December 16, 2017Comments are off for this post.

25, More Grey Hair and Self Awareness

Since turning 25, I have been reflecting on the past year of crazy events that occurred. A journey that could only be described as a mentally exhausting battle of discipline and focusing on important lessons. My battle ensued after quitting my full-time job as an engineer, taking a fearful leap from Appleton, WI to Chicago, IL for a design career, and tackling the unknowns head first. This post will go into the nitty gritty details of what has been learned, changed, and on the rise.

I’m going to say a lot of this year was about improving self-awareness. A mentality of being completely honest with yourself and figuring out your strengths and weaknesses. I also took a word of inspiration from a legendary entrepreneur and author -Gary Vaynerchuk.

”Go all-in on your one greatest strength and weakness, and deconstruct the steps of achieving what you want." - Gary Vanerchuk

Self-awareness is the one tool that I used during this battle as a 24-year-old leaving the comfort of Appleton for Chicago. Leaving comfort was not the only issue, I learned a couple great personal lessons that were brought up by coworkers before leaving the engineering job.


Important Lessons

My first major lesson learned from a coworker last year was about ownership. It was never apparent that I lacked ownership until this senior engineer - a more wiser person - outright called me out for lack of ownership. You bet it stung inside, and it’s really something I needed to hear it so I can grow personally. I took that to heart, and this past year I’ve been trying to develop a better sense of ownership in all my actions.

The first step of ownership was owning the belief that I am a visual designer and creative problem solver, not an engineer. I dropped everything in Appleton, WI to move to Chicago, IL - in pursuit of building a design career to create fulfillment for myself. I had no job offer or anything else lined up for me; it was going to be me owning my fiery passion, skills and going against all odds to make a living. I wanted to work as a freelancer while figuring out what paths to take for my career and happiness.

Let me tell you, it was a really gutsy move! It hurt. I really didn’t like it because I had to leave behind great people, security and face the upcoming hardships. It was definitely a state of mind where I put a lot of pressure on myself so the only option I had was to takes steps for making it happen. The options were either survive or perish.

This notion of pressuring and setting myself up for almost complete failure or success so I could learn very effectively was a test based on something I’ve read: people learn best through failure. My whole intention was to put myself in a struggling environment, an arduous journey, giving up the comfort of a job with cushy benefits, 401K, and salary, and really jumping all into a bunch of unknowns. That way I had no way out except for finding my own means of living through my design work. (FYI: This life experiment resulted in an unhealthy amount of stress, anxiety, and more grey hair.)

For a while, I did freelance design under AP Creates. I was working on a couple logo and print design projects for friends and other online commissions. My freelancing evolved into working with a roommate on websites, UI design, and branding. Our work grew and a partnership/business formed as Underground Web Lab. This partnership formed because we wanted to bring passionate ideas to life by building compelling experiences with modern web technologies and quality craftsmanship. A small business and a huge lesson of ownership have been the major works of this past year.

The most exciting part: We are slowly growing, and I can’t wait to share more stories!

How I plan on continuing to develop personal ownership. I will be reading more books and listening to great podcasts. My favorites: Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, and Jacko Willink. They have really good content on leadership, how to face fears, and developing a great mindset for your life, and develop the skills and habits to live the lifestyle you want. I will definitely be writing more on those topics, sharing those ideas with you readers, and tying those into my own lifestyle and experiences.



My second lesson of the year was brought up by a different coworker. They mentioned that my perception was a little off. I didn’t know what that meant. At the time, I interpreted that as I needed to work on myself so people are more comfortable around me.

I thought my perception was alright being the quiet and introverted kid; keeping to myself when others spoke and only speaking up when called upon - my norm. That was the culture and mindset I grew up with. In my mind, I didn’t see a problem with always being reserved around others. However, a coworker believed something was a little off and this opinion stung.

Anyways, it’s a great learning lesson. It made me question could it be completely related to self-confidence or even the introverted side of me? I struggled to figure it out. So I developed this curiosity of learning as much as I could about perception, human psychology, and behavior. Some of the knowledge that I have pieced together, is the following: people who talk more than an introvert could perceive a less talkative person as rude or strange when they don’t match their energy level of conversation. I.E:  If an introvert doesn’t respond as often to the extrovert would like, they could be perceived as snooty or rude and it could create uncomfortableness in the environment. (Unless the extrovert tries to puts their-self in the perspective of the introvert)

How I plan on continuing to develop a better perception is to learn more about human psychology, perhaps speak out more often, and focus on small acts to help build a better perception. I’ll definitely be reading and listening to more of Tony Robbin’s podcasts about empowerment, mindset, and healthy habits to help with perception.


Let's go back to the concept of self-awareness for a little bit. This past year was full of self-awareness. I was working on some of my weaknesses and strengths. Now, what's next?

