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Photo Credit: Sam Nute

Turns out writing is hard when you’re heartbroken.

Doing a lot of things is hard when you’re heartbroken, actually. Fundamental tasks feel like a train you keep missing, when all you want is to arrive safely at your destination. Even if your destination is eating. Or sleeping. Or showering. Or seeing people. Or seeing yourself.

Seriously. Have you seen yourself, lately?

You’d think nothing would clear up your own heartbreak faster than seeing the threadbare and unraveling excuse for a human you’ve become. It feels obvious each time you pass your own reflection in storefront windows. You catch yourself hunched over like your backbone is folding on itself, and with that image, you’re sure you’d have enough strength to stand up straight and sever the sadness. You’d think you’d be able to kick out the uninvited houseguest you’ve turned into inside your own mind. After all, it’s YOUR brain. YOU live there. You’re certain that when all of the darkness in Pandora’s box already lives dormant underneath your eyeballs, and is re-released into the world each time you open your eyes, you’ll soon be forced to start living again.

Because you can’t just not open your eyes. You’ve tried that. People kept checking on you. And you have no more room in your fridge for lasagna and pea soup. You don’t even like lasagna and pea soup, but that just happens to be the form kindness keeps arriving in. You will be too exhausted to turn it away.

But writing, and sleeping, and showering, and seeing people, and seeing yourself won’t be the hardest part.

The hardest part of heartbreak won’t be choosing to walk away. It won’t be falling down a rabbit hole of new information. The hardest part won’t be reliving. It will be reviving. You will never be the same person you were before whatever moment or series of moments took the person you thought you were and wrung you out. You have to accept that the version of you that you’d grown attached to is gone. It stopped being yours the moment you gave it to somebody else for safekeeping. That’s the scariest part of love, really. Trusting somebody to not destroy the very essence of what you know to be true about yourself.

At times, going through heartbreak is going to feel like the scene in Billy Madison where they put dog shit in the bag, light it on fire, and leave it on that poor old man’s doorstep.

And he steps on it and shouts, “it’s poop again!”

It’s going to be just that. Poop again. On loop. For months and months…And months.

But from breakdowns come breakthroughs. If you approach heartbreak as a chance to reinvent, it feels less like condemning doom (or a fiery bag of burning shit) and more like an opportunity to revive.

Sometimes you have to give in to your own gravitational collapse before you can start rebuilding. Sometimes you have to sit inside your own suffering until you’re ready to come out of it. Sometimes, you have to become so fucking sick of your own mental and emotional state that the only way to get well is to drag your ass to the beach, or the gym, or the studio, or whatever your temple is. You’ll swim. You’ll kick. You’ll write. You’ll pray. You’ll curse. You’ll cry your whole way there.

But eventually, you’ll arrive.


When Did You Stop Believing In Make Believe?


Photo Credit: Rachel Adams

I like to play a game when I first meet people. It’s a game of questions. For all intents and purposes, let’s call it, “The Question Game.” It’s a wildly creative title, and it’s actually pretty simple. You go back and forth asking one question, and there’s only one rule:

You aren’t allowed to ask the same question you’ve already been asked.

This prevents the forced “what about you?” monotony that comes along with meeting new people, without killing the opportunity of an interesting exchange. Added bonus: Nobody gets caught up talking about themselves for three hours, because it’s a game.

Questions start out with the basics:

  • Where are you from? (New Hampshire.)
  • What’s your favorite song? (“Holocene” by Bon Iver,  “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis, and every song by Bruce Springsteen.)
  • What do you do for a work? (This is a terrible question. Don’t ask this.)

After a few rounds, and perhaps a few glasses of whiskey, people generally loosen up.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.
It’s never their answers I’m after.
It’s their questions.

I’ve been obsessed with asking questions since I was young. I distinctly remember the teachers in Sunday School pulling me aside and telling me that my questions were distracting to the other children. As soon as I realized I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, I stopped listening. As soon as I was old enough to answer the questions for myself, I stopped going.

In high school I was a terrible student. I mean, really awful. I was a good kid all around, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. If you know me today you’ll know not much has changed — I just work a lot harder. I didn’t get into any real trouble, but I also didn’t get into any of the colleges I applied for. I had a 1.7 GPA. Let that sink in. One. Point. Seven. My poor parents. I think deep down they knew I’d figure it out, or maybe that’s just what I tell myself now that I actually sort of have.

