Creative Careers

Making a Living with Your Ideas


By B. Jeffrey Madoff

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Earn a Living Doing What You Love

Featuring insider advice from Daymond John, Karlie Kloss, Tim Ferriss, Randi Zuckerberg, Dave Asprey, Dennis Crowley, Brandon Maxwell, Mauro Porcini, Joy-Ann Reid, Roy Wood Jr., and dozens more!

In one of the most popular classes at Parsons School of Design, B. Jeffrey Madoff gave students a reality check: “Most of us have had the feeling of ‘I could’ve done that,’ whether at an art gallery, watching a performance, or finding a new product or even a new business idea. What’s the difference between you and them? They actually did it. You didn’t.” With Creative Careers, you will learn how to do it, too: use your creativity; have a sustainable, profitable career; and do what you love.

Creative Careers pulls from interviews with more than forty experts–notable entrepreneurs, artists, and business leaders–as well as from Madoff’s own decades of experience to supercharge your career. Creativity can often feel sporadic and unfocused, coming in bursts and peaks. That’s why Madoff focuses your professional path by asking vital questions that will ultimately help you:
  • Determine your value
  • Be smart about your hustle
  • Ruthlessly edit down your creative projects
  • Overcome fear and doubt
  • Create a successful, long-lasting career on your own terms
You may aspire to join the fashion world, to work in visual arts, or to spearhead a start-up. You may be an executive who leads a creative team, or a professional looking to make a career change. Madoff takes you down an accessible path that will lead to success in any field or endeavor.



MICHAEL ARAD is the architect and designer of the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site, titled Reflecting Absence, which was selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation from among more than five thousand entries submitted in an international competition held in 2003.

DAVE ASPREY is the founder of Bulletproof and author of New York Times best sellers The Bulletproof Diet and Super Human. Dave is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee; host of the number-one health podcast, Bulletproof Radio; and a Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur.

TOM BILYEU is an entrepreneur known as a cofounder of Quest Nutrition, the second-fastest-growing private company in North America, on the Inc. 500 for 2014. Tom’s new venture is Impact Theory, to help people develop the skills they will need to improve themselves and the world. Tom was named one of Success magazine’s “Top 25 Influential People” in 2018.

MORAN CERF is a neuroscientist and business professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern University. His academic research uses methods from neuroscience to understand the underlying mechanisms of our psychology, behavioral changes, emotion, decision making, and dreams.

DORIE CLARK is a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out, which was named the number-one leadership book of 2015 by Inc. magazine. Dorie is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review.

RACHEL CRANE is an innovation and space reporter for CNN, creating original video content to be shown across CNN’s platforms. She was honored to receive the NewSpace Journalism Award, given to an organization or individual for outstanding work in journalism.

DENNIS CROWLEY is cofounder and executive chairman of Foursquare, the technology platform that powers location experiences for more than 1 billion people around the world. Previously, he founded Dodgeball, one of the first location-based mobile social services (acquired by Google in 2005).

LAURA EDWARDS works with brands to help them define how they show up in culture. For the past five years, Laura worked at Adidas on global marketing strategy, specifically with sports, entertainment, and influencer partnerships.

SAVANNAH ENGEL offers fashion, consumer, and lifestyle brands a full menu of services, including marketing, communications, social media and brand-partnership consulting, as well as VIP and influencer relations and events. Savannah’s experience in communications for fashion and entertainment has supported brands like Michael Kors and Barneys New York, plus musical artists such as Zayn Malik, Iggy Azalea, and Rita Ora.

MICAELA ERLANGER is a celebrity fashion stylist based out of New York City and Los Angeles, where she works with such international talent as Lupita Nyong’o, Jared Leto, Meryl Streep, Common, and Michelle Dockery. Her work has been seen on the most prestigious red carpets and in the pages of top fashion publications worldwide.

TIM FERRISS is an early-stage technology investor and adviser for Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and more than fifty other companies. He authored five number-one New York Times and Wall Street Journal best sellers, including The 4-Hour Workweek, which was translated into thirty-five languages. The Tim Ferriss Show podcast is the first business and interview podcast that has exceeded 400 million downloads. Tim serves on the advisory board of, an educational nonprofit and the first charity to make the Fast Company list of “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.”

VANESSA FRIEDMAN is a fashion director and chief fashion critic for the New York Times. She leads global fashion coverage for both the New York Times and the International New York Times.

DANIEL GULATI is managing director of Comcast Ventures. Daniel is an early-stage venture capital (VC) investor focused on consumer companies. Daniel saw the potential in Away luggage and was their first investor.

