Jeffrey Madoff is a director, photographer, writer, and professor in New York City. He is the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, a film production company that creates award-winning branded content including commercials, web content, music videos, and documentaries.
Check out Jeffrey’s new book Creative Careers: Making a Living with Your Ideas: https://amzn.to/2OSoXx8
Featuring insider advice from Daymond John, Karlie Kloss, Tim Ferriss, Randi Zuckerberg, Dave Asprey, Dennis Crowley, Brandon Maxwell, Mauro Porcini, Joy-Ann Reid, Roy Wood Jr., and dozens more!
In one of the most popular classes at Parsons School of Design, B. Jeffrey Madoff gave students a reality check: “Most of us have had the feeling of ‘I could’ve done that,’ whether at an art gallery, watching a performance, or finding a new product or even a new business idea. What’s the difference between you and them? They actually did it. You didn’t.” With Creative Careers, you will learn how to do it, too: use your creativity; have a sustainable, profitable career; and do what you love.
Watch Our Interview
Hey, it’s Fei. Here’s a brief message from the host of this podcast, anchor, if you haven’t heard about anchor is the easiest way to make a podcast. Let me explain. It’s free. There are certain tools that allow you to record and edit your show right from your phone or computer anchor would distribute your podcast for you so we can be heard on Spotify, Apple podcast and many more. You can make money from your podcasts with no minimum listenership.
Everything you need to make a podcast in one place, download a free Anchor app or go to Anker’s FM to get started. Now back to the show. Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable.
We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that will benefit creators like you. Show notes, links and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. I have a lot of people to thank for for my own becoming and all the transformations I’ve experienced as an adult since age 30 and because I turned 37 relatively recently, I feel like the past seven years have really been transformative.
And I don’t want to say that, oh, I haven’t contributed to my own growing and learning. I certainly did. But the people I’ve encountered in my life are just so magical. I have my mom to thank for who has been so supportive. She doesn’t fully understand what a podcast is or the purpose of YouTube. But, you know, she’s watching a lot of it and she give them thumbs up, which I think is totally adorable. But, you know, I have my partner, Adam, who’s been traveling along with me, you know, giving me ideas.
And at the beginning of the First World podcast, he helped source a lot of people, a lot of his own friends, actually, or to identify people on LinkedIn, Twitter or elsewhere. That will be of, you know, they’ll be able to teach me a lot and do a lot of value to face the world. And thirdly, you know, I put him number three. You know, Herman means so much as a producer for First World podcast documentary, most recently YouTube.
I mean, this guy can just do anything and everything, but above all, a strategic partner, a thinking partner. You know, my my friend, Tammy Gooler Loeb said that, you know, she needs this thinking partner. She considers me as a thinking partner, but I consider her as such a tremendous thinking partner for me. Over the years, we have grown so much together. In fact, we could spend hours talking on the phone.
And, you know, I don’t even bring these things up so much. But behind every single creator, behind every single man and woman who is not just successful by financial measures, but those who truly embrace and love the things that they do and just, you know, getting feeling energetic and happy when they go to sleep and when they wake up. My gosh, I don’t know how to describe that. It’s such a privilege because I have been on the other side of feeling completely different of that.
The reason why I started rambling on about creativity is because I want to talk about careers and I’m talking to someone very specific about creative careers. His name is Jeffrey Madoff and he is our guest today. We have again a livestream podcast, livestream conversation, then converted to podcast. Again, if you’re new to this new to, this format is going to sound and feel a little bit different. If you want to catch us when we life stream, be sure to check out our Facebook page, which is Facebook dot com slash face world.
I will also be publishing schedule for these events coming up under Feisworld Conference events. So with said, who is Jeffrey Madoff? Jeffrey is a director, a photographer, a writer and a professor in New York City. He’s the founder and CEO of Mahadev Productions, a film production company that creates award winning branded content, including commercials, web content, music videos and documentaries, and much, much more. Some of the brands that you’ll be very familiar with, including Victoria Secret, Ralph Lauren and so many, many more.
Jeffrey is a professor also at the person’s school in New York City, one of the world’s most renowned design and fashion design schools in the world. So it was such a privilege to talk to Jeffrey. Yet, however, I must say this preface by saying, I felt like the first time I talked to him, I was talking to a close friend. And of course, the second time around I felt the same way. And for whatever reason, I feel like the chemistry I had with Jeffrey just worked.
And I don’t know whether it will come through as part of the conversation to everybody, but I felt very much at ease. You know, Jeffrey has a very different vibe and energy compared to me. But together he made me feel heard, you know, that my questions were meaningful then and then he was giving it all. So, you know, it’s interesting that, Jeffrey, if I were to say that I think deep down, Jeffrey most likely is a more introverted person.
