Seeing The Forest For The Trees, or Why I’m Starting Something New

Sometimes the beginning starts with an end, or the end starts a beginning. Or maybe it’s both?

The interactive world is changing, and I don’t want to be changed – I want to be the change. There are fundamental changes happening in the workforce, the opportunities for freelance, and the choices for getting stuff done that agencies and clients are making. And in no small part, these choices are having an impact on the mid-sized agency of 10-20 people… they’re getting squeezed on both sides. Too big (from a staffing and overhead perspective) to take on smaller projects; too small (in perception) to take on the larger interactive initiatives. The talented employees are leaving to go to bigger agencies (or bigger paychecks), go client-side, or go freelance. At the same time (maybe because of; maybe as a solution to) I’m witnessing smaller teams of 3 to 5 people able to do amazing things for both large and small clients.

I love what I do. Designing interactive solutions, consulting and collaborating with clients on their brand strategy and ways to imagine it online, espousing the importance of content strategy when dreaming up robust and flexible content management systems. Shunning the easy way for the right way; focusing on sharing experiences and enabling life stories over selling products.

But in order to become the change, I need to change.

For as much as I love what I do, there are things I don’t love. I don’t love managing others, and I’m not good at it. And I don’t love setting unrealistic expectations for others.

I don’t love talking, and talking has started to become an expectation in this industry. Don’t get me wrong – I love speaking and presenting, but these are different from talking. Speaking and presenting have a goal in mind: to communicate an idea, to share knowledge and experience, to inspire others to approach challenges in different ways. And talking is different from conversing, where people communicate by both speaking and listening. I quite enjoy conversing. But talking is often simply filling a silence with words, of putting value on the immediate response even when it is valueless. As a conversationalist, a listener, and a questioner, the silences should be points of reflection, not points for disruption.

(Side note: if you’d like to have me come speak/present about interactive brand, content strategy, and how these things relate to the travel and tourism industry and promoting experiences, drop me a line.)

In order to be the change I want to be, I need to feel challenged – more senior-level thinking, more alternative ideas, changing how to approach problems and projects in different ways. People that help me grow professionally, freed from constraints. Maybe even finding the occasional time to disconnect.

Where am I going? What am I doing? Why am I doing it?

Like I said, I still love what I do. But where can my passion and my skills be best applied? How can I continue to promote experiences over things and create opportunities for people?


“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

–Dr. Thomas Gilovich, from The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things


People are happier when they have experiences over buying things. I’ve certainly felt this. Maybe you have as well. And the work I’ve done in the travel and tourism industry is all about creating and promoting experiences, which is both convenient AND exciting. Beyond the happiness of the people having the experiences, over $925 billion was spent directly by domestic and international travelers in the United States in 2014, generating $141.5 billion in tax revenue for local, state and federal governments. Travel supports 15 million jobs in the U.S. — 8 million direct tourism jobs and 7 million indirect and induced jobs. (U.S. Travel Association Travel Facts). Travel and tourism is a huge economic driver for communities across the country, through employment, tax revenue, and profiting local businesses. I look at examples like Oakridge, Oregon – a community that was struggling because of the loss of the logging industry in the area. In cooperation with Travel Oregon’s Tourism Development and Rural Tourism Studio, they reinvented their town into a mecca for mountain biking, and all the services and amenities that support this type of visitor.

That’s what I mean about creating employment opportunities, and it is the perfect overlap to promoting experiences.

travel-tourism-overlap

I was incredibly fortunate to have been a co-founder and the Creative Director at Substance for over nine years. I had the opportunity to work with many great organizations and design interactive solutions for clients like National Geographic Travel, Visit Santa Barbara, and Travel Oregon. These are projects and relationships that exemplify the overlap of experiences and jobs.

The Forest isn’t an end of what I did at Substance, but a new beginning. In seeing The Forest For The Trees, I’m focusing specifically on these “overlap clients,” which combines everything I love and allows me to learn to love again. The expression “the forest for the trees” has become a mantra for me for so many aspects of my personal and professional life. Recognizing that the details make up the big picture, but the need to keep the big picture in mind. That every challenge, no matter how large, can be broken down into smaller pieces. That we are more powerful together than we are as individuals.

Forests, for me, are places of rejuvenation, strength, discovery, and wonder. They have trails to wander, obstacles to overcome, ways to challenge ourselves. And those are my hopes and dreams for The Forest.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *