When she looks back on it now, it’s a moment imbued with tremendous weight. As a kid, Jocelyn K. Glei could more often than not be found playing in the wilderness of rural Virginia with her friends. And then one day, as she was running home alone, there it was: a massive male deer, grazing in the woods. She hid behind a log among the flora and gazed upon it, frightened, yet in awe.
It feels close to a cinematic moment, and one’s mind fictively fills in the details—streaks of sun breaking the green canopy, the deer pensively munching leaves and shoots, its muscles tensing and its head snapping to attention at any errant footfall; Glei, 5 years old, holding her breath.
She observed the creature for a series of frozen moments before it pranced off, sealing a memory that today represents freedom, innocence, wonder. And it’s a moment seemingly made more rare day by day since, given the evolving norms of parenting—and, moreover, the endless barrage of digital distraction in which we now live.
Which brings us to a second key moment in Glei’s upbringing: the day her family got their first computer. She was a teenager, and it changed her life, offering not just an outlet for her creativity but also a porthole to her future in digital media. She experimented with the art of curation via her first zine. She explored and absorbed the machine’s tools. And despite having self-diagnosed herself as having “Peter Pan” Syndrome as a kid, she grew with it.
Glei attended Boston University and studied French, screenwriting and American literature, and after graduating and spending time at a small web design firm she moved to New York City and volunteered her skills at the upstart website Flavorpill. She rose from volunteer to senior editor and New York City managing editor to global managing editor. After a stint at a music site on the West Coast, she moved back to New York and had perhaps another seminal moment in life—she met Behance co-founder Scott Belsky.
Belsky was at work on the soon-to-be bestselling book Making Ideas Happen, and he needed someone who could help him out with some editorial aspects of the title. Glei and Belsky had an immediate bond, and Belsky soon asked Glei if she’d be interested in working on a burgeoning Behance initiative dubbed 99%. The core thesis of the project was the Edison quote that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, and with a website and conference for creatives, Glei became the driving force that would empower so many to pursue, and have a realistic shot at, their goals and dreams. (Following the dawn of the Occupy Wall Street movement, 99% evolved into 99U, the ‘U’ for “university.”)
Glei’s own creativity was seemingly fully unleashed, and she thrived, orchestrating brilliant conferences with the top minds in the design and creativity fields, stocking the site with stimulating content and extrapolating the lessons of creative gurus for the masses in a medley of ways, such as the books she edited for 99U, Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential and Make Your Mark. Throughout her tenure, she worked obsessively, intensely and comprehensively (as she has noted, it wasn’t enough for her to simply curate the program for the 99U conference—she insisted on managing details like the music playlists for the breaks, too).
All the while, by studying and sharing the wisdom of the aforementioned gurus, a funny thing happened: She became one herself.
And that’s why what happened next is perhaps so important.
She had a bit of a breakdown.
As Glei has written, she had become obsessed with her own productivity and output—to the point that she’d get home every night around 8 p.m., open a beer and order some takeout, and then do it all over again. And again. Her relationships suffered. Her health suffered. At the end of the day, she was utterly and completely exhausted, “a burnt out husk of a person,” as she has described it.
To those who knew Glei for her prolific output and sage advice, it might have indeed seemed surprising. But unsurprisingly for someone who specialized in moving from idea to execution, she decided to actually do something about it. And perhaps with the zeal with which she took on her work projects, she turned her focus inward—consulting an acupuncturist, a psychotherapist, a physical therapist, a life coach, a personal trainer, a shaman, a Reiki healer.
And over time, she healed.
Her most recent project, RESET, focuses on the distillation of what she learned as she sought to stop and recalibrate her own life—and how others might do the same.
Rarely do gurus reveal vulnerability, those stress cracks that run through life. Via a carefully curated persona, the sum toll of their life and output tends to look flawless.
And more often than not, that’s a lie. (After all, a persona is a persona.)
In Glei, the creative world has a powerful ally—one who is not ashamed to reveal vulnerability, and one who shows the rest of us that it’s OK to wave a white flag, reflect and reset, and that it in fact can be a miraculous thing. That in a hyper-paced society, slowing down can be a miraculous thing. That in a perpetual “yes” career culture, saying “no” can be a miraculous thing.
As Glei told Creative Mornings, “If creativity is self-expression, then every idea is a chance to move deeper into yourself.”
Perhaps an indirect yet poignant reminder to listen and absorb the world and all the gurus around you—but to also always look within and assess what you find there. You never know what glimpses of yourself you might catch in those ethereal woods.
—Zachary Petit, Design Matters Media Editor-in-Chief
Debbie Millman: According to Jocelyn K. Glei, we're living in an age of distraction. Email, social media, and the every quickening news cycle are taking a huge toll on our productivity, our creativity, even on our happiness. But we are not helpless here. Jocelyn's books and articles, her podcast, and a new online class aim to show us the light at the end of our digital tunnels, and lead us back out into the open air. Jocelyn K. Glei, welcome to Design Matters.
Jocelyn K. Glei: Thanks for having me, Debbie.
DM: Jocelyn, several years ago you did a Reddit Ask Me Anything. In it you offered to share what you would do if you found yourself confronted by 100 duck sized horses. I was shocked no one took you up on it. So, let's find out here and now what would you do if you found yourself confronted by 100 duck sized horses.
JKG: Well, that's not the opening question I was expecting.
DM: We always like to keep our guests on their toes at Design Matters.
JKG: I think I would just lay down on the ground and really embrace that wave of duck sized horses.
DM: Now, are duck sized horses ponies?
JKG: I mean, I don't know. I mean, normal ponies are a different size, but it actually reminds me ... I was on the beach one time at the Cape. You know, it was in the Summer. All of a sudden this like, little army of Jack Russell terriers appeared without an owner. They were shepherded by a large greyhound. Like, no human in sight. There were like, four of them, and they were like, eight weeks old. They just ran up to me on my beach towel and I was like, "Am I in Heaven? What is this?"
DM: Did you take them home with you in your bag?
JKG: We just kind of, you know ... We were together for a while and then their owner, who was a distant half mile down the beach, emerged. Immediately I had a vision of that moment of kind of pure joy. I think I'd be into it.
DM: As a fellow podcaster, what were you anticipating my first question was going to be?
JKG: Well, knowing your podcast I was definitely anticipating having something that I said quoted back at me, which I'm sure is yet to happen.
DM: Oh yeah. Buckle up. Given how motivated and seemingly on top of the game you are today, I think some people would be surprised to learn that growing up you had a Peter Pan syndrome. You never thought about what you wanted to be when you grew up, because you were too busy climbing trees. You never really wanted to grow up. Why is that?
