Jordan, first a big thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights with us today. I’m sure many of our readers will benefit from your wisdom, and one of the areas where we think your insight might be most helpful is related to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is holding so many people back from reaching their true and highest potential and so we’d love to hear about your journey and how you overcame imposter syndrome.
I think imposter syndrome is something that can be difficult for anyone, but especially difficult for creatives to deal with. Even someone as accomplished as Steven Spielberg still has bouts of imposter syndrome before a new project. And honestly, most creatives and professionals do when faced with an unknown challenge they are unsure of how to tackle. It doesn’t matter what stage you are in your growth or career, you will deal with imposter syndrome from time to time. The important thing is how you acknowledge and deal with it for what it really is.
As a creative, nothing is ever a straight answer or a simple formula that always results in an obvious solution. Creativity is about identifying and tackling problems, there’s no one way to solve them, and not all of them are the best solution. This can be a nightmare for imposter syndrome. When you hit a block, all of those insecurities and second-guessing flood back in. I usually take this as a cue to take a break, go for a walk, or put it away for a while. As you grow in your skillset, you get more confident, prideful even, which makes imposter syndrome hit even harder when you get stuck.
Knowing that even the best of the best still deal with this on the regular, I try to remind myself that I don’t know everything and that I still have something to learn. It’s a hard lesson, but it’s also encouraging. I learn best through the mistakes I’ve made, they’re how you internalize what you know. If you don’t know what’s wrong, you’ll never know what’s right. When I started, I failed a lot. Now, I still fail, but not as much. Maybe it’s stubbornness, maybe it’s determination, but I have a goal and I keep working at it. I heard someone once say “Sucking at something is the first step to being really good at something”. I think that’s great, nobody starts out the best, they work their way to it.
Fake it til you make it is pretty cliche today, but the lesson is to keep at it and it will come. If you’re just starting out or have been at it a while, take a look at what you were working on a few months or a year ago and notice how you’ve improved. You’re making more progress than you probably realize.
Thanks for sharing that. So, before we get any further into our conversation, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you’re working on?
I firmly believe that being successful and standing out as a creative is dependent on learning how to inject yourself into your work – and that’s easier said than done. For me, that’s utilizing humor, wit, and play to connect things and bring people onto your side.
The most exciting project that I have been a part of in the last few years is the Austin Ale Trail. I’ve been a craft beer fan for many years and I like to try new things. I found myself wanting more and more to go to the source. I’d try a beer I really liked and figured I’d check out the brewery to see what else they had. I soon discovered they had exclusive beers and other offerings I couldn’t get in stores or at pubs and restaurants. It made me curious about what other secret offerings were available to those willing to venture out to taprooms. It was like being rewarded for your dedication and curiosity. I also found that many places had unique spaces, atmospheres, cultures, and branding. As a creative, this piqued my interest even more and was an extra incentive to go out and see what they were all about. Each brewery has its own philosophy and approach, and visiting them puts it all into perspective. I guess in a way I was collecting experiences. Over time, I found myself chatting up strangers and sharing good conversations over beer. Some became longtime friends, others were visitors in town for the weekend. Breweries also know the best places to grab a bite and trendy spots to check out that you won’t see on popular ‘Lists’ websites or social media. You get the local’s perspective.
I knew there was something special about the experiences I was having but wasn’t sure how to help others see what I saw. I knew I wanted to be a part of the local beer community in Austin but I wasn’t a brewer, besides I liked drinking it, not making it. That’s when I began thinking of how I might be able to contribute to the community I loved rather than just being a consumer. Not long after, I was visiting Louisville, KY with my parents and we checked out the infamous Bourbon Trail. They gave out free booklets to stamp like a passport when you visited the distilleries. If you completed the trail, you could redeem for a prize. I remember thinking, Austin has a ton of breweries, I can’t believe there isn’t a brewery passport. Lots of cities have passports with way fewer breweries. Then I thought, maybe that’s what I can do. I have the creative and design skills, plus I knew many people in the industry and a lot about the community itself. Perhaps that’s what I can contribute.
