James Victore on what to do with your job

[Tom Biederbeck] Upending creative expectations is the foundation of James Victore’s design practice. Now he’s doing the same for personal inspiration with Take This Job & Love It, a September 29 live event in NYC that promises to “reclaim your creativity, ignite your path to personal greatness, and access a higher level of bad-assdom.” We caught up with Victore to find out how he’s going to shake it up this time.

About this event you say, “I wanted to make a symposium but all I could come up with was a revolution.” That would make a great T-shirt, by the way. What do you have in mind? What’s your motive?
There were so many signs along the way that said I should do this. For the seminar it’s funny, because a couple years ago I had a book out, Victore, or Who Died and Made You Boss? With that came an opportunity to go on a book tour. I went literally around the world, from Anchorage to Miami to Cape Town, South Africa.

I put together a talk, but halfway through it, I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’m not showing any work from the book.” I assumed people in the audience would have the book. So I’m showing pictures and talking about all my heroes and mentors, like how Robert Frost once wrote he wanted to write a poem that would stick to your clothes. It turned out a lot more interesting not to talk about my work, because then the discussion focused on big ideas.

In Take this Job & Love It we have what we call “The 11 Commandments.” As graphic designers, we are always thinking of big ideas like “no shortcuts” or “ask for more.” It’s cool because once people are exposed to them, they say they like working at their jobs again. I’ve always thought graphic design could do this kind of thing.

Stickers for the first six commandments

For the event, we asked people to make short videos on ideas like, “Why is your work a gift and what are you going to do with it?” We got the most honest, heartfelt, moving responses. It really solidified my confidence to stand in front of a few hundred people and share the message.

What about this event makes it a revolution instead of a seminar?
I don’t think people are coming for a leadership seminar. They aren’t coming to learn how to use Photoshop better. They’re coming because they want creativity in their lives. We want to leave them with something lasting. We want them to be accountable for how they feel and then to act on it. How that little thing you do on the side should be the thing you do for a living.

You’re billing this as a symposium. What does that imply?
To me, a symposium means we’ll focus on a single idea. The whole premise is that your work is a gift.

There’s a certain level of “falling out of love” or backing off of your ego that will be involved. I’ve realized that being gifted doesn’t just mean you have a talent. It’s something you need to give away. I work to make myself happy, but I realize the work isn’t just going to hang in my room. I want a certain response from people; I want them to feel like it’s literally my gift to them.

There’s another idea we’ll talk about, “Kill the Critic.” We come up with great ideas, but then we create a huge list of reasons why they won’t happen.

Poster for the City of New York Department of Probation

A lot people feel like they work for a paycheck. Why get into design for that? The Talmud says, “Teach your tongue to say I don’t know, ye shall progress.” Asking questions and asking for help is a strong theme. People are so afraid of asking for help or saying, “I don’t know.” There’s real freedom there.

Monday, September 24, is the last day to sign up for Take This Job & Love It, right here.

James Victore runs “an independent design studio hell-bent on world domination.” Learn more about his practice at his website; check out his videos on YouTube; connect on Facebook or Linked In; and follow him on Twitter—@JamesVictore.

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