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Opinion and Insight

How to Find Happiness Through a Passionate Purpose

Iris WorldWide, 3 years ago

iris Worldwide Atlanta's Joseph Szala on his journey from baking bagels to branding restaurants

How to Find Happiness Through a Passionate Purpose

I was slinging dough into a bagel-mixer thinking about my band’s first gig at CBGB’s, the iconic underground music destination (RIP). Daydreaming about playing on a stage that so many great bands shared had my head full of ideas and my stomach full of butterflies. Heavy metal, mosh-pitting butterflies. Naturally these thoughts gave me ideas of badass flier designs to promote the show. 

True to form, a bolt of inspiration hit me so I grabbed the nearest pen and paper to sketch it out before I lost it in the clouds of flour and corn meal. My boss at the time caught me sketching. Apparently he saw some talent, or maybe just an opportunity to get free work, because before I knew it we were talking marketing ideas and angles for the little bagel shop that soaked up three years of my teenage life. I didn’t know it at the time, but this moment sparked a little flame in my heart that would eventually drive me towards a passion. Since that igniting moment I’ve had many milestones and failures all leading me to where I am today: Doing what I love for a creative agency I love. 

Often times I get approached by others in the creative field asking, “How did you get into the niche of branding restaurants?”. Although my journey was not very linear, what I learned along the way all lead to happiness. It was about finding my passion in life: My passionate purpose. Here’s how you can find yours:

Find inspiration everywhere. I knew that doing anything was better than doing nothing at all. That dedication to keep moving helped me pull inspiration and passion from places one wouldn’t expect. My inspiration and muses were everywhere. It just took a while for me to recognise them. Music was a huge driver for my art and design while working in restaurants helped me find a different kind of art that I love.

Go after what makes you happy. Design and marketing are broad worlds with a multitude of different specialties. That means that although you love design, you may not love what you are designing who for whom you’re designing it. Find the things that make you happy and go after them. Stay away from the things that make you cringe.

Make good on your commitments. If you’ve promised to do something, follow through on it. Your word is all you have at the end of the day, and people will come to respect you for your integrity. You’ll build a positive reputation that people will seek out. A lot of people talk about their integrity, but don’t really walk the walk. 

Be humble, but stand up for yourself. There is a difference between being humble, and being a pushover. There is a difference in having strong convictions, and being a dick. Learn the difference between them and be the latter of each. Learn how to bow out of bad situations gracefully so you don’t end up in bad situations. 

Always be learning. You don’t know everything and you never will. Listen to others and their insights. The minute you think someone more experienced than you is an idiot is probably the moment you’ve lost connection to reality. Read books, magazines, blogs, and try new things on your own. You shouldn't wait for a project or opportunity to try something new. You’ll never know it all, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Be nice to everyone. I talk to everyone I can, even down to the door man in the office building where I work (his name is James). I do this not for personal gain, but because every person matters in your life. By talking to people you learn things and create rapport. Those insights and rapport cause good things to happen. Who knows? That person may be the key to your next job, project or big event. It was only after talking to some guests at a wedding that I found my first restaurant project. That little conversation created a defining moment.

Fuel defining moments. Defining moments are little gasoline bombs for your passion. They flare it up and push you forward. However, opportunities have the ability to flash brightly quickly then fizzle out if they aren’t stoked. You need to push the power of each defining moment further in anyway you can. For me, my defining moment was when I was offered the opportunity to design my first restaurant. It fueled that spark inside of me, and it was that spark that I continued to stoke with everything I did. When this happened, I knew I found my passion.

Finding that passionate purpose wasn’t a linear path for me, but it’s one that every designer, marketer and brand strategist should take. Looking back I can see there were certain things I did that lead me to where I am. If I would’ve done them faster and not have been so hard headed, I probably would’ve been happier, quicker. Finding passionate purpose was a mix of kismet and an unrelenting dedication to growing as a designer, strategist, lover of restaurants and a person.


Joseph Szala is a Senior Creative at iris Worldwide's Atlanta office. Before joining the global agency network he founded and ran Vigor, a highly regarded restaurant branding company. He did that for over 10 years, creating innovative restaurant concepts all over the U.S. and consulting with restaurant brands across all categories. He is the author of Fire It Up: Building Restaurant Brands That Blaze which was published in 2010 and is soon to launch his next book, and his blog, gritsandgrids is a fave among the restaurant branding and design world. 

Genre: Strategy/Insight