Andy J. Pizza

Andy J. Pizza is a podcaster, public speaker and illustrator who built a remarkable career around everything he loves. And did it on his own terms.

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07
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Andy J. Pizza
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Don’t avoid the wilderness.

Andy J. Pizza is a podcaster, public speaker and illustrator best known for his optimistic and energetic show, Creative Pep Talk.

Andy describes himself as a personal growth junkie, but we think his real secret weapon is knowing the value of creativity and understanding how to use it in the world of business.

In this episode, Andy and Chris talk about how he built this remarkable career, balancing everything that he is passionate about: communicating ideas, helping creatives find their way and doing it all on his terms.

But life isn’t always cheese and pepperoni. Especially when you have ADHD and you’d rather go to jail than do your taxes.

We won't spoil any stories, but we will say that you will love listening to this episode. And hopefully, you’ll learn something from it too.

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Episode Transcript

Andy:
Even as a kid, I remember looking at all the jobs, traditional employment This is a huge theme for me and thinking, I know that's not going to work. So my plan A is some weird kind of career and my plan B, I kid you not, this is must have been like high school and middle school, I thought I'm really good at acting strange and I could just fake like going crazy and they'll just go take care of me somewhere.

Greg:
Hello friends, Greg Gunn here, and welcome to season four of the Futur Podcast. I'm super excited to tell you about today's episode because I think it's the perfect way to start our new season. Our guest is a podcaster, a public speaker and an illustrator who goes by the delightful name, Andy J. Pizza. And he's a man of many talents and he describes himself as a personal growth junkie. But I think his real secret weapon is knowing the value of his creativity and then understanding how to use it in the world of business.
In this episode, Andy and Chris talked about just how he built this remarkable career that seems to balance everything that he's so very passionate about. Communicating big ideas, helping creators find their way, and doing it all on his terms. But life isn't always cheese and pepperoni, I'm sorry, especially when you have ADHD and you'd rather go to jail than do your taxes. Now, I'm not going to spoil any of the good stories for you, but I will say that whoever you are, you will love listening to this episode. And hopefully you'll learn something from it too. Please enjoy our extra goat cheese, hold the mushrooms conversation with Andy J. Pizza.

Chris:
Okay, now, before we get going here-

Andy:
Sure.

Chris:
I know who you are. I know your real name too. And I'm like, okay, there's an interesting story behind why you're known as Andy J. Pizza. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do and why the name Andy J. Pizza?

Andy:
Sure, yeah. I'm Andy J. Pizza. I'm also known as Andy J. Miller to my wife and kids. Although my dad has started calling me Dr. Pizza and it's the worst. It's like being trolled by your dad. Every time I call him, he's like, "Dr. Pizza." And I'm like, "Dad, don't do that." But I'm a podcaster and a public speaker and I'm an illustrator. Basically whatever I'm doing though, I think I'm always illustrating. I'm always illustrating a point whether it's words or pictures. I might use an analogy in a talk or I might use a picture on Instagram or with a client. But I'm always trying to explain something I think. I like to communicate.
And the reason Andy J. Pizza is because, like I said, my name is actually Andy J. Miller. When I go to the local gym here and they say, "Who are you?" And I'm like, "I'm Andrew Miller." They're like, "Oh, we've got 35 of those just in this county. "And I'm like, no, it's the least common name. And so, my website used to be andy-j-miller.com which is just the worst and every Instagram, Twitter, I had different handles, it was a disaster. And then they came out with the dot pizza instead of dot com. And I was like, "Oh, I have a problem with pizza," like I'd it too much. And so, I felt like this is a good fit with andyj.pizza and then everyone just thought that was my name.
So, I just rolled with it. I'm cool with it. The only downside is I changed all of my handles and all that stuff in my website at the same time that I really changed my diet. And so, I've never eaten less pizza in my life since I've been known as Andy J. Pizza. And I'll go to talks and they'll be like, "Here's 40 pizzas." And I'm like, "Ahh, I'm trying to quit, please." But, yeah, that's Andy J. Pizza.

Chris:
Yea. I love it. And it's become kind of like, it encapsulates a little bit of your personality. My opinion, right?

Andy:
I think it does. I really do think it does. I think it marks for me weird, a weird type of growth calling myself pizza. I know that none of my heroes would have done that. All of my creative heroes were a lot more serious than I am. And I think that marked a period of my time where I started to do the important thing on your journey which is to kind of disobey your heroes and find your own points of view and all that kind of stuff. So for me, I do think there was a kind of coming into my own when I made that switch. And it, yeah, it rings true, I would say.

Chris:
I think that your personality, the idea behind the name and all that kind of stuff, it's going to weave throughout this. It's part of, like I think, like even your visual language like when I look at your work, it's optimistic. It's fun, it's vivid. It feels positive. Right? So like, who doesn't love pizza and then who doesn't love this art? It's you.

Andy:
It's like a pizza party. That's my old vibe. And I also think pizza as kind of like decadent and over the top. And I feel like that describes, I've got hundreds of hours of me talking on the internet. There's thousands and thousands of pieces of work on the internet that it's just more, so yeah, it's fitting, I think, yeah.

Chris:
Now, when you introduced yourself, it's very interesting, I don't know if this is deliberately or whatever. But you said I'm a podcaster, a public speaker and an illustrator. Is it really in that order these days?

Andy:
Yeah, actually, I think so. I think that that might be a little bit of my ADHD showing of, I feel like every decade I kind of have a new obsession. And for the past five years, I've been really obsessed with storytelling and story structure and stuff like that. And so my whole kind of mindset has shifted, but I also think something happens as you get further down the road and something like illustration where you get less precious about it. So I do the job and I care about what it says more than how it looks most of the time. And I think illustration just kind of became a skill that I could do to further my bigger missions.
And also, the truth is, I think that finding public speaking and podcasting was kind of a return to who I think more of my true self from when I was a kid. I think illustration was a choice that I think was more about a path of something I thought I could achieve and something I could be successful in, and less of like this is my passion and my calling. So now, I feel like, oh, it's a really good skill. It's like a great way like I illustrated the podcast cover on Apple podcasts and everywhere.
And early on Apple actually had me sign an agreement that said they could use that artwork in different promo things for podcasts. And that illustration has become a really useful tool, but I feel like I don't think of it much more than that. It's not really the why, it's more of the how I go about doing stuff. Does that make sense?

Chris:
Yeah, it does. So let's talk a little bit about the podcast for a sec. So, you have, I think, by last count something north of 285 episodes under your belt. And what's interesting about you-

Andy:
Yeah, 286 today.

Chris:
Yeah. Unlike other people is that you do a lot of monologues. It's not a guest driven and it's you doing your thing. So I have so many questions as a content creator, as a storyteller myself, like what's your process like? How much of this is scripted, like how much of a plan do you have going into these things? Can you share a little bit about your process?

Andy:
Yeah, I can tell you a lot about it. So, yeah, it's monologues. And really, that was by design, and we'll probably get into this later. But one of the key things that I learned in my creative career was to just mirror the opportunities that I want before I get asked to do something, just prove that I can do it, just show through projects, kind of write my own dream brief and just do it. And so, I started the podcast obviously, primarily, and we'll probably get into this too. I've always had this deep passion for helping creative people, people that might be considered neuro diverse rather than neuro typical, people who the regular path to career success doesn't really work for them.
I have plenty of reasons why that's been a passion for me since I was little actually. But strategically and career wise, I think for the first something like 100 episodes, we didn't even have any guests. It was completely monologue. We probably still have two thirds monologue, one third guests. And the design of that was I started that podcast as a portfolio of talks so that I could start... because I wasn't getting any speaking gigs. I did this one little tiny speaking gig in my hometown, it was just a tiny little thing. And there was just something that happened there that I was like, boo, I think there's something to this thing.
And my wife was there and she's like the best, most honest critic. And sometimes, I feel like, I'll make a new drawing or something like I think there's something new and special in this. What do you think, Sophie? And she's like, "I don't think so." And most of the time, she's right. And so, I always test my little inclinations. And so, I did that talk and she was there.
And then afterwards, I was like, "Am I crazy or was that different than anything I've ever done?" And she was like, "Yeah, you need to do something about this." And so, that was the impetus behind starting the podcast of let me just put a hundred talks online and just be like, "Look, I could talk all day, I got millions of talks." And may like, "Book me at your conference." And that's how my public speaking career started.
And so, yeah, I think that that was always by design. And then over time, there's became a lot of good reasons to have guests. To your question about process, I think a lot of people probably think that it's really loose and unplanned. And I know that at least some of the listeners enjoy my tangents and whatever, but I have ADHD and it can be a real blessing but in the of just speaking off the cuff, if I didn't do the obsessive planning I do and outlining I do, it would be a complete and utter disaster.
So a monologue episode, and the ones I consider to be special, some of them are kind of like Q&A kind of thing. And there's a bunch of different kind but the meat of the podcast are these special episodes that I'll work on and tinker with for usually a few months. I have a bunch of documents in my phone, the notes, and I'll get a little nugget of a story or I'll talk with a creative person and they'll just be some, often it's like dispelling a myth. It'll be like this thing is hurting these people. This thing is not helping them live their best creative self.
And I'll put that into often like a story structure and then I'll kind of... I have a basic format that starts with kind of introducing why we're talking about this to what you can actually do. And then I have each episode I have kind of some basic things that need to be in there. And this comes from, and I'm getting super in the weeds, I hope that your listeners don't mind. But there's this thing from Josh Kaufman from The Personal MBA, it's a book.
And he has this thing, I think it was from a Harvard study of what are the types of value that people buy? Why do people buy what they buy? And he came up with these five, or they came up with these five things, and it's things that make you feel something, something that helps you learn something, something that bonds you to other people, something that we can collect because we're just collectors. And the other one is something that helps you protect what you already have.
And so, that's part of my framework. I'm always trying to get something in each of those buckets. I'm trying to put something in there that's a personal story that makes you feel something. And I'm trying to put some really clear tactic that you put in there that's you're learning, something that the bonding might be something like, I share one of my experiences of how this hurt me or how I failed in this way, or how I can relate and so on and so forth. But I have 10 or 15 of those little frameworks for helping me get these monologues to whatever they are.

Chris:
Yeah. When I listen to your podcasts, you have a lot of frameworks like you talk about being in the bathtub, and the three things you got to do. And you literally sound like you're doing those things?

Andy:
Yeah, yes. Yeah, I'm kind of a personal growth junkie and there's videos of me online. If you want to go look at one of my original kickstarters, there's a video of me from 10 years ago. And if you go watch that video, it would be more believable for me to tell you like, "That's my cousin Bruce." And you're like, "Yeah, that makes sense." But if I was like, "That's me." You're like, "Whoa, how is that you?" So, I'm very into personal development, personal journey. And I'm also, with ADHD, I think one of the superpower says, the really right brained, the really big picture thinking.
And so, whenever anybody starts on anything, if you're going to start on a podcast, start on a kid's book, let's problem solve this brand, whatever it is, I think the natural thing is to start at step one which is just like the surface level like the basic things. And I always start step 10. So, I always work backwards. It's a very strategic way of thinking. I'm always thinking about the why or the deeper thing. But in order to get it to reverse engineer back to one and make it make sense to anybody else, I think I've had to acquire frameworks for just how am I going to make sense? I know this is a thing or I know this matters to me.
And so, I've just been obsessed with collecting ways of rounding that weird brain out so that I can connect with other people. And it was as simple as growing up. My parents, my dad and my stepmom who I was raised by, they were corporate people. And I had to figure out how do I explain to them that I'm not seeing and experiencing things exactly like they are. Their brains work almost the same.
And, actually, when I was a kid, I would lie in bed when I was like six years old, and this is like a telling little metaphor of how I felt. And I'd lay in bed and I'd be imagining that my dad and my stepmom are in the living room but they've come into their true form as aliens. And they had some device where I could walk in and they just instantly appear as human. And so, I think I just felt like misunderstood, not being able to express myself, whatever. And I think I've clung to frameworks that have helped me make up for that kind of stuff, if that makes sense, yeah.

