- What Semester did you attend OA? Semester XIII
- What was one of your favorite experiences or moments here? Like all the alumni I know, I have so many amazing memories from my time at OA — but there are two that particularly stand out in my mind. My fondest memories are chasing our natural history teacher, Ted, through the woods. I remember the first time he took off, thinking “Is this really what school is going to be like?!” I was baffled and energized. It felt too good to be true! I also remember the polar bear plunge very fondly, when we jumped in the lake on a freezing cold day towards the end of our Fall semester. I remember feeling so silly, so enlivened, and of course with the freezing cold water, it was absolutely exhilarating. A rush from nothing more than jumping in some cold water with friends 🙂
- What were some of your greatest takeaways from your time here and what has stuck with you? OA really inspired my sense of adventure, and embedded this thinking of challenging conventions that has really stuck with me today. All too often I see people who let societal standards define their path forward, and then are surprised when the outcome is uninspiring. Being able to attend OA showed me that even something conventional, and required, like school, could be approached in an unconventional way. OA also gave me the confidence to seek out these unconventional paths, and the comfort in knowing that there would be people who support me.
- Has it influenced or inspired your career and hobbies now? How so? Both my life, and my work-life, are pretty unconventional. After living in New York City for 5 years, working in advertising and communications, I hit the road with my partner. We thought we’d take 6 months to explore different countries, with the ultimate aim of picking a new place to live — somewhere outside the US — where we’d get jobs at advertising agencies. However during our travels, we realized two things: The first was that we liked everywhere better than somewhere. We really couldn’t decide which city would be more enjoyable for us to live in. The second thing we realized was that there were a number of people who wanted to work with us, and they didn’t care where we were coming from, or if we worked remotely. And so after 6 months of traveling, instead of stopping somewhere, we founded Genius Steals, a nomadic creative consultancy. Our indecision on location turned into a lifestyle benefit: We haven’t had an apartment since March 2013 — 6+ years we’ve spent traveling to ~40 countries, exploring cultures, and working with companies from Gibson Guitars to Google, from Nestle to startups we’re not allowed to talk about!
- Can you tell me a little about what you are doing now? Why is this work important to you? About a third of our work is public speaking, at conferences and companies, from 3M to Air New Zealand, to inspire companies to think differently about creativity and innovation, and often relating to the impact of technology. Another third is made up of hands-on workshops, which go into a little more depth on similar topics, to help companies create practices and tools that help them work smarter rather than work harder. This might be with the President of Coca Cola and his direct reports, or a 300 person media shop in New Zealand. And the other third is brand and business consulting, which is a pretty big catch all. We’ve gotten to work in new product development with Olay skincare in the Asia Pacific marketplace, content campaigns for the Olympics, and we work with communications companies all over the world to help them future proof their business. Our company is called Genius Steals because we believe that originality is a myth: nothing comes from nothing. But you can’t invent without inventory. Travel helps us to expand our own adjacent possible: You can’t look under a rock if you don’t know the rock exists.
- What is a piece of advice you would give to a future OA student? The ego is a powerful force — and likewise, so is momentum. Don’t be a prisoner of your own preferences. Find ways to challenge your own beliefs, your likes and dislikes. Teach yourself to be comfortable with uncertainty, and remind yourself that being wrong isn’t always a bad thing. But ultimately, I think Dallas Clayton, a children’s book artist, has the best advice. He says, “Make a list of things you love. Make a list of things you do everyday. Compare. Adjust accordingly.” How you spend your days is how you spend your life, and it’s important to invest in building a life you love. Make your life your life’s work.