JKG: I think I remember my childhood, and particularly my early childhood, I think, you know, from when I was a little kid until I was maybe five, I lived in Virginia. We were pretty rural Virginia. So, outside of our house there was like, this huge hill down into all of these, you know, beautiful woods. It was kind of a different time then in terms of the freedom that you could have as a child. You know, there wasn't all of this technology and cell phones ... Of course, tiny children don't have cell phones anyways.
DM: Some do.
JKG: But also you didn't get the sort of news of what had, you know, sort of all the horrible things that were happening to people all over the world. So, you're sort of much more sheltered, right? I was just kind of running around and very care free, I think. I think as we get older a lot of that carefree-ness tends to fall away. To go back to that technology thing I was touching on early ... I was having a long conversation with a friend the other day, kind of about that like, can you as a parent or even as a child, have that kind of carefree-ness anymore?
DM: Since we're discussing your early sense of play and the outdoors, and random animals sort of crossing your path, I'm wondering if you could tell us about a defining moment in your early life? A time when a stag you came across one day as a child, and what happened when you encountered that stag.
JKG: Well, so that was in Virginia when I was, you know, running around in the woods as one often does, and was by myself. I think that's the other thing, is that just being able to ... I was thinking recently, someone prompted me to do this meditation that was about childhood memories. I was thinking, "Oh, so many of my memories I was alone." But not in a bad way. Just kind of alone, walking around in the woods, or, you know, playing on the front porch. Something like that.
But one of them I was heading back ... I think I was headed back from hanging out with my neighbor friend, Brad Adams. I think I was five. I'm not very big now. I was little, little person. Yeah. I just ... I don't know. There was just this huge, you know, stag that was enormous, you know, antlers and everything. It was just like, this amazing, majestic moment, but I was also really scared. You know? The sheer size of something like that, you know. But yeah. It's just one of those kind of little like, special moments, you know, from your childhood that really stays with you. Just kind of the majesty of nature.
And also when you experience the majesty of nature, I think quite often ... I mean, I literally was very small at that time. But it makes you feel small in like, a good way. You know?
DM: Yes. Yes. Your mom was a teacher. But you've said that if she had grown up in your generation she would have been an artist, given her drawing and painting skills. Can you tell us a bit about your sketch books and the impact they had on you?
JKG: Yeah! Well, so, she had these sketch books that she used to keep under her bed. You know, when you're a kid you like to like, go get into someone's stuff if you can. You know?
DM: Your mom had sketch books. I don't want to tell you what my mom had.
JKG: Very racy. So, yeah. I don't know if she showed them to me or I just found them later. She was really good at drawing people, drawing their faces, which is actually, you know, quite difficult. I've always felt like one of the more difficult aspects of drawing is capturing someone's face. I don't know why, but I used to just like, go in there and, you know, pull them out from under the bed and just kind of look at them.
I think also it was maybe it was interesting to me because it allowed me to see sort of a different side of her, because she's from a different generation. At that time, you know, there just wasn't all of the resources that we have now to build, you know, a career or a business around our creativity in some way. I think she had wanted to go to art school but her and my father got married fairly young ... not for them. But, you know, I think she was like, 21 and then ended up pursuing a career in teaching instead. But it always kind of felt like there was this sort of artistic soul about her, and that was always something that she wanted to pursue.
She still does in her free time. I think she really passed that kind of visual art gene onto my brother. I got more of the writing gene than the hand-eye coordination. I have good hand-eye coordination for sports, but not for art.
DM: Meanwhile, you said that your dad, a nuclear engineer, was extremely Type A. An overachiever, intensely driven and motivated. Given these attributes of your parents, it seems like you're a really good example of the perfect Venn diagram of Mr. And Mrs. Glei, and how Jocelyn popped out. Would you agree?
JKG: Maybe so. I mean, yeah. I've never thought about it that way, but I think that's absolutely true. I think so much of the work that I do now is really ... Sometimes I call myself like, a recovering Type A. You know? It's about kind of recognizing that I have been in this very like, overachieving, ambitious, perfectionist mindset, and trying to figure out how to turn down the volume on that and be able to be a little bit more grounded and a little bit more present, because all of that stuff, right, kind of takes you out of the present moment and into the future. Right? Super future focused. That's always a part of me. You can't just get rid of it. But, you know, trying to find the balance.
DM: I want to stay in the past for a few more minutes. In one interview I read you described two key moments in your life that seemingly couldn't be more opposite. Seeing the stag in the rural woods of Lynchburg, Virginia, and then the day your family got their first computer. Bring us back to that moment.
JKG: I mean, it was ... I think I was about 15, maybe ...
DM: You're a teenager for sure.
JKG: Yeah. Got our first computer. I don't remember exactly what happened on that day, but what I ended up doing was making a zine with it. And that was back when it was like, really crappy clip-art, you know, type of thing.
DM: Ransom notes kind of thing.
JKG: Yeah. But I got really into it. I designed this zine ... I don't know what it was.
DM: What was the name of it?
JKG: It was called Crisp. I had a matching t-shirt with like, the mast head on it with like, a drawing of a woman smoking a cigarette, that I stole from my brother while I was digging around in his stuff secretly. And so, I used to wear my t-shirt. I would make the zine, and I had like, a little crew of like, writers at my school. It was like, essays and poetry and like, music reviews. All that classic like, teen zine stuff. Then I would go ....
DM: So, this is really a precursor to the 99U Magazine that you made.
JKG: Sure. Yeah.
DM: It really is. You had a staff of students working for you. This is incredible.
JKG: Yeah. No, it's pretty funny because ... I would print it out and my dad would take me to work, and I would make copies of it. Then we would ... My parents helped me like, staple them together. I would wear my little shirt and I would like, pass them out at school. Then I had a good friend actually, and we'd had a falling out. He started a warring zine.
DM: What was the name of that?
JKG: I think it was ...
JKG: I think it was called Spitting Image actually.
DM: Ooh! Look at these naming skills.
JKG: Then he tried to steal some of our writers.
DM: Very 90210. Lynchburg, Virginia.
JKG: No, no, no. This was ... By this time I was living outside of Houston, Texas in Clear Lake where NASA is.
DM: What were you hoping to do at that point? What were you envisioning your future might be? What did you want to be as you got older?
JKG: I don't know. I mean, I think always, you know, I've been a voracious reader since ... I don't know ... since I learned how to read, basically. I read every night before bed, generally speaking, and I've done that since I was probably nine or 10. So, reading, writing, and then obviously kind of zine publishing has like, always sort of been in the mix. I think as I've gotten older it's really not even so much about writing per se, as just like, disseminating ideas. You know, thinking about things and digesting them, and then trying to sort of disseminate ideas. I think really just give people some more context that provides some sort of comfort to them.