And, you know, he is very thoughtful with his answers. So I don’t want to give it all away. But I love to reflect upon some of my conversations. You know, I don’t get to do this during Livestream, but I always have these profound feelings and learnings after the fact. So I find this platform. A park has to be such an intimate conversation hub for me to to do that with you guys. And again, if you’re an anchor, you can submit questions to me directly, push a button.
I get it. So really kind of cool, I think. And I don’t know, I’m more familiar with this format. If you haven’t tried it, I highly encourage you to do so because it takes so much less effort and time compared to writing a message all out. I really hope you enjoy the conversation again. This is Fei Wu from Feisworld Media. We are now a podcast, a YouTube channel, a documentary. I am so grateful for you guys.
If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here. And I don’t care whether you are a listener or you’ve been with us for six years, that every single one of you means so much. I never, ever look on my podcast or my listeners as a download or as a comment. You guys are people. And thank you so much for supporting my channel for this little bit, this tiny little platform that has done so much for me and for those who believe in what I do and my message, I am forever grateful.
I’ll see you at the end of the show again. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye for now and see you next week.
Well, hi, everybody, this is a from Feisworld Media, we’re on YouTube, we’re on Facebook, this is a podcast and video format. And I’m just so pleased to be here with my new guest, Jeffrey Madoff, and who has published a new book. I it’s on my iPod iPad right now, and I absolutely love it. The title is Creative Careers Making a Living with Your Ideas. Welcome, Jeffrey. I’m so glad that you’re here me to thank you for having me on.
So, Jeffrey, here, where is here, by the way?
Where is here? We are here, I think on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, which is Periscope. That’s it. I’m still applying for LinkedIn. I hope they will approve me very soon. So live on many places. And where are you based, Jeffrey?
I’m in New York City. Yeah. And right now I’m in my apartment on the Upper West Side of New York, across from the Museum of Natural History.
Lovely. I love that spot. I feel like whenever I go to New York, that’s kind of my dedicated spot for many, many years. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel there, even though with all the scheduled trips earlier this year, there were all canceled, as you can imagine. But I’m here still in Boston, Massachusetts, Knewton, to be specific for people who live in Massachusetts. But, you know, Jeffrey, I’m excited to talk to you because I think about the course of your career career.
It just so not only creative, but it’s so dynamic that you were first a fashion designer in your very early 20s. In nineteen seventy two, you’re named one of the ten top designers in the US. And then you had a complete career change at that time when your career as a fashion designer was at its peak. Could you give us like a bit of that origin story to my audience, like what was happening there? How did you become a fashion designer by accident?
I was working in a small boutique in Madison, Wisconsin, which is where I went to college, University of Wisconsin. I had a double major in philosophy and psychology, tried to get a job as a sage. But the wisdom factories weren’t hiring at that point. And I had been on the wrestling team. So that was a great combination for any business to move forward. And I got a call from a dear friend of mine. We grew up together.
His mother and my mother grew up together.
And so my friend Kenny Merriman said he had graduated a year before me and he said that he had saved up some money. Could I think of something that would earn more than bank interest? And I said, I see what we sell here and I can always draw. So I said, OK, I’ll start a clothing company. And he said, OK. And the next week I had more money than I had ever had, which was fifteen hundred dollars, and sketched some some shirts, found some fabrics that I liked.
By the way, I was totally ignorant. I knew nothing about what I was doing or really how to approach this. Some of the people that did alterations for the store, I got them to sew the samples and made like eighteen shirts and they sold out in a day and made some more and they sold out again. So I had proof of concept, an essential part of business.
And we’re talking about this was earlier on, if I remember correctly. This is like early 1970s.
I was five years old. That’s right.
So how did you know that there is, like you said, you could draw. But I also read that you didn’t really know how to make clothing. And I try to do that myself. It was very challenging, like cutting the polygons until actually understand that we are 3D human beings. How do you go from design to making something that actually works, having prototypes and then to kind of the third stage, which we talk about today, is something that people actually desire and actually purchased.
Like what was the process like?
I took a shirt that I like the fit of one of my shirts, and so I cut it wherever it was stitched and saw the pieces that went together. That puzzle that forms, as you said, a three dimensional piece because you can draw anything that doesn’t mean that you can actually construct it or a person can actually put it on. So I sort of taught myself how a garment was constructed. Now, I didn’t do the sewing. I had people who did that, and I had people who made actual patterns.
But in order for me to design something that could actually be worn, I had to know and educate myself as to so what’s this look like? How do you do that?
So I taught myself I was completely ignorant, but fortunately not stupid and ignorant means you can learn stupid’s forever.
So I was fortunate enough to be a quick learner. That’s about things that I’m interested in. If I’m not interested, I can’t understand how to unscrew a jar, but when I’m interested, I can figure stuff out.
And I was really interested in that and I figured that out.