My biggest problem with high school was that it didn’t matter what questions they asked, there was always a predetermined correct answer. This is why I didn’t care about precalculus. It’s also why I decided to become a teacher. There were far too many adults with teaching degrees asking kids questions that didn’t matter.

When the questions already have answers, does it really matter what you’re being asked?

At this point I could wrap this all up nicely and tell you that I fulfilled my lifelong dream of changing children’s lives. After all, I did eventually get into college. I did major in English teaching. I did wax poetic on Shakespeare for a few years there, and nary a student left my classroom confused by Hamlet. (“We know what we are but know not what we may be.” AMIRITE?) Staying in New Hampshire and teaching felt like a security blanket — it was warm and cozy and something I knew I was good at. Something I knew I would succeed at. Something I knew would always be there. I wasn’t ready to commit to doing one finite thing for the rest of my life.

“…But what else will you DO?” 

was the question my dear mother asked me on her living room couch over a cup of tea and shared stack of People magazine. Half horrified and half intrigued, I watched her face scrunch up as I explained that I really didn’t know, and relax again when I explained that the thought of working my ass off for a piece of parchment paper, only to go on and do that ONE thing for the rest of my life, didn’t really sound like me. She laughed and agreed. What can I say — the woman knows me. And she knew I didn’t have a game plan.

But I had questions that needed answering.

The only question that has ever stumped me was asked nearly three years ago by a man who, no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be right for. We were out to dinner at Le Village, a lovely BYO French bistro in the East Village with the best roast cauliflower I’ve ever had. We shared a bottle of red wine and a deep conversation about why relationships don’t work, and we landed somewhere between timing, trial and error, and that sometimes there’s no future. For us, it ended up being a combination of all three. Perhaps I didn’t realize it because those weren’t the questions I was willing to ask myself. I left the moment I realized this to be true, which ended up being several months later. I stayed, presumably for one more question.

He asked,

“When did you stop believing in make believe?”

I didn’t have an answer. I struggled to pinpoint the exact moment the things I dreamt in my head and the things happening in the real world around me emulsified. When did my wild childish imagination and my adult need to move forward untether? I wrote the question down in my notebook the next morning. It’s still sitting there on an otherwise empty page with no answer below it.

When I moved to New York to pursue a more creative life, I slowly realized all of the questions I’d been asking myself in the last three years, ten years, twenty-eight years have paid off. Simply put, if you never ask, the answer will always be no. Hell, sometimes you ask and the answer is still no. Whether it’s your education, your relationship, or your career, I’ve learned you have to be fearless in asking big questions, even if the answers are scary. Even if the answers mean failing, or moving on, or starting from scratch. Even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear, or what you initially planned on, you must ask the right questions.

My answer to his question?
I never stopped believing in make believe.
Everything I made believe, I became.

No questions asked.

This post originally appeared on Medium

Renegade Jams: Installment I

A few weeks ago I introduced a new series called Renegade Jams….And then I went on vacation, so it took a backseat to lying on the beach and riding a bike around SoCal. But I digress…We’re finally kicking it off!  In case you’re new to this series, each week I’ll feature 5 songs I can’t stop jamming to, complete with the entire playlist below. I’ll be adding to this playlist weekly, in the event that you’d like to subscribe & rock out alongside me. (Do it!)

Let’s get started.

#1  “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

I hinted in the intro post that I had a special attachment to Springsteen. I grew up on The Boss. Just for fun, here’s a family favorite for your entertainment of Baby Carley dancing on her father’s feet to “Ramrod.” #Mindthemullet.

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Bruce is my all time favorite. No competition. I saw him in concert when I was in middle school, and had the opportunity to see him again this year for my 28th birthday. If you haven’t had the chance to see him live, it’s a three and a half hour long, borderline spiritual experience.

“Born to Run” gives me serious dive bar nostalgia. While living in New York, summertime usually consisted of sweltering evenings spent pumping juke box classics and playing darts at The Horsebox, a seedy dive on Ave A. This song reminds me of the push and pull of the city. Always falling in love with something and someone new. Some days it felt like New York was ripping me apart vertebrae by vertebrae (baby this town rips the bones from your back), but the adventure was always worth it.

And when Bruce shouts “1, 2, 3, 4” at the top of his lungs in a way that only Bruce can? Chills.