DM: After high school you went to Boston University, where you studied French and American literature, and screenwriting. You graduated in 1999. Were you planning on becoming a filmmaker?
JKG: I definitely did and still do have screenwriting ambitions. I have ever since then been writing screenplays on the side as I've done everything else. That program, I actually like, snuck into. I was an undergrad but I somehow like, finagled my way into the MFA screenwriting program. So, I was able to do ...
DM: How does one finagle their way into a different program?
JKG: Well, it wasn't different. So, I just got to take the main writing class. Like, the actual MFA students had to do all this other stuff. But so, I just took the two ... It was like, two years of a one year long writing class. So, you write a feature film and then you write a feature adaptation. I was in this weird honors program that's a bit like the Gallatin program at NYU, where you've got to kind of your own major. So, I think ... I don't know. I talked to the head of the program and I was like, "I really want to take this screenwriting class. Like, what do you think?" Then I talked to the professor. I don't know. Maybe I smooth talked him or something like that.
But anyway, yeah. That's been an on-going theme for me. So, I literally have like, notebooks and notebooks of screenplays. I'm working right now actually on a short film with a friend of mine who is also the person who shot the videos for this course that I just opened registration for. We have been good friends and sort of talking about working on various film projects for years and years and years. So, yeah.
DM: You interned at MIT Press, and from what I understand that impacted your view of the then current state of publishing. Is that correct?
JKG: Well, so, I worked at two different places at MIT. I worked at the MIT Press in like, a very junior role. At that time they actually had some of the best book design that was happening. I don't know if you remember kind of that period.
DM: Was that during the time Muriel Cooper was there?
JKG: Probably. I wasn't old enough to like, know anyone's name of who was doing the cool stuff. I would imagine so. Like, Zone Books and some stuff like that. But so, I was there and then I actually worked at this separate office called the Publishing Services Bureau, which was you'll actually find really interesting. It was an office that was specifically set up to help all of the different departments of MIT like, unify their branding, because people were doing like, completely, you know, terrible and ugly and mismatching stuff. And so, it was this sort of like, special design ops, you know, type of unit.
That led to my first job at an interactive web design firm, which kind of led me into the online space. That place that I worked at, this small ... That was when it was called Interactive Design back in the day. That was actually in this place in Maynard, Massachusetts. This old mill outside of Boston, where a lot of the pre-dot bomb companies, like Monster.com, had set up shop. So, we were working in this space. I got laid off, actually when the dot bomb happened. In this space like, all these companies were going under and you just started to see like, discarded office furniture in hallways and stuff. It got kind of grim. So, that really got me into the sort of online space, which was pretty, I think, formative.
DM: After you were laid off you moved to New York City, where you began volunteering for the cultural website, Flavor Pill, in its early days. Now, from what I understand, volunteering means you were working for free. How did you find the ... What did you think about working there for free?
JKG: Well, so, that ... I found them through ... It was my previous boss at this interactive design firm. You know, she was ... We're still really close friends. She didn't sort of like, want to lay me off. They like, cried when they laid me off. Anyway. We stayed in touch and she was like, "I get this email newsletter, Flavor Pill. It's awesome. You should check it out." I was trying ... I was doing like, freelance copywriting and, you know, stuff of that nature. Just kind of trying to figure out what I was doing in New York.
So, I think I just got in touch with them and they were like, "Yeah. We could use some help." It was just these two guys. It was just like, a very improvisational, I think, kind of at that point. Yeah. I was volunteering like, a couple of hours for free. It wasn't like, you know, slave labor or something like that. But then eventually evolved into me being their first full-time employee.
For people who don't have context, Flavor Pill still exists. At that time it was kind of part of this sort of like, new rise of email newsletters. That was also at the time that like, Daily Candy was really popular. And so, this kind of idea ...
DM: [inaudible 00:17:36]
JKG: Exactly. That kind of wave of disseminating information. They were kind of like, a super curated, sort of like, you know, time out type of like, cultural listings.
DM: After that experience, I understand you went west to work for a music website, but things didn't go exactly as planned. You said this about the experience. "After five years I got offered a job in LA to make a not so cool music website really cool. I was offered more salary than I'd ever made. It sounded like a great plan, but it turned out not to be what I had anticipated." What went wrong?
JKG: Well, so, I had been working at Flavor Pill for I think about five years then. And so, it'd gone from one employee, me, to about 30. I think I was managing a team of like, 25 people.
DM: You were the global editor by the time you left.
JKG: I was the global editor. It was quite a title. You know, it was one of those things where you're kind of like, "I think I've done everything I can do here. It's time to move on." The CEO of this company, Artist Direct at the time, which was this sprawling music website, the like, very like, not good looking, kind of like, "I love what you've done with Flavor Pill. You know, I want to overhaul this website." I was like, "Great."
I think because of the film connection, I was like, "Moving to LA. I'm kind of into it. Let's check it out." But what happened was that, you know, the rest of the crew was like, not on board with the CEO's plan to overhaul the site. It was just one of those situations. It was like, a very corporate ... It wasn't big, but it was a very corporate feeling company. Then the one guy I was working for, who wasn't directly ... This wasn't the CEO ... I think quit two months after I got there or something. The guy who I did like.
And so, it was just one of those things where, you know, you kind of get one presentation of what's going to happen and then you get in there and you're like, "Oh, this is completely different." But it was great because I was only there for 10 months and then I ended up quitting, and I ended up moving back to New York because I was very lonely in LA and I was also in a relationship with someone in New York. But I'm really glad that I did it because I learned a couple of things, which were one, that I didn't like working in a corporate environment, that I really liked working either on my own or in a start-up environments. Like, environments where you have a lot of autonomy and a lot of freedom to just make stuff and put it out there, and no one's trying to kind of like ... You don't have to check your decisions through a big chain of people.
Also that doing work that was meaningful to me was so much more important than making money. It wasn't even like, that much money that I was making there. It was just like, more money than I had ever made before. So, you know, those two pieces of information ... I was about 30 at the time. That was incredibly valuable to have just learned that and 10 months isn't a very long time to like, learn this very important lesson about, you know, that kind of guides the rest of your career. So, I think there's definitely a failure on one level, but that's what's great about failing, is it's very informational.
DM: Especially when you're young. I left my very first job, which I actually liked a great deal, but was intimidated by the people that were better than me. I was making very little money. It was really hard to live. I got a job ... This was back in the early 80s ... for $10,000 more than I was making, which is essentially doubling my salary. It wasn't a good job. It was good money for me. But I knew even before I got there that I'd made a mistake.
