Failure is your friend. Passion is your friend. Find a place and people who empower your passion and help you learn from your failures. It’s your best chance at success.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I was born number five of six children in Waukesha, WI, home of Les Paul and the first legal forward pass in American football history. In 1981, when I was a young guy, I won a state-wide free throw shooting contest.  I went on to study Architecture/Graphic Design at Iowa State University and was a member of the first graduating class of the Creative Circus in Atlanta, GA. I’m actually still on the board of directors to this day.

I have developed a global career with stints at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, Miami, FL; 180 Amsterdam, W+K Amsterdam and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, SF, CA.

I’ve won lots of those award things in the biz, like the Titanium Lion at Cannes, One Show Best of Show and have been nominated for an Emmy (yes, the actual award everyone’s heard of). I currently live in Amsterdam with my wife Julieana and three children. 

What do you do for inspiration?

I watch my kids a lot. The two older ones are in Waldorf schooling programs. Ironically the school has a no TV/media rule. At first I thought it was bullshit. Then I saw how much more creative my kids are when they’re not being told what a cowboy finds funny by Pixar or how a mouse talks by Disney. There is a reason why people like George Lucas put their kids in Waldorf programs. To be creative you can’t have everything defined for you. You must exercise YOUR imagination. Every day.

I also try to visit galleries as much as I can. The odder, the better. Especially when traveling. Once a year I try to get away from everything and visit places like Marfa, Texas (currently my favorite escape). 

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Notcot.org, Slingbox (without it, I would be disconnected from the motherland and wonderfully shit TV shows like Storage Wars) and npr.org (I’m always inspired by how “unreal” real often seems).

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

I guess I’m supposed to say something like: winning the Titanium Lion, or creating Sprint’s Now Network work. But really it’s having three kids, the fact that my wife stays with me even though I’m in this crazy business, and the fact that, on a daily basis, I still strive and enjoy to sit down with younger creatives and to try making the world a more creative place.

How many hours do you work each week?

I easily work 60 hours. If you ask my wife she’d say 80. I’ve been trying to be better about it these days.

How do you relax or unwind?

Snowboarding. We had a ski-lease for the past few years in Lake Tahoe. Nothing’s better than being out on the mountain. Makes you feel insignificant and unbelievably alive all at once. Dinner parties as well. It’s sort of a Dutch thing (well at least we picked it up our first time living in Amsterdam). Bring an odd collection of people together at your dining table, add wine, music and good food and see what happens. Ride my bike. When the shit hits the fan usually a bike ride can clear the head.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

The favorite part: the fact that it’s never the same two days in a row. The hardest: the fact that people get so negative/critical and forget that they’re being paid to be creative.  When stuck: Walk away. Engage with something else, like volunteering for anything – the more random the better.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

Three days straight. In some ways it was almost worth it.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

In 1996, when I graduated from the Creative Circus, a buddy and I formed “circus freaks” and traveled the entire country showing our portfolios. We had a website. We updated it by uploading a new copy of it nearly every day. You could say we were blogging before there were blogs. Our goal was to talk to anyone and everyone and document our chats with people in the business. For over more than two months we slept on friends’ and families’ floors, in national parks, and in the car. We saw over 65 agencies in more than 20 cities. That trip and the people I met became the core from which I’ve built a career. (Maybe we should have been paying more attention to what we were doing- blogging and creating the basis of Linked-In- than studying the relationship between the chairs in the lobby and the level of creativity of the agency).

What software could you not live without?

Pencil and paper.

In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

No. I’m a big believer that software doesn’t make you creative. What impresses me is when someone combines the modern world with the old. Like Beck releasing his latest music on a music notes sheet.

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

I’m working on an art book documenting the rooftop television antenna in America, a soon to be extinct piece of technology. Another book in the works is about how people don’t remember phone numbers anymore, and another is about the care-taker of Ronald Reagan – that’s as far as I’ll go on about that one.

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

I try to listen and observe more than to talk and attract attention.

What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?

KONY 2012. It made the invisible – visible.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

We’re problem solvers and we should use any medium creatively to solve our client’s problems.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

Absolutely. I’ve seen a guy get hired because he had the balls to rap in Oakland in a jelly donut costume. For some, being creative is easy but that doesn’t mean success comes easy. We all need to spend time learning how to channel our creativity to solve each other’s problems. The problem is that modern business struggles with the concept of “investing” in creative thinking. That’s why the young need training. They need to be billable, which is sad. We don’t need the youth of the biz to be billable but we need them to be challenging everything and trying new things, radically new and exciting things. That’s what they are good at.

If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Failure is your friend. Passion is your friend. Find a place and people who empower your passion and help you learn from your failures. It’s your best chance at success.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

Mars Rover.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

Friends outside the biz.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Brazil. They are going through a magical period. A time when their passion and resources are aligning and the world is watching.

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

I dream of doing a film with Hitchcock, a song with Mozart, and a home with Wright. I’m hoping technology will enable things like that in the future.

What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?

I’m going to try and learn Dutch out of respect for the wonderful people of this great city I live in. As for the long term – I’m hoping I can be the type of father who inspires his kids by being excited by the ever changing world. Not fear it.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

I bought a new light for my bike for 20 euros.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

It’s not mine (I think its Henry Ford’s), but I live by it: “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

Paul Stechschulte, ECD at Arnold Amsterdam
Paul Stechschulte, ECD at Arnold Amsterdam


Arnold Bike
Arnold Bike

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