#025 The Choice To Grow

The last few weeks have felt like the coming days of a long-awaited trip that has been planned for over a year. Sometimes the planning, outfit selection, and reservation making are actually more fulfilling than the trip itself. I spend so much time in my head thinking of the most ideal version of a trip until I'm in the midst of it remembering how badly it sucks to be on a flight for long periods of time or how tired you can be after walking around a new city all day.

But regardless, the trip is always worth it. And while I think we will very quickly forget pandemic life soon after it passes, it's fun to think of this summer as a big vacation that the whole world is going on. That trip seems to be coming quickly around the corner. People I know every day are getting vaccinations, restrictions are slowly being lifted, and it's feeling somewhat okay to see friends in safe and smart settings.

I already see so clearly the way verbal, in real life, conversations are going to go for the next 6 months. There seems to be a general caution that we (MOUTHWASH Studio) are approached with when catching up with others. Like, they know we don't do essential work, so there's a fair chance that our newly formed creative business could be easily falling by the wayside.

"So... how has everything gone for you all this last year? Are you doing okay?"

The approach is always respectful, which I love. I feel like a dog sensing the hesitation in the ask, but when we get the chance to respond with "We've probably been a little too busy" the vibe quickly goes back to something much more familiar and remanent of pre-pandemic small talk.

And it's true. For a moment it felt wrong to say that we were growing steadily in a pandemic, but I'm trying to take it for what it is and celebrate the achievement instead of compare so strictly to the performance of others around us.

In a time where being a Founder or Co-founder of something is as easy as typing it out in your social bios, it's amazing what small things like signage on your studio can do to make it all feel real. The big things make it feel real too, like hiring employees full time. Like, realizing that people are putting their trust in you and the business to be successful and help sustain their livelihoods as functioning persons of society. Yeah. That feels real too.

Every single day we get emails from people all over the world shooting their shot to join our team. We certainly don't have the time to respond to all of them, mostly because we just simply aren't hiring at the time. I got a personal email a couple months ago with a general sentiment of "I want your job" which felt flattering but also made me realize that it may be useful to give a little insight on the ideals that we think about when we're choosing to expand our team or when I'm looking for creative partners for passion projects.

List view coming because I've already talked too much:

  1. See people for what they could be, not for who they are or what they've done already. It's really easy to write people off based on a lack of experience or work that they made years ago. Do we see a lane for how we can help this person grow?

  2. To draw a sports comparison, the proven and most decorated players are the most expensive to acquire. As a small studio, we try to go after the best talent, but there are times that we can't afford them. When that occurs, we tap into our ability to scout talent. We go after people who inhibit qualities that we are after but have yet to find somebody to take a chance on them.

  3. People who really give a shit and take pride in the work may be the most rare and special individuals to work with . Who is likely to go above and beyond because they choose to, not because anybody is forcing their hand?

  4. It's more attractive for somebody to ask a lot of questions as opposed to assuming the role of "I already know this" or "I'll figure it out on my own"

  5. A person's unique skillset and personality is typically more important than checking off all the qualification boxes to fulfill a role. If we have confidence in that person's ability to be a great fit within the framework that we're building, they'll find ways to make themselves valuable and irreplaceable to the team.

  6. If the stories we tell and creations we make are limited by what what we've experienced in life so far, it's imperative that we are building a team that is made up of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Diversity breeds innovation.

  7. It's almost impossible to truly know somebody and the answers to all of the questions above through a series of 2 or 3 talking head interviews. Find a way to get this person involved on a contractor basis to stretch their abilities and get a sense to whether or not it could be a good long term fit.

What are things you look for in others? Are there any above that you disagree with for any reason? I'm curious, so let me know using the comment section at the end of this Substack or reply to this email. 👇

— Alex

Ideas from me


I spent a lot of my early career feeling productivity guilt when I wasn't actively breeding results until I realized this:

As long as you show up, there's hardly such thing as a waste of time.

Every experiment, every failure, all the photos you take, words you write, and songs you sing is a result of everything that has come before it.

It's safe to say that it's all adding up to something, even if we don't know quite what that is just yet.

It all matters.


A couple notes to myself as we are stepping into a time where we're actively hiring new talent at the studio. I'm both the leader and learner, depending on what day of the week it is.

To the leader: Do whatever it takes to create an environment where people can be themselves. Whether intentional or not, developing a culture where individuals are actively holding back also sets the entire team back.

To the learner: It may seem obvious, but the most underrated move you can make is to ask for help when you need it.


It’s easy to say that successful people have all the luck, and that people who are struggling to find success are unlucky.

It feels as if sometimes life picks people at random to be that one lucky winner while everyone else is left at bay.

Everyone has strokes of good luck and bad luck. It mostly depends on what you decide to do with it.

Quote from somebody else

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them,” Csikszentmihalyi explains. “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Links worth sharing

🤫 Special announcement from the MOUTHWASH brand today. Follow and pay close attention.

🌍 How Beeple Crashed The Art World by Kyle Chayka

📶 New New New Studio shares some findings on 5G, thanks for sharing Abe

🔗 My friend Simon of WTP.PP deserves so much love for his creativity. He has a few items remaining from his most recent collection last week.

🙇 While the world slowly becomes normal again, you’ll probably see a lot of people you haven’t seen in like a year. Here are some other ways to ask “How Are You?”

🧑‍💻 How to be a successful person in tech without being a dick

🌐 Issued By Bottega

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