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Dinosaur FeetIn honor of the premier of “Terra Nova” last night, I thought it was a good time to post the second part of my interview with Elizabeth Lalli-Reese, or Lalli as you know her by now. We talk about creativity, human resources and, most importantly, dinosaurs.

I recently found out that you play violin, and that was something I never knew about you.

(laughs)

I was shocked when I read that. I would have thought that was something that would have come up more because it’s not exactly an easy instrument to play. How long have you been playing the violin?

I’ve played since I was 5 years old, so for 25 years now. Yeah… it’s not something that I mention very often, but I’ve been really involved in an orchestra group ever since I was a little girl. Now I don’t play as much as I like, but it’s certainly something that I keep up with. I believe that all children should learn music from a young age, because it stimulates part of your brain that isn’t stimulated otherwise.

Do you play with any string quartets or just noodle around on it with yourself?

You know what…  I kind of play around with it myself. When I was in school, I would play in a group for weddings and things like that. That was a function of having the ability and knowing there was a market for it. But now, it’s mainly just for my own relaxation and to make sure I don’t lose that skill or let that skill become diminished through the years. I actually have the violin that my great-grandfather played, and it was passed down to me when I was old enough not to break it or be a jerk with it. When I was about 5, I had a little half-size violin that I would like hit the dog with (laughs). So, once I was deemed mature enough not to break it or play with it in a destructive way, it was given to me. It’s really cool, because it’s in the same case, and there’s old resin that he used. I don’t use that anymore, but they kept it in the case, and it’s really neat for me. He really enjoyed playing it, and it was expensive for him to buy it at the time as someone who had just come to this country. It was one of his prized possessions.

Well, I know that Charlie Daniels was a fiddle player, which isn’t the same style, but which solo do you think was better, Charlie’s or the Devil’s?

I think it was the Devil’s, but I also think it’s because I know too much about Charlie Daniels’ politics. There may be a bias there. So, I don’t think it’s fair, but I think the Devil’s was better. You know, technically, I think it was.

I thought the devil’s sounded better.

I think you’re always supposed to not like things the devil does. (laughs) Yeah, I think by definition “The devil did that really well” probably is not what you’re supposed to say. (laughs)

Would you consider yourself to be a creative introvert or creative extrovert?

I think that I’m probably a creative extrovert, and I think that I’ve always chosen a profession that allowed me to have a lot of face time with people and to engage with people as a recruiter. The compensation that I would receive would be based on the people that I would be able to connect with and with the companies that I was hiring for. And, my husband is definitely an introvert and will sometimes hear me on the phone in the evening, and he’s like “I’m exhausted just watching you do that. I would hate doing that.” Like, if we order pizza, my husband will not use the phone. He’ll be like “Will you call for the pizza?” (laughs) I think that I’m definitely an extrovert, and it’s why I’ve been able to throw myself into recruiting. Sometimes, it’s kind of hard to call somebody that doesn’t know you and try to convince them that there’s an opportunity out there that’s better for them.

Did you find that playing a violin at an early age helped you become an extrovert?

I think it did, and I think it kind of reduced my anxiety around making mistakes. When you’re in that setting, you’re listening to other people play, and you can kind of tell when somebody misses a note or messes up. You understand that it’s just part of the job of being a performer. Things aren’t always going to be perfect. I’ve worked as a recruiter in open settings where everyone can hear everything I say, and you know, if you get too self-conscience about flipping out or saying something kind of silly or maybe not having the best conversation, then you know you’re not going want to get back on the phone and make another call. So, I’m thinking that maybe it’s okay to mess up, and some days you do a great job and some days you don’t have the best concert. It’s all in getting back to it and being consistent.

Knowing that you’ve met with a lot of people because of the industry that you’re in, do you think that there are people out there that are truly uncreative?

I don’t think so. I think a lot of it is confidence. I think everybody has the ability, and I think it’s even in the things people daydream. They may not think of it as creative, but it is. When I first started working in HR within a marketing company, I always felt like maybe I realized that I could be creative in spite of myselfmy ideas wouldn’t have as much value because I’m not a marketer for a living. I realize that I would have ideas that may be outside of what marketers would think, or maybe I had some unique perspective being in HR. I realized that I could be creative in spite of myself. So, I think it’s about confidence. You know, and it’s about being open-minded on how you define what creativity is.

Were you ever involved in any kind brainstorming on projects early on in the marketing places where you’ve worked?

I have been. And, I think that a lot of times, I was kind of the good lab rat for “Hey would this be something you would be interested in?” or “If you just saw this on a mailer, what would you think?” I was able to give an every woman’s unbiased view of what I thought. Then, once I saw more of the process of being in marketing and doing things like branding, I became more and more amazed at how somebody can sit down with a couple of ideas and put out a product that’s eye-catching and engaging. It gave me more confidence to give more suggestions on what I like.

You told me an interesting story involving you husband teaching your bird to whistle the Imperial March from Star Wars.