Chris:
That's really interesting because even though you felt like you didn't belong and you're a little weird, you imagined them being the alien.

Andy:
I know.

Chris:
I love that about you.

Andy:
It's like they're the ones with the problem. I'm the normal one around here. I don't know what that's all about but, yeah.

Chris:
Right. Most people would envision themselves as the alien and feeling like they have no friends and don't belong on this planet, and there you are. And that's kind of indicative of a lot of the energy and the vibes that you throw out. You remind me of my friend, Jose, who also has ADHD. And he's super bright, very fast thinker, almost his own detriment. So he's had to develop systems so that he can stay focused. At first, I thought like, "You're being kind of hyperbolic here. Are you demonstrating [inaudible 00:17:32] a performance art piece?"
He would literally take things around his glasses as blinders and he would put on like speed mental and then he could focus and then he would create his worksheet. And the worksheet was, what are the three things you need to get done today? What are the three things that are preventing you from doing that? And he would tell himself what to do? So every time he got distracted, because something else was cool and shiny, he will go back to the sheet. And-

Andy:
I can relate to that.

Chris:
... for a non-ADHD person, I was like, that is a lot of extra effort. I just tell myself I need to do this and I get it done.

Andy:
Yeah. I think there's a lot of... I'm actually working on some stuff that is NDA related but it's stuff that is about telling the story of people with ADHD or ADD because I'm so stoked about how there's been so many stories in the mainstream about autism and people on the spectrum and I feel like our culture has come such a long way of understanding that and making space for that, but ADHD is still just a joke.
And for me, that diagnosis was so helpful and also I could see how my mom, who I believe has undiagnosed ADHD, how much that hurt her. If you don't have words for something, you're going to reach for what you do have. And so they didn't have the words for ADHD but they did have the word lazy or distracted or rambunctious, or whatever. And then I think just to kind of explain your friend's process and all that stuff, for me, the best explanation is your executive function is impaired, which just means the parent in your part of your brain just doesn't win any battles. They're just like, the only way the parent gets them to do anything is just do trickery.
And so all those frameworks, that's my trickery, that's my executive function being like, how are we going to get Andy to do this stuff that he needs to do? What are all the tricks in the book because I don't have the thing that just kicks in. I have a little comic about doing my taxes as an ADHD person. And it's an accountant talking to an ADHD person. And the accountant is like, "All right, you need to fill out all these forms and duh, duh, duh, duh." And ADHD person is like, "Well, what happens if I don't do it?" And then he's like, Hah, well, if you don't, I guess you go to jail." And then the ADHD person's like, "Chill. Man, I can't believe I almost did all that paperwork. Do you think I can take my... you know what, that's how I feel.

Chris:
And, yeah, it sounds pretty good, what are you talking about?

Andy:
Yeah. It's like can you bring your art supplies to jail? Yeah, that's real for me. Yeah. So, even as a kid I remember looking at all the jobs, traditional employment, this is a huge theme for me, and thinking I know that's not going to work. So my plan A is some weird kind of career and my plan B, I kid you not, this has must have been like high school or middle school, I thought I'm really good at acting strange and I could just fake like going crazy. And they'll just go take care of me somewhere and I'll just be doing my thing and, that was a real thought. I don't know. I'm not saying I actually planned on it but I thought about it. I was like, worst comes to worst, I can fake ill and they'll take care of me.

Chris:
Just so everybody can understand what the heck Andy's saying. He's saying that his backup career plan was to go into a mental institution, a psych ward-

Andy:
That's pretty much, yes.

Chris:
... and kind of live the good life. That was plan B?

Andy:
That was my plan B.

Chris:
Wow.

Andy:
Yeah, that was my plan B.

Chris:
This is a lot about you.

Andy:
It does, yeah. It really does.

Chris:
Okay.

Andy:
Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah.

Andy:
So, yeah, you can go... I could keep going, that's why there's all these monologues-

Chris:
I want to ask you more questions and feel free to take any tangents that you wish, and I'm enjoying the conversation. Okay. So, podcasting is the main thing that you do. Is this also the main way that you support your life and your family?

Andy:
Yeah. I would say the scale is tipped over time. Now, it's pretty muddy though because we actually, I started an artist management agency with my buddy, Ryan Appleton, who was my agent. And part of the kind of approach to that is at this idea of diverse creative content. So, it's hard to even say whether I'm, and this is kind of gets to the question of are you more of a podcaster or an illustrator? Most of the things that we do, it's multiprong kind of collaboration.
So when I work with Skillshare or Patreon or whatever, they do buy ads for the podcast, but we also create content for them and we create illustration for them and whether it's for Instagram or an ad campaign or whatever. And most of my stuff falls into multiple buckets. And there's all kinds of good reasons for that approach and that strategy, but that's kind of how my practice has evolved.
And so, there's no real hard lines, but I would say most of it is relating to the podcast. I don't have any problem with people starting a podcast to catalog their journey to success, that's totally legit. But for me, when I started my podcast, I'd already bought a house on illustration, I'd already worked with Google and Sony and duh, duh, duh, duh, all these other clients.
And so this move away from pure client illustration was always in the plan. That's what I always wanted. I wanted to muddy those waters and all those labels are really helpful I think to people that are paying you. But for me, I was always trying to get to an essence that is beyond all the labels and it sounds really mystical but I have an actual explanation of that.
When I started doing these talks in early days of the podcast, I started feeling this pole of like, I think this is like more my calling, more my passion than illustration. And I was having an identity crisis. And it wasn't until I heard a public speaker that I had listened to, someone doing like a TED talk or something. And they said, "Now I want to tell you a story to kind of explain what I mean. Let me give you a little illustration." And I was like, "Phew," like the analogies and metaphors in stories are illustrations. They're the exact same thing I'm trying to do with pictures or words, the why is the same.
And so for me, yeah, the labels and the income streams and all that, it's all muddy, and it'll evolve over time because podcasts might be gone tomorrow, but what I'll be doing is the same time.