#2 “Marathon” by Heartless Bastards

You know when you hear a song in a random location and if you don’t find out who sings it, you’ll go insane? Suddenly you’re standing on the bench in your dressing room holding your phone trying to get a good read for Shazam. That was me at work when this song come on. I was wandering around the office, hoping the right combination of Googling lyrics and waving my phone in the air like I just didn’t care would lead me to the answer. (Sidenote: I can’t be the only one who does this…)

Heartless bastards have been around for a while, and Erika Wennerstrom’s voice reminds me of a delightfully moodier Brandi Carlile. “Marathon” feels deeply personal. I also just found out that it was featured in Suits, which I just started watching. Season 1, represent!

#3 “Dancing on my own” by Robyn

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate to this scene in GirlsFollowing a poignant heartbreak, we find Hannah in her room literally dancing on her own as Robyn’s anthem kicks in. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t choke up when Hannah hugged Marnie at the end of the episode. I’ve been listening to this on repeat for the last few weeks, dancing on my own in the shower, getting ready for dinner with girlfriends, in the car, and even at my desk. No shame. Life can really throw a curveball (or 5) at you, but you have to keep moving. Having the right people to help you along always helps.

girls gif

Worst case, get up and dance it off. You’ll feel better, I PROMISE.

#4 “Free” by Broods

Broods is a badass Kiwi duo and their music has a level of honesty I really respect. The words in “Free” are gritty and empowering. A nice reminder that nobody can hold you down if you don’t let them. I really dig the line, “When I didn’t care is when I did best.” Isn’t that the truth? Think back to the last time you really felt free. I know I’m my best me when I’m not worrying about what others think.

As an added bonus, “Free” has a killer beat.  I am NOT a great runner. I’d even say I don’t really LIKE running. I like the benefits of running. I love how I feel after a good, hard run. But WHILE I’m running I’m somewhere between praying my shoelace comes untied so I can STOP running and “If I took a nap in that ditch would it alarm anyone?”

When I run to this song I swear I become Prefontaine.

#5 “This is Gospel” by  Panic At the disco.

Every time Brandon Urie belts out, “If you love me let me go”,  I’m instantly 17 again. Suddenly, I’m cruising around the beach in my red 96 Silverado blasting a lethal combination of Panic, Armor for Sleep, and Mayday Parade. You guys. I had side bangs. DEEP ones. I wore the same black converse low top sneakers for four straight years. I was this weird jock-punk hybrid and all my dreams consisted of playing college volleyball and finding my perfect punk-pop prince. My dream man was Tom Delonge circa 2003 when “I Miss You” came out, and way before he turned kind of jerky in a very public way.

My taste in men has matured but my taste in music still backslides from time to time. This single from Panic! At the Disco’s 2013 “Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!” album does it for me every time. Mostly because Urie’s voice always sounding like butter is one of those things you know you can just count on. Like the sun rising. And Amazon Prime.

Muscle Memory



From grade school through college, I grew up playing an array of team sports, from soccer, to track, to volleyball. The first team sport that really grabbed me was basketball. There was something uniquely exhilarating about sprinting up and down the court, facing off against someone of similar-ish stature, and often times having to root my feet and use my body as a human shield. This, of course, was done all in the name of stopping the other humans wearing the different colored jerseys from getting a little orange bouncy ball into my team’s basket. The camaraderie, the support, the blood, sweat, tears, the gnawing of mouth guards in between whistles and referee sign language, the green gatorade bottles, the sound of the buzzer, the last second shot. I loved it all.

One of my most vivid memories from the basketball days of my youth is standing at the free throw line for hours at a time. A moment of uninterrupted silence in a hushed gymnasium, just me and the basket. My free throw routine is still etched into my brain. I could do it at the drop of a hat if I needed to.

Foot shuffle. Triple bounce. Balance. Elbow. Eyes. Shoot. Follow through.

That last part was the most important. So important, in fact, that coach would repeat it in practice time and time again. If ever I missed the shot, he’d be first in line to remind me why.

“You set up and took the shot, but you didn’t follow through. You dropped your arms as soon as you let go of the ball. Hold your position. Build muscle memory. The reason the ball keeps dropping is because you’re letting it.”

Follow through.
Follow through.
Follow through.
Follow through.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.25.10 AM

But that’s just life, right? An ongoing series of having to step up to the line and conquer. It’s just you and whatever you’re facing. You can want to put the ball in the basket, but wanting something only takes you so far before your willpower is on the line. If you don’t have the willpower to follow through, you’re going to keep missing the same shot. You might get lucky and sink a bucket occasionally, but do you really want to be notorious for shooting 42% from the free throw line? The role that willpower plays in accomplishing anything worth doing is paramount. You have to want it enough to do all of the work it takes, or the whole thing breaks down. If you don’t follow through, it doesn’t matter how much upfront work you did.