I remember the last day at that first job. I remember going home, back to my apartment, my fourth floor tenement walk-up, going into my bedroom, getting into my bed fully clothed, pulling the blankets over my head, and crying, because I knew that I had made a bad decision, and I had. It was a year of being miserable in this job that I hated. There is something to be said for balance between making enough money to survive and having some semblance of happiness with whatever it is you're doing. But you don't learn that until later.
You came back to New York and met Scott Belski. Tell us ... You hit it off right off the bat. Scott was putting together this site called Behance, and take us back to that experience. Take us back to the beginnings of this sort of John Lennon, Paul McCartney-esque type relationship.
JKG: When I met Scott it would have been 2008. Behance was well underway at that point. I think it was founded in 2006. I met Scott because I was actually helping ... I was back in New York and I was like, doing some editorial consulting, you know, again, kind of like, "Okay, I'm figuring out my next move," type of a thing. A friend of mine asked me to interview Scott. And so, I took him up on it and we really hit it off. Some stuff happened in between but cut to a couple months later, and it turned out that Scott had gotten a book deal for his first book, Making Ideas Happen.
I was, at the time, guess what? Working on a screenplay. And I was like, "Oh, I'm having trouble finishing this screenplay. Maybe if I work on this book with this guy about making ideas happen, I'll learn some stuff. It's going to help me finish this." I had, at that point, a sort of extensive background in editing and publishing as well. So, Scott is like, here like, CEO of a start-up that's eating up all of this time, but he also like, has to, you know, get together this book manuscript and do it for the first time. Part of it was a lot of interviews.
So, he asked me to kind of come on as sort of a, kind of like a show runner. You know? Helping him like, coordinate the interviews and just sounding board, kind of first line of defense editor, to like, keep him on track. The book came out, it did great, and we were kind of like, "Okay, what are we going to like ... We really like working together. What's going to happen now?" Before we got to that point, I think the book released in April of 2009. Behance had the first 99U conference, which was ... And it was actually called 99 Percent.
DM: Tell us why.
JKG: It was based on the Thomas Edison quote, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration." It was really about kind of pushing back on this idea. You know, there's tons of kind of information and conferences and talks around creativity, but they're all really focused on inspiration, right? And the idea was, you know what? Like, having ideas is not the hard part. You know?
DM: Ideas are easy.
JKG: Exactly. Following through on those ideas is like, the thing that we all struggle with, right? And so, the conference was really about that idea. Let's get people to talk about the hard stuff. Let's get them to talk about the like, nitty gritty stuff that they don't usually talk about, not the sort of Pat story of overnight success.
And so, I attended the first conference and I did some sessions with Scott, which were around like, the book and stuff like that. It was originally put together by Jerri Chou, who later started the Feast Conference, and Michael Karnjanaprakorn, who later founded Skillshare. Michael was at Behance and Jerri was like, doing her own thing but came on just for the conference. Anyway, long story short, Michael ended up moving on from Behance soon after that, but the conference had really resonated with people. Me and Scott were kind of wrapping up our book project.
And so, I was consulting with them editorially, because we decided basically that we wanted to spin 99U off into like, a larger brand.
DM: And so, the percentage went to you for University.
JKG: Well, that's later. I'll tell you about that in a minute.
DM: Oh, okay. Okay. I'm jumping ahead.
JKG: But yeah. So, we decided, you know, to kind of spin it out into a larger brand. There was actually this thing called the Behance Magazine, which was inside Behance, which was sort of this nascent almost 99U. But so, anyway. Michael ended up leaving. Then we were developing this bigger project. Scott was like, "Do you want to come on and lead it?" And so, you know, basically I came on to lead the website, as we built the website into this, you know, resource, interviews, articles, tips. Later the videos from the conference, and then the conference, and then later, you know, a book series that I did.
The switch to 99U actually happened ... It would have been ... I'm not sure what year it was. Was it 2010 or 2011? It was when Occupy Wall Street happened. And so, basically our brand got occupied. We were literally ... We had these giant 99 and a percent that we used to put on stage at the conference. We're literally like, packing them up to carry them to go to the conference, which we would have in like, April or May of each year. We had an office on Broadway in Soho at that time. There was actually an Occupy Wall Street march that happened. So, we're like, carrying our 99%. There's literally people on the street below chanting, "We are the 99%." It was like, "Okay, we have a branding problem. We're going to have to do something about this."
And so, then later it became 99U, because it was kind of like, "Well, this is, you know ... It's sort of been taken away from us. This is the people's brand now."
DM: Is it true that when you realized you were working for a how to website, you became horrified?
JKG: Well, not how to. It was a certain point, I was like, "Oh my God. I run a self help website." You know, but then the immediate next thought was, "But it helps people!" So, there's no way for me to say that I'm not in the sort of self help space, so to speak, but I really strongly sort of don't identify with the mood of a lot of everything in the realm of self help. I don't even really like the phrase "self help." But I do think that people need help.
DM: It's interesting because it's self help, but it's not help that you're providing yourself. You're getting it from someone else.
JKG: Precisely. But I think my problem with the space is that the thing that's so messed up about so much of the self help advice that we read and that we just sort of soak up all around us, is that it makes you feel bad about yourself. It doesn't make you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel like you're not doing enough. It makes you feel like you have to work harder. You could be optimizing your productivity system, you know. Or you should be hustling. And, you know, all this stuff, it's very like ... It is very this like, aggressive, this Type A, this overachieving type of mentality. It just ... It creates a lot of anxiety, right? It doesn't help. It doesn't help you feel better about anything. It just makes you feel worse about yourself. I really don't want to create anything that does that. You know? It's really about kind of trying to provide stuff that's useful to people, but that has a very different, I think, mood and flavor to it.
DM: So, there you are. You are running the conference and the magazine and the website, and you're writing best selling books, and spearheading all sorts of brilliance. This is what you have written. "I was intoxicated with my own productivity. I got wildly ambitious and decided to three times my work load, adding multiple, massive new projects of my own devising, to an already intensive work schedule. By the end of that year I had produced a shit ton of incredible things, but I was a burnt out husk of a person." You'd get home from work, have a beer, order food, then watch Netflix, repeat. You were neglecting your girlfriend and your friends.
Jocelyn, my question is this. How did you make this realization that you were burnt out and needed to do something about it? When you're in that mode of overproduction, it's incredibly hard to see anything objectively.
JKG: Well, so, to give a little backstory on that. That was 2013, and I was at 99U. We were at the point where there were a couple things happening. We had decided to expand the conference. We took it from about 400 people to the Time Center to about 1,000 people at Lincoln Center. So, you know, more than double the size, huge venue, et cetera, et cetera. Then also that year I'd decided to add on another event, which was this thing called the Pop Up School, which was this really fun, three day event that we produced twice as fast as the conference on half the budget.