But I was so Naifeh that when I was shopping for fabrics and I went to the store and I saw fabric on the bolt, I thought that was wholesale because it hadn’t been made into anything yet. Took me a little bit to realize, no, that’s not wholesale, and there are all these offices in Chicago and New York that sell fabrics wholesale. So I had to learn a tremendous amount. But it was also interesting. I met really great people that helped me.
I met some not so great people that screwed me, you know, and you learn who you can trust, who you can’t trust. And it was fascinating because the things that I learned in fashion and this, by the way, the sense that I didn’t come to many, many years later, I realized that the process of designing a line of clothing was the same process as making a movie or a commercial, the same process as writing a book or a play.
It’s the same process that whenever you’re bringing an idea to market that you have to go through. So I’m also a big believer in whatever you do, informs everything else you do if you’re paying attention.
Mm hmm. And sounds like it sounds to me that these days we’re living in a digital age and a lot of people say, hey, buy my program, join my workshop. There is a perfect path from A to B and having run my own business, very small businesses, 12 to 16, even before that, I realize that perfect path really doesn’t exist, no matter how compelling the marketing message sounds, no matter how much money this person, this entrepreneur, made.
So I love reading that part of your book, talking to real entrepreneurs, including yourself, to really paint that path. So what do you think is that perseverance? Is that flexibility is a willingness, willingness to learn? What do you think is the real secret weapon or formula that informed a lot of your decision making along the way?
Well, there wasn’t a secret weapon or formula. I completely agree with you. It’s what I call the myth of replication. If I do exactly what that person did. I will be as successful as that person is. Well, that just doesn’t work that way.
And I don’t believe that there are truly beyond best practices, which is show up, be ready, be educated, work hard, perseverance, which is huge. I think the single most thread of continuity through all the people that I’ve interviewed.
So I think that know there isn’t a recipe for success, but if you do these five things, you are guaranteed success. There’s so many variables along the way. And I wanted to mention, by the way, when you mention that I was one of the top 10 young designers, United States, which is true, but it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds because I think there were maybe eight of us young designers. So it wasn’t hard to be in the top 10.
I don’t think there were 10 of us out there.
Yeah, you mentioned that in your early 20s at the time. It was very rare for a young entrepreneur versus today you got your 12 year old 16 year olds making millions of dollars. But back then, it was kind of an anomaly. But at the same time, what I love about part of your story was that when you have all these titles like originally, I believe you went to school in Wisconsin, Madison. Are you also from Wisconsin? I wasn’t sure about that.
No, I grew up in Akron, Ohio, which is a wonderful place to grow up and leave. And I still go back there. I still have I’m fortunate enough to have maintained relationships with many of the people that I grew up with. So I still enjoy going back there and seeing people. But I knew that that’s not where I could become an adult.
That’s a yes. I grew up in Beijing, China, which is this huge city. And I noticed, like as part of me really craving to be living in the countryside somewhere, which I did in high school.
Immediately after that, I noticed there’s an urge of how I’ve been conditioned and to say I need to be in the in the city, maybe not as crowded and as vibrant in New York City, feel like Boston is kind of in the middle of the road. And I really adapted the city quite well early on.
There is a pivotal moment that you mentioned still very early in your career in your early 20s. But I can see how everybody, possibly family and friends, could be very against. That is you established yourself in Wisconsin, Madison. You had friends there, connections there, and you were known as a fashion designer right there, which is kind of unheard of today, like a famous designer from Wisconsin. Then you went to New York City and then you were really drawn by a place you still live in today.
You’re drawn by the opportunities. You’re not the only one. But then there is that moment of you having that decide to leave everything behind and then move to a city where there’s so much more competition. There’s nobody, you know, you don’t even have a place to live. I cannot imagine the rent to be cheaper in New York City even back then. So what was that process like? Did you how much fear did you carry with you? Where where were you too young to even realize that?
Well, initially when I started coming to New York. Although it was exciting, it was also intimidating, I wasn’t used to mass transit, I wasn’t used to the crowds of people on the sidewalk, I wasn’t used to an entire place that was like downtown, you know. And so at first it was intimidating. But the more I went there, I discovered that I’m a stimulus junkie, that as I got more comfortable because I visited there more and went to plays and went to museums and ate at different restaurants and began to know my way around.
I was totally seduced by the stimulating environment that New York was and is and will always be. And so I wanted to be here. I had a terrific financial backer that I attract because my business was growing so fast. I was doubling like every three or four months. And I think I was twenty two or something and maybe twenty three. I had two factories ahead, about one hundred and ten hundred and twenty people working for me, an office in New York, an office in Los Angeles and then eight national sales people.
And you know, the business is growing in spite of me because I was able to design things that people liked and that they wanted. So coming to New York, I said to my banker who was a banker, had five banks in Wisconsin, and he found me an interesting novelty. And he was a very, very good person who’s now no longer with us. And he said, if you move to New York, I’m not going to continue to back your business.