Greg:
Time for a quick break but we'll be right back with more from Andy J. Pizza.
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Welcome back to a conversation with Andy J. Pizza.

Chris:
I want to say one quick thing in case you guys are joining us. I'm talking to Andy J. Pizza. That's not his real name. His real name is Andy J. Miller. And he runs a podcast called the CREATIVE PEP TALK. And I believe he's got a couple of books out one by the same name, CREATIVE PEP TALK. And a bunch of adult coloring books?

Andy:
Yeah.

Chris:
Right? I think I said that right.

Andy:
Indie Rock Coloring, yeah.

Chris:
It sounded scary.

Andy:
Yeah. They're for all ages.

Chris:
And you were one of the early people to do, right?

Andy:
Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I'm sure that they existed in some form or another, but I think this was one of the first kind of mainstream, it was on TV and it was all these things. And the funny thing is, again, the real lesson for this is listen to your wife, because I did this coloring book called Indie Rock Coloring Book, this is in 2009. It ended up making a really big splash, like I said, they were on TV and it was covered by all the gift guides, all that crap. And I thought, "Oh, the reason why is this is it's a product about Indie Rock."
And my wife was like, "I think there's something to this adult coloring thing. You should maybe make more coloring books." And I was like, "Nah, it's not that." And then, lo and behold, 500 illustrators came in and just flooded the market with adult coloring, which is fine, that's not really what I want to be about anyway. But we definitely missed some paydays, I would say.

Chris:
Now, just for people who don't know what these things are, we're not talking about pornographic coloring books. We're talking about coloring books designed for adults.

Andy:
Yes, yeah.

Chris:
Right?

Andy:
Absolutely.

Chris:
And it's like a sophisticated artwork, and I bought a couple myself.

Andy:
I don't know if anyone ever seen what that is.

Chris:
Yeah, but the thing is, it's kind of one of these things where you buy and you're like, I love this. But I've actually never colored any of those books that I purchased. I just like the artwork too much.

Andy:
I think that's for a lot of people. They're good gifts, that's the other thing. A lot of the book market is giftee, yeah.

Chris:
Okay. Now, I want to circle back to this thing that you wanted to start the podcast because you wanted people to book you for public speaking. And it was like, "Okay, fine. You don't want to hire me for public speaking? I'll do it. I'll prove it." So, when did you drop the first podcast to, how long did it take, how many episodes in before they're like, "We need to get Andy to do a talk for us."

Andy:
Yeah, we started in 2014. I had the serendipity of starting the same exact week as serial, which is where podcasts started to blow up so I was lucky in that regard. But I would say, I have this theory about, I'm a real non-dual thinker. I like-

Chris:
You're a real none what?

Andy:
Non-dual thinker, like non-binary.

Chris:
Okay.

Andy:
It's like it's not this or that. There's two camps when it comes to how you should approach your personal practice or personal projects. So, it's either grit like just keep swimming, just keep swimming, no matter what. Ignore all the signs, just keep doing it. Or there's this thing of never stop pivoting. So just fail fast, MVP, just... and that's like a kind of opposed in a way. And so for me, projects are the perfect middle of those things because you can set your parameters from the get go that allow you to think, "Okay, how much data do I need to collect to know if this is a worthwhile experience?"
And so for me, when I started the podcast, I knew I had committed to making a hundred episodes, even if nobody seemed to care, even if it wasn't going well, even if I didn't get any conference gigs, anything like that. And so, when I started out, after the first year, like 50 podcasts in, my listenership was super low. It was like 500 people an episode, something like that. Super low in comparison to where we are now.
And I remember, this is another kind of core value for me as you're metal detecting of which way should I go? Early on, you got to kind of take heavier stock in qualitative data rather than quantitative. And so, the numbers weren't huge, but the feedback I was getting was the deepest, most sincere, enthusiastic feedback of any creative project I'd done. So I knew I was on some and I'd committed to doing 100 episodes. I would say it probably wasn't until I was, 50, 60 episodes in over a year before I got my first conference gig.

Chris:
Wow.

Andy:
Yeah. So, it was quite a bit. And then after that, after about a hundred, before all this stuff went down, I was doing one to three gigs a month and it became a significant part of everything that I do.

Chris:
Yeah, okay. I want to circle back to that.

Andy:
Sure.

Chris:
Because that's impacted all of us. But just so everybody who's listening to this like, what is he saying, duality, dual thinker? I think it's like you started out with a plan and you have to be open enough to see where that plan takes you because Episode 37, you might be thinking, this is not where I want to be.

Andy:
Yes.

Chris:
But then you grow into this whole thing and you learn to love it and you start to perfect your craft, you get much better at it, and then you think, this could just be its own thing like the end goal could be this thing. And it turns out that it is, that's exactly what happened?

Andy:
Yeah.

Chris:
Right?

Andy:
That is what happened. Yeah, that's what happened. And actually, this is a thing I think about a lot where, the Indie Rock Coloring Book, like all these projects, they were a response to an obstacle of like the thing I want, there's a huge barrier from me and to that. And so the Indie Rock Coloring Book is a good example too of I created that so that I could get into the band poster, CD or album art and all that kind of stuff. And the project itself actually ended up being so much more interesting and valuable than ever getting to do any of that work, which I did do some of that work.
And the podcast was kind of the same. There was a moment where I was doing all these talks, and actually, the podcast was making more money than the talks, the podcast was a better format in all kinds of different ways. And I always tell people like, "Don't avoid wilderness." If there's a huge paved road to success and there's cottage industry set up alongside it to help you get there, risk free, easily with convenience, like the treasure at the end of that road is gone. So, don't be afraid of the obstacles. Don't be afraid of the wilderness. If there's booby traps there, there's still treasure left.
And so, it's just like what you were saying about the podcast, like it ended up being more interesting than the goal, right?

Chris:
Yeah.

Andy:
The process there, if that makes sense.