FRAN HAUSER is a media executive, start-up investor, keynote speaker, and best-selling author of The Myth of the Nice Girl. Eighteen of the twenty companies in Hauser’s investment portfolio are founded by women.

AMANDA HESSER is an entrepreneur, cofounder, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Food52. She was the food editor of the New York Times Magazine and author of The Essential “New York Times” Cookbook, a New York Times best seller.

SABIN HOWARD is a teacher and master sculptor, whose works are owned by museums and private collectors all over the world and have been shown at more than fifty solo and group shows. Sabin, along with architect Joe Weishaar, was selected as the winning design team for the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC.

KATHLEEN IRELAND is an American model and actress turned author and entrepreneur. Ireland was a supermodel in the 1980s and 1990s, best known for appearing in thirteen consecutive Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. In 1993, she founded kathy ireland® Worldwide, a multibillion-dollar worldwide brand marketing company that has made Ireland one of the richest self-made women in the world. Kathy is involved with various charities and nonprofit organizations dedicated to education, emergency response and training for children, disease research and management, and HIV/AIDS.

OLIVER JEFFERS is a visual artist and author working in painting, bookmaking, illustration, collage, performance, and sculpture. His critically acclaimed picture books have been translated into more than forty-five languages, and over 12 million copies have been sold worldwide.

DAYMOND JOHN is a businessman, investor, television personality, author, and motivational speaker. He is best known as the founder, president, and CEO of FUBU and appears as an investor on the ABC reality television series Shark Tank.

STEPHANIE JONES is CEO and founder of JONESWORKS, a full-service, strategy-driven public relations, marketing, and communications agency representing an elite roster of talent, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, and consumer brands.

KARLIE KLOSS is an American supermodel, forty-time Vogue cover girl, media star, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Karlie was recognized on the Time 100 list for her philanthropic work as the founder of Kode with Klossy and was featured on the covers of Fast Company and Forbes.

STEVEN KOLB started his career working with nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society and the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS organization. He had no background in fashion when he was hired by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the trade association for the American fashion industry, in 2006. In 2011 he became its chief executive.

SUSAN LACY is a documentary filmmaker known for creating American Masters, the acclaimed PBS biography series profiling artists and visionaries who have helped shape our country’s culture. The series has seventy-one Emmy nominations and twenty-eight wins. Lacy directed and produced Spielberg and Jane Fonda in Five Acts, both for HBO Documentary Films. Both were nominated for Emmys.

DYLAN LAUREN is an entrepreneur and founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar, which claims to be the “largest candy store in the world.” She is the daughter of American fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

FREDDIE LEIBA created the then unknown career of fashion stylist. He was part of the team that launched Interview with Andy Warhol. Freddie served as creative director of Harper’s Bazaar and contributed in various creative capacities to several Condé Nast titles around the world. He has worked with legendary photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Helmut Newton. Freddie has styled Oscar winners and nominees Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Jessica Lange, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, and Salma Hayek. He has worked on numerous national ad campaigns and designs the uniforms for many of Ian Schrager’s hotels.

JON LEVY is a behavioral scientist and author who works in the fields of influence, community and customer engagement, and adventure. Levy founded the Influencers, a dining experience and community, whose participants include more than fourteen hundred leaders, ranging from Nobel laureates, Olympians, and celebrities to executives, editors in chief, and royalty.

DANIEL MARTIN is a New York–based makeup artist whose work has been featured in Interview, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Bazaar. Among his clients are Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Sussex; Elisabeth Moss; Jessica Alba; and Jessica Biel. Daniel is currently a brand ambassador for Dior Beauty and the creative color consultant for Honest Beauty.

BRANDON MAXWELL established a styling career in 2012 acting as a fashion director to Lady Gaga. His luxury women’s ready-to-wear label launched in New York in 2015. The brand is worn by Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Oprah Winfrey, Blake Lively, Jane Fonda, Queen Rania of Jordan, and Tiffany Haddish. Brandon was awarded the 2019 CFDA Award for “Womenswear Designer of the Year.” He is a judge on the award-winning show Project Runway.

MAURA MCGREEVY is a communications executive with nearly twenty years of public relations (PR) and marketing experience spanning industries such as media, advertising, sports, fashion, technology, entertainment, and finance. A native of Moscow, Idaho, and graduate of Boston University, Maura now resides in New York City with her husband.

LEANDRA MEDINE is an author, blogger, and founder of Man Repeller, an independent fashion and lifestyle website that has more than 2.2 million followers. In 2012 Leandra was featured in Forbes’s “Top 30 Under 30” as one of the year’s “most influential trendsetters.”