(laughs)

He probably spent an embarrassing amount of time on it. The male cockatiel we have, Spike, never liked any man that I ever had around him. He didn’t like my father and didn’t like my brother, but something about my husband just clicked. Like, he knew that he was going to have to live with this man a very long time. (laughs) And so, my husband would go up to his cage, and he would whistle silly little things like the Andy Griffith theme, which I’m so glad the bird didn’t learn because that’s really annoying. So, he would try different little tunes. When he found out the bird really got into Imperial March, he would just do it over and over again. And, I don’t think there’s anything more ominous than hearing a cockatiel at 5:30 in the morning whistling the Imperial March. My husband thinks it’s the best thing ever, and he loves the birds though at first he was not impressed. And now, I think the Star Wars thing totally sealed the deal on the relationship.

So was the bird attracted to the Imperial March?

Oddly enough, yes. I mean, my husband whistled the Indiana Jones theme —no interest. As soon as he heard the Imperial March, he turned his little head to the side and tried to copy it. So, I think that he’s probably evil because it’s the only song he’s every liked. I should have him listen to some Charlie Daniel’s and see if that peaks his interest. (laughs)

So have you become a Star Wars fan?

You know as much as I can see that my husband enjoys it. I have. When they had the Star Wars experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. I bought the tickets, and I went with him. When they had the music of Star Wars here in Dallas, I surprised him with the tickets, and he was in heaven. He was just so excited. I get into it because when I see him like that, it makes me think of what he was probably like as a little boy. Being able to see a grown man get that excited over a movie to me is just awesome. Everybody should have that in their life — where they can feel childlike and not be embarrassed by it. That’s how I am with dinosaurs. I’m ridiculously excited about dinosaurs and my husband totally indulges that. He buys me dinosaur figurines and sends me pictures of dinosaurs. It seems kind of silly but it’s something new and it makes me happy. There’s not enough of that in the world.

Have you been to Dinosaur Valley in Glen Rose, Texas?

I have. And I’ve seen pretty much every dinosaur exhibit even the animatronics dinosaurs that came here. And I was pretty much the only 30 year old woman who was screaming with excitement about the dinosaurs. I even got to take a picture next to one of the animatronics dinosaurs.

Do you think creativity is something that somebody is just born with, or is it something that you develop and nurture?

I think it’s something that everyone is born with. When you watch the way that children play, they can take inanimate objects and create stories in their minds. I think it’s something that we’re all born with, but I think that some parents and some people nurture that piece more. Now I can say that I would love more than anything to be able to draw, because I think it’s an amazing skill to have. I’m horrible at drawing. I would get books at the book store when I was a kid that help you trace things, and I would still mess it up. So, I think my creativity may be musical. I’ve seen small children be able to draw far better than I can. But, I think everybody’s creative. I think you’re born with it.

My previous guest Nicole Dobbs has a question for you. Looking back on your life, what was one of the defining moments where you came to a fork in the road, and you had to either choose A or B?

I think the defining moment for me was my first day of law school, because I went into it thinking it was going to be an experience much like my undergraduate experience which was very sheltered and very friendly. I was thrown in law school with a bunch of people that I considered adults, and I wasn’t really sure if it’s what I wanted to do. But, I’ve always been of the mind that when you start something, you finish it. So, I went and talked the dean of students, and I was like, “I really don’t’ know if I want to do this.” She said, “If you decide to leave, you know we will give you 75% of your money back, and you can figure out what you want to do in life. You have until the end of this week.” And every night that I thought about it, I had a different answer for what I was going to do. Walking into the school that Friday morning and having to go to the dean of students, I made the decision to stay and stick it through. And, you know, those were really hard years in my life. I didn’t have the money. I was working full time and going to school full time, but it’s something I’m really grateful I did. I think that if I would have given up, I would have regretted it. And, I would have always wondered what I could have accomplished if I would have stuck it out. So, that was probably the biggest turning point in my life. You know, up to this point in life.

Do you feel like you needed to go through that so that you left the field on you terms rather than the field kicking you out?

I felt like I was going to be — and I don’t like this word — kind of a loser if I didn’t finish. It was certainly parental expectations (laughs) that I finish law school. So, I think somebody else would have been pretty angry at me, but I think that it was, “I can either let this beat me, or I can beat it.”

Do you feel like you made the right decision?

I think I did. Now when I look at my student loan payments, I might tell you something different. (laughs) They suck. (LAUGHS)

I think I did, because I’ve been able to utilize things that I’ve learned and really have a growing career based on the education that I have behind me, so I’m really glad I did it.

Be sure to follow Lalli on twitter @TXStrategicHR, LinkedIn and like her on facebook. You can also find out more about her at Talentculture. Check back soon for when I interview Lynda Campbell and we talk about the good side of creativity in accounting. In the meantime, be sure to check out my interviews with Jeni Herberger and Nicole Dobbs.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Previously on Untapped Creativity…

I sat down to talk with my wife Nicole Dobbs, about creativity in the science field. The second part of the interview shows exactly how nerdy research scientists can get. You can check out part 1 here.

Getting back to you not thinking that you’re smart enough. Smartness is relative depending on what you’re talking about. I look at that as more of an inner critic. If you had to characterize your inner critic as being a character from a movie, novel or famous person who would it be?