Chris:
Yeah. I love this whole wilderness idea. Seth Godin talks about this and he points out that you should desire to seek the things that are difficult because it means fewer people are doing it. Scarcity creates value. So if it was easy for everybody to have a successful podcast then you would be buried and nobody would treat you like you're special or different or unique.
Okay, so you're working up to this thing. It's like many, many episodes in that you finally get your gig and then you wind up doing... I looked at your page and you're speaking all over the place very frequently, as you say. And a couple of questions about that. So, this is something I struggle with. You and I, I imagine we speak at similar conferences for creative people. Your whole thing is CREATIVE PEP TALK, right?

Andy:
Yup.

Chris:
Now creative conferences, the ticket prices are relatively low, their audience size is relatively small. I have a problem with this because I see people who contribute the value that people you and I aspire to create in the world, and they're getting paid 100,000 bucks or 80,000 or whatever it is. I'm not seeing any numbers like that. I mean, what's your experience been like and how do you feel about that?

Andy:
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about that. Man, there's so many threads that I could pull out here. But you're totally right. I mean, first of all, I'll tell you one thing. I started a class online. I promise this is relevant. I know it seems like random tangent. But I started a class and I was charging what it would cost to audit one class at a college. For this online class, we're doing it per semester. And I had some kind of top design adjacent person who was some kind of thought leader in the design space, challenged the price.
And I remember thinking like, this mindset, first of all, this isn't a lot of money. If you think this a lot of money, you're already in trouble because you're in America. When I was starting out, I thought, man, if I could earn 30K a year or 40K a year, I'll be set. Then I earned 60K and I was like, "I still feel like I'm poor," especially when you're working on your own with the taxes and all that stuff and health care.
And so, I think there is this limited mindset in the creative world. We massively undervalue ourselves. And on top of that, we're the ones that end up getting hurt because this person was critiquing me while there are non-creatives at the top of the top schools banking millions and millions of dollars on people going hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And yet you want to critique the creative person making a dollar.
So first of all, I just think there's all these dynamics in money and creativity that are just massively out of whack, so I totally agree with that. And then on top of that, in terms of my own personal journey with speaking fees in the creative world, I learned from Draplin. He's a buddy of mine and he taught me about the Merch game and we upped our Merch game, it's still nothing compared to his. But that's one way that we offset things is through things like that, but it's not just that.
Man, I wish I knew how to pull at this without it unraveling into a huge other thing. But I always think of all of these projects and pursuits through the lens of this thing I call the industry market niche bullseye. There's a lot of weeds here and I'll try not to get into them. But your industry, that's your creative field, minds illustration, yours is design. Your market, the little sector in which you earn a living and other people earn a living. Your niche is how you're different in that market.
And so, when I started out in the podcast world, I'd saw myself as I'm in the illustration industry, I'm in the market of the groups of people who do talks. And the niche is a very particular type of talk. It's my pizza thing, the weird thing, the Pep Talk thing, whatever. All my differentiators, all the unique selling points. But I always kind of, even from the beginning, thought I'm going to inverse that thing. Eventually, I'm not going to be the illustrator with a podcast. I'm going to be the podcaster who's the illustrator.
And so, I guess I'd always kind of, it doesn't really fix the problem of the bad mindset of money and ticket prices and speaking fees but it was my own personal solution, was, I'm not going to stay in this industry long term. I'm going to branch out and be a public speaker too.
The funny thing is I have a buddy who's in the kids, the high school speaking circuit. And compared to you and me when we're doing a design conference, he makes probably triple what they offer speaking at high schools. And so, there was just this, I don't know, does that help? It's really an honest answer-

Chris:
Oh yes, yes it is.

Andy:
... but it's not really a solution as such.

Chris:
It's a complex thing and I want to weigh in on this and maybe pull you into the water with me.

Andy:
Yeah, looks good.

Chris:
But feel free to like, Chris, you're on your own, drown buddy, this is your thing. Okay, we know this, creative people don't exactly have a healthy mindset around money. And so, we don't want to spend it. We don't want to ask for it. We don't want to be paid what we think we're worth. And when we hear people getting paid a lot of money, instead of saying congratulations, that's a great role model to build into, we start casting stones at them. They're being greedy. They're just overinflated, overpriced and just nonsense, right?

Andy:
Yes.

Chris:
So people who run conferences, the design conferences that we're talking about, tend to also be designers and creative people. So, this isn't worth much and so they underprice everything so they're barely keeping it together. Most people who run conferences that I know, they're barely breaking even, it's a labor of love. And here I am, and as I think you are, you're trying to help creative people make a living doing creative things.
So, it's weird that I would then go to a conference where I'm undervaluing my own worth having to create, and I've done it too, Merch or other ways of supporting it, like when the fundamental business is, in my opinion, broken. Because if you can't run a sustainable business where you pay a fair wage to everybody that works for you, then you have a busted business that's really relying on the goodwill of these creators, and I have a problem with that.

Andy:
I absolutely have a problem with that. In fact, the other thing that we were doing before COVID hit was we decided, not that I full stop, wouldn't speak at conferences especially if the fees were right and whatnot. But we also just decided to do our own tour dates. We started setting that all up. I worked with my agent and the way that he works with our artists, the Co-Loop artist, is pretty unorthodox. We're trying to do a new thing. He's as much of an agent as he is a manager. And so, he was helping me manage this tour, set up those dates, create guests. And then between us three, me, Ryan, and the other speaker, were the people where the money is being funded or funneled.
And, yeah, again, I guess the takeaway to that is to think, use that creativity not just in your work but in your business model. It was just every time I would get to the... same thing happens, that's why I started teaching online as I was working at an art school. And I just had all these critiques. There's a James Murphy quote from LCD Soundsystem, he says, the best way to complain is to make something. And then there's this philosopher, I can't remember his name, on the top my head, but he said, in a utopia, there wouldn't be any critics. The only way to critique something would be to make a different thing. And so-

Chris:
Wow!

Andy:
Isn't that... Dude, I think of it all the time.

Chris:
And the world was like that? Come on.