If I say I want to be a basketball player, and I buy a basketball, and a pair of high tops, and put a hoop in my driveway, and I wear my favorite player’s jersey, and carry my basketball around under my arm, that’s all well and good. But If I don’t practice, if I don’t take a few shots, if I don’t show up for the games, if I don’t follow through, then guess what? I don’t get to call myself a basketball player. I’m just a person in the stands who like to watch basketball.

That analogy works with just about everything. You’re either doing it, or you’re watching other people do it. There’s no sort of.

You can want to do something and say you’re going to do something until you’re blue in the goddamn face. You can sit there, and say you want to change your mindset, your habits, your shitty job, your relationships, the way you treat people, your goals, your health, your future, your life. You can SAY anything out loud, but that’s step one of like….fifty. You don’t get to do steps 1 through 49 and call it a day.

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And everyone has their own reasons for not following through, and sometimes they’re perfectly fine reasons. Sometimes money, location, circumstance, and timing are all factors. But sometimes, people aren’t following through simply because they’re afraid to face themselves. The easy way out is to lock your skeletons away in your room. Only so many skeletons can fit in the storage closet before you have to find a new home for them. Continuously rearranging your skeletons so nobody will see them is just the adult version of pushing food around your plate when you’re a little kid so your parents will think you ate more than you actually did.

You might get up from the table sooner, but you’ll go to bed hungry.

So if you want to walk around, holding a big, dumb basketball for no reason, be my guest. It might feel light and manageable at first, but eventually it’s going to drag you down. Bring that burden to your business meetings. Carry that weight through your love life. Tether that bad boy to your ankle like a ball and chain. With every step, you’ll be reminded that you had the chance to get it right and chose instead to be a prisoner to your own excuses.


You can start visualizing your life working out the way you want it to. Stay it out loud. Mean it. Start believing that you deserve to do better for yourself. Create new patterns. Pinpoint your weaknesses and form new routines. Hold yourself accountable. Recognize red flags. Admit when you’re not getting it right. Correct it. Get comfortable with uncomfortable. Practice. Don’t take any shit from yourself. It takes discipline. It takes dedication. It takes willpower. It takes muscle memory.

Foot shuffle. Triple bounce. Balance. Elbow. Eyes. Shoot. Follow through.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.38.21 PMThe only person standing there, lined up perfectly to take that shot, but refusing to let go of the damn ball is you. The only person taking the shot but half-assing it with poor form is you. You know what else? That asshole in the stands trying to distract you by yelling “YOU SUCK!” is also you. So is the opponent boxing you out underneath the basket if you miss.

Do you get it yet? IT’S. ALL. YOU.

Quit acting like there’s a 7 nation army trying to stop you from being a better person, a better partner, a better lover, a better friend, a better son, a better daughter. You’re the only one who is going to stop you. If other people are trying, let them try. They don’t get to succeed. Your inner demons don’t get to stop you if you don’t let them. Your old ways don’t get to stop you if you don’t let them. Stop giving power to the things that are trying to control and destroy you. You’re not just handing over the ball, you’re handing over the entire game.

You’re stronger than that, and if you’re not, it’s time to get strong.

Step up to the line. Take the shot. Follow the fuck through. And then do it again, and again, and again, and again, for the rest of your life until your muscles remember what correct form feels like. Wait for the sweet moment where your arms are tired, and your body is sore and screaming. You’ll want to be lazy. You’ll want to quit. You’ll want to break your form, but your own muscle memory won’t let you.

You will have forgotten how to drop the ball.

On The Stanford Ruling.


I had another post scheduled for today, but this is more pressing.

I actually wrote this post last night, and decided to sleep on it in an effort to determine whether or not it was something I actually wanted to speak to. I can still feel my blood boiling as I sit here pressing publish, but when bullshit happens out in the world, and it hits close to home, and you have a platform,  you react. You speak up. You contribute. You hope that somebody, somewhere, is (rather unfortunately) feeling what you’re feeling. So if you’re here, and you’ve read the title of this post,  I can only assume you are as furious as I am.

In case you missed it, on Thursday, after originally facing 14 years in prison, Brock Turner was sentenced to a pitiful six months in county jail for viciously assaulting a young woman and for deserting her banged up body behind a dumpster like a piece of fucking street litter. She was left alone, half-naked, privates exposed, incapacitated, and didn’t find out what had happened until she came to in a hospital gurney, covered in dried blood and bruises, while being asked to sign her own rape victim paperwork. She read about the details of her assault for the first time in a news article shortly after, which savagely listed the perpetrator’s swimming times alongside the details of the crime as if they were supposed to somehow soften the blow of his malicious acts. As if being a fast swimmer doesn’t make him a sex offender. As if holding a state record negates that he was also caught grinding his hands and genitals on and inside of an unconscious woman without her consent.

