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Meet Sibnavus Cheeseman, the chef bringing the chopped cheese global

It’s only right for the Executive Chef and Co-Founder of Shmackwich, a food brand all about obscenely delicious gourmet chop cheese, to be named Sibnavus Cheeseman.

Chef Sib, as he’s better known, has over a decade of culinary experience and a pretty rad origin story with his passion for food born out of early experiences that helped shape his life.

His introduction to cooking came just at the tender age of 4 years old. On a 13-acre farm in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica where he spent his early years, Chef Sib remembers watching his dad kill a goat for the spring equinox. 

This experience allowed him to appreciate and understand the intricacies of food preparation at a young age.

“That moment was when everything changed for me. The experience was so visceral and pure that I became instantly infatuated. The smells and taste were nothing like I’ve ever experienced before and in many ways, I’m still chasing that feeling.”

– Sibnavus Cheeseman

Sibnavus Cheeseman on his culinary upbringing

Photo Courtesy: @Shmackwich

Initially, Sibnavus did not consider a culinary career. Though when he was younger, he worked at restaurants out of school to support himself.

He studied and loved fashion photography. However, he was always drawn to the culinary world. Mainly due to being surrounded by people who were creative and passionate about the culinary arts.

“A lot of my friendships were formed on the floor of a restaurant or in the kitchens, and dish pits tucked away in the basement. Serving and meeting celebrities and masters of their craft was an optimum part of my person development.”

– Sibnavus Cheeseman

When Sibnavus moved back to New York, he was introduced to the NYC restaurant culture. Specifically, at Dallas BBQ, Carmine’s, Old Dante’s, Milon on St. Marks, and Wo Hop.

The fast-paced, high-energy environment shaped not just his culinary journey but his life in general. 

After a few years, Sibnavus decided to go full steam in the culinary direction. He started by learning how the hospitality industry worked by going through every level, working his way up.

He held various positions but almost always found himself in the kitchen, tapping in and learning from the professionals.

Sibnavus eventually landed his first Executive Chef position at Gran Electrica, a restaurant specializing in Puebla and Oaxacan regional cuisine.

There is no progress without collaboration.

The Shmackwich Team. Photo Courtesy @img.mos

Chef Sib’s culinary technique and philosophy are greatly influenced by his travels in Mexico and growing up in New York. He also draws inspiration from many mediums: visual arts, music, architecture, film, and life.  

He realized early on how cultures borrow from each other. Sibnavus found that collaboration enriches and diversifies people, art, and food.

This understanding led him to better integrate his Afro-Caribbean roots with his delicious creations. He also attributes the success of his brand Shmackwich to his practice of collaboration. 

When starting any project, he is reminded of a specific Confucious saying: There is no progress without collaboration. For him, it means working together is the way to move forward. 

It is Chef Sib’s belief that everyone in the industry has a common purpose, which is to bring people together through food.

In years of working in restaurants, he observed how competition hinders them from reaching that goal. Thus, he works to eliminate competition and promote collaboration in the industry.

“When starting Shmackwich, that was the principle that we hold above all. It’s time for more co-working. I believe that’s the only way to truly succeed.

– Sibnavus Cheeseman

A higher purpose

Photo courtesy: @sibwavus

Chef Sib’s passion for cuisine is also matched by his mission of food sustainability. His philosophy is zero waste, always aiming to use every ingredient to the fullest extent.

He also chooses to acquire local and domestic products sourced from farmers that have ethical practices.

“As a chef, I have the opportunity to impact my environment on a micro and macro level.” 

– Sibnavus Cheeseman

Inspire and be inspired.

Sibnavus Cheeseman credits the longevity of his culinary career and the success of Shmackwich to his philosophy of collaboration and willingness to learn new things.

Hence, Sibnavus encourages all aspiring chefs to pull inspiration from different sources.

Inspire and be inspired by others. Nothing is new: no dish, no flavor profile, no concept. Everything has been done. So let go of ownership and embrace the ideas and input of others. Everything we do is an interpretation of what was done before us.

– Sibnavus Cheeseman

Finally Focused NY to LA: Episode 5 Photographer Ace of LA

“The image that we create enhances that person to be bigger than life.”

Ace of LA

Ace of LA, black Commes des Garçons tee on, black snapback faced backward, speaks from his studio in a reclined black chair.

As he speaks, it is clear he is reflecting on his journey, with a visceral understanding in a solemn tone that he always wanted to be a photographer, and thus was always going to be.