Andy:
Yes. It's amazing. And so when I get into those zones, and I don't like it. I don't want to create my own tour dates, really, that's not how I want to spend any energy. And luckily I have Ryan to help. He helps me often with that managerial stuff that weighs me down and the administrative and all that. But we strategized. We thought about like, we tried to go in on one of the conferences and tried to team up with them to help them think about this is the value that all of your speakers are bringing. They're the ones selling the tickets. Here's the models.
By the way, I go speak in other industries. Here's how they do it. These are the affiliates. These are all the different levels. And I tried to collaborate on a deep level on the business side and it just wouldn't budge. These ideas are so entrenched that I felt like the only thing I can do is just create my own version as a mode of critique, yeah.

Chris:
I want to reemphasize that. Basically, the harder way of hearing that, the more kind of dramatic way of saying this is there's no whining.

Andy:
Yeah, 100%, yeah.

Chris:
No whining. Basically, you don't like something, you have a better idea, because everybody's got an idea and ideas are cheap, you go make it. And if you're successful at that, that sets a new pattern of thinking and then says, "Yeah, you see, I proved it." And so you book your own tour dates, your own venues, so that you can put the money in the hands of the people who are actually contributing value, not necessarily event organizers. Nothing against them, but just the model is just busted. Okay, beautiful.

Andy:
100%.

Chris:
Okay.

Andy:
Tina Roth Eisenberg, who I know everybody's probably a big fan of, she talks about this a lot with that. She mentioned that LCD Soundsystem quote and says, she only allows herself to complain one time before making something. That's-

Chris:
I love that.

Andy:
Yeah. It's useful.

Chris:
Okay. You shared the story on stage and I want to bring it back. You said that you've spent many days laying on the ground, face down, wondering if you're going to go broke. And then that drove you, I don't know if this is like a story to drive a point or really this is kind of how it happened. I get it if it's either one where you're like, "I need to read some business books." And then you said, "I looked at them and then finally I read them." Tell me about that and what was the first business book and the one that popped in your mind?

Andy:
Yeah. So that is a true story. I graduated right in the recession. And at that time, my work was just basically trend based, not really any unique selling point. And that's the stuff that's first to go in a recession. And so, I ended up, I'd already quit my job. I was going full time freelance. We'd moved from England to America, that's a whole other story. And for six months, I didn't get an illustration job. And literally, we had bill collectors, this is like 2009 or 2010. It was a dire scene. And I was depressed. I was literally self-medicating with naps of where I would literally just-

Chris:
That's a pretty good medication though.

Andy:
Yeah. It's not the worst, that's for sure.

Chris:
No. Are we starting to think about the psych ward again, like, there's duh, duh, duh option.

Andy:
I painted myself into a corner because right before... everything was going so well. I got married, we got a house, we're renting this house kind of and we had a kid. And so, the plan B of the psych ward was off the table because now I had a kid and I thought, I don't need plan B, I have a kid at that time.

Chris:
It's good you're so over on that one.

Andy:
I did, I had no other option.

Chris:
Oh my god.

Andy:
And the funny thing is, the creative path was a way to get out of traditional employment because I'd had traditional employment, part time jobs, terrible at them, lost money, just disaster. My mom actually is the same thing. And she's why I was like, "I got to find a different weird path to success," because traditional employment feels like jail to me. And when I was in that dark time, I had to get a part time job. The only thing I could find in the place we're living was in a juvenile detention center. So I went from spending all of my time and effort to avoid traditional employment, because it felt like a jail, to in traditional employment in a jail-

Chris:
For kids?

Andy:
Yeah, for kids. That's where I was. I was lying face down in a living room floor, taking naps to escape. So, that's where I was. And I think it's when I say, I hit rock bottom. I turned to one of the darkest things in the mind of the artists, and it's business books.

Chris:
Somehow business books, self-development.

Andy:
Yeah. I thought, oh, dear God, what have I become-

Chris:
You know what, Andy, you're at the gates of hell and the doors were made of business books-

Andy:
They were.

Chris:
... so you either go through the game [inaudible 00:47:50].

Andy:
That's it, man. And so, I started. This is actually how I got into podcast. I started listening to podcast. And I'm trying to think of the earliest ones. Michael Hyatt was a big one early on. I don't know if you're familiar with him. His book, Platform, was a game changer. And it was ahead of its time. And it was just saying, if you want to be an illustrator or, he didn't say illustrator, but designer, whatever you want to do, if you want to be an author, you need to build your platform online, because this is how decisions are being made. And these are the things you need to do to do that. So that was a big one.
But then even I stumbled into Gary Vee pretty early on and although our styles are very different and he definitely has some core values that don't align with mine, I get a kick out of him. But more than anything, the thing that...  was looking into the stories of Steve Jobs, and I was looking at all of these business superheroes. And I think that one of the things that changed everything for me was when I realized the business world thinks these people are unicorns. They think they're ones and billions when the fact of the matter is they're creators. They're creative people.
This is the actual foundation of business, creative people in business. These aren't oppositional forces. People say, "When are you going to do an episode on business?" And I'm like, "What do you mean by that?" They're like, "Accounting, taxes." I'm like, "Those are the business basics that you outsource." That's not the secret of business. The secret of business is creativity, strategy like problem solving, providing value, all of these things are the wheelhouse of the creative.
And so, reading those business books shifted my perspective dramatically towards like, not only am I not doomed in business, but I've got the secret sauce. Us creators are so valuable in the world of business and all these ideas like content marketing and just providing value and all these things just started to make a ton of sense. And also at the time, I didn't see anybody in our world thinking or talking about any of this stuff.
And so, I had done the hard work and most of the podcast is the translation from the business world to the creative world, in real time of how do I put all these principles in play? Because all their examples aren't exactly one for one relevant to what I'm trying to achieve. And so it was a lot of trial and error and making my own version.
One of the leaps I made, I realized, I was studying all this content marketing and I was like, "Oh, this is what designers call personal projects." And when you approach a personal project, you can approach it as a self-discovery tool, and that works great. But if you're trying to use it to promote your business, if you use these marketing content strategy ideas, you can supercharge these things. And that's where ideas like a podcast, that's a portfolio of talks, came from. But I did six or seven of those projects that mirrored the goals that I wanted to achieve.