You know why I invested? You provide employment for Wisconsinites. And if you move, I don’t have a reason to do that. And there was a recession that was going on, I think that was in like nineteen seventy three and. I negotiated a separation, very fair. I have nothing but great things to say about him. You hear things about people who back the business and are cutthroat. This was a really good man. His name was John Bosshard, and he was a very, very good man.
And, you know, I had to think about it a lot because it was a big deal. I was young and I’m closing a business that got me like national recognition. I was in all the fashion magazines and all that. And friends said to me, So are you going to move to New York? So, yeah. To have a job lined up, no. Do you know anybody there? No, not really, no. You have a place to live?
No. Well, aren’t you afraid of what’s going to happen when you move there? I should know I’m afraid of what’s going to happen if I don’t move the script was kind of written and I needed something different. I needed a different environment to be in.
So you reminded me of some of these kind of common themes I’ve been hearing on my podcast as well, that the people I intend to interview are creative at the same time they run towards their own fear. I want to hear more about how you process that internally, because what you said reminded me of a conversation I had with the Atherton twins from Cirque du Soleil of them around the age of 40, a family with two kids and their three kids in the family travel around for Cirque du Soleil.
And finally, they have this opportunity to be part of the first paramour’s basically Broadway and Cirque du Soleil collaboration in New York City. And to move the family from a house, from a home from Vegas to New York was just very scary for them. And they did it. They ran towards their fear. And, of course, a lot of really great things came out of it. I I was just wondering, a lot of people are hearing that to say, oh, Jeffrey is so brave.
Or like even Fay started her own business is like those Asian immigrant women. Like, you’re so brave. How do you think people should really evaluate their fear? You talked about something last time. There’s a there’s also in your book, there’s kind of that difference between that process and your own feelings versus really analyzing and understanding the reality of it.
So how did you line things up and what was the first few months were like for you?
Well, I guess what we’re really talking about is how do you assess risks.
That you that you might want to take. And the way that I kind of look at it and I put it together and codified it much more afterwards than before, know what? I’m going through some of this stuff that I have some system. No, I didn’t. And I was fortunate enough to have parents who were incredibly supportive know they didn’t say, no, no, don’t move. It’s like, you know, they always encouraged me to seek fulfillment and happiness.
And they never talked about money, which was interesting. Now, my grandmother, who was a very wise woman, said it’s better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick. But that was about that was about it. And to my parents, I think were. Very influential in framing a very secure environment for me to grow up in. So taking that kind of the chance wasn’t scary. It truly was more scary to me to not move because, you know, if I was invited to some situation in Madison because I was in national magazines or whatever, you know, I was courted.
But that wasn’t interesting to me. You know, what was interesting to me is doing and the whole creative process is what was interesting to me. So, you know, when I thought about the move and made that decision, it was really based on the excitement and seduction of what lies ahead, not what I was leaving behind. I was young, single, had enough money saved up that I could sustain for a little while if I lived modestly, which I did, as they say, lived out of a suitcase the first year I had.
Eleven apartments in 12 months. So I moved around to discover different parts of the city and to familiarize myself with it. So I guess when you’re looking back and I’ll suggest this to your listeners, when you look at risk, if you look at it from a one to 10, one being essentially not risky at all and 10 being catastrophic, your life is screwed forever. If you do if you try that and it fails, most risks are from three to six.
They aren’t that huge. When you gain perspective. And for whatever reason, I was fortunate enough to have perspective because what’s the worst thing that would happen? I moved to New York. I wouldn’t be able to get financing or start another job.
And if the absolute worst happened, I was back. Not that that was ever a thought, by the way, but that’s the reality when you’re sort of listing what are the risk factors involved? It’s not like, oh my God, if this doesn’t work out, my life is over forever at age 20 for that, wasn’t it? So that removed a lot of the fear and doubt of the risk moving forward is just thinking about, so what’s the worst thing that can happen on a one to 10?
Maybe it’s a five.
It’s not that big a deal.
True. And then even I thought I’m just as lucky that my parents were very supportive when I decided to leave Beijing, China and to move to the East Coast of the US. And I remember my parents were calling me pretty regularly at first. It was like calling cards was very inconvenient, unlike what it is today.
But then they always remember to tell me, hey, how is everything going?
Remember, you always have a home in China. You can always come home and we welcome you. We won’t judge anything. But I was determined. And so. So were you very determined in New York City and you discovered a lot of opportunities. But what’s really profound to me is that you did another pivot very drastically to go from fashion to a production video, film production. Could you tell us or give people an idea that you drop yourself, this young man in the middle of New York City and these opportunities just rushing towards you and then you have to kind of pick and choose?
And why did you choose a different career path?
Well, let me take it back a bit. It’s not like the opportunity is rush towards me, but. I think as an entrepreneur, one of the things that’s essential is recognizing opportunities. Very true, and so I was able OK, I’ll tell you what happened, because sort of interesting. I had started another clothing company because I ran out of money. I had a good reputation. I was able to attract financing, started another company, and I was talking to one of the owners of a fabric company that I had bought from in my previous business.