I go back to, especially girls, you have body image issues. I think in that case, it’s probably the stupid valley girl that everybody wants to punch in the face. “Like, oh my gawd! Look at yer big butt!” (laughs) It’s stuff like that.

And there’s always going to be days like yesterday. I was doing an experiment, and the spazzy little critic started freaking out. “There’s never going to be enough time! There’s never going to be enough time!” I started freaking out, because I’m not sure if I did this experiment right. I don’t know that I did the best design for this, and I could have screwed up the whole thing. I had to tell myself, “You need to shut up.” (laughs) And this is probably the same one that when I was going on my interviews for post-doc positions made me start freaking out. “You don’t know anything. The simplest question will get you much further.You don’t anything.” You saw me that morning before I went to that interview, and I had to realize that I’m my own worst enemy. I need to just stop, take a deep breath, and remember that I listen. I listen a lot, and I retain a lot of information. I know a lot of basic stuff. A lot of times when you’re solving problems you start with the simplest solution. Because the simplest question you can ask will get you much further.

I think I have a lot of critics. I think they all look different. I think the most descriptive one is the self-image one who’s the valley girl that I just want to punch in the face.

So that’s the one that you’re most familiar with, but I imagine that one has been there a long time.

Yeah, but you know what? I will agree with you, and this is going on record. The older that I’ve gotten, you’re going to get uglier as you get older…

I don’t think that’s what I said, but we’ll go with it.

(laughs hard) but one of the things that I’ve realized is that I don’t care as much. It’s not as important. We’re all at different stages of our life. I’m never going to be perfect, but it’s the imperfections that make me ME. If I looked perfect, or I looked like I was in a magazine, I would be Barbie. And Barbie is pretty plastic. I’m me. I have a lot of imperfections. I’m not afraid of getting a scar. Those will define me. If I do get a really cool scar, I’m going to come up with a really cool story about how I got it. It’s probably going to involve zombies and robots.

Zombies have come up twice now.

I said Resident Evil. I didn’t say zombies!

We all now what you meant. You clearly have this obsession with zombies. Knowing that you feel so strongly about zombies, do you think zombies should be allowed to vote?

Okay, to answer your question, because I don’t know if I’ve answered any of your questions. (laughs hard) I would say no, because their vote is probably easily swayed with some brains. Then I really do think that everybody deserves the right to vote, but then I went totally the other way with it. They do deserve the right to vote, because you never know the zombies may actually elect a good zombie senator that may actually do better than the ones we have now.

So you would back a zombie-based platform.

I might back a zombie-based platform. I might be a part of a zombie platform, oh, unless project Alice is going to come kill me. But then I’d get to meet one of my heroes.

What advice would you give to someone who’s considering a PhD?

My first piece of advice for people getting a PhD would be, don’t have a fulltime job. Don’t work fulltime. It’s easier said than done, especially if you live on your own. You can’t do science and a fulltime job. It’s just too much, because then you’re never home. You might as well just live in the lab.

Your going to have days where you feel like everything you touch turns to shitDon’t give up. If you really love it, you’re going to have bad days. Everybody knows that if you love something that you do there’s always a downside. I think that the careers we end up in have more of an upside than a downside. The upsides are so much better that we can get through the downside of it. You’re going to have days where you feel like everything you touch turns to shit. (laughs) You need to step away from it, and go for a walk. Take the dog for a walk. You’re going to have hard times, but it’s worth it if you really want to do this. You’re going to have to be able to get through those hard things. You going to have to learn things that you don’t want to learn.

The best advice that I ever received was from Dr. Simecka. “What is the question your trying to answer?” Take that and make it into a story that you can follow. You can explain to people what it is that you’re trying to study.

Just remember if you’re going to do this, it’s not easy. It’s going to take a chunk of your life. Most people will not understand why it’s taken you seven years to get through this, and you can’t really describe it to them because they don’t know unless they’ve been there. Just stick with it, because in the end it will be worth it.

So do you find that getting out of your normal routine or going outside rejuvenates your creativity?

I think so. I have several friends that were freaking out about taking their medical boards, and I understand because I am SO not a test taker. They were doing the same thing that everybody does — locking themselves in the house and studying. I told them, “Okay, you need to go outside, and you need to take a thirty minute walk. I know you’re freaking out, because you’re thinking oh my god, oh my god. You’re brain will thank you.” Exercise I think is probably the best thing in the world. I think it’s almost the cure-all for a lot of diseases. You know if people actually got out and exercised more their body would thank them, but your brain I think really resets. There’s something about it. I don’t know if it’s getting away from what you were doing, but you’re outside, you’re walking, you’re exercising and for me, if you can’t already tell, I talk 15 miles an hour. I’m a little bit of a spaz.

You’re a little calm this morning.

That’s a five mile run, baby!

I am a spaz. My brain goes a million miles an hour. I think we’ve joked about this, that I’m probably a little ADD. What I’ve noticed is that when I get out there my brain is all over the place. It’s thinking about everything. It’s playing back scenarios. It’s playing back conversations. It’s thinking about what I watched on TV. It’s thinking about what I’m going to do next week, in a year, in 12 years. And it’s going all over the place, which I think is kind of good, but then at some point it starts to slow down. And then it reorders itself.