And that’s not all.

Clearly, enough salt hadn’t been rubbed into the victim’s literal wounds, because Brock Turner’s father wrote a remarkably offensive, tone-deaf plea to Judge Persky prior to the sentencing, which was released to the public yesterday. In this egregious letter, we see Dan Turner beg Judge Persky to go easy on his son, because the THREE FELONIES he committed had taken a toll on Brock.

He states (in such a dense manner that it feels like a sick joke), that a promising young man with an otherwise spotless criminal record shouldn’t be penalized for 20 minutes of action. He then (and this is where my eyes begin to cross) explains what a tragedy it is that his son can’t enjoy his favorite rib eye steaks anymore…(along with his favorite accouterments…like pretzels and chips.) He blubbers that his son now has to register as a sex offender for life, while ignoring the painful inflictions and violations the victim must also carry for life. He whines that his poor Brock is broken and shattered, while failing to mention that his son is responsible for breaking and shattering another person’s perceptions of safety and security. He continues that poor Brock is now afraid to go out in public while completely disregarding that that the young woman his son assaulted is now afraid to be inside her own body.

Actions have consequences, and having clean criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t become a criminal. What we have done in the past, what we are capable of doing, and what we actually choose to do in life are not all the same thing.

What this ruling symbolizes is terrifying. That as women in a court of law, we are STILL not considered equals. We are actually barely considered human beings. That all of the evidence, DNA, and eye witnesses in the world still don’t measure up against a collegiate swimming career. That if you’re a young, rich, white male athlete at a prestigious school, and you can throw enough dollars at decent lawyer, you’ll get away with assault. And if not assault, rape. And if not rape, murder. Slippery slopes become landslides. A ruling was made to blatantly salvage the future of a young man who couldn’t control his own libido. Our bodies do not belong to us if we are not awake to speak for them. Being sober and dressed appropriately is a prerequisite to whether or not consent matters. We are the problem.

Women drinking are not the problem.
Women are not the problem.
Women are not a problem.
Are we clear?

Yet, in the wake of this grotesque occurrence, somehow, I am proud.

I am proud that we are holding Brock accountable for his actions even if his father and the courtroom will not. I am proud that Dan Turner’s letter sparked nationwide outrage, and poured kerosene on an already blazing fire. I am proud that the victim refuses to be victimized by Brock Turner, his family, their lawyers, and Judge Persky. I am proud to be one of many standing behind this brave young college student, stomping my feet, shaking the cages, speaking my mind, and raising a little hell with the rest of the Internet. I am proud to link arms with the men and women around the country who have called, written, signed petitions, shared articles, and who refuse to accept that in America, being a white, wealthy, male athlete at a reputable university absolves you of consequence.

This cannot continue to be the standard. This is NOT fucking good enough.

To the victim (who remains anonymous): I am proud of you. We are all proud of you. Thank you for being a lighthouse and fearlessly shining your light on this story. Thank you for shining brightly for every woman. For all of us. From all of us. Please know, you will never be lost again.

We are shining back at you. We hope that you see us.

**I have signed what has felt like countless petitions in the last 48 hours, but if you’d like to sign as well, I’ve listed a few below for easy access.**

Rule Breakers: Good Fucking Design Advice

Renegades get shit done. We’re not about the easy road. We turn our pastimes into our full times. And we do it on our own terms. “Rule Breakers” is a series of renegade creatives who have strayed from the status quo, but not without hard work, self awareness, and some serious elbow grease. Chasing your passion is one thing, but wrangling it is an entirely different beast. These renegades are breaking rules and barriers, and redefining what it means to be successful by writing their own rules.


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c/o GFDA

When it comes to the life I want to live, I turn to people who are doing undeniably awesome shit in a very real way for inspiration. My idols are the ones I could actually email, and in some world, get a response from. They’re the types of leaders I want to be like, work for, and someday become. They encourage awesomeness in other people, and encouraged awesomeness only breeds more awesomeness.

Enter Jason and Brian from Good Fucking Design Advice.