That was also the year that I began publishing this book series that I made, and we actually published two of the books in the first six months, one book to coincide with the first conference, and then the second book to coincide with the Pop Up School. You've published books before. So, you know that just publishing a book alone is like, a huge push. So, anyway. All these things are happening.
I think as the ... It was about two weeks out from the second book publishing and doing this other event, and I remember calling my brother on the phone. I think I just started weeping. If you're in this overworked state sometimes you just cry, I think, just for release. It's not because anything's particularly upsetting, or maybe you're anxious. It's literally just a form of release in the same way that laughter is. He was like, "How can I help you?" I was like, "Send me a package. I just want to get something good in the mail."
So, he sent me this package. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever received. It had this image that he had made ... So, my brother's an artist, and it was this little post card. Well, he hadn't made the image. It was a print out of this image from Zabriskie Point, the Antonioni movie. The one in the desert where the pick-up truck is on fire, and there's this huge plume of smoke. Then there's this kind of hot woman with long hair, just like, standing, looking at the blaze. Then on the back it said ... There was a little note from him and it said, "I've created this machine. It's like, a new art project. What happens is you like, feed in some information about you and then it feeds out an image that is your future. This is the image that I got."
JKG: Then he gave me a deck of tarot cards. And I was looking at that and I was like, "I really ... I think I do want to set everything on fire. That sounds like a really good idea." And so, I think, you know, kind of having that moment where you're like, "Wow. I could just light all this on fire. It would feel really good," it was kind of like, "What does that mean?"
DM: What did it mean? Because you did try to cut back.
JKG: I did try to cut back. But I want to finish one part of the story, which is funny, which is that I was also like, "Who's this woman with long hair?" At this time I had very short hair, which now we are five years later. I have long hair. I think I lit it all on fire.
DM: So, it was you.
JKG: But ...
DM: You have a good brother.
JKG: I do have a good brother. So, what changed? Was that follow-up question?
DM: Yeah. Well, you cut back a bit. You didn't cut back everything, right? You didn't just burn it down.
JKG: I didn't just burn it down. No. I mean, a couple of things happened. That was also the year ... So, at the end of that year Behance was acquired by Adobe, which is, of course, a significantly larger company that works at a very different pace. Behance really like, maintained its kind of autonomy and this start-up culture, but, you know, it was also an opportunity to slow down a little bit. I just said, "I'm not going take on this level of things anymore."
Also this book series and stuff ... I'd already gotten through this kind of wave, or at least of a wave, of things that I had committed to. You know, it's not about getting rid of things. It's about examining how many things you're saying yes to, and how many things you're taking on. I ended up staying at Behance for ... I was probably there for maybe a year and a half after that or so. But then I ended up leaving and just finally going out on my own, not going to another job.
I think that period was really when I sort of began like, kind of reflecting and thinking about, "Okay, like, how am I going to rebuild myself and my life, and my career in a way that is going to be, you know, essentially more sustainable? I'm not going to get into this state in the future where I'm like, 'Ugh, I've got to light everything on fire.'"
DM: You wrote this about the six months after you first began trying to slow down. "For six months after I slowed down I woke up with this strange buzzing sensation, my body thrumming with energy, stuck in a rhythm after years of overwork. My body was continuing to release the excess amount of adrenaline that I had previously needed to get through the day. It became clear that I needed to do more than just work less. I had to rehabilitate my mind and body, and shed years of bullshit and bad habits."
So, it took you 30 months to get over this, at which point you went to an acupuncturist. You saw a therapist, a trainer, a life coach, a shaman, a reiki healer. From all the things that you did to try to get back to yourself, can you identify one that you feel was the most crucial?
JKG: Yeah. Well, so, I went to see this shaman. It was 2014. I went on an iowaska journey, but just in like, a one-on-one setting. This was a little bit before it's become increasingly popular.
DM: Michael Pollan wrote, you know, a best selling book about it.
JKG: That'll do it, right? But so, it's a little bit more like, "What am I getting into?" You know, at that point, because I didn't know ... There was one person who I had met, who had recommended that person to me and said, "This is a good person. I had a great experience. Go do this." I went to see her, and the interesting thing was, you know, many people go on journeys, many people have different experiences. Some people have visions, some people go flying through space.
My experience was that afterwards I didn't have any anxiety. For about three weeks it was just like ...
DM: What is that like?
JKG: It's amazing.
DM: I can't even imagine.
JKG: It's absolutely incredible. And so, it came back.
DM: I'd like to live an anxiety free hour.
JKG: Right? It's amazing. It came back eventually three weeks later-ish. But what was so transformative about that experience was that it just allowed me to recognize that the anxiety was something separate from me, that it wasn't part of my identity. I thought that I was an anxious person. I thought that was part of my identity. So, I realized it wasn't part of my identity. It was a layer that I, myself was adding. Or like, an ingredient that I was adding into the recipe, or maybe a by-product of the ingredients that I was like, stirring into my life.
Then, you know, the kind of subsequent time after that just became, you know, and it's something I'm still doing, kind of thinking about, "Okay, how can I get back to that place, but knowing that it is possible to get back to that place?" Yeah. I mean, I think just having ... It was really incredible to have those moments where, you know, you just ... It's not that you don't have worries, but it's just that they sort of pop up and you're like, "Well, you know, I can't do anything about that." Or, you know, "I'll do this about that," then you just kind of move on and you're not cycling.
DM: Worry is such an interesting thing, because it really doesn't do anything other than distract you from what you can control. When you quit this big job where you were doing so much, the books, the conference, the website, the magazine, were you scared? Did you think, "Who am I without this work?"
JKG: I wasn't scared. I'm always like, excited to do the next thing. I'm always very like, no regrets, let's move forward. But what was really challenging ... And I think this is challenging anytime you move on from any ... I was very deeply identified with that job. You know? I got to do a lot of incredible things. I got to create a lot of incredible things. I worked with an amazing group of people. All of that was ... All that structure was gone. All those relationships were gone. I still know some of those people, but you know what I'm saying.
I think what is so hard is figuring out it takes a while to separate what you want from what that old you wanted. You know? So, I would say it took me at least a year or two to kind of pull apart those threads and to say, "Oh, this is part of me that still has this ... It's like, almost like this momentum from the old job." These were the ideas and the ambitions and the focus that I have in this job. It has some momentum that has to run out. You can't just stop it, right? So, you kind of have to let that momentum spool out and then you can kind of like, get in there and be like, "Okay, this is something that used to be part of that job, but maybe wasn't something that I personally aspire to or I'm interested in." Pull those threads apart and start to really figure that out.
But I think that's a long process.
