Personal Legend Project: GK Rowe

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GK Rowe, Business Design Principal, Q7 Associates

GK has a uniquely creative mind, and I’ve regularly called him up over the years to discuss ideas over drinks or lunch.  It’s nice to talk with someone who gets it.  He’s also one of the best connectors I know, hosting regular gatherings for creatives of all types.  Logically, once I came up with the idea of this project, he was my first call.  In addition to being a great fit for this project himself, he referred me to at least three other subjects in this series.

I caught up with GK at one of his weekly creative meetings at Palomino, where as you’ll see, he’s earned himself a permanent spot at the bar.  Next I followed him over to Spoke & Steele, a sleek new spot in Le Meridien hotel for another meeting of minds.

Check out Q7 Associates online to learn about the awesomeness that is experienced-based design.

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The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I always wanted to be an educator and initially went to school to be a teacher.  I was one of those kids who would put together a classroom in my bedroom.  I eventually changed my mind after getting my bachelors in art education and found a career in business that helped me to better refine other talents.  I really enjoyed the business culture when I first started and quickly moved up to various positions where I supervised several people, districts and had a company car most of my business life and a well paid salary position.  

Time went on and the business world left my soul feeling very dark. There was lots of travel and I practically lived out of a suitcase and on airlines for some time, the business world became cutthroat and manipulating.  What started out as being an ideal career turned sour.  I watched my coworkers get divorce, become alcoholics, and cheat on their spouses.  It became a manipulation game with our clients and I was wearing thin – physically and emotionally.  One day I quit my job.  I’d had enough and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do; however, I knew clearly what I was no longer going to do.  

I went to work as a security guard at an art museum making minimum wage and had time to write a business plan.  I wanted to do something creative and back to filling my soul.  While I very much enjoy painting and being an artist, the struggles seemed high and the pay seemed dim so I worked to combine my creative talents with my business background and education/teaching knowledge.  This helped me form Q7 Assocaiates.  

Today, I work with clients to provide them with honest services that I can proudly put my name on, I work with people and clients who I enjoy and challenge me so my work never gets stale.  I am in a position to help people and businesses grow and that is what excites me about my work.  I have helped start-ups move to large companies and I have had the opportunity to work with some very well named brands providing a wide variety of services.  I’ve done everything from picking out salt and pepper shakers for clients to naming their business to designing their corporate offices.

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2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

Once I left corporate culture I was sitting in my home office plugging away at whatever I could do to get work.  I received an email from the Arts Council of Indianapolis that was a call for artist.  The call was for the Conrad, a new hotel going in downtown Indianapolis.  I thought, dreamed, fantasized about what it would be like to have my artwork in a place as prestigious as the Conrad.  I submitted my portfolio .  

Three years passed and I didn’t hear any more about the call – no response to yes or no and I became so occupied on other projects that I simply forgot about the submission.  One of those distractions was putting together a magazine.  I had just launched the first issue of a magazine that highlighted creative projects, people in business in the Indiana area.  About a month after the magazine was out I got a call from one of the ladies that was interviewed that worked for Kite Reality.  She said that the VP for Marketing of the Conrad had picked up our magazine at a wine bar, contacted her to put him in touch with me.  

The next week I was in a board room with three Conrad executives.  I was eventually hired to do marketing and various design initiatives.  One day they called me and said the interior designer did not spec artwork for the space and they needed my help placing work.  I added that to my service list and found three original Picasso works to put behind the front desk.  The day they were being installed with security arriving to unload them I realized how whole I felt and that I had once dreamed of having my artwork in that hotel; however, ended up being the person that placed the artwork.  I love seeing projects that are “raw” come to a “polished” finish – it’s a lot like painting to me.

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3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

I typically reserve my home office space for creative thinking and my work office space for production and task oriented projects.  This sounds odd, but most of my creative thinking comes while driving and in the shower.  Some of the best problem solvers know how to get in to this zone – some do things like take a walk, do cross-stitch or a remedial task that has rhythm.   I sometimes will go to a symphony or rehearsal and simply meditate or think through a project.  I find that most of the time I come out of that space racing to find a bar napkin to capture ideas.  These normally become developed concepts.  At Q7, we now have creative meetings at Palomino so we can get out of our office space, relax with a glass of wine and casually discuss ideas.

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4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

My biggest challenge is staying relevant. I sell creative ideas and style and these two items are something everyone has to offer.  Even my clients come up with their own ideas.  I practice being a responsible creative where the ideas and concepts have to some way benefit the client’s organizational needs or their client’s needs so it isn’t always just about a creative idea, but it’s practical application and benefit.  

The other challenge is time.  Creativity takes time and the world we live in is very demanding and we sometimes have very limited time to create and this limits the production of what can be accomplished.  We also have to work within budgets so not every idea is affordable.

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5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

Perseverance, courage and strength.  For me, practicing my true calling did not come easy and required lots of emotional and physical strength.  I had to push myself when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, I had to focus on me and not allow people to pull me down.  It’s surprising the number of people that won’t mind watching you fail.  It also taught me to listen to my inner whisper, my inner voice.  I find that my intuition is very strong when I’m working and going that path seems to always be the right one.  

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

Learn to listen with a critical ear.  I looked for a received lots of advice; however, at the end of the day, I was the one that had to do something about it and it is easy to get caught up in other peoples ideas when you are desperately looking for something to work.  Staying true to my own self was the strength that got me into my true calling.  And, I always embrace new challenges and look for the opportunity to learn from others and continue to grow in my work.  Make friends with fear.  It will be the fuel to motivation and growth.  If I was paralyzed by the fears I have encountered, I’m almost certain I would not have experienced my true calling.

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Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

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