If you have a problem that’s on your mind that you’re going around 50 million ways, sometimes when you comeback from that walk you have that solution. Or you have a place to start, or new way of looking at it.

My previous guest Jeni Herberger has a question for you. Was there ever a moment during your PhD that you wanted to throw in the towel? How did you end up overcoming it?

Yes! (laughs) There’s been a number of occasions where I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. Every step of the way was scary. You were there with me going up in the elevator when I was going to my oral exam. It felt like going to the guillotine.

For those of you that don’t know, I have a 45 minute commute to get to the school. Tad had to drive me on that day, because I was so freaked out. I was going up in the elevator, and I’m pretty sure I was having a panic attack. I ran into the chair of my committee, and he looked at me, which I’m sure I looked horrible. I said, “Dr. Easom, I don’t think I can do this.” He said, “Take a deep breath. All we want to know is what you know. That’s it.” So, that helped me get past it.

Then for my grant writing exam, I was able to drive myself. But it once again felt like I was going to the guillotine. It was weird though. I don’t what happened, but I relaxed more. I gave my presentation, and I guess I realized that I was really doing it, that I actually am a scientist.

I think during grant writing there was a point where I thought I was having a panic attack, too.

That’s the one that I most vividly remember. You were just so upset on my office floor, and you couldn’t put together a sentence. You were just hysterical. I’ve never seen you that stressed out.

It’s because when you go for many days without sleep, or with only little bits of sleep you really can’t focus.

Sleep is really important everyone.

I’m really good at not getting sleep, but you really should make sure that you get sleep. That’s probably where a lot of that came from, and the stress of everything. It was crazy. Me and Sheetal, my good friend, talk about grant writing as if it was the Vietnam War. Like we’re veterans. (laughs) It was a really important step in our career, and we got past it. I really feel like once you get past it you should get some kind of girl scout badge or boy scout badge for that.

It was even worse towards the end. Not so much writing my thesis as much as doing the experiments, because I think we were still going in one direction in March, and I couldn’t prove what I thought I was trying to prove. I was so unhappy. “Why is this not working?” I even made Dr. Simecka miss his poker game, because I was like “This is not working!” He said, “We can try this.” And I was like, “THAT’S GOING TO TAKE ME ANOTHER MONTH!” That was the day that I walked to my car and I put on one of my anthems — Broken Social Scene’s “It’s All Gonna Break.” I cried walking all the way to my car. I cried all the way in my car on the drive home. I think I got home at 8 o’clock that night. When I came in, you looked at me, and I had big puffy eyes. You were like, “It’s gonna be okay.” I guess it looks like a funeral when I come in like that.

Sometimes you’re going to get to the point where you just have to let it out. You can’t be tough all the time. When you’re in the car and nobody else is around, you can cry all the way home. And go to sleep, because the next day is going to be another day. Today is the day you’re going to figure it out. The story still came out good.

How did I overcome it? I think it’s a life lesson that my parents taught me a long time ago. You’re going to get knocked down, and you have to get yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. Ultimately, at the end of it, just like with Frodo’s journey, although it did result in Frodo’s death… STOP LAUGHING!

I’m just laughing at how much of a nerd you are, because you brought up The Lord of the Rings and Resident Evil in the same interview.

Oh, my god. That was a long journey. I was like, “Oh my god. Are you going to get to Mordor? Would you just throw the damn ring!” (LAUGHS)

The longest journeys, the stuff that is the hardest to do is the stuff that’s worth doing. That’s really what I believe. That’s probably what’s kept me going. I think I’m going to get to the end, and at the end I’m going to figure it out. I hope that when I die that I get to go to heaven, and they’re going to tell me all the reasons why those experiments didn’t work like they were supposed to. (LAUGHS) They’re going to go, “Okay. Here it is, and here’s the book.” Or as my mom always tells me, it’ll be all the things that you’ve ever done wrong. (LAUGHS) It’s going to be the library of black books. And I told her one day when she told me that, that there are volumes on me. (LAUGHS)

Be sure to check back soon from Creative Exercise 2.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Cultivate Your Creativity

My first interview with Jeni Herberger brought up the idea that creativity is making something, and that we have to give people the room to be creative in the way that they want. Jeni and her husband have made creativity a part of their life through organic avocado farming. I’ve noticed with all of the interviews that I’ve done so far, that everyone has a point that they light up. It’s finding that passion that gets their energy going. Often that passion reveals their secret creativity, or the thing that brings them the most joy. For Jeni, the excitement and energy level went through the roof when she spoke about her avocado farm. Considering how energetic she is “through the roof” may be an understatement.

The first of the creativity exercises captures that very spirit of hidden passion through the use of an idea tree.

Step 1: Draw a line in the middle of a sheet of paper.

Step 2: Write a single or two word topic that means a lot to you centered under the line. (This is the idea seed)

Step 3: Write a word that you immediately associate with the idea seed. (This is the trunk)

Step 4: Write a word that you associate with the trunk. (These are the branches)

Step 5: Write a word that you associate with the branches.

Step 6: Continue writing associations and creating branches.