DM: When you left did you have a sense of what it was you wanted to do next? Was it going to be something where you were going to allow sort of the universe or your own contingence to manifest slowly?
JKG: I think at the time I wanted to write a book about careers. I had this whole like, massive thing mapped out. I kept kind of trying to do it and then I was like, "Ehh ... I don't ..." I just couldn't get into it, even though like, intellectually I was like, "I'm going to do this."
So, the book that I wrote about email, which is still funny to me that I wrote a book about email, actually I wrote it as just sort of like, an exercise. I was like, "I have some stuff to say about this. Let me just ... I'm just going to like ..." Like, doing scales or something. I was like, "Let me just get into this."
DM: But it's a very good book for our listeners. It's a book called Unsubscribe. I actually have some questions about the book that I ... This might be a good time to ask.
JKG: It is a good book! But it's very specific, right? I tend to like to have a much broader lens than that book sort of represents. But it's interesting. I still say like, "Oh, it's kind of funny that I wrote that book." But what that book did for me was many, many things. One of them was it got me to do more public speaking and to become comfortable with public speaking, which was, you know ... To become comfortable with public speaking is a really magical and wonderful thing. Very useful in life. It also removes a lot of anxiety from things.
It also helped me connect with a lot of people who would become helpful later on, or play a role later on in my life. So, you know, you kind of never know what's going to come out of these things.
DM: Unsubscribe takes on the age of distraction by focusing on email. As you told one interviewer, what do we do as creative people, living in a world that seems increasingly designed to sabotage the focus necessary to produce great work? How did we get here as creative people, so completely overdependent on technology?
JKG: Well, I think, especially when you're talking about creative people, one of the things that makes us creative is something that ... I read this really funny study that had a good term for it. It was called "leaky attention." Basically what that means is often not being fully focused, but being a little bit permeable, right, to what's going on around you, right? And that's how, you know, you notice that little thing maybe that someone else wouldn't notice, or you get that little hit of inspiration, right?
It's this idea of ... Or also even if you talk about it in terms of the big five personality traits. It's this idea of openness, of being open to things coming in. But we're really in this moment where this idea of openness is deeply problematic for getting any work done. Right? You obviously track it back specifically to things like the open plan office. But I think we live in this moment where we have so many different technologies that are pulling us in different directions, and also that just allow so many people access to us. Right?
So, if you're in this open state, it's deeply problematic. I think about it ... The sort of metaphor that I like to use is thinking about having a physical self and a digital self. Right? And so, you have this physical self, which is, you know, you and your body. You have 24 hours in a day. You have hard kind of limits to your time and your physical energy. But now we have this digital self, right? This digital self is basically like, "Let's look at it like a collection of inboxes." Right? Your email inbox, your LinkedIn inbox, and your Twitter DMs, your Instagram messages, all of these things, right?
Those inboxes have an infinite capacity. I never like, email you and it's like, "Debbie's busy. Debbie can't take on anymore," and it bounces back to me. Right? That doesn't happen. It's just infinite. It goes on forever, right? And so, that's what's so problematic about the digital space, is it assumes like, an infinite capacity. And so, that really has shifted the onus of the responsibility of setting boundaries onto us. I think setting boundaries and saying no is difficult for anyone, but I think it's in direct conflict with some of the things that make you a really good creative person, which is this openness. Right?
And so, I think a lot of people who are in that space find it incredibly difficult to make a practice of setting boundaries, and to make a practice of setting no, but which is something that really is just a requirement of existing in the world today, if you actually want to stay focused on the things that matter to you.
DM: Combating these issues seemed to dovetail perfectly into the need for the new class that you've just launched. It's called "Reset." A lot of successful writers often say that they wrote the book that they wanted to read. For this project did you invent the course that you wish had been around to help you when you needed it?
JKG: You know, I wouldn't ... Hmm. I mean, maybe. I wouldn't have put it that way, but yes. I mean, so, I think going back to what I was saying earlier, right, about this idea of kind of the self help industry, and even a lot of the advice that we receive being very kind of toxic. I think that the kind of whole idea around Reset was I was super conscious in everything I did, particularly in the language, to make it feel like there's nothing wrong with you. Right?
It's not that there's anything wrong with you. It's just that you maybe need to ... It's all about kind of getting back into yourself and getting back in touch with your body. I think technology really pulls us out of our bodies. And so, really like, kind of getting back into your body, understanding what the natural rhythms of your energy are, so that you can learn how to align your work with that.
And also, it's a lot about context. So, some of this stuff that I'm talking about now, like, I feel like it's such a comfort to people and such a help, to understand like, "Oh, this is what the context is." Right? The rise of remote working. The sort of collapse of any type of hierarchy. Right? This idea that I can completely work for myself. Okay, great. That's amazing. That's empowering. But what it also means is like, the onus of responsibility of managing everything is like, on you now. You don't have a manager to help you. You don't have a very structured work environment. You don't have these boundaries that used to be created for you. Right? Which is liberating, but it also means that you have to learn how to set those boundaries, right?
DM: And if you're a person who has a person with boundaries or saying no ...
DM: You're doomed.
JKG: Well, and I think that like, people just feel like it's a personal shortcoming, but when you can kind of provide some context and say, "No, no, no. This is happening to all of us. This is why it's happening to all of us. Here's how we can think about it. Here's some strategies we use." Because a lot of what happens with so much of the advice that we get is it's out of context. It's just like, "Okay, if you process your email this way, that's going to solve all of your problems." It's sort of like, "Well, but like, how does this fit into the big picture?" You know?
DM: Yeah. I think also the email is a microcosm of all the problems we have with any addictive technological tool.
JKG: Precisely. Precisely. Yeah. That was actually what I said about Unsubscribe, is like, that's why email is interesting to me, because if you can master your relationship with email, those skills extend to everything else.
So, I totally didn't answer your question about Reset, really.
DM: Well, why did you decide to make this class in the first place? What gave you the motivation to do this?
JKG: Well, so, I think, you know, when I was talking about, right, when I left 99U and pulling out those threads, what matters to me and what matters ... What was part of that job? But when I was in that job, all I was doing was interviewing people and writing about and studying like, what makes creative people productive? What helps them build incredible careers?
And so, I had this incredible like, font of knowledge and research from doing all of that work. And so, that was kind of the 99U piece, but then I also had this journey that I had gone on, right, to like, recover from burnout and integrate these other layers, I think, of like, sort of consciousness and thinking about being present, and thinking about being more in your body. And also just thinking about like, this idea of taking a much more gentle sort of forgiving attitude towards ourselves, and how we think about our productivity, and how that actually frees things up and helps you kind of let go of anxiety and helps you actually move through your day in a much more calm and confident and also productive manner.
