I've had these words from classic gaming-meme history — courtesy of Anonymous Old Man In The Cave, The Legend of Zelda NES (1986) — stuck in my head for a while now. And they feel especially relevant today — which is the last of my tenure as Chief Creative Officer at Only Co., and the first of a wild solo journey back into freelance design and illustration.
It's tough to decide how to make public announcements like this without the luxury of a multi-episode series that would appropriately summarize the past five-and-a-half years I've spent in this role. Monumental personal moments like these are never characterized by a single set of emotions; terms like "bittersweet" fall short in capturing the host of contradictory feelings that take up mental residence and battle for dominance. The tension is real.
Something else that's real about tension: it creates the physical conditions by which, say, the strings on the banjo in my living room can bring "Annie's Song" to life — can fill up the senses and conjure the magic of creativity and make the world more wonderful — can slice through the chaos and strum notes with conviction.
I know that the notes I play to end this chapter will crossfade directly into the next, and I want the prevailing theme to be a joyous one.
To that end, here's the tune I most want to play for the world: I leave Only Co. today reflectively, with the primary feeling being deep, deep gratitude — most of all for the people I've called colleagues over the years, through the various iterations of Only Co. (reaching back to the Flood Marketing days). They've been a dynamic, enthusiastic, charismatic and caring bunch of folks I've been proud to venture into all kinds of battles with, as we navigated the waters of everything the marketing and business-building industries could throw at a scrappy startup.
It is the highest of privileges to count these people as coworkers and friends, past and present. You know who you are, and I trust you've felt the truth behind these words.
There's gratitude, too, for the opportunities this job has afforded me. From the life-changing training of Leadership Wyoming and the conferences and forums I've attended, to the sheer variety of our clients and what it has taken to provide each with excellence — I've grown exponentially. Not only in my tactical skillset, but also in my ability to move with boldness, synthesize complex business concepts, communicate with clarity, and lean confidently into proactive problem solving.
And I've learned the necessity of balance. Between knowing when to grab the day by its horns and when to let go. Which leads me into what's next.
In some parallel universe I’ve used this date to launch a slew of reels, a dope brand video, and a sexy new website with a robust and delicious portfolio. That's not the case today.
I am, instead, choosing to embark on a few weeks of intentional rest and recharge: an intentional repudiation of unsustainable grind, and a commitment to building meaningful rest and restoration into the record before launching with gusto in the new year.
While I plan to remain in Sheridan, WY — a town I've grown to love and feel rooted in (as my new Ariat boots will attest) — I will be moving decidedly away from marketing proper, and toward my first loves of illustration, writing, and design, in service of (1) my fellow creatives, and (2) industries that prioritize creative storytelling and the power of both the visual and written word.
I have much more to unpack about all of that strategy when I get back in 2024. It'll be a major milestone in a lifetime of creative pursuit, fraught with fresh peril and possibility. It won't be the end of the symphony, but a movement that I've been building toward since I could hold a pen.
By all accounts, it’s still dangerous to go alone. I’m doing it anyway. And I'm taking you all with me.
The truly good old things will prove themselves. The truly good new things will reveal their benefits and occupy places of great value.
And the things that don't matter anymore will end up being justifiably replaced.
It is and always will be a gift.
Give it wisely.
The question is whether we're aware of the option to turn, or if we're marching steadily forward by default — or with purpose.
There is simply no inevitable path laid out before you.
Revolutions happen at every scale. The weather can change within a day.
The world has as little need for arrogant leaders as for leaders who, overcompensating for fear that their ego is somehow unconstrainable, actively undercut their own abilities. You'd be doing the world no favors to lie about your capacity.
The war with your ego is one you must fight by showing up in full force, knowing you may lose a sparring match or two — but you must not cower away from the struggle by pretending it is morally superior to deny your own power.
To paraphrase CS Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Own them all — your skills, your potential, your passion, your drive — to the maximum, as tools of service. They don't have to function as monuments to yourself.
I’ve seen too many people I used to deeply respect fall victim to the allure of social media’s what’s-on-your-mind trap.
People who in other real world circumstances have perhaps had years (even decades) of practicing contextual awareness, considered positions, and conversational empathy — falling headlong into the knee-jerk discourse pit, letting the dopamine rush of the rapid attention-reward cycle turn them into blind shills for one extreme thing or another.
This isn’t even to mention those of us from younger generations basically raised online, without the time to develop a practice of healthy introspection that makes for calm, productive, persuasive interpersonal dialogue, and an ability to hold fast to our vital convictions while practicing real empathy.
We are collectively evolving into all-or-nothing avatars of predetermined ideological tribes.
And to be fair, that’s what we are all rewarding nowadays: what’s punchy, what’s flashy, what’s clever, what’s “savage,” what’s loudest with my brand of moral indignation, what kicks downward with mockery or makes me angry.
We spend most of our time reinforcing preconceived notions. We make dramatic breaks whenever the hint of internal confusion arises, because we don’t see examples for the hard work of figuring things out in place anymore.
Perhaps this was the trajectory our global society has been hurtling toward since the dawn of technological connectivity. But I refuse to believe we are doomed to simply comply with this unacceptable transformation.
I hope more and more of us are able to turn our little digital mirrors on ourselves and decide that who we each want to become is not up to engagement stats, high-follower demagogues, or marketing-centric algorithms.
That human spark, that God-given mystery of all that makes you an individually breathtaking diversity of feelings and fears and hopes and contradictions within your own self, is still there, waiting to be acknowledged, accepted, and empowered in a real world — a world where your Instagram, like your lawnmower or your backpack, is a useful tool that doesn’t get the final say.