DEBBIE MILLMAN was named “one of the most creative people in business” by Fast Company and “one of the most influential designers working today” by Graphic Design USA. Debbie is also an author, educator, curator, and host of the podcast Design Matters.

MONICA MITRO is executive vice president (EVP) of public relations at Victoria’s Secret and co–executive producer of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show holiday television special.

BEN PARR is an award-winning entrepreneur, investor, and journalist. Ben is the author of the best-selling book Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention. He was named one of the top-ten tech journalists in the world by Say Media and one of the top-ten “Internet of things” experts by Inc. magazine.

JOE POLISH has utilized his marketing expertise to build thousands of businesses and generated hundreds of millions in profits for his clients, ranging from large corporations to small family-owned businesses. Joe leverages his networking prowess to bring together the top industry transformers and leaders in the world. He founded Genius Network and GeniusX, high-level marketing and business groups for industry transformers and leaders.

MAURO PORCINI is senior vice president and chief design officer at PepsiCo. Mauro is responsible for leading innovation by design across the company’s food and beverage portfolio, extending from physical to virtual expressions of the brands, including product, packaging, events, retail activation, architecture, and digital media. Chosen as one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business.

AMBER RAE, called a “Millennial Motivator” by Forbes, speaks to audiences across the globe on topics ranging from navigating emotions to cultivating joy to unlocking creative potential and has collaborated with brands such as Kate Spade, Microsoft, TED, and Ogilvy. She is the author of the best seller Choose Wonder over Worry.

JOY-ANN REID is the host of AM Joy, a twice-weekly political talk show that airs weekend mornings on MSNBC. Joy serves as a political analyst, appearing on NBC News and MSNBC programs, including Meet the Press, Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Rachel Maddow Show, and Andrea Mitchell Reports.

JOSH SAPAN, one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative executives, is responsible for the overall management of AMC Networks, known for its award-winning original content. The company consists of several leading entertainment brands, including national television networks AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV, and WE tv. Josh was honored by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.”

YUKO SHIMIZU is an award-winning illustrator and professor of illustration at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Yuko’s work has been commissioned by Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, MTV, Target, National Public Radio, Time, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, GQ, and many more.

SIMON SINEK is the author of multiple New York Times best-selling books. He is best known for popularizing the concept of WHY in his first TED Talk in 2009, which has had more than 40 million views.

SALLY SINGER is creative director at Vogue and former digital creative director of Sally built Vogue’s online presence.

AMY SMILOVIC is founder, CEO, and designer of the Tibi fashion company. A former advertising exec who was with Amex, Amy had no formal training in fashion. Creativity was always her passion. Her mission is inspiring women to embrace and define modern femininity on their own terms.

HILLARY STERLING is partner and chef at the renowned New York City restaurant Vic’s. While Hillary was earning a business degree from Indiana University, she began taking night classes at a local cooking school in Bloomington and discovered her passion: food. She is now considered one of New York’s top chefs.

DAN SULLIVAN is founder and president of Strategic Coach, Inc. Dan has more than forty years’ experience as a highly regarded speaker, consultant, strategic planner, and coach to entrepreneurial individuals and groups. Dan works to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential in both their business and their personal lives.

TERRY TSIOLIS was born and raised in Montreal and left for New York City to obtain a master’s degree in communications. Terry worked under Fabien Baron and Liz Tilberis at Harper’s Bazaar. He then pursued a career in fashion photography. His editorial credits include Harper’s Bazaar, Arena Hommes Plus, the Face, i-D, L’Uomo Vogue, and V. His advertising clients include Anne Klein, Armani, Burberry, Byblos, Club Monaco, Cole Haan, DKNY, Dunhill, Eres, and J. Crew.

RYAN URBAN is CEO and cofounder of BounceX, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative behavioral marketing platforms in the world. Ryan helps businesses convert their website visitors into customers. Ryan was featured in “Crain’s 40 Under 40.”

MAX VADUKUL is noted for his art reportage and portrait photography, which he describes as “taking reality and making it into art.” He has a lifelong affinity with black-and-white photography, a foundation of much of his early work. His work has been seen in the New Yorker, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, W magazine, Interview, Rolling Stone, and many other publications around the world.

ROY WOOD JR. is a comedian, writer, and correspondent on The Daily Show. Roy has performed around the country, starred in comedy specials, and been a guest on Conan, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

RANDI ZUCKERBERG is an entrepreneur, investor, best-selling author, award-winning producer, and founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media. Passionate about the intersection of tech and media, Randi was an early employee at Facebook, where she was the creator of Facebook Live. Randi hosts a weekly tech business show called Dot Complicated on SiriusXM.