This interview was one of those, “If you don’t ask the answer will always be no” type deals. I’ve admired GFDA from afar for a few years now. Kind of like a cool lion on a safari. Or that 22lb burger that you get for free if you finish the whole thing. You look at it from six tables over and think, “I could do thattttt…..” And then you never buy it, and return to your normal boring burger. The cool thing about GFDA is that they WANT you to take on that 22lb burger.  (This is a metaphor in case you’re confused/hungry).

If you’re unfamiliar, GFDA (Good Fucking Design Advice) is comprised of a design duo that, “through profanity and personality, provide a kick in the pants to push people to define direction and purpose in their life and work.” And since we’re all about big risks and big rewards here at The Renegade Rulebook, I figured it was worth chatting with them.

As an added bonus, at the bottom of this interview (read the whole thing, damn it! Or as GFDA might say…”Don’t fucking skim.”) is a little treat for my readers. Huzza!

TRR: I gave the readers a quick synopsis, but could you give me a less sparknote-y version of what Good Fucking Design Advice is all about, and what you guys are up to these days?

GFDA: What are we all about eh? Let’s get into what’s going on these days first, that should inform what we’re all about a bit better I think.

These days we maturing. We’re currently in a tumultuous adolescence as a company—we’re growing awkwardly and not sure how to fully take advantage of our changing body and disposition. Various practices (or lack thereof) that we used to get away with when we started out are no longer viable, and we’re figuring out how to grow into a more sophisticated company.

Of course we are managing all of this while still maintaining the spirit of who we are as a business and as individuals at the core. But this very thing—this learning as we go and making every mistake in the book thing—is what makes us who we are to our customers, fans, and friends. We certainly have a brash face to our brand, but beneath that there’s a deep level of empathy for creatives who are trying to do their own thing—whatever that may be. Much in the vein of, “We get you, we’re fucking everything up too, let’s keep going anyways.”

We tend to ride the horse in the direction it’s going. As a result, we are all about wherever we are at any given moment. At this moment we’re in a growth phase. And growth requires learning and learning requires excitement—a continuously burning fire. Without that fire you’re not interested in learning. Richard Bach said “You teach best what you most need to learn.” With this idea in mind, we’re making a bigger push this year for more education-based work (for lack of a better term). So, we’re doing more speaking and workshop-related content, expanding our workshops into the corporate realm with content related to risk-taking, creative process, and ideation/iteration. We’ve begun to produce more articles and content for the web, and we’ve expanded our newsletter offering to have a weekly piece of advice with a bit more depth.  We’re also working with a book agent now, so we’re hoping that we can get a book written this year and published next year. All of these things are new in some or many ways to us. We’re still making and selling products, but we are pivoting a bit and expanding. It’s very exciting, and it’s very scary.


c/o GFDA

TRR: When you started it was just the two of you, right? How big is your team now and where are you located?

GFDA:  Currently it’s the two of us, plus an intern—Katherine O’Kelly, and a contracted designer/coordination—Rachel Hellgren. Previously though, we’ve had upwards of 6 people working for us on a part-time basis along with some folks whom we work with on a contract basis. While the two of us have manned the ship since day one, it would be disingenuous of us if we didn’t acknowledge the vast number of people who’ve lent a hand along the way. Our friends and family have bailed us out countless times and, we really owe everything to these relationships—from marathon printing sessions, help packing ridiculously large orders for literally days and weeks on end, to moral support and just meaningful conversations about us and our business. Without the collective efforts of many other people, we’d be nothing—and the journey far less sensational.

In the last year, we’ve outsourced our order fulfillment to JM Field in Fort Lauderdale, FL. As a friendly plug, they’ve been really fantastic to work with. We struggled to find the right company to fit our needs last year and it was coming down to the wire for us to make a decision between some options that were less than ideal for us when their name crossed our path. We’re so glad we made the leap to work with them.

We’re headquartered in Brooklyn, New York with Jason. Brian works remotely from various cities around the country, mainly being located in Cincinnati, Ohio. We get together every six weeks or so to work together in person—which is an important part in keeping our company and relationship healthy.

TRR: Working with your friends can be awesome, but it can also be stressful. I hear so many stories of it ruining friendships and going completely sour. Since you guys are friends IRL, how do you keep from driving each other crazy?

GFDA: Working with friends can be incredibly rewarding. Believe it or not, we were only acquaintances when we first launched our site. Keeping our sanity and not killing each other is an ongoing part of running a business that should never be underestimated.

We have almost always maintained a ‘friends first’ mentality. As our business grew so did our friendship and we quickly recognized that the relationship we had built around the experience of running a business together outweighed the value of the business itself. Having mutual respect for the people you work with and the value they add to the work and relationship are incredibly important if not completely necessary.