Chris:
Okay. So, it seems to me, the big epiphany for you was to see business people as a reflection of yourself. The business people, the successful ones that you admire, not all of them, obviously.

Andy:
No.

Chris:
They were creative people who were able to do something a little bit different. So, it wasn't a giant leap. It was just a pivot, if you will, that they were able to recognize their own creativity as the gift that's valuable and to be able to relay that to other people.

Andy:
Yeah, 100%.

Chris:
The rest of us are stuck. We don't see what we do especial, there's no value there, so forget it. We can't even recognize it. So, forget about relaying it to somebody else.

Andy:
Yes. And I would say, I would just add one thing, one of my biggest core beliefs is to go find people like you doing things you never knew you could do. There's this limiting belief, I'm a fan, one of these people that I got in in that time was Zig Ziglar, who was like a motivational speaker for sales people back in the day. And he tells a story, it's really good. And it's about, if you put, what are they? I don't know if, they're not fleas, they're jumping something-

Chris:
The fleas, I know the story.

Andy:
Are they fleas? Oh, you know it? Okay.

Chris:
Yes.

Andy:
Say it. Do you know-

Chris:
Yes, I know the story

Andy:
You tell the story.

Chris:
He says, I mean, this is a real story apparently. You can train fleas. Fleas can jump a gigantic exponential amount of their height, say 300 times their height. And you put them inside of a jar and then when they jump, they bounce their heads against the jar. And after a while, they learn to not jump as high as they used to because they don't want to hit their head. And he says, all you have to do is then take off the lid and they will never jump out. It's about us falling to meet our own expectations, whatever low expectations we have of ourselves.

Andy:
Yeah, yup. And so for me, so much of my growth has come from finding people, like I said, finding people like me doing things that I didn't know I could do. And so, my favorite version of the story, it's kind of a spoiler for a Harry Potter book but I think everyone's had their chance at this point. So, there's this point at the end of one of the Harry Potter's where he sees he's getting attacked by Dementors. You know this part? Okay. You're familiar with the story? He's by this lake. On the other side of the lake, the shadowy figure comes out, does this crazy powerful magic and all the Dementors flee, and he thinks it's his dad.
And he's like, "Oh, man, I can't believe it." And so anyway, later, they're doing time travel magic. And he thinks, I'm going to go back there to see my dad cast the spell. I'm going to catch him. And so he goes there and he's watching his past self being attacked by the Dementors. He's waiting for his dad to show up and do this powerful magic. And then he realizes his dad is not coming. And he has to be the one to cast the magic. And he does the spell that he's never knew that he could do. And then later, Hermione is like, "How did you know that you could do that spell?" And he says, "Because I'd already seen myself do it."
And this is the power of when you see yourself in somebody doing stuff that you didn't know you could do, it just instantly unlocks that. And it happened the first time I met an illustrator, I recognized myself in them. They were full time Illustrator. I thought, I can do this. This just happened over and over in my path of searching out people like me doing things I didn't know I could do. It's a game changer.

Chris:
Great way to tap into Harry Potter lore. And if you've not seen it or read the books at this point, I'm sorry, you have had the statute of limitations of spoilers hasn't expired.

Andy:
That's right-

Chris:
But that was perfect, it was beautiful. So back to Zig Ziglar. We are all the fleas in the jar with a lid. And then one day, you're the smart flea, you look over and like, "What are all these other fleas doing outside jumping five times as high as we are?" And then you remembered, you dug back in and you're like, "I can do this if I try," and you do it. And then you're out of there and now you're calling back to the other fleas in your CREATIVE PEP TALK saying, "Yo, fleas, what's up, we could do this. Everybody get out, jump."

Andy:
Exactly, yeah. I think our whole system, a lot of us don't realize our system is built, this is a Seth Godin thing, on the Industrial Revolution. That's what our school systems are built on. They're all built on these. And it's all built on the average human. They said they wanted to make people into replaceable parts, interchangeable parts. Basically, what are the most common attributes of a human? And we'll bet on that. We'll maximize those things so that if this one breaks down on the factory line, we could just plop in another one just like it's a sparkplug. And the creative person doesn't fit the mold.
And so, that system doesn't know what to do with all that. They don't know what to do with all the stuff that's unique about you. And the truth is all that diversity in our neurochemistry, that's where all the gold is. And so, if you're living in this system, you're going to have to be the one to discover yourself. They don't have their tests and their metal detectors and all that, they're not searching for that, what you have because it's never been on the planet.
And so that relates to this flea thing because what I'm trying to do is go look in, study yourself, don't wait for your fairy art mother to show up and tell you who you are and tell you what your gifts are and tell you what you're capable of. You've got to take charge of discovering yourself.

Chris:
All right. I want to follow up with you at some other point in time, but I find it remarkable that you're able to make a living sharing helpful advice for creative people especially through your podcast. We have similar numbers like you and your terms of podcast downloads, but we can't monetize it. So, I hope we-

Andy:
Really, let's talk.

Chris:
I don't want to bore our audience to ask you about that but I'd like to reach out after. But, okay, I want to take back. I think this is an appropriate way to potentially find a bookend to our conversation which is you've mentioned your wife a couple of times. My wife has been instrumental in slapping me in the face, metaphorically speaking and saying, "What are you doing?" And like, "Listen to me." I'm like, "Oh, a new business is born near." And I just can't emphasize enough how important it is whether you're gay, straight, or married or single or whatever that your creative partner in life, however you define that, is really critical to your own mental health and potential to your wealth. So-

Andy:
Yes, 100%.

Chris:
... this is your opportunity, Andy, to speak directly to all these people. Tell us what your wife has done for you and has helped you in your career in life?

