A New Type of Mad Men: Justin Adu Helps You Claim Your Creativity

Tips from a jack-of-all-trades

Justin Adu

If you’re a creative with many talents, you’ve experienced those uncomfortable moments of picking just one when you’re asked, “What do you do?”  Stating the truth, “I do it all,” usually turns out sounding like you do nothing at all, but selecting just one of the many things you’re great at doing feels like you’re short-changing yourself.

How do you reconcile that? You take a page out of Carol H. Williams Advertising’s Associate Creative Director of Digital and Social Media Justin Adu’s book.

Adu recently published the book Don’t Insert Title Here: The Guide Toward Creative Freedom & Success for the truly creative types who may feel stuck or have reached a place in their lives where they feel boxed in or that they’ve hit a ceiling. He’s on a mission to help creatives channel all of their talents to do whatever they want to do, just as he has done.

Adu shares his insight below:

As a creative, what do you do to remain inspired?

I’m inspired by people and progress. I understand the underrepresented group of African Americans in the creative industry more specifically in advertising and visual arts so I strive to pave the way for those just as someone has for me.

I remember all of the closed doors, the people that didn’t believe in me, or the lack of confidence I once had because no one was willing to give me the opportunity.

Here I am with three degrees, 11 creative/design internships completed and some of the top mentors but there is still that roaming question that creative agencies or shops can’t find people of color to hire, that is a lie. I realized that you can’t wait on others to give you the opportunity and sometimes you have to create that opportunity for yourself. That’s exactly what I did and now I want to do that for other black brothers and sisters around the world.

How do you push past the ceiling when you start to feel you’ve hit a wall creatively?

I think that you have to be bold and willing to take a creative risk. In order to land in a different creative space, you have to try something that you never did before.

Tell us a little about the inspiration behind your book Don’t Insert Title Here: The Guide Toward Creative Freedom and Success.

About 10 years ago, when I was first starting my career, I was never satisfied creatively and I realized that as a creative individual I would never be. Thus, I was always working on several creative projects simultaneously in addition to my 9-to-5, so people would always ask me, “Adu! What do you do?” and my answer would always be a laundry list of creative things. In coming up with the title I realized that I was someone who wanted to be known for doing several creative things and you couldn’t really put a title on what I did.

What advice would you have for a creative who is the jack of all trades but can’t figure out where to focus their energy?

Be an organized jack of all trades! You can do multiple things that you enjoy doing however, you must be organized and goal-oriented.

What is your ultimate goal as a creative?

To make history. That is always my goal with any idea, project, or activation that I am doing. How can my work and impact on the world outlive me?

What has been the most helpful advice you’ve received in your career, thus far?

Throughout my career, several people have brought up how important it is to focus on the details of a project and making sure that I’m fine-tuning things consistently and making an effort to do it all the time.

Follow what Adu is up to on IG @A_Du_You. For more information visit www.aduyou.com.