The Myth of the Lightning Bolt

YEARS AGO, I WAS DIRECTING a commercial for Victoria’s Secret and was working with the legendary Academy Award–winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. He shot Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, and many other great films. For a split second, there was a beautiful shimmering, like the reflection of water, on the wall of the set. I asked Vilmos if he saw that flash. He said it was caused by a crew member walking past one of the lights as he crossed the set carrying a sheet of Mylar. This was not the look we had planned, but I loved the shimmering light and scrapped the original lighting concept for the commercial and started over using the Mylar. The client loved it.

A fortunate accident led to success. All creatives have experienced fortunate mistakes or accidents that turned something unexpected into something wonderful. In movies and novels, we are told that great ideas simply come to us in a flash of inspiration. That’s what I call the Myth of the Lightning Bolt. Creative ideas may seem to come out of nowhere, but they almost never do. You might experience a breakthrough that connects the dots, but those dots have been percolating for a while and you are finally seeing the relationships between them. Vilmos, as a result of his years of experience as a cinematographer, knew exactly what caused the look and how to replicate it. It’s being prepared, alert, and ready that leads to that breakthrough, not something haphazard like luck.

There are a lot of misconceptions about creativity. For one, we often mistake technique for creativity. Technique is how you execute, not the creativity itself. An actor can have good technique and know how to use her voice and body but not bring any emotion or a unique perspective to her role. Technique without creativity gives you stock photography or Muzak, not something interesting or evocative.

Another misconception is that you must be a painter, writer, actor, dancer—someone in the arts—in order to have a creative career. A dentist developing a new drilling technique, a teacher finding a unique way to reach a troubled student, a coder, accountants, lawyers, or an entrepreneur starting a new business are all using their creativity to organize the information they are presented with to solve problems.

Ryan Urban is the CEO and founder of BounceX, a leading online behavioral marketing firm founded in 2012. The mission of BounceX is to identify a brand’s consumers and provide the most relevant digital experience based on their behaviors. Ryan believes that even the language you use can either promote or stifle creativity and innovation. For example, the word hope is banned at BounceX because it doesn’t stimulate creative thinking. Many companies hope that people will visit their sites and buy from them, but, as Ryan says, “Hope is not a business model.”

Instead of hoping, Ryan did a deep dive into data and researched the online behavioral indicators of how and when people buy online. We have all left a lot of merchandise in the carts of online retailers. Converting a shopper into a buyer is a problem every retailer wants to solve. How do people shop online? When do they make the decision to buy? When should a seller offer a discount or suggest other merchandise? These are questions for online sellers. Using behavioral economics and algorithmic organizing principles, BounceX has substantially upped the conversion rate from shopper to buyer, generating millions of dollars for his clients.

The creative mind is always seeking new perspectives; it is passionately curious and hungry to solve problems. That’s creativity at work.


How can you prepare to experience creative breakthroughs? Be aware. Be informed. Be engaged. Constantly educate yourself. Read. Go to concerts, movies, and plays. Talk to people. Ask questions.

Another time I was approached by Victoria’s Secret to shoot a commercial for a gift with purchase—an umbrella—and asked if I had any ideas. I had just seen Hamilton on Broadway and was inspired to do something with music and choreography. I thought the umbrellas would be interesting shot from overhead, like a Busby Berkeley musical from the 1930s combined with modern dance movement. Shooting them from overhead was also a great way to show the product. I collaborated with Stephanie Klemons, the associate choreographer of Hamilton. That resulted in the Victoria’s Secret “Angels and Umbrellas” commercial, one of their most successful gift-with-purchase promotions.

You never know where inspiration will come from, what neurons will fire, to form an idea. It’s important to constantly expose yourself to the best work out there. If I hadn’t just seen the Broadway show, that idea might not have occurred.


On Sale
Jun 16, 2020
Page Count
304 pages
Hachette Go

B. Jeffrey Madoff

About the Author

B. Jeffrey Madoff is a director, photographer, writer, and professor in New York City. He is the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, a film production company that creates award-winning branded content including commercials, web content, music videos, and documentaries. His online videos for Victoria’s Secret have won a coveted Webby Award, and Madoff’s documentary films about philanthropist Brooke Astor and the iconic dancer Martha Graham have both been well received by the press, including the New York Times. In addition to his film work, Madoff’s articles are widely distributed and have appeared online in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, and other major publications.

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