“I knew my purpose at a young age. And that’s what I wanted to do no matter what.”

Ace of LA

Photographer Ace of LA takes the first step towards success…

Ace of LA is a photographer based out of Los Angeles. Born in Mexico, from an early age there was never any doubt about what he wanted to do.

“The changes that I went through defined who I was as a person.”

Ace of LA
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He dropped out of high school at an early age to become a photographer. And amidst family members and peers thinking it was a hobby, temporary, or just fun-and-games, photographer Ace of LA stuck with his craft because he knew it was anything but.

He started taking pictures of people he wanted to photograph; “people that gave you that magnitude in front of the camera…” He then transitioned into photographing models, often with no pay.

But Ace of LA doesn’t see free work as just that, because that endeavor is always going to end up in securing a bigger paid opportunity.

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IN MY MIND w. @queenofblood

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“That’s one of the biggest things to me, just knowing the value of yourself, what you bring to the table.”

Ace of LA

Ace of LA has shot for Ty Dolla $ign, Wiz Khalifa, Common, Nipsey Hussle, and many more in his career. And he’s just getting started.

“We are in a never-ending journey,” Ace of LA says solemnly. There isn’t a day that goes by where he does not learn something new about himself and his craft.

“The only thing I can tell that young shooter is just to keep being hungry, keep wanting to create, and keep wanting to excel.”

Ace of LA

Ace of LA’s ability to live in the moment enables him to stay grounded and focused on the task at hand. Treating every project like it is a big-budget blockbuster means he is always seeing the best work emanating from his eye and fingertips.

Stay tuned for more of his work and his fashion line here, and check out the rest of our Finally Focused series below.

Watch the entire season of Finally Focused below

Finally Focused NY to LA: Episode 4 Director Terence ‘MF’ Thomas

It all started with a Canon T3i….

Coming a long way from the boondocks of Brooklyn’s well-known Coney Island area, black director, and cinematographer Terence “MF” Thomas has made quite a name for himself.

For this episode of Finally Focused the experienced lensman tells us how he’s gotten to where he is today and how he’s achieved success within the video industry.

“I wasn’t thinking about being an artist. I was just thinking about getting out the fu–in hood…”

Terence “MF” Thomas

That first camera…

From the first time, he touched a camera Thomas was hooked. At 20, he made the executive decision to quit his 9 to 5 but before he did, he racked up enough money to buy his first camera, a Canon T3i.

With one of the hottest cameras on the market, at the time, Thomas would practice until he perfected his eye, taking around 2,000 photos daily while traveling throughout various NYC neighborhoods.

Rapidly MF became an apt capturer of beauty and a justified camera wielder. Soon enough he would be asked to take his photographic talents to video. Word got around that MF had the visual juice, thus taking him to new heights within the industry.

And his well-rounded resume proves it. A three-year stint as a creative director at Elite Daily and stretch at Overtime to working on his own NYC production house Manuall Focus Media, Thomas has accumulated four NY Emmy Awards for his amazing work.

With his head to the sky, Thomas looks to use the pressure of his success to create more impactful content. Additionally, he’d love to pass on the skills and tools he’s learned throughout his creative journey with hopes of opening up a film academy, one day.

His advice to up-and-coming photographers, directors, and cinematographers?

Stay creative. Stay hungry. Stay passionate. Just go out there and shoot…

Terence “MF” Thomas

We love highlighting Black directors, photographers, and creatives. To see more, watch the previous episode of Finally Focused below with photographer Flo Ngala.

Finally Focused NY to LA: Episode 3 Photographer Flo Ngala

“Everyone’s story is really, really different. It’s about timing, and it’s about just being ready, so that when your time comes, you can make sure you come correct.”

Flo Ngala- New York based photographer


Hailing from Harlem, NY, the confident and collected Flo Ngala explains to us how that quote fits much of her career thus far. In eighth grade she got a camera, a Minolta-X-something to be exact, and that opened her up to be creative with the lens throughout high school.

Then, Ngala remarks that working for Gucci Mane was probably the first thing that really catapulted her career. Like she said later in the episode, when that time came… she made sure she came correct.

Working as a personal photographer for Gucci then opened up the door to working as a personal photographer for Cardi B. And portfolio opportunities blossomed from there.

A blossoming portfolio

Flo Ngala’s West African roots inspire her to pursue powerful images and moments. And capture the authenticity of diverse and unique vibrant cultures. In 2019, she landed a cover photo for The New York Times with insightful reporting on Black figure skaters from her hometown.