The key to the exercise is to not think too hard about the words, and to jump around to different branches. You don’t want to think too linearly. Here’s what I did for this exercise.

Idea Tree Example for Music

A lot of times I’ll use an exercise similar to this to get my brain juiced up at the start of a new project. In the case of logo design, I’ll do a visual idea tree or mind map of around 100 ideas before I begin refining. Be sure to read part 1 and part 2 of my interview with Jeni Herberger, and check back soon for my next interview with immunologist Nicole Dobbs for Untapped Creativity.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

For part 2 of my interview with Jeni Herberger we talk about creativity, public speaking, and we even talk a little shit. Don’t forget to check out part one.

What was the impetus behind you becoming a more prominent public speaker particular with HOW and AIGA?

It was quite accidental. I get a high or rise out of feeling other people’s energy shift from being negative to being positive, or to see them overcome fears. Fears that I don’t really have. Or to see them be hopeful about something maybe they weren’t ever hopeful about. I can literally feel the charge in a room change when I’m talking about something.

I’ve done it in different arenas throughout my life. When I was a very young adult it was for my family. Making a difference for my family. In front of people that I worked with as a photographer and creative director. And then when my company got big, as far as employees are concerned, it was about making differences in their lives. About feeling that charge, that energy for my clients, too. I’ve always enjoyed it.

And then, somebody said, “Why don’t you talk about it?”

What would you say is the hardest presentation you’ve had to get through and why?

The very first time that I had to give a client presentation, not a speaking presentation, but a client presentation. My partner couldn’t make it, so I just went and did it by myself. I walked in to this very, very corporate office. You’ve seen how I dress. I dress pretty stylishly and not very much like a designer. (laughs) I walk into this corporate office. I’m like “Okay, this is going to go great! This is going to go great!” I look into the room, and it is a boardroom of about I’d say 18-20 men all wearing blue suits, red ties and white shirts. And they’re all at least 45, 50 years old and up. And I literally thought to myself “Oh shit! This is going to be horrible. They are going to slaughter me.” I’m this little girl, all by myself going to give this presentation. So, I walk into the room, and nobody stood up. So, I just stood there. And finally, the CEO goes, “Well, why don’t you have a seat.”

I said, “Well, a lady just entered the room, and not one gentleman stood up. So, I’ll wait until ya’ll decide to do that.”

That’s awesome!

And so at that moment, everything broke and I put myself on equal footing with them. (laughs) I figured if I could tackle that one I could pretty much tackle anything, right?

So, did the presentation end up going well after that?

Oh yeah. We totally won it, and it was awesome. It was great, but I knew that those guys were going to eat me alive. I knew that they were instantly going to take off on a very chauvinistic approach, and I was like “Yeah, this isn’t going to happen.” So, instead of balking and rebelling against being a woman I just totally played into it. (laughs) It was a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite stories I think to this day.

Tell me a little bit about you’re companies.

I actually own five companies. Because you’re required to box all of these into separate entities, right? But what’s really, really funny about it is the only one that I would consider to be a business in the traditional sense of the word is Big Fish Staffing.

And you know, that was an amazing adventure. An adventure that really brought me to the place that I am today both financially and just in how it is that I go about doing what it is that I do. It was tremendously successful, which is awesome, because it’s afforded me the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now. It’s become a bit of a ministry for me for lack of another word. To where I don’t have to worry about whether I’m making a zillion dollars when I’m out talking to people. I truly get to be a human advocate. You know, a minister, call it whatever it is that you want to call it.

Jeni Herberger Logo

And then, the whole branding yourself is always a very interesting thing. I’m not branding a design firm. I am literally branding me, and that’s a trip and a half to brand yourself. Because it can have a tendency to be a bit on the egotistical side, and you’re like “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I am not quite that egotistical. We gotta humble this thing out a bit.” So, that’s [Jeni Herberger Creative Concepts] another business venture if you will.

And then, we have an avocado farm in Hawaii which is just weird.

That’s not weird.

Well, how many people do you know that have avocado farms? (laughs)

Apparently just one, but I love avocados. So I wouldn’t consider that weird at all. I could see myself having an avocado farm just to be able to eat my product.

(laughs) There you go! We actually yield about 6000 pounds of avocados a year, and it’s so bizarre to literally have the luxury, if you will, to throw avocados away. When you buy them over here on the mainland you spend two and half to three bucks for an avocado, and it tastes like crap in comparison to what comes off of our farm. It’s an organic farm. It’s just so amazing. So, that’s just another business, crazy side venture that we have. We make like $3000 off of it a year. It’s awesome!

Have you had to learn a lot about farming or did you know a lot ahead of time?

I had to learn a lot of it, although what was so funny about it was, the first house that we looked at over there was a coffee farm. And we decided that that wasn’t for us. We didn’t like the location as much. So, then when we started looking around, and we actually found this avocado farm. I started laughing my ass off when we seriously considered doing that, because my dad and his dad were the first people to ever put an avocado on an airplane.

