May is officially over, and I couldn’t be sadder (apart from an ongoing wrestle with my mobile provider that seems to have magically resolved itself on this the first day of winter).
A large part of that sadness stems from missing the incredible experience that was Adobe’s 99U conference (not winter—I love winter!). The energy, the people, the place—you couldn’t have a more life changing experience as a creative. I’ve returned fired up and ready to charge.
Were there highlights? So many it was hard to keep track.
From Netflix’s Todd Yellin asking us to challenge and invite that same challenge from others. By sharing his hits and misses as Netflix evolved, it became clear that assuming you’re right, is a sure-fire way to go wrong. Google (and Australia’s) Tea Uglow relayed a story of creative cultivation, how much like a garden, she believes in planting the right people and ideas together, in order for something incredible to grow. As I grow my own team at Quip Brands, I will keep in mind this beautiful analogy and hopefully allow each of them to have enough space and sunshine to grow.
Author Tiffany Dufu addressed the increasing pressure on women to be both career and caring superstars, and how simply learning to drop the ball from time to time could be both liberating and effective in succeeding in both. While her observation is not unique, her insights into how our perfectionism and need to have things done our way can be obstructive. Dropping the ball sounds simple, but if you’re like me it’s one of the hardest things to do.
Adam J Kurtz also wanted to inspire more self-love, sharing how his quirky but relatable drawings and life advice somehow had the simplicity our complicated lives need. Apart from wanting Adam to be my best friend, (Adam if you’re ever in Australia, the drinks are on me!) his gift of stating is just as it is, without the bullshit or pretence was unbelievably powerful. I’ve already ordered every one of his books and can’t wait for them to arrive (come on Amazon!).
Every speaker on day one delivered powerful insights, not only on the entrepreneurial journey, but the creative one. It was about being open to new ideas, as well as being willing to give ourselves the care and nurturing we need to be our best selves, and leaders.
Day two began just as powerfully as day one ended. Adobe’s Scott Belsky captured the messy middle between the start of your entrepreneurial journey and the end. It’s where most of us spend our time, yet few seem as willing to share the highs and lows as openly.
Vince Kadlubek of Meow Wolf showed the power of experiential art to really change people and Ashleigh Axios of Automattic reminded us that social change and technology can be powerful partners.
But, for me, it was Jason Mayden’s heart-warming story of a boy who dreamed of designing for Nike, and persisted ‘til he got there, was the most touching. He isn’t just a hero to many, he has now used his powers of design to build a children’s shoe brand (Super Heroic), which helps kids to feel empowered. We can only wonder how many children will feel inspired to follow their own dreams on the back of such an incredible gift.
The break-out sessions were incredible too, and I learnt so much from a hands-on photography session with Aundre Larrow, whose portrait photography is quite exceptional. Spending time with the team at leading brand strategy firm Red Antler, also assured me that Quip Brands isn’t just delivering best practice brand strategy, but our strategic process is right up there with New York’s best.
With a party to end all parties (and the conference), in the sculpture garden at MoMA, the conference could not have been better. I’ve arrived back in Oz inspired and brimming with the insights of many of the world’s best creative entrepreneurs.
NYC, you were amazing, and I cannot wait to come back!