later, keep track of this conversation. You need to respond to it. Keep track of this, this, this. My brain is just storing all of that stuff and it needs to sort it and process it and create space for new stuff to come in.

So when that space isn't there, how could I possibly generate new ideas or look at things differently when it's already all full? So I do think it is the analogy of clearing the cache is very relevant.

Ian: [01:03:23] Totally. It makes me think of in, in management science, It's the idea of delegation, or even in resourcing where you have a bowl full of balls in each ball represents an allotment of hours.

Say this, this project is 20 hours. This one's, you got a couple of little, two hour things. Then you got a 10 and another 10 and you can't just keep piling the resource balls on there. Right. And so at a certain point, the person needs to then. Delegate to someone else or, you know, the manager needs to say, okay, that bowl is full.

So I need to literally take, you know, hours off their schedule and move them somewhere else, either delegate or reschedule, push them out. And so it's that concept of like so many things. And then it just starts to overflow at a certain point. And it just doesn't work, illustrating that as far as like capacity and availability, you know, unless you're one of those super humans that works 80 hours a week, it's like, okay, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta move things around.

You gotta be strategic about it. Okay. Through your career, is there anything or anyone that has significantly influenced you?

Jessie: [01:04:43] Definitely. I think there's, there's daily influences in the teams that I work with. The reason I still love. I mean, I've been an instrument for 10 years and the reason I'm I've been there so long is there's this constant flow of.

New people and new perspectives and new ideas. And I, that energy I am addicted to. I love it. So I think there's day to day inspirations from the people I work with, especially now, as I see them tackling the same challenges that all of us are tackling working from home in the current state of affairs, like how are we working through that in the bigger moments?

My mom is probably my biggest influence in my day to day. And I don't know that I've ever told her, so she might be surprised to hear it, but I remember the stories that she would tell of when she was working and some of the, the interpersonal challenges that she would run through and a particular.

Nugget of advice that comes to mind is, there was someone that she really didn't care to work with and probably definitely a communication issue there. But she, I remember her saying each day when I go to work, I find something that I like about the person and some days it's very hard, but I look and I say, I like, I like that their shoe laces are tied today, or I like that piece of clothing that they have on.

And it starts to create a bit of a, maybe more, less toxic space for you to go into. But I do apply that to what we were talking earlier. Not this little thing in front of you, you may not like it. You may be frustrated with it, but find that one way to look at it. That makes it. Palatable, if you will, at the bare minimum and then slowly.

You may find a couple of things that are palatable about it. So that's one thing that she's told me about, but also she's an artist herself. So her own process for exploring different mediums, I think is what is a bit of the inspiration behind when I talk about creative process and how. Many different things you'll apply it to, but ultimately your, your own process is what the through line is.

It's what you get to control and you get to carry with you regardless of what tasks you're doing, your job you're doing. Or even when you switch, if you switched jobs or you switch industries or you switched companies. The through line is yourself and your own creative process. And then the application of it with other people is that collaborative process.

And I think the roots of that comes from her. Fascinating. Good job, mom. I'm just going to love, she's going to love hearing this. All right. What has been the biggest obstacle or challenge in your career? The biggest obstacle for me is something you mentioned earlier around the guiding light. I found that earlier in my career, it was fairly easy for me to kind of see a path.

I mean, quite literally in. A company in a business. There is, as a designer, there is junior designer, mid-level designer, senior designer, design director, or art director, creative director, so on and so forth. And there's, there's a bit of a ladder that I was hungry to work my way through. I've realized that I struggle maybe a little bit in CA finding or seeing a vision that's outside of something I already have.

So once I have something in my head, And I'm able to draw my arrow and point at something I'm very good in that space, but where I struggle is what other things are out there that I don't even know. And I think that's where I'm so. Thirsty, not even thirsty. So like hungry for this kind of perspective and knowledge.

And one of the reasons I've loved working at an agency because it's like a portal into a thousand different industries and a thousand different businesses. And then you are able to start to connect the dots between what are the connections of. The challenges between them, even though they're different businesses, what do they all keep running into?

So in some ways I feel like I'm a business school for that, which I'm, it ties back to our conversation about the continued education. but I do find that that's a constant hurdle is like, how am I seeking that next step? How am I creating that runway for myself, where I can continue to move? So I'm not ever.

