How to Live the NION Life like a Badass Creative Entrepreneur

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It all started a while back when I read Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week. That book inspired and got me thinking in the perspective of designing my life in the way I wanted to live it and thus I set out on my journey. Entrepreneurship is one thing, but selling a creative service is a whole different ball game. Something I’ve learned a lot about over the years. Those things I’ve learned have become the brand pillars of NIONlife which I’ll tell you about soon.

Do you ever find yourself at different stages asking questions like these?

  • Do I have what it takes to be a full time professional creative?
  • Am I good enough?
  • How do quit my day job?
  • How do I find my purpose?
  • Where do I even start?
  • How do I balance time and creative pursuits?
  • How do I stay motivated and not feel like an imposter?
  • How do I set myself apart?
  • How do I get past the fears that hold me back?

When I became a photographer, contrary to what most people think, didn’t happen overnight. I had to put my 10,000 hours in before I even hit the beginning of the pro stage where people started paying me real money for the art that I created. Even at that it took time to create the balanced life I so desired. The struggles and the sacrifices along the way took courage, and in fact the struggles never go away they just change. I remember the days that I call the “Ramen days” where given my income, that’s what I got to eat on a daily. It was either that or cook a pot of spaghetti at the beginning of the week and make it last 5 lunches long while I lived in the basement of a house in the rainy city of Seattle.

Through the grind and the hustle, and my passion to become a successful commercial photographer it slowly became a reality. Soon I was shooting for the biggest brands in the world like Nike, Adidas, Coca-cola and being paid to travel the world to push a button and create art. Next thing you know I was photographing and traveling the world with personalities like Justin Bieber, Usher, and Jessica Alba just to name a few. I began making enough money to move to New York City and live an abundant life. I even released a book with Random House on travel photography. My career was on fire!

After shifts in the industry and economy, I found my business in decline. No one ever told me that’s the nature of business, it’s up, it’s down, it’s all around. As a creative making money with my art, one of the hardest things I ever had to learn was how to separate my self worth from my art. Much easier said than done. If you’re anything like me you create from the heart and soul whether it’s conscious or not. When the money starts slowing down it’s hard to not take things so personally. I ended up taking an emotional intelligence and leadership training that changed the way I see the world, and became a foundation of what is now my podcast, NIONradio. From interviewing top entrepreneurs and creatives like Usher, Daniel Arsham, Donna Karan, Sophia Chang, and many more, I’ve learned so much that I’ve been able to add to my own practice.

Being or becoming a creative entrepreneur is no easy feat, even though it may look like it. The rewards however are unbeatable in my book. I’m so grateful for the fact that I get to wake up every day and get to create whatever it is that I want. While it seems like i slave away putting more than full time hours in, what I do doesn’t even feel like work. The parts that do, I now hire out experts in their respective fields to get it done at a higher level.

What is NION life?

The creative journey that I’ve experienced has taught me a lot. My vision is and has been to design a fulfilled life in color with creativity being the driving force that is NION (Kne-on). This so called “neon” life that I’ve created for myself has become my life philosophy and I’ve decided to distill down into these foundational pillars. My hope is that as they’ve helped me live a fulfilled life, they can help you too.

The NION life pillars of the life of a Creative Pro

1. Creativity – This is the driving force and the highest form of self-expression. It is the primary pillar as it’s the most fulfilling piece. I believe we were all put on this earth to create, and that doesn’t mean that we are all meant to be artists, but we all have a creative bone in our body. Creating means starting from your thoughts and birthing something the world has never seen in your own expression. For a majority of you out there that very well does come in the form of an art be it photography, design, music, fashion, painting, or anything else of that sort. For others, their creativity resides in other spaces such as building, molding, and shaping businesses. It’s anything really. Creativity really is a mindset and an action that is taken. I’ve coined the term, “Creative Resonance” as the high feeling you get when you get into a flow state and create something you love and are excited about. I believe anyone can find creative resonance if they are practicing the act of creating. Creation ultimately becomes the color of life when one realizes they can create their life by creating every small moment.

