I remember driving through my neighborhood as a kid, passing by signs for summer garage sales, and at some point, it occurred to me that the myriad cardboard and Sharpie designs weren’t great. A little bit more in effort and design would get more people to go to your sale – I understood the relationship between messaging, design, and behavior before I even had a name for it.
Since before I could describe it, I’ve always been driven by the process of creation. With creativity. With connecting ideas and bringing them to life – even when all I had at my fingertips was some colored chalk and the homemade chalkboard that my dad had painted on our basement wall.
I drew and sketched and built and created my way through childhood. I had a chronically messy desk, but I always earned my entry in the art fair. I thrived on the energy I found whenever I had a project at my fingertips, through the entirety of my grade school years and into high school, where I took nearly every art class that was offered. And then, senior year, I added AP Psychology, and felt like I’d really found direction for myself.
My high school psychology class was the first time I had found an academic subject that resonated with me as much as art class had, and because of it, I went on to earn my BA in Psychology from Marquette University. Learning about the human mind, digging into who we are and what drives us to behave in the ways we do, has always fascinated me. There’s something incredibly authentic and vulnerable about the nuances of exploring our identity and our behavior, and what makes us all connectedly human.
As my journey evolved and my skills sharpened, and instead of being embarrassed at the state of my desk, I’ve learned to focus my talents in a career that brings together all the things that have been with me since my earliest days. As a marketing and branding professional, I’ve found ways to channel both creativity, and knowledge of human perception and behavior, to create and energize those around me. (Oh. And I also went on to earn my MBA with a marketing concentration. It’s a valuable trifecta!)
When you know who you are, you can do anything.
Developing a brand is a lot like growing into yourself. Strengths and skills are deeply embedded in the DNA of all of us – whether it’s a human or a business brand. During my childhood, I just thought I was putting paint to paper – now, I recognize that it was always about bringing something to life. Now, I’ve found a way to channel that energy into a professional career of creating brands and supporting brand touchpoints, of messages and stories and experiences. I get to create things that move and affect people, and I get to help others see and communicate who they really are. It’s purposeful and energizing. And it’s been driving me since the very beginning.
I’ve gleaned so much knowledge from my own journey, and because of that, I’ve earned a deep understanding of how to support brands as they define themselves, build a toolbox including websites, and learn how to effectively and powerfully communicate to reach their audience. A strong sense of identity and solid foundations are what allow us – as individuals or brands – to make the most of our potential and make anything possible.
When you know who you are, you stand tall on it.
Who you come to be is the culmination of experiences, education, things that you choose, and things that choose you. And then it’s how you absorb them all, and allow them to change and grow you. So maybe I didn’t grow values, as much as I solidified things that were taught to me, and things I collected on my own.
I value authenticity. It’s simply not worth giving up who you truly are, for any price. Lying to yourself is exhausting, lying to others breaks trust. It’s something that once you lose it, it’s nearly impossible to get back. It’s also what allows me to connect in a genuine and humble way with those around me, and what I believe takes me from a good marketer to a great marketer.
Through cultivating this value, I’ve learned to be unapologetic. I first stopped feeling bad about my disease, which I got through no fault of my own, and I recognized that this can be applied to any part of my life or myself that I value. Being unapologetic means you can stand strong and move through life with a force – and this force can certainly be positive. It means that you know when it’s worth it to spend your energy, and you protect those expenditures with everything you’ve got, because holding onto yourself, and navigating growth with confidence is essential.
I love true collaboration. I’m fueled by a team, and I love the process of being able to spiral an idea up and up, to something better than any single person could have done by themselves. It’s empowering and humbling at the same time, to be able to put some good ideas out there, but allow others to form and tweak and tune them into something great. It’s an incredibly valuable soft skill to do this to others’ ideas with the same level of grace and constructiveness.
Lifting up others is important to me. This has always been in my nature, but I found words one year after pacing the half distance at the Milwaukee Marathon, because ‘giving back’ wasn’t quite right. It’s using your own strength to carry others to their potential. I do this for others that have lifted me up, but even moreso, for those who didn’t when I really needed someone. It’s the least I can possibly do, it’s a sense of obligation, it’s what fuels the best parts of humanity to keep being good.