We certainly have our challenges and arguments, but we always manage to keep in mind the overall goal, and company. We allow our conflicts to help us to grow as people and also to help us further the business.

We grease the wheels and keep ourselves on the same track through a lot of regular communication. We schedule meetings every MWF at 2pm to catch up for about 60 minutes and try to visit every 6-8 weeks in person for this reason. The longer we go without checking in and talking the more likely we are to end up wasting time, duplicating efforts, working out of sync etc. And that always ends in a dispute of some kind. So, we’ve learned (and continue to learn) how to be more up front and communicative about anything and everything.

TRR: In that vein, how are your personalities different?

Jason: There are two sides to every coin. Brian is methodical wisdom, where I am blunt honesty.

Brian: Jason is much better at selling ‘us and GFDA.’ He’s a natural connector of people and has always had a knack for finding the right person for us or for someone else. I’d say he’s also naturally an extrovert as well. Me on the other hand, I’m one of those outgoing introverts. I’ve got no problem speaking, teaching, being in front of a crowd—in fact I love it. However, it exhausts me and I definitely need that solo time to recharge afterwards. Jason is quick to new ideas where as I tend to be more strategic in approach. It’s a good balance, I keep him from jumping in too soon and he keeps me from staying in my head about an approach for too long. We learn a lot from each other in this way.


c/o GFDA

TRR:  I know GFDA is a huge project, but do you have any passion projects outside of GFDA that you’re really excited about?

Brian: For me, I’d have to say there are two things. The first is always my answer to this question, which is martial arts. I’ve been practicing for almost 17 years now and I’m in love with it just as much, if not more so than the day I started. I’ve been very fortunate to have some exemplary teachers who have impacted my life in more ways than I can count. Learning martial arts when I was a teenager was a gateway into learning how to learn, and how to be hungry and curious about a subject. This has always fed into my love of design in a hugely positive way. The second, which ties directly back into GFDA, is writing. I’m not disciplined yet to get into a daily writing habit or anything of the sort, but I’ve really been enjoying writing for GFDA, developing the voice we currently have, and teaching myself how to write along the way. Improving this skill set has been very enjoyable for me—and it’s also helped me be a better designer and business owner. The act of writing has helped me to further my conceptual abilities and also focus and develop my thoughts on any given subject. It’s like a form of cognitive organization.

Jason: For me, I spend a lot time intoxicated by the thought of new ideas and the practice of ideation—seeing everyday problems as design opportunities. Many of these ideas lead to business concepts, which feed my passion for design and entrepreneurship. I am innately a maker and always have numerous ongoing personal projects. Many of these personal explorations end up coming to life as part of GFDA or influencing its direction. Everything feeding into the same vein and vice versa. At the moment I am working with designer and gardener, Ethan Bodnar to build a platform for houseplant adoption and failing at learning how to surf. I am also wrapping up my role as Designer in Residence at 30 Weeks, a program that transforms designers into founders.

TRR:  I love talking to creative people about their a-ha moment. That moment where they realized, “AH-HA! I should be doing THAT.” Did you guys have that with GFDA? And if so, how did it transpire?

GFDA: It doesn’t feel so much like we had an ‘ah-ha’ moment with GFDA. It was more a process that we grew into. As graduate school came to a close and winded down for us, GFDA was really ramping up. So we essentially just kept our crazy busy schedule as we transitioned from one thing to the next. If there was any ‘Ah-ha’ moment, it would have been more so in the viability of this as something that could be a real business early on.


c/o GFDA

TRR: I see a few big names, presumably tied to some awesome projects listed on your site. Which project or partnership has been the most fulfilling or exciting for you?

GFDA: We’ve been fortunate to have worked with some incredibly talented people and more so that they were interested in working with us. We try and launch 2–3 collaborations a year and they are continuously getting better as we learn how to leverage the work and talent of other folks.

We’re really excited about our upcoming collaboration with artist and designer, James Victore. We are expecting it to officially launch on our site in late July.

TRR: I’m sure most of the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but have you ever received any negative backlash?

GFDA: Someone once told us that we “sent the design industry back 10 years.” Good or bad, we saw that movement as progress.  