The talented New Yorker also kicked off the year working with Netflix on a project. Then she proceeded to a Rolling Stone job, capturing much of the intensely visceral moments connected with the protests in New York City this Summer. Notable other clients include Nike, Reebok, WWD, and

“I like being able to just move, and not have to worry about people knowing what’s happening. Just kind of see things, and getting them in the moment,” says Ngala.

The tenacity with which Flo Ngala operates is really what sets her apart and has made her so successful this early into her adult life. Emblematic of how she sees herself behind the lens, one of Ngala’s Instagram posts is captioned, “You don’t photograph people with equipment, you photograph them with energy. The camera is the medium, the photographer is the messenger.”

With an intrinsic understanding and acknowledgment of her roots, a New York energy that only real New Yorkers know, and an innate desire to capture powerful moments that are often forgotten, Flo Ngala stays Finally Focused.

Like the Flo Ngala episode? Check out Finally Focused Episode 2 with Producer Joe Hood

Finally Focused NY to LA: Episode 2 Producer Joe Hood

“There’s a lot of different types of producers and there’s a lot of different levels of involvement for producers, but I really made my way by being involved from content to completion. The idea of a creative producer.” – Director and Producer Joe Hood

That was Joe Hood talking, Illinois native and current LA director, producer, writer, etc.

Hood is the founder and Creative Lead/Lead Producer at Hoodworks Video, a full-service video production company based in Los Angeles, CA.

The visionary director went to school at NYU before dipping out West for more lucrative opportunities. With his pit bull by his side, Hood told us about his creative journey.

Some of the projects Hood has worked on are acting as the VFX artist on Dripjacker by Zaytoven and Lil Gotit, the editor on Body by Pretty Ricky, and the writer and producer on Fox 5 by Lil Keed and Gunna, which has amassed over 3.4 million views since June.

Hood has worked in many different parts of the media industry, from social media work to BuzzFeed and L’oréal commercials to the music video/ creative process now where he has more freedom.

But he stressed that one of the main reasons he has moved around so much in the industry is because he focuses more on the opportunities for himself and others that open up, rather than just over saturating the process with content.

“Being a creator of color… unfortunately it automatically defines you. So at some point, you have to decide how you want to define you and what it means for you,” said Hood.

He stressed how creatives of color almost need to have MORE versatility going into jobs than their causation counterparts, as it’s almost like “they want you to prove yourself in things they haven’t even proved themselves in yet.

“You can’t be successful and prepared unless you’re versatile.”

Hood’s creative journey and his day-to-day process are inspiring in its authenticity and his bluntness about the way the industry works. Keep an eye on the creative director moving forward, as his mission, as in ours, is to diligently stay Finally Focused.

Like the Joe Hood episode? Check out Finally Focused Episode 1 with Director Paulette Anges Ang

Finally Focused NY to LA: Episode 1 Paulette Agnes Ang

“In general, life is a gift invaluable and if you share that view everything you create is worthwhile… ” – Director Paulette Agnes Ang

We caught wind of Paulette Agnes Ang and her work after watching the video for Princess Nokia’s track “Balenciaga.” The continuous shot. The intensity of each frame. And the overall creativity of the project is what caught our eye.

We had to hit her up and tap into the mind of the young director in order to grasp a better understanding of her work. And this first episode of Finally Focused NY to LA is a direct representation of that.

Already making a name for herself the Thai, Puerto Rican, Italian and French director, has worked with artists and brands ranging from Joey Bada$$ to Versace.

Not to mention her grind doing non-biased reporting on social, scientific, political, and cultural occurrences for Getty Images.

With nearly a decade’s worth of work, the multi-faceted creative’s journey is definitely one worth documenting.

Paulette Agnes Ang and her creative journey

Starting her creative journey as a production assistant in 2011 Paulette took hold of every opportunity presented to her. She would tap into her directing talents for the first time after linking up with 88 Palms to create a video.

While shooting, by chance, she was recruited by a managing director at an agency that represented directors. It was at that moment Paulette said, “That this was something that not only felt natural for me but unknown and rich in exploration.”

Merging her skills as a painter and an artist Paulette’s work became more than valuable. For her, “film and video are forms of communication and they are conversations that you have with the viewer through your work.”

Additionally, they are conversations you have with the artists through their work and a conversation with yourself. Using her love of non-practical lights to create an atmosphere that makes the viewer feel like they are in an altered state.