So, back in the day, in San Bernardino County my dad and his dad and my dad’s brother owned Herberger & Sons which was an avocado processing business where they transported them. And they had a crazy idea of putting gourmet avocados on a plane, and sending them to the east coast. Nobody had ever done that before. And so, avocados are in the blood. So hilarious when I bought this farm. I called my dad and I’m like “Oh my god, dad. I’m going back to our roots.” And I never even grew up on an avocado farm.

Give people the space to be creative in the way that they wantThere’s nothing better than seeing your husband who grew up in Spokane, Washington and had never done anything like that with a pickup truck full of chicken shit. And he’s spreading it around 80 trees. (laughs)

But see that’s when you get back to what you’re talking about and creativity. That’s a creative life. And I think that’s something that we can all pull into. What we have to be able to do, is we have to be able to give people the space to be creative in the way that they want to be creative.

Who’s been the biggest influence in your life, particularly who influenced you to go the route that you did?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my dad, and right next to him my mom, because they’re so connected as a couple. I grew up in an all male family, meaning I have all brothers. And my parents were pretty traditional, but they had one of the first marriages I’ve ever seen that was truly a partnership where it wasn’t about roles. It was about getting it done. And my dad realized very early on that I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, and not only that (laughs) he called me a hustler. I’d go after things. And so simply because I didn’t have a penis that did not matter to my father. He pushed me in the most loving and wonderful ways, yet always expected me to act like a lady. He didn’t ever want me to change that aspect, but he wanted me to be able to conquer the world however I saw fit.

And right next to him was always, always my mom with that big smile on her face going “Yep! You can do it. You can do anything you want to do.”

Do you find that you have that same influence on your kids?

I hope so! I think so. It’s always hard when you’re in the moment when you’re with you’re kids, because you sit there and you go “Oh my god, do they really love me? Do they really know everything that I’m doing for them and how hard I’m trying.” You know, being in it is very, very difficult. I think the joy comes once you’re outside of it, and you get to look back. And you get to go “Oh thank god they are well-adjusted!” (laughs)

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger. And be sure to tune in to Talk Story to hear her do the interviewing!

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

For the first interview in the Untapped Creativity Series, I was lucky enough to interview the brilliantly talented Jeni Herberger. If you aren’t familiar with Jeni’s show Talk Story, then you need to be. She hosts a blog talk show where she talks to some of the brightest minds in the graphic design world. Often on her show she has brought up the very idea that creativity is something that is present in all of our careers. She even mentioned that she wants her accountant or surgeon to be the most creative person that she knows. In addition to a wildly successful career in the creative industry, Jeni is a guest writer for HOW Magazine, Communication Arts and Business JournalJeni Herberger Logo as well as a veteran speaker for AIGA, AMA, AdClub and HOW. I had the opportunity to meet her last year at the HOW Conference in Denver, and I was immediately struck by her blunt optimism. As she is a person of many words, great ones at that, I’ve split her interview into two parts.

You’ve had an interesting career path and journey to where you are today. Give us a little bit background about yourself.

I grew up in on the beaches of southern California, literally. I was super, über good in science and math and wanted to be a marine biologist. That was absolutely what I wanted to do. I was a cheerleader. I know that is shocking.

Here you go. I’ll give you a little trivia that you can put out to the world that not a lot of people know. I was actually Miss San Clemente in 1984. So, how’s that for funny?

I’m not surprised.

(Laughs) It was hilarious! And I was first runner up in Miss California the following year. So, that was my one claim to “I can’t believe I was that dumb to do this!”

I didn’t end up going into marine biology, because everybody talked me out of it saying, “There was no money in it. You should become a doctor.” So, I got talked into going into a medical school program through UCLA that was for some of the top students in the U.S. which was kind of cool from that standpoint. I lasted about 3 months in that program. I think it was after an organic chem test when everyone was swarming around trying to see what their grades were, and I’m jumping up and down because I got a C- which means I passed. I had a whole bunch of people standing around me crying because they got a 98%. I’m like “Oh my god! I can totally not do this.”

So, I switched my major around to music, but I hated that because it took something that I loved and turned it into something that was far too theoretical. And then from there I actually took photography classes, and I loved it. I took to it. That was the pathway that I started down, and it was also really fun because I had done a small amount of modeling in my past. So for me, it was so fun seeing what was happening on that side of the camera. To me that was where it was all at. That catapulted me into the fashion industry, as far as photography was concerned. I switched my degree one more time and ended up with a degree in theater.

Between my junior and senior year of college, I actually had the privilege of becoming pregnant and having my first kid. So, that kind of accelerated my senior year of college. Made me a mom very early. But you know (laughs), I’ve got a 22 year old daughter. Absolutely, positively, no complaints!

Through photography, I had my own studio. Did a lot of fashion photography, and that led me into sports photography which was really interesting. I did a lot of stuff for the NHL, a lot of stuff for Harley, Marlboro. It was crazy. So, a lot of fun stuff photographically speaking.

Depending on whatever your bent is you’re either going to be somebody who directs people, or you’re going to be somebody who actually does the work. You don’t have to move into directing, but there are some people that will do it. Some do it quicker than others, and some never do it at all. I moved from being a doer to being a director very, very quickly. And I think it’s just because I have a teaching background. So, I started doing a lot of creative directing on the photo shoots, and the next thing you know agencies are hiring me not only to do photography but also to act as creative director on a project. And that’s what catapulted me into the graphic design industry.

