I used to cast an envious eye through the doorway at Andy. See, he worked in the office across from me. His space was enormous, just for him and a few other thinkers. In comparison, I was crammed in a small desk with close to 30 people at the adjacent room. I used his office as a haven at times, and we’d get chatting… About life. About business. Perhaps it was all the free space surrounding us that made conversation flow easy, but I also feel it was the sense of integrity and care you get when in Andy’s presence.
From these neighbourly conversations I discovered he started off his working life as a jackaroo in the Tasmania. He left the land seeking a flip in direction, he took advantage of an art school scholarship, which eventually led him to design, and then to advertising. Nowadays, his business thINK plays in the innovation and conceptual space, coming up with out of the box thinking for what ever it is that his Client’s seek a solution for. What a wild ride, and diverse range of experience huh? Andy articulates his business as passionately curious. It’s about taking an idea or business problem, and being intrigued by it, looking at what is the best solution, and then creating it. From ad campaigns for farmers, to café interior design, swimwear lines, documentaries, packaging of crisps and new beverage flavours, his world is ever changing, and completely challenging.
So what do I admire most in Andy? There is consideration in all he does, from the craft of his work, the design of his office space, and to how he communicates through word choice – he’s not flippant in throwing words about. Lucky for me, he took time out over lunch to give me his perspective on what leading a life with passion means for him. So please read on to soak up what Andy has to say…
L: What does having a passion mean to you?
A: Having energy. Energy towards anything that gives you a positive feeling, it’s not the actual art or what you create, it’s the energy and feeling you get from doing it.
L: Can you explain how you get this ‘energy’ feeling, or what it means to you?
A: For me it’s a bit addictive and I get a buzz. I’ve always had it, even as a kid, my Dad gave it to me. We always had stuff to make around the home, I was always making lego, building tree houses (and falling out!), I grew up around tools with my parents building several houses, and my dad building boats. So what I am doing now is the same thing essentially. It took me a while to realise that, it’s been nice to make it into a business. I feel I could go and do other stuff outside of creative work if I wanted too. But it would need that focus and end result for me, as long as I got the same feeling out of it I would feel satisfied.
L: How do you keep the momentum?
A: Some days it does feel too hard. I have a family as a saviour, my wife and kids are my other life. But before that you definitely do a lot of soul searching on things, and it’s funny, for all the beating up I do, and I am sure others do, you come back to the same spot, at least I do. For me, those moments are when you loose sight of what you’re really trying to do. But it’s important to step back and see the problem(s) for what it is. Then you can move forward – looking for that “energy” that comes from fixing, making or solving a problem.
L: What is that beating up, that soul searching, that you do?
A: I think as a creative person I have a real sense of value around what I do and how I put meaning into my work. I try to make things individual, tailored, specific, original, and it’s bloody hard. It takes a lot of effort and energy to do that sort of stuff. So when people or the world don’t see a value in that, because it’s so close to home and part of what I do and who I am, then it makes it hard to feel your work is valued. It’s not really a straight line. One of the learnings I’ve had along the way is to go, ‘hang on, that doesn’t mean I am a lesser person, or I’m of less value to the world’. It just means things aren’t being bought at the moment, things aren’t rolling in. It’s not necessarily about me. It’s about having the opportunity to create those things.
L: People who fail get a lot of negativity directed towards them, what do you say to that?
A: I think the people that criticise are the people that don’t do it. People go out and bust their arse and keep trying. The fact someone has done that alone means he or she is getting better, they are the interesting people in this world. People who come in a bit battered and bruised have the best stories, and are the ones I am drawn to, they are the ones who know what it’s like to work for something they believe in, and work hard at it. I don’t know of anyone has achieved something great without having to put the effort in. And that effort is what makes the reward of success even more worthwhile.
L: I’m interested in knowing how as a father you cultivate a sense of passion in your boys?
A: I don’t connect the dots, I create two points, and let them work it out. Take setting up the Xbox in the office last school holidays, rather than me doing it for them, that would be easy, instead I just sat it down and said there is the power point, there is the TV, away you go. Sounds like really simple stuff, but it’s really good for kids to figure things out. It’s like good creative, you don’t connect the dots for people, you let your work bring your audience to a point, then the reward for them in engaging in your work is the moment they connect the idea and understand the message. I believe good creative gives something back to the viewer. A bit like a good conversation with someone.
L: What advice or tips would you give someone looking for their passion?
A: Nothing is ever perfect, it can’t be. The perfect thing to do is just to get out there and have a go at it. There isn’t going to be that perfect scenario in order for you to start. Perfection gets in the way of you being able to start, taking the leap, getting better. It’s okay to fail, to make mistakes. We work in a world were people don’t see things this way, they see imperfection as a negative, whereas so long as it doesn’t make you loose your job or hurt people or shut down your business, don’t be too hard on yourself, let yourself learn. You’ll never see everything at once, it’s impossible to, I think you have to fail a lot to succeed, not so much with the business, but I have a lot with things on the side. Gosh if I think back to the number of bomb scripts I’ve written and crappy ideas, seems for every 50 ideas there is only one good one, that’s just how it is. It’s that energy thing we were talking about that you need, that allows you to keep going back to it, and back to it again. Then the good stuff comes.
L: What is that for you?
A: Stubborn! Yep, it’s stubbornness for me. Passion is hard, takes a lot of energy. Hats of to anyone who can do it, and keep doing it.
When Andy and I finished speaking he articulated well on what I am trying to achieve through these passion interviews, ‘these are all human truths we’re speaking about, it’s just shining a light on them and how we can move towards making them happen’. Too true.
thINK is located in the Sydney suburb Redfern, Andy can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org