As a freelancer designer, with a noticeable amount of gray hair at the age of 24, I'm on a mission. A very ambitious mission. I believe that every single human has the creative potential to design an artistic and happy lifestyle. I hope to empower others to unleash their creative potential and challenge the hugely, infectious cultural beliefs of "starving artists" and "I'm not creative/artistic" by sharing my experiences, rebellious ideas, and life story from degreed engineer to designer.
My name is Antonio Passariello. A creative, designer, visual problem solver, and huge dreamer for the good of people.
Visually communicating my dreams and expressing my ideas through drawings came naturally for me as a very quiet and shy kid. A gift that I’m very grateful for and would like to share with every reader. From childhood memories, I knew that I wanted to do something wonderful and meaningful for society. In second grade, I drew a picture of myself as a firefighter with a fire-engine red crayon because I dreamed of rescuing people. Then in middle school, I had that typical middle-school, boy dream of being a police officer because I wanted to protect people in the community. High school comes around and I believed I wanted to protect the nation by serving in the military as an officer because serving the community is what I did throughout high school as a Boy Scout.\r\n\r\nMaybe you notice a pattern, I wanted to protect and serve people by doing good for others. I wanted to lead others to greatness. But it was never apparent to me as it is now because there are things in life that distract us from our why: hardships, troubles, and the way we think.
What struggles distracted my focus to understanding my 'why'?
Personally, some anxiety and self-doubt consumed my focus of what was going on which made it difficult for me to understand my why - sense of purpose. Self-doubt overwhelmed my thought process of choosing what is best for me. It sometimes can still be a nuisance when it comes to deciding what actions to take in life. If you can relate, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. In reflection, this state of being has been apparent since high school. The place where I was known for being reserved, soft-spoken, and my artistic ability. Some knew me as the "art guy". I was always in the art room the protective sanctuary - a place of belonging - working on art projects. Fellow classmates always complimented my work, some wishing “I wish I was as creative as you, Toni” or “Wow, you’re so artistic!”
As a high school student who is still trying to figure out social interactions, communication and understanding himself, I didn’t know how to respond to their kind appreciation. Now I owe them a huge apology for not thanking them, and not empowering them with my belief that everyone can be an artist. What they also didn’t know there was more of a story behind my odd social interactions. They didn’t understand that I doubted myself and my own ability to do something great with art and design. I’m usually in a battle with the voice of doubt that causes a bunch of stress - hence all the gray hair. It ultimately controlled my path from going to school for art and design because I believed I would end up as a "starving artist”. I had a very narrow mindset that believed in the idea of “starving artists” - artists would starve and struggle to make a living if they weren’t "good enough.” Wow, was I wrong about that. Now I have a completely different perspective and mindset because of a few life events and a couple books that changed everything for me during college.
Rebel Engineering Student Coping and Finding Purpose with Artistic People
So I gave up art and went off to college for engineering - the problem-solving route - because I believed in the idea of “starving artists” and followed the advice of ridiculous career assessments that are supposed to help you choose your career path. Let me tell you, never listen to computer-aided assessments or test results. They are terrible metrics to live by and base your actions around. Always follow what your creative heart and gut tell you, 100% of the way.
Throughout my college experience, I struggled… really, really struggled in all my classes. I rarely paid attention because I was a creative rebel, always doodling or thinking of something creative to do - my unconscious not letting my inner artist starve. It was apparent that engineering wasn’t right for me. I just wanted to create things… but I was too far invested in the degree and had to stick it out.
Along the way, I met some incredible people. I found myself as the MUB board -student union of Michigan Technological University - marketing chair. Being part of the student union was one of the greatest college experiences. Period. There were so many meaningful relationships formed from that student organization, and it felt like family - a place of belonging. I owe everyone a huge thank you for being so wonderfully accepting because it was the one coping mechanism that made my inner-artist feel whole while I felt lost in my career path.
As marketing chair, I led a group of students, who soon became wonderful friends, wonderfully creative friends as well. Friends who were studying to be engineers or some other black and white career, though I discovered their creative and colorful souls through working with them in the organization. We shared similar interests and the need to express our thoughts with creative ideas and design work.
While my only belief was that it felt like I was stuck in engineering, I knew the only way to cope was to not give up on the team’s creative abilities. I worked with them to provide opportunities to learn design software skills and try to share every possible piece of design/art knowledge with them that I’ve learned. At that point, it never made sense of why or the purpose of tending to their creative needs before myself, but I just did. It just felt right.
When college graduation came closer, that is when I started to make an inkling of my true why because I read a phenomenal book called "Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”.
The book was written by Simon Sinek, who brings understanding for creating a long-term vision and figuring out your purpose that guides you in life. He talks about how your why/sense of purpose should be meaningful to others in society and be clear in your heart so the decisions you make become infinitely easier. It hit the heart and helped me put sense to some of the life events that were actions led by my subconscious, which was unknowingly, aligned to my purpose: helping other artists unleash their creative potential. Though it took lots of endured hardships (about 3 years worth) to fully make sense of my purpose; honestly it wasn’t until now when I sat down to reflect and write this article.
If you’re unsure of your purpose and why you should give this book a read. (Amazon Link) Reading this book once won’t figure out your ‘why’ instantly. Maybe it will, which would be fantastic. Though my intuition says it’s going to take some time to discover and understand your purpose in life after reading the book. It could take some personal reflecting and internalization, and it will be worth it. Promise!
Another book that helped me embrace the fear of failure (or “starving”) and challenge doubt was “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All” (Amazon Link). A book authored by David Kelley who went to college for engineering and co-founded a successful design firm after stepping away from two years of engineering.\r\n\r\nKelley believes in helping as many people regain their creative confidence. He talks about how a lot of people opt out of being creative because of life event where they were critiqued improperly as a child or have the fear of being judged by others.
He explains how everyone can recover their creative confidence and overcome their greatest fear(s) by following a process called guided mastery (theorized by Albert Bandura). The process is simple, take incremental steps of action towards your greatest fear(s). An iterative approach of failing faster to succeed quicker. Through this creative process, you can regain confidence and find the self-efficacy to change your life entirely and do what you’re meant to do… create (my opinion)!
The ideas have helped me overcome doubt and creative ruts in life. I just follow the creative process: let ideas fly, prototype fast, fail quickly, repeat, and succeed quicker. With that help, I have been able to challenge my doubt with the continuous activity of creating things without fear. A philosophy that may be concerning or viewed as rebellious to some, but removing the fear of failure helps me out a lot, which I hope it could do the same for you.
You don’t quite realize the true meaning of some life events until you struggle a little while and set aside time to reflect and learn about the great elements of those struggles. Some of those elements can get in the way and prevent you from achieving what you want to believe. The fear of failure or starving can also get in the way of expressing who creative side. If you’re not happy or believe you’re not creative, my gut feeling and rebellious soul believe you are better than that.
Let's remove the failure. The obstacle that prevents your creative potential. I’m here to share and provide my story and rebellious experiences so you can discover/exercise your inner artist.
Everyone is born to create and make things, why stop exercising your inner artist? Why stop doing what humans were born to do - create?
If there is anything I want you to take away from this article is this. Never give up on your dreams and make sure you discover your 'why', so you can put forth all your energy into your calling. That is what inspires me to help every single person who is experiencing the same trouble(s) I’ve faced.