And so, it was really like, figuring out okay, how do we fuse these things? How do I take all this stuff? It's literally like, core research about what makes people productive. And then how do I take this stuff about like, how do we like, figure out how to not be anxious? How do we figure out how to be more present? How do we figure out how to be back in our bodies? Then take those two things and fuse them together into something that was like, how do we really do this?
We live in a world where, yeah, we want to be creative. We want to be productive. But like, also we don't want to go insane. We don't want to burnout. And so, Reset was really like, okay, let's pull these strands together and create something that's going to help people be able to make that transformation that I made?
DM: Do you feel that creative people are more apt to burn out than other types of disciplines?
JKG: I don't know that I would say they're more apt to burn out, but I think they're more apt to have problems setting boundaries. So, maybe by that ... As an extension of that, that might sort of be sort of a natural by product.
DM: You've said that slowing down makes you more productive. It's not what people want to hear, but it's true. Can you elaborate on how that works?
JKG: Well, it's what my entire podcast is about. So, we might need like, 600 hours or something to do it.
I think what it is, is that when you are constantly speeding along, right, when you're kind of constantly in this rush, a couple of different things happen. You become incredibly reactive, right? And so, when you become incredibly reactive, what happens is you begin to be controlled by other people's priorities, right. All of these emails and texts and things that we were talking about, that were just ... They're going to keep coming into your life. Right?
What happens when you slow down is that you're able to pull back. Right? You're able to see the big picture. You're able to think about your priorities, and then you're able to act and make decisions based on those priorities. When you are going fast and you're constantly kind of over busy, you end up having a kind of tunnel vision. There's this really great book called "Scarcity," that they talk about this in. It's these two researchers, and they looked at two things actually. They looked at money scarcity and they looked at time scarcity.
When you're living in a state of constant time scarcity or money scarcity, but time scarcity is probably more relevant to most people listening ... You get into this state of tunnel vision. What happens is it makes you less forward thinking. It makes you less controlled. It makes you less insightful, because you're just ... All you can do is react, right? All you can do is think about the next thing.
But if you think about the skills that you need to be a good creative, right ... You need to be forward thinking. You need to be able to be controlled so that you can kind of manage what you need to do, right? Obviously you need to be insightful. Right? So, those are all the things that get peeled away when you're kind of zooming forward and taking things on, taking things off, and, you know, reacting and reacting and reacting. There are so many things that one could talk about in this context, but I think that's the biggest one, is that you just really get into this tunnel vision, reactive mode.
You know, guess what? Here you are. Technology is happy to tell you what to do with your time. Do you want someone else to tell you what to do with your time? Or do you want to tell yourself what to do? You know? Do you want to set the priorities?
DM: From a cultural anthropological point of view, when do you see busy as a badge come to figure into the way we see the notion of how we spend our time?
JKG: I mean, I think ... I feel like there was probably a moment, somewhere between five and 10 years ago, that I think we were really ... I think it was that first rush, right, of the smart phone, technology, right? The smart phone is the thing that changed everything. Right? This idea that your work could follow you around. Right? That's absolutely changed everything about the way that we work and the way that we feel. You know? We have this thing that can kind of always bring everyone else into our lives.
So, I feel like it was really like, a couple years after we got smart phones. You know, you're kind of intoxicated. You're like, "This is amazing." I literally remember when I was at Flavor Pill, watching the video introduction for the first iPhone. You know? They're like, going in and tapping things and zooming. We were like, "Whoa! This is amazing!" You know? So, I think we got to this point where we were like, "Yeah, busy is good. Yeah."
Then I think we're really arriving at that point now where we're like, "Is busy good? I think maybe I'm a little too busy." I frequently ask people when I give talks, "Who feels like they work really hard? Raise your hand." Almost everyone inevitably raises their hand. I say, "Okay, how many of you could keep working at this pace for the next five to 10 years?" All the hands go down. Maybe one or two, you know, like, really over achieving types will keep their hand up.
I think we're all feeling that, you know? We're starting to like, get to that, you know, moment, you know, in like, the movie sequence where it's kind of like, [inaudible 00:53:46], and you're like, "Wait. Okay. Wait. Is this working? What's going on?" You start to kind of like, rewind, and start to think about like, re-framing things a little bit. I think we're at that moment where we're like, "Okay, I know I can't sustain this," but like, people don't know what to do. You know? It's also like, this is how we live.
DM: This is how we live. This is who we've become. We're so immersed in that speed, that to change that or shift that it in any way seems terrifying. In October 2017 you launched your podcast, Hurry Slowly. You've done 37 episodes to date. In one episode you posed a question that I have been obsessed with ever since. You ask, "Who are you without the doing?"
I've been thinking about that ever since. How long did it take you to find out, and how would you answer that question?
JKG: So, this question came from the shaman who I referred to earlier. Right? That was actually on that ... I subsequently, four years later, went back to see her this Summer. So, on the occasion of my 41st birthday. But the first time that I had seen her, when I had that feeling of no anxiety, she had asked me, "Who are you without the doing?" I was like, "What are you talking about? What?" Probably similar to your reaction about it. We did not get to an answer. I was just like, "I don't know."
It stuck with me. But by the time that I went back to see her four years later, I had forgotten about this question. I was like, "Here she is with it again." But this time we were actually able to get to the answer. It's interesting, because a lot of people listen to that episode and they're kind of ... They have the same reaction. They're kind of like, "Ugh, God. I don't know."
And so, there were two things that she told me to kind of, that were able to help me think about it. The first was thinking about like, okay, if you weren't, you know, Debbie Millman with all of your career trappings, if you were a bus driver or if you were a lawyer or if you were a waitress in a diner, what's the thing that would be, you know, kind of the essence that you would bring? It doesn't matter what you do. Wherever you were, right? Any type of job. So, that's one way to think about it.
The other thing is just thinking about like, you know, yourself as a small child. As this kind of untouched being, right. Someone who doesn't have ambitions, right? Someone who's not trying to achieve anything yet. If you can picture yourself, hopefully there was a moment in life, you know, where you were in that state, where you weren't just like, thinking about what you wanted to achieve. You know, and what was ...
DM: Productivity as worth or value.
JKG: Yeah. What was your essence then? Who were you? As we were doing this exercise I had like, a very clear picture ... I had a specific image of the specific photo that I have of myself. I was like, looking at that person and thinking about that little person. So, my answer ended up being lighthearted. That that was kind of my thing that I bring. You and I know each other. You know that sort of like, being playful and kind of poking, but like, trying to like, also like, I think bring something to light, you know, is kind of a core sort of quality of mine in any kind of situation.