Andy:
I think, I mean, in so many ways, she's involved in everything that I do. She's been a big part of every major decision that I've made. I think more than anything, she has been a mirror to my soul. And I'll explain just real quickly what I mean by that. I was doing this episode about how we like creative work because it mirrors our soul. And there's this George Bernard Shaw quote that says, we use actual mirror to see our face, we use art to see our soul.
And I was talking to my buddy about this. And he said, "Oh, it's kind of like when there's no mirror around and I'm at a party with my wife, and we get a second alone." She'll like, "Show me your teeth." And it means, do I have anything in my teeth, right? And this is what I imagined we must have done before we had mirrors, before you could actually just check yourself. And it's so important because your face is so much about who you see yourself as. It's a big part of your identity. But even more than that is your soul and your neurochemistry, who you are inside. And so, you need things to mirror that back.
So for me, just like my buddy's wife, Shawn, looking at each other's teeth and saying, "Yeah, you got stuff in there." That's what Sophie has been for me. She constantly shows me the things about myself that I can't see any other way because there aren't real soul mirrors. One day maybe we'll get the technology and we won't need spouses. I don't know. Even then, I'm sure there's the others, all kinds of things. But that is what she's done. She's been able to help me gain self-awareness. And self-awareness, I honestly think... I'll give you just one more little illustration to explain that.
Do you ever watch Smallville back in the day? Okay, Smallville, Superman in high school can't even fly, right? And I think that's the only reason anybody watched it by the way. It's just like, they knew they had that on us like, "Is he going to fly this episode? He didn't fly." But so anyway, what's the difference between Smallville Clark Kent and super universe saving Superman of the big screen? I think everybody's answer, the quick answer is the super powers. Like I said, high school Clark Kent can't even fly. He doesn't know crap about his powers. This guy's got all these powers. But it's not the powers. It's the knowledge of the powers.
They have the same powers. The difference is the self-awareness. And so I think more than anything, that's what Sophia has done for me. She's just always able to, I'm sure you felt this. You go to a party or something, you guys have a long conversation and your spouse is there. And after you leave, you're like, "Can you just tell me what I was like in that conversation because I... " And sometimes she's like, "You were unbearable." Like these are the ways you offended them, you didn't realize and that is the key. To me, that has been invaluable.

Chris:
My wife has been less of a soul mirror, I didn't think of it like that, and more of a truthsayer like when I go and talk about, she's is a truthsayer. And what happens is, I think we walk around knowing very well, maybe you were unbearable, maybe I had something that I should be doing but I'm afraid to do it. And she'll just say it to me. And at first I'm like, "I don't want hear," that's like I want to escape.
I'm trying not to face that fact and that reality. And you saying it now, I'm force to like, "God, you see it too." Okay, all right. I have to do this. And she's the one who had asked me this question while I was teaching. She said, I know you love this. I know you're good at it, I could see that. Do you feel like you could teach more people than the 10 people in this classroom? She didn't have the answer. She had the provocation and I was like, dang. And then months later started making YouTube videos.

Andy:
Yes. I mean, the infinite. I have so many stories like that, I could go on and on. But there's a lot of, if there's any troll, I'm lucky I don't get a lot of that. But if I do get a little bit here and there, I'll talk to my wife and she's honest. She's the truthsayer. She'll say, "You know what, there might be truth there. Maybe you need to think about that." And I'm like, "Okay, I need to think about it." But often, she's like, "You know that's not true. And I can see you making decisions to appease those people and I'm not going to let you do that. We're not going to make our family choices because some trolls on the internet." So, she'll call the BS when she sees it.

Chris:
Bravo, Mrs. Pizza. Bravo. Okay, I realized our time is up here. And I want to ask you this question and it's not a serious question. So, I'm going to riff off this pizza thing. What are two toppings never to have on a pizza and what two toppings must you have on a pizza?

Andy:
That's a great question and it's going to get really controversial here.

Chris:
It is, here we go.

Andy:
Because I'm in the camp, no pineapple.

Chris:
Oh.

Andy:
I know it hurts.

Chris:
It does hurt.

Andy:
But here's my problem with it, it just changes the dish. It's a totally different thing. And here's the thing, I have eaten it and been like, "Yeah, this is fine," but it's not pizza. You've changed the fundamentals of what I'm looking for in a pizza. So that's my first one. And I actually don't love mushrooms which it kind of bums me up because it's such a classic topping to draw on a pizza. And so I do include them often but they just kind of ruin it for me. Again, if there's pineapple and mushroom, I will still eat the pizza. I'm not going to just completely discriminate.
Now, when it gets to the good stuff, I have my blue collar topping. I was raised in Southern Indiana and I was a pepperoni pizza guy. I love pepperoni. But then I lived in England for five years. We would camp in France with my wife's family so I got a little taste, just a tiny taste of the fancy, and I'd have to say goat cheese is the second topping that I can't live without. And so I got to have it.

Chris:
Bravo, Andy. You did not disappoint because a normal mortal would fumble all over these questions and be stammering through it, like let me think about this. And there you are, you came in like a champ. I know that the whole pineapple, the P, the pineapple is polarizing, it will divide. We've lost half of our subscribers, thanks to this episode.

Andy:
I know. I didn't want to say it. Why do you have to press me?

Chris:
Yes, but there we are. So, Andy, for people who want to find out more about what you're doing, to listen to your podcast or follow you on social media, where do they need to go?

Andy:
Yeah. Find me on Instagram @andyjpizza, that's where I'm most active. And then CREATIVE PEP TALK on wherever podcasts are proliferated. Wherever they are, CREATIVE PEP TALK is there.

Chris:
Definitely, go check it out. Andy, thank you very much for being on the show.

Andy:
Thanks, Chris. I had an absolute blast. Great questions. I hope to get to do it again. My name is Andy J. Pizza and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to The Futur and want to know more about our educational mission, visit the futur.com. You'll find more podcast episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos, and a growing collection of online courses and products covering design in business. Oh, and we spell the future with no E. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Barro with intro music by Adam Sanborne.
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help in getting our message out there and lets us know what you like. Thanks again for listening and we will see you next time.

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