New focus

The challenge is to keep up the momentum for improving in these areas, as well as focusing on my greatest strength and weakness. (Greatest Strength: Creativity/Visual Design. Greatest Weakness: Self-Confidence.)

To remain committed to my challenge, I have to incorporate this strength and weakness into my singular belief:

"I believe design and creativity serve a greater purpose of helping others. My Northstar (vision) is serving others with empathy and creativity to design compelling visuals and build better experiences. This is done by inspiring creative confidence within others and myself." - AP

In order to fulfill that belief, I really need to narrow in on my actions. All of my actions will be focused around:

  • Design
  • Build Brand Experiences/Stories
  • Empathetic Leadership
  • Human Behavior & Psychology


I must go all in with writing and developing skills around design, leadership, and growth mindset to successfully build brands/stories. Understanding basic human psychology will help allow me to develop strategies and solve challenges around common human problems and my own personal confidence.

In essence, this past year of life was a huge design problem: understanding myself, design around my self-awareness, find avenues to develop knowledge, and now execute with this knowledge. Ultimately, I want to share every piece of knowledge with you readers throughout this process.

If you are reading this, it really means a lot to me and hopefully, you could learn a few things for yourself.

All thoughts, comments, and feedback are greatly appreciated.



January 21, 2017Comments are off for this post.

24 Year Old Reflecting, More Gray Hair, and a Stronger ‘Why’!

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”.

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!

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

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.

A challenge

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.

July 24, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Scouting Coast to Coast

Trek Part 1: To San Francisco, California

First stop - San Francisco!


I've always talked and talked about wanting to visit some great friends here, but I kept putting it off; something I'm really bad at, as well as getting choked up by the fear of uncertainty. So this vacation was it. I needed to take action, finally and get comfortable with those unknowns. Unknowns of life are part of the adventure, and I'm ready to check out some beautiful sites - you know, 'touristy stuff' - and more importantly create more awesome memories with college friends!


Most of the friends in SF are working for a startup called Handshake - founded by Michigan Tech students. They are doing great things out in San Francisco and are continuing to grow, and it’s going to a humbling opportunity to see what the inside life of a startup culture/environment looks like. Startup life can be pretty crazy and sometimes they're notorious for a rowdy night or two… So there may or may not be a night of crazy fun just like the college days. ?


That’s all for now. I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures of the scenery and post later..



Trek Part: 2: Cimmaron, New Mexico - Philmont Scout Ranch


The main leg of this vacation is out west at Philmont Scout Ranch for a leadership conference - Smarter, Strategic, and Sustainable Scouting!  This leadership conference is to learn the knowledge and techniques to provide effective growth and leadership for boy scout troops.


Scouting has a been a large part of my life, all the way from 7th grade to “Eagling Up” with the eagle scout award in 2010. Camping and learning through the boy scouts was a crucial chapter in my life where I learned valuable life skills and fostered leadership with a growing troop. Many memories were made, and  I want to pay it forward by sharing my experiences and creative perspective with younger scouts. I’m excited about this training opportunity and will provide me with the tools to mentor young leaders to reach their highest potential in scouting!



Trek Part 3: Grand Haven, MI


One last hurrah on the vacation - fly into Appleton, WI and hurry over to Manitowoc for the boat ride over to West Michigan. I'll be meeting up with my mom and brothers to spend a couple meaningful days in Muskegon/ Grand Haven to kayak and possibly take on Michigan adventures with the family (something I haven't done in ages) ... Its going to be refreshing after a hectic schedule of late flights and the red-eye boat ride (1am -5am). Sleep? Who needs it?


If Michigan Adventures falls through, we’ll supplement it with some site-seeing and other recreational activities.




Thursday, July 21

    •      12am: Drive to Chicago
    •      5am CST : Flight out of Chicago
    •      9:30am PST: Arrive in San Francisco, California


     Explore SF

Enjoy time with friends


Saturday, July 23
    •      6am PST : Flight out of San Francisco
    •      11:20am : Arrive in Albuquerque, New Mexico
    •      1:00pm : Shuttle to Philmont Scout Ranch


Saturday, July 30
    •      7am MT : Shuttle to Albuquerque, New Mexico
    •      3pm MT : Flight out of San Francisco
    •      9:30pm EST : Shuttle to Philmont Scout Ranch


Sunday, July 31
    •      1:00am EST : Red Eye Ferry Ride to Ludington
    •      5:00am EST : Arrive at Ludington, MI
    •      7:30am EST: Explore


Monday, Aug 1
    •      7:30am EST: Explore & Kayak
    •      8:00pm EST: Mike Posner Concert in Grand Rapids


Tuesday, Aug 2

    •      8:00pm EST : Ferry Ride to Manitowoc
    •      11:00pm CST : Arrive at Manitowoc, WI


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