At any given point, losing that momentum that I started, there was another thought that came up to me, which maybe is more of a challenge than an obstacle. But I find that the moments that are the most frustrating to me are these moments where I've not been thoughtful about a communication. I'm not exactly sure why this thought came up, but it's probably because it's that interpersonal conflict, which ideally happens rarely now because I try and prevent it as much as I can.

But any moment where I. Have kind of created a roadblock for someone else, either in not being thoughtful in planning, not being thoughtful in how it was communicated, how I said something, how I phrase something and it, it Curt it took energy away from them. Those are the kinds of things that sit with me for a very, very long time.

And. I think that's why I talk a lot about things that are related to psychology and team connectedness and communication and hacks for, you know, working through your own challenges or working through challenges with teams, because I'm trying to reduce that as much as possible.

Ian: [01:10:45] Makes me think of the decision tree of what do you want, empathy or a solution.

And. I think that's where depending what sort of culture and environment you're in. If you can find that intersection where they overlap, you kind of struggled because too much empathy, it's like too sensitive and you're not really hitting at the solution, but if you're strictly solution oriented, then it's like very logical.

Either or on or off black and white. And sometimes things get said without the consideration of how somebody is going to receive it.

Jessie: [01:11:23] This is actually a form of therapy related to this. I forget exactly the name of it, but it talks about this Venn diagram of the emotion mind and the analytical mind will.

And that, there's. The connector between them, which is the wise mind. And it's often that we'll play in one of the spaces at a time, but the ultimate is to find yourself in the middle, by creating space for both. Two truth to exist at the same time,

Ian: [01:12:00] right? Yeah. Depending what research you read. There's a fallacy of right. Brain left brain people. You're not either, or it's actually a unique mixture for each person. Like each person has a combination of both sides. You're not just the logical person or you're not just an emotional person. It's a bit of both. Okay. Next one. When and where do you find yourself coming up with your best ideas?

Jessie: [01:12:23] It's a mix of being able to gather experiences and energy from a city environment. Like I love the stimulation of people and what they're wearing, how they're talking, what they care about, how they're moving through stores, how they're making decisions, what their behavior is when they. For example, get on a subway and I'm in New York.

So I see this all the time. They get on a subway and especially now, how do they move for people or who do they pay attention to? I find so much stimulation from that, but I need space. To dissect it or space to process it or space to form my own thoughts around it. So I love nature. So in a dream world, if I could have a helicopter that could transport me between a city and the woods, I think that would be the perfect cocktail of getting that incubation.

For my kind of creative ideas. Sounds nice. Yeah. Can we make that happen? Yeah. All right. What would you tell your 18 year old self? I would tell my 18 year old self to trust my gut and give myself some grace. I would probably also try to educate my 18 year old self on all of these pieces of wisdom that we've talked about today and, you know, the emotion mind and the, the rational mind and the wise mind, because I'm realizing that these are ways that I've been thinking.

Or thought processes I've had for a very long time, but my 18 year old self may not be in the space to absorb it. So I would probably just simply say, give yourself some space to not be perfect and understand that it's a forever learning process and learn to love the process of learning. Great advice.

Ian: [01:14:34] All right. what are you reading and streaming these days? What's the last thing you watched or what are you listening to?

Jessie: [01:14:40] The last thing I listened to, I listened to a lot of podcasts and a lot of audio books. The last thing that I listened to as a podcast was, the novel college project with Shane Parrish

Ian: [01:14:56] loved that one

Jessie: [01:14:57] talks a lot about different yeah.

Different subjects. They're often a philosophical or, psychological and how they kind of break apart the topics. But they're from a lot of different industries. whether it's around topics like coaching or. Being creative or, business or strategy or a lot of things. So I find it really interesting cause I get a lot of different perspectives there.

Ian: [01:15:24] Yeah. His blog is awesome. Farnam street.

Jessie: [01:15:27] Yeah, exactly. and then I do find that I listened to on an absolutely regular basis, a podcast called increase your impact. With Justin SUA and they're very short. So they're very like two minutes, three minutes, and they're always in this space of coaching and, your mentality.

And I find that even on the busiest days, and it's part of my ritual tool to just getting myself in the, in the right mindset of. Taking on the world is really important. So I like that. there is no excuse I have for not fitting a two minute clip and awesome.

Ian: [01:16:09] Jesse, it's been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for your time and we'll talk to you soon.

Jessie: [01:16:16] Thank you. I love these kinds of conversations. It absolutely refuels me.

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