A couple of months later, I ran into Kwaku Kankam, the founder of the Austin Ale Trail, at an awesome little bottle shop in Austin called WhichCraft. He was promoting his newly launched Austin Ale Trail brewery passport, apparently he had the same idea a few months ahead of me. I was a little disheartened but figured, hey, I have plenty of good ideas and this proves that this was one of them. I joked with Kwaku on how he “stole my idea” and we began to discover that we had many similar experiences and takeaways from visiting the various breweries. It was all about exploration, trying new things, and making new friends. You can always find common ground over sharing a beer with someone. After learning more about my skillset, he invited me to help out with the trail. It looked like I would be able to contribute to this idea after all.
Together, Kwaku, Kelly Daacon (our website designer), and I have built a modest following for the Ale Trail that has been steadily growing each year. The passport has evolved over the years through trial and error and getting feedback from the breweries and participants. The Ale Trail serves three purposes. First, it’s a tactile, pocket-sized guidebook for the hottest breweries in Austin. We update the book each year as the brewery scene is ever-changing. Second, it works like a coupon book. When passport holders visit a brewery and make a purchase, they also get discounts and freebies (Passport Perks) for that first visit. Third, we do the trail in what we call seasons. During the Ale Trail season, passport holders visit breweries to collect as many stamps as they can. There are over 50 breweries in the Austin area, so it’s quite the feat. If they collect a minimum number of stamps, they are eligible to redeem for unique custom Ale Trail swag at our end-of-the-year Trail’s End parties. These are limited supply and there’s at least one new item each year. These parties are a way to say thanks to those that went the extra mile to support the breweries and community we love. First and foremost, we want to support the community and not leach off of them. In that effort, we try to keep the cost to them at a minimum. We also want to share the experiences we’ve had with others. The passport is a catalyst to bring like-minded people together to share a common interest.
We’re about to begin our fourth official season which will launch in mid-September and run through May 2024. This year, we have a Passport Perk at every brewery in the passport. We hope this will encourage Ale Trailers to visit as many breweries as possible. We will, of course, host our Trail’s End parties but hope to put on more meetups and events throughout the year to add value to the trail and bring people together. We want to share this experience and help people make new friends and explore their city. Austin has a lot of transplants, so if we can help facilitate new friendships and experiences then we’re all for it!
If you had to pick three qualities that are most important to develop, which three would you say matter most?
Do Research – find out as much information as you can, grow your skillset, gain knowledge, ask for feedback, and study what others are doing in your field. Absorb as much as you can and don’t assume you know everything. Whatever you are doing, either someone has attempted it or something similar. You can learn a lot from others’ successes and mistakes. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.
Keep Working – it doesn’t matter how slow you go, keep at it. You are gonna hit roadblocks, you will question yourself, but most things worth doing aren’t easy. Every experience is a learning opportunity, even if it doesn’t feel directly related to your goals. No matter what it looks like, you are growing. And if you discover what you are working toward isn’t what you want, don’t be afraid to pivot and take what you’ve learned into your next direction. Sometimes you have to get lost to find your way.
Be Authentic – be clear about your intentions and what you want. It doesn’t hurt to ask and don’t be afraid of a ‘No’. It can often inform and help you learn how to communicate better. Ask for feedback and follow up on any concerns. You’d be surprised how many rejections you can turn around by being genuine and honest.
One of our goals is to help like-minded folks with similar goals connect and so before we go we want to ask if you are looking to partner or collab with others – and if so, what would make the ideal collaborator or partner?
Collaboration is a big part of the Ale Trail. The obvious partners are breweries and individuals and businesses with interests directly related to or near the industry. Typically, these would be event-based to create some kind of added draw or value to bring people in that day. I’m good at helping brainstorm unique and creative events that cater to the individual establishment. I use my skills to make connections and if we can design some kind of physical product or piece, even better.
Along with this, I enjoy working with organizations that are ‘adjacent’ to the brewery community. How do we pinpoint those intersection points between our audiences? Maybe your audience is into fitness but also likes to unwind at a brewery, food and beer naturally go together, breweries are also good hubs for artists and makers. There’s always a connection and common ground – an opportunity to collab on events and more that scratch those itches.
I’m also a designer and creative full-time in my daily work and freelance on the side. I live and breathe this stuff and I’m all about collaboration. I like working with other creative people, especially if their skillset is different than mine, but also happy to help mentor those new to this way of thinking. I’m really good at helping others visualize and flesh out their ideas. I do a lot of consulting with people and help them get their projects running. I’ve got a wealth of knowledge I’ve gained over the years that I’m happy to share. I love ideas and enjoy helping to bring them together. Let’s make something awesome!