Who do you want to be? Our crush on David Bowie and Reinventing.
Studying David Bowie’s life is like studying the entire history of music, except in miniature, and with more color. Historians of music tend to place constraints on periods in musical history. Most of us, for instance, think of all orchestral music in a big lump of yawn-fests, right? And we think of that lump as “Classical Music.” The whole construct is ridiculous in real life. Johann Sebastian Bach didn’t decide one day to invent a new genre of music, and Ludwig Beethoven probably never thought about being the end of an era. These are imaginary rules that historians put on the grand movements in history in retrospect, which is why the music historians reading this are forming their arguments with my definitions.
All of musical history is a natural growth and reinvention which follows human appetites and has its own natural shape.
David Bowie’s life is like that, except driven by a single mind’s intent, so you CAN say precisely that THIS is the Thin White Duke era, or whenever, because Mr. Bowie would debut this decade’s reinvention of himself, parade around with his new look for a while, and then, after a while, leap into a new scene that either he hadn’t explored or hadn’t invented yet. He had a natural way of going about it. Everything he did seemed distinctly David Bowie-like, even if it never looked anything like he had done before. He inhabited his eras so utterly that he always looked like himself, even if he never looked like anybody else.
By an unpredicted and unpredictable web of circumstances, David Bowie is sort of a bannerman for us over here at Think Digital. In our different ways and for our different reasons, he’s been an important influence in how we’ve developed, personally and professionally. We embody different lessons from him.
Kristina’s life story, which I always tell with intentional inaccuracy, is an icon of Mr. Bowie’s natural reinvention.
When I met her she appeared more or less fully formed: a marketing wizard who designed her career to create freedom for her passions. Her passions are family, pursuing creative things, and building communities to support cool stuff. Her tipping point came when she decided to design her life to bring her passions to higher importance.
Like Mr. Bowie, Kristina was “fully formed” many times throughout her life, in the sense that she reinvented herself a great many times and did so according to her own nature.
The reinvention of greatest concern today is what we’re calling the Tipping Point. Since Kristina’s one of our founders, this is a good place to explain what we mean by the term.
We’ve been building a tribe for a while now. As we’ve learned about the people in it, we’ve noticed a couple trends.
Trend one: Even if they don’t work for themselves, they often have the sense of adventure that comes with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Trend two: They often have a story about a pivotal moment in their professional lives when they realized that they had their attitude toward their passion inverted, and they realized that was why they felt unsatisfied. A lot goes into this pivotal moment I’m talking about. It has a cathartic moral, which goes…
“It is the moment when I changed my mind about my passion. I changed it from, ‘someday, maybe,’ to ‘Today!’”
We call that your Tipping Point.
Everyone’s got a different story, because everyone’s lived different lives.
Kristina is a citizen of the world. She’s lived everywhere. Her pattern of natural reinvention rose from that. She moved every couple-few years, and so inconstancy became one of the few constants in her life. When she was in her teens, she and her sister looked at each other one day, after moving for the gazillionth time in their lives, and they said, “We can be anyone we want to be!”
Since then, she has been. That year, Kristina decided to be a cheerleader. Later she turned into a theatre kid. Another time she was the editor of the school paper. Until, eventually, she reinvented herself as an “adult,” whatever that means. Unlike the rest of us, she didn’t mature into an adult: she arrived at a job interview, age 19, and they offered her the job, but asked if she was “twenty-four or something”.
“Yes,” she said.
And for all I know, she was.
She describes that job as her first “proper job.” She worked for MTV, producing the bumpers between music videos.
Every other “proper” job she’s had since then that I’ve heard about has a similar sense to it: she showed up and said, “I can do that.” Because whether she ever HAD done it or not, she knew that she could get up to speed at it.
It’s proved true. She began at MTV (and interviewed David Bowie and Dave Grohl); and since then she’s worked with a dozen more international brands, helping them strengthen their own tribes.
Pretty interesting, right?
Where are her passions, though?
Kristina told me a story once about herself. Happened when she was in her early teens. The local theatre in the town where she lived was going to get closed down. She was going to have none of that. So she printed out a bunch of handmade fliers to say “Save Our Theatre.” She strapped on her rollerblades, painted her face in clown makeup (war paint, obviously), and hit the streets. She blazed around town handing out fliers.
Save Our Theatre.
I never heard if the theatre got saved. But that kind of set the tone of her career’s passion. She attaches herself to a cause and then makes something cool to build community around it.
Which matters not one whit without the people.