Another really good person. And he said to me, do you know anything about the film business? I said, I mean, I go to movies, but I don’t really know, the business goes well, you got a good head on your shoulders. My son is your age and he’s gotten involved with some people. Would you mind talking to him? Sure, I’d be happy to. So he said, yeah, maybe he’ll listen to you because you’re his contemporary and you’ve got a business so that I’m happy, too.
So when I met him. He had optioned the rights for a book called Junkie Junkie was written by William Burroughs, William Burroughs was one of the iconic figures of the Beat Generation. So he wrote Naked Lunch, which was like a seminal work of the nineteen fifties, and he was also the heir to the Burroughs business machine Fortune, but he was a total outcast to his family because he was gay. He was a drug addict and also a tremendously talented writer who had a keen eye for observing the world around him.
Dennis Hopper, are you familiar with who he is?
I am not. I did read the I read about them in the introduction.
You know, it’s interesting, Dennis Hopper. He was in Rebel Without a Cause, the classic movie with James Dean. He was in Apocalypse Now with Marlon Brando. He was in Blue Velvet. He had quite a career, died a few years ago, and he was going to direct and star in the movie. And when I met with the guy’s son, his name is Tommy Erlanger when I met with him. I got introduced to Dennis, who is staying in his apartment at that time, and Dennis and I really hit it off.
I won’t go into that story, but it’s very funny. And he and I hit it off and he wanted me to be in the movie is going to be perfect, going to be perfect, and it’ll be great as an actor. Like, what’s your. Oh, my goodness.
But what became eminently clear. Was that the combination of Burrows and Hopper and Terry Southern, who was another writer who really. Sort of captured the 60s in his writing. It was clear they were going to get anything done. So initially it was cool hanging out with these people and wow, I knew who these people were because I read a lot and I knew who they were and of course, LOVEFiLM. And so I knew Dennis Hopper’s work. I knew Terry Southerns, I knew William Burroughs his work.
But what became clear was these guys weren’t going to get anything done. It just wasn’t happening. Yeah, because they had a suite at the Chelsea Hotel. And I would get there at 4:00 in the afternoon, which is maybe 15 minutes after they woke up because they had been drinking and bingeing on substances all night long and not actually getting the work done. And at a certain point, I said to Tommy, you know, you’re going to get squeezed out of this.
You’ve put together this team. They don’t need you anymore.
You said it’s. But it’s my property. I optioned the book.
I said it will. It is. But let’s see what happens. I think that’s going to happen.
Sure enough, within two weeks, they offered him money and the money was three times as much as he had paid for the option. So I said to him, take it said, but they’re going to just take the idea and go with it. I said, these guys can’t make it out of the hotel room. You think they’re going to actually get a movie made? That’s not going to happen. So he took the money, which ended up being a good decision for him.
It ended my movie career, but during the process, I met other people and that was my bridge into filmmaking because I found the potential process really interesting. And that’s what form the bridge out of fashion into filmmaking. Yeah, I meeting the right person, recognizing the opportunity, taking the risks to get involved because there’s no money involved and then going for it.
You’re absolutely right about recognizing opportunities. And I noticed especially during the quarantine, during the pandemic, there were even, I think, more opportunities that became really obvious for some reasons. I think because we’re all in this together for the first time, we’re all sort of have the same type of pain. Doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter about your race, the color of your skin.
And, you know, we’re all struggling in some sort of ways as entrepreneurs and some people just kind of surface to the top and to lead in ways they never thought was possible. And so previously, I think at next, I want to just talk about transferable skills, because you had mentioned that as a fashion designer that there were skills and maybe part of the process and the experiences that you were able to transfer over to film production filmmaking. I think some people are going to at this point would be a little confused, be like, oh, what exactly does he mean?
Like, what are some of the things that you can recall that you’re able to leverage in film production?
So I’m going to go back to fashion design, all right. First, it’s having an idea and where do the ideas come from? It may come from wardrobe, from a movie, something that you see in a magazine, something you see in an art gallery. One of the crucial things, by the way, is keep learning, keep educating yourself, get as much stimulus as possible that can rev up your brain so that you’ve got so many references to draw on that that’s really, really important.
So then after that idea, you have to somehow be able to communicate that idea. So in fashion, it’s a sketch. In a film synopsis, and it might be a storyboard, so it begins to give you an idea of what does this actually look like? I hear your idea. What does it look like?
So then you have to think about what does it take? To make that jacket, what does it take to make that film? Well, it takes material labor a certain amount of time so you can deliver it by deadline. You have to figure out what all those costs are. So when you deliver it, you’re able to get paid for it and make a profit on what you’ve done. And then you’ve got to deliver it and follow up after that because you also have to market yourself the film.