Kind of crazy, huh?

You can see all of the skills that you picked up along the way. So it does make sense.

Well, and the fun thing is how those skills breached back. That’s what’s really, really fun, is being in your forties, you know, now I have a chance to look back. And I’m doing things that I haven’t done since my twenties, but it’s so obvious that I had to go through this pathway. Like being on stage. I’m back on stage again, aren’t I? I was a theater major, and I didn’t get on stage for 20 years. Now I’m on stage all the time talking to people. I actually taught high-school biology for two years. I’m back teaching again. So, it’s really, really a beautiful thing when you’re kind of at the height of your career, and you get to look back at that pathway. You can see how everything converged together to make you who it is that you are today.

So, would you say you pretty much live an outwardly creative life?

Absolutely! I think that’s an interesting statement from you. When you say an outwardly creative life, what to you mean by that?

I look at an outwardly creative life as you’re ending with what most people would consider a creative product.

For you, I think that’s a great thing to really build upon is that concept of outwardly creative. And I know with all of the folks that you’re going to be talking to a lot of them are going to be people that might be defined as inwardly creative. It’s like you heard me say on Talk Story all the time, I believe because we were created by God, and God is a creative being, and we are made in his image that means we are innately creative. Whether we want to be or not. And I think that there are some people that literally hold that and stifle it because they’re afraid of it. They just don’t want that. They would rather tap into the more analytical side of life. I think there’s some people that just go hell-bent on the side of creativity, and then I think there’s a whole range of us in the middle, and the levels in our life that we decide to be creative in are really interesting. For instance, some of us have gone down what is considered to be a creative career path where like you’re saying the end result is actually art in some respect or another.

I think a lot of it too, is how you live your life. One of the things I look at in myself is not only am I creative in my career, meaning I chose a creative pathway, but  I’m also creative in how I go about everything. If it’s parenting, people ask me all the time “How do you do it? Have three kids and have a business?” And honestly, I’m very creative in how a make sure my kids have what they need, my business has what it needs, and my clients have what they need. It’s a constant process in my head of actually making the life that I want to make. So, I don’t do things the way the book says. Not because I think the book is wrong, but for me it works better if I create it on my own.

I live in Hawaii, and I live in Seattle. People say, “Well, how do you do that?” Well, it’s really, really easy. I wanted to do it, so I found a way to create that for myself. It’s not about money. It’s not about success. It’s about the fact that I created that pathway for myself, because driving fancy cars wasn’t important to me. Traveling all over the world isn’t something that I can do right now. So, one thing that I can do, one thing that I did want to create, was the ability to go back and forth between two places that I really love. So, that to me is the idea of living a creative life.Creativity is making whatever it is you want.

How would you define creativity for yourself in the most basic terms?

In the most basic terms, it is making whatever it is you want. Whether you’re doing that for someone, or you’re doing that for yourself, it is making something that you want. So, if you’re doing it for a client, you’re making something that they want, but you’re going about it the way that you feel it needs to be done.

So, I think we really get hung up on the word creativity? You could define it a zillion different ways. All being creative is IS creating something. If you want to take a different verb then use making it or doing it. So, for me creativity is really, really that simple.

What do you think is the biggest reason why people don’t view themselves as creative?

I think that humans innately have a need to label, to put a box around it, to make it work. When it comes down to even your faith, and some higher power or something, the biggest obstacle that people have with the idea of God is the fact that they can’t put him in a box. They can’t label it. And if something doesn’t align itself exactly right that must mean that He doesn’t exist. The greatest things that we have are things that you cannot define like love. You can’t define love. Why do I love my husband? Hell, half the time I don’t know, trust me. The other half of the time, I absolutely know. I think that because humans have to define things, innately define things, they end up defining themselves out of things.

Look at the words that we put with creativity. You’re rebellious. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say things like “Well, if you draw outside of the lines, you’re creative.” Why does that make you creative? Isn’t it just as creative to draw inside the lines? I really don’t understand that. “You’re creative if you think outside of the box.” Well, who the hell defined the box in the first place? And can’t I be creative inside of the box, as well as outside of the box?

So, I think that innate need to define things and label things makes human being put boxes around themselves, but then exclude them from being allowed to be other things. For instance, designers do this all the time. Designers think they suck at business. You want to know something? I am awesome at business. And most of the designers that I know out there could be if they’d stop saying they aren’t good at it. Because, honestly we should be the best business people out there, because we are tapped into our creativity. We are comfortable with our creativity. Business is not about numbers. It’s about making things happen. It’s about getting things out to the public. Isn’t that what designers do, hmmm?

Another big part of it is just being able to communicate, which is what we sell on a daily basis.

Exactly! Almost every designer I know says “Oh, I can’t communicate. I can’t really talk to people.” You communicate everyday, so if you can’t talk to people then just draw people’s friggin’ pictures for crying out loud. Yes, you can communicate. You just have opted to do it a different way. And I think what we do is, we then box ourselves in.