Kristina is deeply invested in her family. All generations of it. She lives, at the moment, in Spain with her husband, and her sons aren’t far away in the same town. I could write rather a long time about her family, since they’re all cool people. That would rather meander off the point. Suffice it at this: Kristina’s fiercely attached to her family, and her family seems for some reason rather fond of her too.
They’re all creative types. Her husband’s a DJ, and he’s kind enough to accompany some of Kristina’s shows with his psytrance mixes. Kristina goes to festivals and runs live visuals to the marvel of the locals, and her husband plays music to add a little depth to her visuals. (Ok, in truth it is Kristina who lugs around kit and cables and laptops, trudging through mud and climbing trees to get projections up who complements Pan’s music with insane visuals. But THIS is her Tipping Point story, so the offer of the flipped coin perspective was too tempting to pass up on).
Kristina is a vj. Her mentor and good friend is a Spidercam Director for Coldplay and Beyoncè big stadium tours not long ago, so she is constantly learning from the best, in more deaprtments than one. Live visual art is an outlet for Kristina’s creative passion. She likes making things. When I first met her, that was the picture I saw.
It wasn’t always the picture.
Fifty Percent Kristina
The fact that Kristina started her career in a massive international brand set the movements of her professional life in a pattern that would persist for a long time. She leapt from one big opportunity at an international brand to another, raising the game with every leap, from New Zealand and London, to the U.S. & Europe
Bigger game means better gain. It also means deeper commitment.
In the context of working for big corporations, it also means wearing the colors of that brand. Not in itself a bad thing, unless your deepest passions don’t necessarily have anything to do with the corporate work you’re doing.
Sometimes they coincide. In Kristina’s case, they overlapped a little. Her dad was working for the corporation that owned the 52-storey building where Branders USA had its headquarters. She found out the moment the job went online. She lived in a different time zone than the corporation, though. She had janky hours to maintain. And she’s an overachiever anyway; she went above and beyond the call of duty on the regular, waking up at 3 am every day for what would've been a 12 noon West Coast appearance. You weigh the cost and reward at that point. If it’s a good job (it was) where you could do something at which you triumph (she could), then you lump it and rise through the ranks, right?
The cost of doing business, however, was levied on more than Kristina herself. By this point, she had her own family. She had her sons, and she had a husband, and they weren’t getting Kristina at a hundred percent.
Which meant that for the time she wasn’t working, she wasn’t living. Not really. Working from 4am to 2 pm, she was living in a perpetual state of jet lag. Now for some people their job is their life, but Kristina doesn’t see it that way. Her family said they were getting "leftover Kristina" They had fifty percent Kristina.
That was her tipping point. She was rocking this corporate gig, but it was far from being the most important feature of her life to rock.
She decided it was time to take control of her own life.
She started building a consulting business. She packed the marketing projects she’d done for international brands into a portfolio, and she started to do exactly the same thing on a consulting basis. Not because she wanted to do different kinds of work, but because she wanted to have the freedom to say no when she needed to.
She decided the needed to be a hundred percent there; when it came time to be alive to her passions. Her career as a marketing consultant has allowed her that.
Ballad of the Adventurers
As we learn from David Bowie, it is no bad thing to live a life of natural mutability. When the circumstances inspire it, a reinvention may be a glorious thing.
Some time ago, all the contracts Kristina was on came close to ending within a few week span of each other. The universe dropped another possible Tipping Point on Kristina—one she could choose or avoid.
She sat on piles and mounds of successful examples of tribe-building in the digital marketing realm, both in the corporate context of international brands and in the more entrepreneurial realm she’d been consulting in.
Ahead of her she had the prospect of finding new contracts. Easy. There’s always digital marketing to be done. She could do that.
Or she could ask herself: what would David Bowie do?
Why, he’d evolve. He’d reinvent himself. Ziggy Stardust has had his day in the sun, so it’s time to unveil The Gentleman.
What with one thing and another, it’s always been in the cards for Kristina to teach. So we find ourselves here, in a new revolution.
ATHENA's Ed.Note: Book Kristina's Workshop "Digital Sushi 101 - Digital Marketing in Bite size pieces. Oliver was certainly not exaggerating when he announced that pretty much every one in our team has a David Bowie crush or has crossed paths with him, directly or thereabouts.
IMAN, David Bowie's wife has this to say about our Co-Founder Desiree Reid: "I met Desiree Reid in 1994. Her product development eye is legendary...We’re not talking about a quality that (just) comes from training. It’s about caring for multicultural women and their place in the visionary beauty game. I am forever grateful that our paths crossed." Desiree Reid is also conducting Interactive Workshops from February 16 2021. Book "Thinking 360"