So it’s all the same kind of process which comes down to communication, clearly communicating your idea, aligning and collaborating with the talents that can make it on time, on budget and then delivering to the buyer on time and then ultimately with clothing. Because I sold the stores, the ultimate consumer has to buy it, which is the retail customer. And the same thing with the films that I did for my clients, the customer and consumer was the audience which eventually transitioned to an online audience so they could see who was engaging with it and so on.
So they’re very much the same in terms of the protocols of business. But that’s also true if you’re a dentist, you know, it’s true of whatever you do. What is it that I do? What does it cost for me to execute that idea and who I have to communicate that to? How long is it going to take to get it done? And after all of those calculations and you know, your hard costs, how much can I get paid for this?
Is it profitable? Because if it’s not profitable after a while, you can’t keep doing it?
No, I find myself to be someone who’s very interested in business. Since I was little, I kind of started to look back upon, like all the games I set up with my little friends. It sounds like you are someone who’s also genuinely interested in business like end to end. So what’s your advice or have you heard from your very artistic students at Parsons in particular to say, you know, there are people say, I’m not interested in business, I just want to draw, I just want to design and the crossover on the opposite side of that.
Like you said, most schools are set up in such a way that you are the creative people sitting over here and you’re the business people sitting over here taking your electives. And you are someone who believe that there needs to be some sort of cross pollination that you need. Really you really need to learn both.
And I would agree with that, because if I simply did what I love doing, recording podcasts and I never learn production, post-production, editing, then I don’t think it will be beneficial to me, especially at the beginning. I try to learn everything on my own and then later on find out that, oh, this person is so much better at editing and marketing that maybe I can hire them for it. So how do you kind of change people’s mindset or make people more curious, more interested so that they can be successful in their creative business?
That dichotomy, which I think is done a lot of people harm because it’s another myth about creativity that, well, if you’re creative, you aren’t any good at business, and if you’re really good at business, you’re not creative. Right. Entrepreneurs create businesses, so they build something from nothing. It starts with an idea just like what I said and. I think that. There’s no question that money is the lifeblood of any business.
I just like to be able to write to produce the plays that I’m doing and the other stuff I want to do, of course. But that’s not reality. The reality is that you have to have a cash flow coming in or investors investing so that you can bring that idea to fruition. And I think that it is. That’s fueled by a myth of left and right brain thinking, OK, so the idea is that right brain, you’re creative at spatial relationships and that’s how you think I’m a right brain person and left brain is more methodical and structured and logical.
And Roger Sperry, who’s a neuro psychologist, won a Nobel Prize in nineteen ninety one on split brain studies. But in fact, he was proven wrong a few years later when brain mapping got much more sophisticated. So as a result, it’s still these days you can go online and you time you search left right brain, you can there’s quizzes you can take online. There’s hundreds of books about it. It’s just not true. If you took the brain and analyzed it of a great artist and then accountant.
The brain activity would look the same. There are no discernible differences yet that myth pervades to this day. So I know some very creative people gone out of business now and business people say, well, I’m not creative, but, you know, and when we were trying to sell this book. We went to a major business publisher. And their response was, well, why would business people want to know about creativity? Then we went to a major publisher who specializes in psychology and self-help and that sort of thing, and they said, well, why would a creative person care about business?
And then we went like the three bears, right then we went to the place, it was just right. We went to Hachette, who is my publisher, and they immediately got it. And my editor, Dan Ambrogio, who’s great, said. Oh, this is great. Nobody’s done a book like this before. They’re always in separate silos. And I think a book like this needs to be written about how creativity and business actually go together and are not opposing forces.
And so I think that that mythology. Allows people to. Disqualify themselves from certain pursuits when, in fact, they would be better, yeah, and. You know, I think about what was not a very good movie, but fun to watch, which was Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, loved watching his stuff is fun.
And then enter the Dragon is the villain.
One of the villains holds a board right next to Bruce’s face. Bruce doesn’t blank guy pops breaks the board. Bruce doesn’t blink. And then he says boards don’t hit back, and I love that because, yeah, you can have all the technique and process and break the board, but in real life, you get hit back. And when you’re in an entrepreneur and when you’re in business, you get hit back all the time.
It’s easy to start a business. It’s harder to build it, even harder to sustain it. So it’s tough. The world hits back to more. You know how to protect yourself if you’re creative, which means having a knowledge of business. It doesn’t mean you have to do your own accounting. But what it does mean is realize also the areas where you are lacking and involve people in that so that you are protected. And I think that’s the main thing, is learning how to protect yourself so you can continue doing what you love doing.
Yeah, I think there’s I thanks for explaining that myth because I feel like it is people are blocking themselves based on these so-called scientific studies that changes every six months. And to put themselves in a box or in a specific category and to honestly, I think, to create very unhealthy relationships. I remember working in advertising myself as a producer and project manager, that regardless of the fact that my mom’s an artist, I paint all the time. I, I draw on my iPad regardless because of my title.