We used to receive various forms of backlash via email and social media when we first launched. A good portion of folks were highly critical of what we were doing at the time. At this point we’re much more widely accepted—certainly within the design community. However, nowadays, what we deal with is typically a dissenting voice or two when we are invited to host a lecture. Particularly in non-coastal cities there tends to be someone who speaks out against our use of profanity, but in nearly all cases, the person has no idea who we are or what we stand for—they’re just opposed to the use of profanity and ultimately are missing the big point. You can’t please everyone and we sure as hell don’t intend to try. Like Tibor Kalman said, “When you make something no one hates, no one loves it.”

TRR: Other than a song by X Ambassadors, What do you think of when you hear the word Renegade?

GFDA: A renegade is someone who plays by their own rules.

TRR: So what’s one rule you love to break?

GFDA: What rules?

TRR: What’s a rule you’d replace it with?

GFDA: We don’t break the rules, we write them.


The gents at Good Fucking Design advice have kindly extended a 15% discount code for the GFDA store to my readers. I highly recommend The Advice Mug as well as my personal favorite, The Classic Advice PrintEnter the code RENEGADE at checkout. Limited to one use per customer. 

Check out the store here:


Jam Baby, Jam.


My first cassette tape was Bryan Adams, “Cuts like a Knife”. I received it for Christmas one year, and from that moment on, I couldn’t (ahem–wouldn’t) fall asleep without it. Late at night, I’d even hear my dad tip toe into my room and turn the tape over. When my dad would pick me up from school, one of the first things he’d ask once I was in the car, even before “how was your day?”, was what I wanted to listen to. Sometimes he wouldn’t even have ask, because I’d already be begging him to put on one of the gazillion CDs that he kept in the center console. I’d slide the precious booklet out of its case and memorize the lyrics and pictures, and he’d reprimand me for creasing them far too often. Whether it was Fleetwood Mac, ACDC, Joe Cocker, Dire Straits, or The Eagles, those songs stayed with me long after the music stopped.

At the age of 28, I still need music to do just about everything. Distracted by both silence and background noise, music always seems to center me. At night, my mind often races when I get in bed. One minute I’m tucking myself in and the next minute it’s 2am and I can’t stop thinking about [insert random thing I’m thinking about.] Like the perfect comeback I should have said 5 days ago or whether or not I’m a successful member of the adult human race. You know. Light stuff. Before things get too out of hand, I usually put on some music to soothe my soul. At work, if I need to crank out some copy or nail down a presentation,  I pop in my headphones and get down to business. I listen to it on the way to Yoga, on my morning commute, in the supermarket, in the shower, and everywhere in between. And you best believe I boogie down when I’m doing chores around the house, but that usually involves a few perfectly timed but poorly coordinated dance moves.

Concerts opened up a whole new world for me. The first concert I attended was Def Leppard and Joan Jett and the Black Hearts. After that, it was my first Springsteen concert (more on this later), where THE BOSS wailed on his guitar while standing on top of a white grand piano. Sophomore year of high school I saw Aerosmith with a boy who was predictably all wrong for me, but still swooned as Steven Tyler screeched the words to Cryin’ over his scarf covered microphone. Senior year of High School I snuck into the Ray LaMontagne concert in my hometown and had my first taste of beer. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to see some of my favorite musicians live, including Kings of Leon, Mumford and Sons, Dashboard Confessional, Empire of the Sun, The Temper Trap, Lord Huron, Two Door Cinema Club, Foster The People, and more. (I’ll be seeing Beyonce in a few weeks and I’m sure I’ll have an entire post dedicated to Her Greatness.)

fleetwood mac.jpg

When Spotify launched, I became obsessed with curating playlists on the go. Living in New York, I found it incredibly frustrating being underground with nothing to help pass the time, and Spotify was a game changer. I would create playlists by season, by month, by mood, and by genre. For a friend’s bachelorette party last summer, my only  responsibility was the playlist that would carry us through two days of shenanigans. (Spoiler — It was a strange and beautiful mix of Ja Rule, Spice Girls, Shania Twain, and Michael Jackson. I regret nothing.) I have playlists for dancing, for waking up, for running, for going to sleep, for date nights, for driving, and now…For this blog!

Next week, I’m going to share you cool cats on my blog playlist! I’ll introduce a few songs weekly that I lately can’t live without,  complete with a link to the playlist so you can jam along with me, a link to the individual songs, and a little blurb about why I’m digging them. Some will be personal stories, some will be funny anecdotes, and some will be because I heard it in that show that one time and it got stuck in my head.

Which leads me to my final question. Are there any songs stuck in your head right now? Please, do share! I’m always looking to expand my music library! (And who knows, maybe it will appear on Renegade Jams one of these weeks!)

Play on, Playette.