2. Health & Wellness – As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much taking care of myself is so huge. Health and wellness, with fitness included in that is essential to managing your creative endeavors. Staying healthy makes you feel better, stay sane, keep your creative mind going. When you feel better, you create better things in the world. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically is essential and another pillar of fulfillment.

3. Personal Growth – Personal growth and spirituality I’ve found to be hugely important in this journey. It is NOT easy to make a living with your art, and there are so many ups and downs that come with those challenges. Personal growth and learning to understand emotional intelligence has become a huge tool in dealing with what life throws at you. Trust me, when you’re trying to make a living with your art, there can be a lot thrown at you. If you’ve at all tried, you can understand what I’m saying here. The journey of personal growth has been the biggest thing that has helped me in the entrepreneurial journey. One of the biggest things we face as entrepreneurs is uncertainty. The more you can learn to deal with uncertainty, the more you can thrive in your creative career. Spiritually is a deeper level of creativity, and an life exploration. I believe that creativity is a spiritual connection with the universe and meant to be shared. Sometimes the deeper things in life help push you through the ups and downs. Life is a mental game, and the successful ones learn how to master it.

4. Relationships – Relationships are the key to life in both fulfillment, and creating success. They are a fine art in and of themselves. We must learn to create the best ones we can, and that vision, effort, and practice. So much of my success has come through the relationships I’ve built both personally and professionally. Relationships and sharing our lives with others is and element of fulfillment. Life is a journey, much like travel. Can be great alone, but even better sharing it with other people.

5. Philanthropy – If it’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that giving back is a huge piece of success, not only from my experience, but from many other successful people I’ve interviewed and hung out with. Creating a flow of generosity, giving back to the world, adding value in relationships, and constantly putting out a giving energy, it all comes back to you. Now when you’ve grown up in a space of scarcity mindset, that takes practice to overcome. Something that I’ve made a point to keep practicing. One of my favorite philanthropic endeavors has been my partnership with Pencils of Promise, and the founder Adam Braun providing education to children in the developing world. I’ve donated my time and photography to them since they started as well as raising money to build schools.

6. Money & Business – The age old battle with creatives is Art & Commerce. So many of us have grown up with this idea that money is evil, and when it becomes your soul’s purpose it can be empty. Really trick is to become aware of our relationship with money. The NIONlife perspective is to see money as a vehicle to create not only your art, but the life that you desire. That takes making money with your art or just making money in general to create your art. Most of us don’t have the luxury of having a trust fund to live off of, so the creative journey’s battle becomes down to making money and having time to create what makes you happy. Creating a business around your art is essential no matter what the genre or category. Learning see the value in what you do and charge for it.

Becoming a pro comes from not only being excellent at your craft, but intentionally creating excellence in all these categories. We must become conscious of creating balance of these pillars in the pie of life. I’ve heard it said, that there are three types of people in this world. Those that don’t learn from their mistakes, those that do learn from their mistakes, and those that learn from other people’s mistakes. While failure is inevitable and essential to growth, it’s what we do about our failures and mistakes that make us who we are. We here at NION like to take that a step further and learn from other people’s mistakes and failures which is why I created the NIONlife podcast, aka NIONradio. I love diving into the success of people that are experts in the pillar categories and distilling what they’ve learned in their journeys.

NIONlife is about becoming a pro across the board. A “Pro” doesn’t need to claim that they are “Professional” They just are. They do. They practice excellence in every category. They create from the heart with purpose and passion. They create the ripples in the water that affect impact.

If you’re considering starting a career in art, you can check take a listen to the 15 part podcast series on “How to Create a Career in Art” starting over at

Who do you want to be? Do you want to take your journey to pro? Take the NIONlife quiz and we’ll send you free content to get you started.

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