I wasn’t really allowed or asked to be in these creative discussions. And you are seen to be a certain type of personality. So, you know, at the same time, I feel like when it comes to creative work, a lot of people don’t realize the fact that what they read on a resume, if they go to your website, my first impression was like, wow, that’s of course, you should use these highlight reels.
Like the brands we’re talking about are particularly very Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren. These are all my favorite designers and brands that are very appealing to to the general public. And what people don’t see is, oh, Jeffrey probably has gotten lucky. I think we’ve all have gotten lucky in our careers. But people don’t see the fact that there were doors that you knocked on that never opened. That’s how many times that you fell off your bikes.
And so could you maybe talk to us about that, someone giving your experience? I feel like you lived through so many of them. What is the reality that people don’t see that’s outside of your highlight reel?
Roll call to highlight as opposed to a low light so that you don’t see all the things that either never happened, that you hoped would happen or did happen, but got screwed up for one reason or another. There’s all kinds of things that happen all the time with my son and daughter. When I hear them talking about certain things with the work that they’re doing, it on one hand resonates. And when I’m ready to start as a father pontificating about, you know, well, this is just part of life and you find out for yourself, nobody can warn you against these things.
So there are clients that are absolutely wonderful to work with. There are ones that are a total pain in the ass to work with. Yeah. And when you get to the point where you can avoid them, that’s great. And sometimes that’s about assessing risk, too, because sometimes it’s about the money and you need the job. So you need to do something that may not be in that realm of ideal, but you need it for your business to survive and you have to make those kinds of decisions.
Yeah. So I think people that judge harshly haven’t been in this situation.
Yeah, I whenever I talk to entrepreneurs, I talk to someone like yourself, even though I haven’t really experienced as much. And my experience is only drawing upon the people I’ve interacted with.
But I got to say, a lot of people ask me, why do you start podcasting? How much money do you make then? If not, what’s the point of it? I think it really opened up my my life, my vision, my aperture, like what I had access to. So especially I find that I recommend people talking to people outside of your own race, outside your own cohort of people, outside of your zip code, different age groups.
It’s so beneficial because all of a sudden you just have access, access to so much more information and all of a sudden you realize your preconception really are misconceptions to begin with, that you can dip your toes in these areas.
It’s OK to make mistakes because everybody does.
Everybody has the same fears.
I’m developing, of course, right now, several courses on my website for podcasters and et cetera. So I’m part of a group right now learning group, and I realized everybody had the fear of dropping the cause. Nobody’s going to take them. Nobody cares.
There will be bad reviews. Everybody feels the same way. But until you do it, you won’t even know what what it feels like.
And you’re not alone. You’re making progress. That’s what progress looks like. So I want to talk about the dozens of people you interviewed as a result of this book. You can draw upon so much personal experience. I mean, I can imagine if I were you, I’d be like, I don’t wanna talk to anybody any more.
I can just write this book.
I have enough stories to share. But yet you went out and talked to dozens of people. What was the thinking process? I mean, that was a lot of work to interview people and compile. Why was it necessary for you to write this book that first of all, the people that you’re talking about are all people? Most of them are people that I have had as guests in the class, so the interviews that are contained or the quotes that are contained in the book are as if you were sitting in the class and you heard Iliza Schlesinger talk about comedy or you heard Vanessa Friedman talk about fashion from her point of view as being a fashion critic for The New York Times.
So all of my guests had points of view that were different than mine, different vantage points and everything else. Teaching is a fantastic way to learn. So having this class that I teach gives me a terrific platform to approach people and to say I’d love you to do my class, the research that I do on them. So when they show up, I’m actually able to engage them because I’m familiar with their work. I’m familiar with what they’ve written or the shows they’ve done and show them the respect for giving up their time to come to the class.
So first of all, it’s not like I interview those people for the book. The book was a byproduct of the interviews know, so that I just wanted to clarify that. And people wonder, well, how do you get to the people that you get to and you find good people through other good people and you ask for help? And some people will say, oh, you know, who you should meet and others will not help.
Well, you just keep posing the question.
So I believe you meet good people through other good people. And if they enjoy the experience, they’ll help you out.
I mean, a big shout out to Michael Roderic, who introduced us together out of the blue. We originally I think we had very few common connections. And I after reading your profile and all that, I was like, OK, I have a good idea. But until I hop on the call, I realized I was like, oh, my God, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. And it was just so interesting. The first phone call, we ended up chatting close to two hours and it wasn’t for other meetings coming up, other appointments.
We would have just kept talking. And that is so powerful because Michael would at this point, I think he knows really well who would resonate and who I would enjoy speaking with. I think that connection is huge. And for people who are working on creative projects, when you’re not by yourself, when you’re also creating a platform to share other people’s voices, makes you more powerful and makes the marketing process also more authentic because it’s not just about you anymore.