My first marriage did not work out, and I got divorced. I had a teacher go, “Oh my god. I had no idea that you’re kids were from a broken home, because they are so well adjusted.” And I looked at her and I said, “Broken home? Are you kidding me? I fixed that home.” And so it was a totally different way of looking at it. But we keep putting labels and all of this junk on top of things. And it’s so stupid, because I think it makes us think of ourselves in one particular way.

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger.

Check out part two of my interview with Jeni Herberger.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Beakers with a pencil

Starting next week, I’ll launch the first of many posts about creativity in non-creative industries. It’s a topic that has continued to come up my whole life, and most specifically when people are first introduced to my wife. She’s a scientist, an immunologist to be more specific, and I’m a graphic designer, or creative to be less specific. More often than not people immediately ask what our conversations are like with her being left brain and me being right brain. The assumption is based on the misconception that science involves math, theory and reasoning (non-creativity), and that graphic design involves drawing, painting and brainstorming (creativity). Honestly, we’re a little of both. Designing an experiment follows the same process as designing a logo, we just use different tools and have different outcomes. In other words, we both use facts and strategy to define the problem, and we use imagination to test a solution.

I’ve had a long-standing hypothesis that everyone is creative, and we all use that creativity everyday to solve the problems in our life whether that be at work, home or anywhere in-between. To test my theory, I’ve interviewed people mainly outside the traditionally creative industries to see how they define their creativity. I’ve also interviewed a few people in creative industries as a control. An interesting trend started coming out as I conducted the interviews. People either asked, “Why would you interview me? I’m not creative. I’m just a ________,” or they would ask, “Did you pick me, because you know that I like to paint, draw or play music?”Creativity is being able to imagine while having the courage to act.

One of the main questions that I’ve asked in all of my interviews is “How do you personally define creativity?” The answers are truly amazing and more varied than I ever expected. So, I’d like to start this new series off with how I define creativity.

From day to day, I use my imagination to think of ideas and solutions for clients and myself, but if I didn’t use analytical thinking, processes and a touch of obsessive compulsive behavior then the solutions would never come to life. While I don’t deny my job is creative, I also understand that it isn’t always so. Just as my job and life are sometimes creative, I’m convinced that the same is true for all of us.

Over the course of the next year, I’ll be posting these interviews, and I encourage you to ask myself and the interviewees questions. Check back soon for the first in a series of interviews. My first guest is the wonderfully, brilliant Jeni Herberger.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

2010 Rewind books featuring the work of Creative SquallI thought with all of the year end wrap ups, best ofs and recaps that I’d join in on the fun and celebrate what has been an awesome year for Creative Squall. True it’s a little “pat yourself on the back,” but as my friend Jeff Fisher says “If you don’t toot your own horn, who will?” Honestly, while I’m proud of the achievements from 2010, I know that I couldn’t have done it without the great group of clients, friends, family and the inspiration that I get from the design industry that I’m happy to be a part of everyday.

I didn’t write the book on design, but I was fortunate enough to be included

This year marked the first year that I made a concerted effort to actually enter work into design competitions like the The Addy’s as well as submit work for publication. With the results, I’m not quite sure of why I waited almost 15 years to do so. Here’s the list in case you were wondering.

In addition, a wedding invitation design package was featured in May 2010 Issue of HOW magazine for the article titled “You’re Invited” on pg. 74 about paper selection for wedding invitation design. As a long time reader of HOW, I think this was the biggest moment for me all year. The same invitation design was featured on the Finch Paper blog, and appeared in 1000 More Greetings.

I had to draw the line somewhere

Mountain GoatsI completed the year long sketch of the day project in late July which helped me hone my drawing skills, let go of my need to polish everything and reminded me again of just how important music is in my life. If you aren’t familiar with the project, you can see what it’s about here and see what I spent an hour of my day on for over a year. I’ve just finished laying out the book version which includes some finished poster designs. You didn’t think I could let 366 sketches sit unpolished forever did you? I’m hoping to send the book to print in the next couple of weeks which will eventually be on sale at Blurb books. I’ll be posting more info soon.

Tweeting’s great, but talking’s better

I jumped on the Twitter wave in late 2009, and instantly made some great friendships — note I didn’t say connections. I had an opportunity at the HOW design conference in June to meet many of my Twitter friends in person for the first time. It really drove home how important it is to not only connect with people through social media, but make friends offline as well. Jamie Saunders from Neenah Paper has easily become one of my favorite people that I met this way. She introduced me to Jeni Herberger, Steve Gordon of RDQLUS Creative, Jeff Fisher of LogoMotives all of whom I have been following on Twitter and admiring their work for sometime. Jamie and Jeff were nice enough to drop some paper knowledge for “The Paper Cuts Series” on the Squall Line. Jeni and Steve are helping me out with my next blog project about creativity in non-traditional creative jobs which will be starting early next year. Don’t worry I’ll post details soon! But more importantly, I hope to meet many of you in person in 2011.

Next year will go to 11

From everything that I’ve seen and heard over the last few months, I think we’re all in for a big 2011. I hope to keep building on what started for me 2 years ago when I was laid off. So, pop open the champagne and join me in a toast.

Here’s to more awards, strong partnerships, and great friends — past, present and future.

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