Yeah. So, that was where I ended up with it, which like, felt like the right thing for me. But it's something different for everyone. What's so interesting is when people have followed up with me. I've gotten a number of emails and conversations with people about it. They all seemed scared about what they'll find.
DM: Well, then it forces you to potentially consider alternative ways of being.
JKG: Right! But my thought is that what you'll find is actually something quite beautiful, that it's peeling away those layers and kind of anxiety and ambition, and achievement, and just finding that like, little core, you know, that was like, what you were like when you were like, four or five and you were like, that open, carefree, trusting little person.
DM: So, Reset is four weeks. You break down how to reclaim your intention in week one, how to reclaim your energy in week two, how to reclaim your boundaries in week three, and how to reclaim your ideas in week four. Does it help a person understand who they are without all the doing?
JKG: Well, part of the program of Reset, the core part is these video lessons. It's like, 12 video lessons. But they're also accompanied by these meditations for anyone who ... The course opened yesterday. For anyone who's signed up, actually, they just got the first meditation today. The meditations are really the piece of it that's actually about kind of like, opening up space.
The first meditation for instance is actually a lot about self talk. So, how do you talk to yourself in your head? I give people some sort of specific prompts and things to think about. Are you talking to yourself in this way? Could you maybe think about ... Just observe that, and maybe, you know, think about this. Because I think that so much of this doing and this idea of achieving and this pressure that we put on ourself, it comes from that internal voice. Right? There's like this ... I think for some of us there's this almost like, kind of hectoring ...
DM: I'm not enough! I'm not good enough! I need to be better!
JKG: Internal voice, right?
JKG: And so, those meditations are very much about ... They're not explicitly about self talk, all of them. The first one is. But it's about kind of starting to think about and observe how you are internally driving yourself, and how you're framing things.
The distinction that I make ... And, you know, to go back to what I was talking about earlier with a lot of the sort of productivity advice that we receive, it's all like, action oriented, right? So, it's like, things you can do or how to do something to get more done. Right? I cover that in Reset. We talk about actions. We talk about how to align your energy with the natural rhythms of your body, for instance, or how to align your attention with the natural rhythms.
DM: You actually say that productivity is really about what you don't do. That's like, a complete revelation for me. My head's spinning, still thinking about that.
JKG: But what I was going to say is you have this one piece, which is actions, and that's what almost everything that we intake is focused on. But then there's also mindset, right? And mindset is ... So, actions are how you do your work. Mindset is how you frame your work. How you frame your work impacts your mood, it impacts your motivation, and it impacts how you feel. But we never talk about that part, the mindset part.
And so, a lot of Reset, in particular some of the meditations, are about like, how to really shift that mindset. Because, right, it's really a matter of perspective.
DM: Can you give us an example of how you can reframe that?
JKG: Well, so, one thing that I've been doing recently is thinking about how much in my head I say, "You need to do this." Right? In your head, constantly. "I need to do this by Friday. I need to do this and this and this. I need to, I need to, I need to, I need to." Right? Every time I do that I try to think about, "Okay, like, how could I ..." Like, and it's like, right, it's not like I'm in control. It's like there's this second party here who's like, "You need to do this." Right? Which is like ... Then I'm like, "Okay. I guess I'll do it." It's very like, anxiety producing type of relationship, a type of self talk.
So, I think about, "Well, how could I reframe this so that I'm owning this thing? Is there a way that I could reframe this so that I actually want to do the thing? Or if I really can't reframe it, can I let it go? Should I be saying no to the thing?" So, that's just like, a tiny shift, like, every time you hear yourself saying, "I need to do this," think about, "Hmm, okay, well, like, how could I rephrase that so that I'm actually owning that thought as something that I want to do?" That starts to make you really conscious of the things you really don't want to do.
It also starts to make you conscious of a more gentle way of framing things so that you can actually get into it. You know? It might be the like ... To give a very practical example, let's say I was editing something. When I'm editing, when I'm like, "Oh, I need to edit this," I'm going to do it on screen, on my computer, and I'm kind of going to be hunched over it, and feel kind of physically gross and wake up in a zombie state, you know, a couple hours later, pick my head up. But if I print it out and, you know, grab a pen, and I go sit on my sofa, I put some music on ... I'm still doing the editing, but like, I'm in this totally different modality, to where I'm like, "Yeah. I'm kind of into doing this now." You know?
It is just framing, right? It's just like, "Oh, I decided to do it this way, not that way. This is the thing that makes me really enjoy the process, whereas if I'd done it this other way, I wouldn't have enjoyed the process at all." So, I think we're so focused on these outcomes and these achievements, we forget about the process. But the process is 99% of it, right? And if you don't enjoy the process, then you're not really ... There's so much more that you could be doing to really be enjoying the work that you're making.
DM: You've said that when you're working on something, you ponder how you want your audience to feel. Is there a single, universal feeling that you want people to take away from Reset?
JKG: I think.
DM: Comfort in their own skin? Comfort in their own world view?
JKG: You know, it's funny. I think when people sign up for it they're probably not like, "That's what I'm going to take away from this, is sort of a funny thing." I think, yes. Comfort in their own skin. But I think also like, comfort like, "Okay, like, I understand why I felt compelled to work this way. I can see ... I see what happened with technology. I see what happened with society. I see why I was working in that way. But because now I see why that happened, I can see this other avenue over here that I can also take. It's like, oh my God. I could make a right turn. I could take this exit off the highway and be driving on the scenic route instead of on the super highway that I'm on right now." You know?
And so, just to have that feeling that you have more options and that you have more control, and that there's a different way of doing things. I think all of that adds up to a feeling of really deep comfort, hopefully.
DM: Jocelyn, I have one last question for you that I can't imagine that you're not expecting. At the end of your podcast, Hurry Slowly, you ask every guest a set of questions, among them this one. How do you define creativity in 10 words or less? So, you know I have to ask you ... Jocelyn, how do you define creativity in 10 words or less?
JKG: I'm actually ... And I'm just saying this to totally own up to where I got this answer. This is an answer that someone gave me, which I think it amazing.
DM: Who gave it to you?
JKG: Kim Chambers.
JKG: The amazing marathon swimmer. It's just self expression.
DM: Jocelyn K. Glei. Thank you for helping us make better sense of our time in this crazy world, and thank you for joining me today on Design Matters.
JKG: Thanks. It's been a total pleasure.
DM: You can find out more about Jocelyn K. Glei at jkglei ... That's spelled G-L-E-I ... .com. You can listen to her podcast at hurryslowly.co or on iTunes. You can register for Reset at reset-course.com.
This is the 14th year I've been doing Design Matters, and I'd like to thank you for listening. Remember, we can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both. I'm Debbie Millman, and I look forward to talking with you again soon.