Well, that’s right.
And Michael Roderick is a great example of a generous spirit.
Yeah, he really he’s helps people because he helps people.
That’s who he is. And he is great. And he comes to my class almost every week and he’s he’s fantastic. And the thing that I like about Michael is he has one agenda and that is to help people. Yeah. If they reciprocate, fine. Yeah. But that’s not why he does it. He doesn’t do it to build up debt. He does it because he’s such a good person and he’s a great connector.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that that’s such a good point of view on business building a business when you’re so genuine with your your time, your energy, your willingness to help. I notice that with my YouTube channel that went from a few hundred subscribers to close to four thousand today and one hundred and ten thousand views every month, there are people reaching out to me to say, I need help. What’s your rate? I want to hire you to.
And I’m thinking I’m not an audio engineer in particular. That’s what those questions are for with Zoom and all that. So maybe you should talk to somebody else. They’re like, no, no, no, we want your help.
And then when I think video as a result for you to be on Zoom, I. I love I’m so excited about we talked about repurposing your content and all that, but it’s just so exciting to be able to see you in action with your students, with their guests. You just it just incredible. So I. I can’t wait to join your class. Please keep me posted.
Well it will now do a shameless plug. Yeah. Because we just launched our website, our creative career dot com, and you’ll see video clips from the class. And there’s also a Instagram site at all, creative career. And there you will also see clips from the class that’s been going on a lot longer. So there’s a lot more stuff to look at, although they’re shorter quotes because of Instagram’s length. And you can also go to Medoff Productions dot com and you can see my video work.
So you can see those different things and get an idea of them.
And I just started a group last week on LinkedIn called Creative Careers, and it’s exactly what we’re talking about. It’s a place for creative idea exchange.
So I think that’ll be really cool, too.
Absolutely. And I actually have included I forgot to mention at the beginning of this call that I included a bunch of the links, including Madoff Productions. But I’m going to add to that a list of creative careers, dot com as well, in case people want to watch this after we finish talking. And then they can access those links as well as to our creative career, dotcom, all creative career, dotcom.
I wish it could have been creative careers, but the domains were all taken.
The I know. I know. And those are really popular. Yeah, I even looked like hashtags and everything. Those are really popular. But yeah, this is this is wonderful. There’s one thing I know. I just want to I know it’s been a long time since I kept you on this call, but one thing that really resonated with me giving, giving. Both of us have been doing martial arts. And you were a wrestler. You love watching martial arts movies, uses something called Think in series.
I just love that. I love the fact that I was even kind of reflecting on that yesterday of thinking why do some people not just succeed but to. Stick to a plan to be actually productive. It is people these days talk about accountability. It’s a concept.
I go, ah, I get it.
But it’s like I oftentimes I don’t feel like I need accountability. I think because of martial arts to say in order to get to see, you got to hit A and B, you can just visualize it like certain kicks and movements like you can do a full will kick turn around. You’ve got to do face forward, do a little hook kick first, then you build up the muscles. So you just kind of see it and you can visualize it like you want to say a few things about thinking series.
I should be your next book, please.
Well, first of all. With wheel kicks and hook kicks, you could kick my ass. So I’m glad that you I’m glad that you mentioned that. Now I’m going to be very careful. Well, it’s like chess playing my son was a very, very good chess player and played competitively and it’s thinking in series because you’ve got to think in chess a few moves ahead. I am no expert, but I know that that’s the common knowledge among great chess players in wrestling.
What it means is that if you’re doing a move, that move meets resistance, then you quickly pivot to another move. You don’t want to exhaust yourself. The idea is to exhaust your opponent. So it’s just thinking ahead of what could go wrong and having a plan that if that goes wrong, you do something else or something else. You know, when you’re in production, film production. The lighting changes. What are you going to do? We’re shooting outside and we don’t have another day to shoot, so what are we going to do?
And there’s always so much of creativity is problem solving. So that’s a huge part of it.
So on those days where it seems like, oh, man, nothing is going right, you know, the best you can do is he really planned out. And you do. That’s that phase is called preproduction, which is true when you’re writing a book. It’s true when you’re starting a business. You know, it’s the training that you do before you do a martial arts contest. It’s preproduction so that you do have a plan that you may have to iterate and pivot from that plan.
And that’s the thinking in series I love that has been so great. Jeffrey, I so appreciate your time. And I included Link as well to your book. People Can Learn More About You, your production company. I will soon include a creative career dotcom in the description. It’s just been such a pleasure knowing you and. This episode of the First World podcast is brought to you by First World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses.
We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand phasor podcast team. Our chief editor and producer, Herman Silvio’s associate producer, Adam Lefort, social media and content manager, Rosta Leon transcript editor Allena Almodovar. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Face World. Thank you so much for listening.