“I think because I am not very ‘film literate’ I get most of my inspiration from paintings and the art world…”


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@PetiteMeller Aeroplane out now premiered on @lofficielusa . . Directed by @a_t_mann Produced by me 🙋🏻‍♀️ c/o @Freenjoy DP: @ste_ferrari Drone: @reininja (East Coast) @skyhighbtan (West Coast) Dancers: @RockwellDanceCenter Martial Arts: @martialkat Editor: Ornit Levy Post Production: Tal Baltuch, Yehuda Revivo Camera Assistant: @AshliBickford Assistant Director: @helenekugelberg , @chenca Styling: @Nao_now @MariaPozosc @HellenKugelberg Designers: @AngelChenstudio @AlessandroTrincone @PuppetsandPuppets Hair: @SherlynSuzette, Shinpei Tanaka Makeup: @LisetGarza Production Support: Jack @drezilla @Akere1e @Shahar_ruly Ella Yaari Drivers: Rojay Barnes, Robert (Bob) Savarino, Salim Allen, John Morford Location Manager – Meriden Markham Municipal Airport: Connie Castillo BTS Photography: @the_gerger #petitemeller #aeroplane

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At this point in her career, she is open to learning even more from collaborative experiences. Paulette’s advice to up-and-coming creatives…

“Be open to experiences and opportunities and be curious when you are in them. Challenging your perspective is how you can go deeper in what you are doing and learn about yourself and what surronds you.”

On the preface of greatness, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the visionary inspiring the next-gen of directors as she is nominated in three categories at the 2020 Berlin Commercial Festival.

“Life is a gift.”

Shoutout The Squad 


Director: Jesse Vargas

Executive Producer: Claude J. Easy

Creative Director: Paulette Agnes Ang

Director of Photography: Ilya Shnitser

Edited by: Jesse Vargas

Art Assistant: Esmee Liu

Colorist: Elias Nousiopolous

Color Provider: Evan Bauer

Color House: The Mill

The Music

“Figura” – written and produced by Giacomo Favaron

“Ritmo Elegante”- written and produced by Marco Shuttle

“The Tropical Year” – written and produced by Alessandro Adriani


Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Göransson might be the best duo in Hollywood

Writer-director, Ryan Coogler, and composer, Ludwig Göransson, have once again moved so many Black Panther fans across the globe.

The messages, themes, and music of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever came from the minds of Coogler and Göransson, who also worked on the first Black Panther movie.

However, Coogler and Göransson first discovered their synergy while working on Fruitvale Station (2013).

It won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. drama competition at the 2013 Sundance Festival.

In an interview, Ryan Coogler said that their familiarity with each other allowed the sound effects, the music, and the direction to co-exist seamlessly, making filmmaking a “fun and gratifying” process.

“Collaboration ends up being our secret weapon.”

– Ryan Coogler (2021)

They were roommates at USC Film School

The power duo met at the University of South California. Göransson was studying film scoring while Coogler was in the directing program. 

The two were best friends, roommates, and frequent collaborators, with Göransson providing the scores to all of Coogler’s films.

Ohanian, Shawver, Coogler and Gorannson at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival (Photo/Ryan Dee Gilmour)

Currently, the two storytellers have multiple recognitions to their names. Coogler is a recipient of four NAACP Image Awards, four Black Reel Awards, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

While Göransson is an Academy Award and two-time Emmy Award winner.

Writing and Directing Black Panther

In both Black Panther movies, Ryan Coogler strived to flesh out each character.

By giving them deep aspirations and ambitions, the audience connected better to both the heroes and villains of the two films.

Superhero movies often present black-and-white concepts. The American writer-director aims to challenge that notion, muddying the water between right and wrong depending on whose perspective you’re seeing.

Composing for Black Panther

On the other hand, Ludwig Göransson poured himself into doing in-depth research.

This was to truly ensure that the different cultures were thoroughly represented through music.

The Swedish composer traveled to four different continents and convened with over 40 artists, musical archaeologists, and other experts to create a unique sound and an immersive experience.

Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever sold an estimated $330 million in tickets and set a November record in the United States and Canada.

This marks the highest total ever for a film opening in November, topping the $158.1 million for the 2013 film “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.“

Charles Oliveira vs Islam Makhachev

UFC 280: How Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev have already won

UFC 280 will feature No. 1 contender Charles Oliveira (33-8) facing off against No. 4 Islam Makhachev (22-1) in a fight for the vacant UFC lightweight title. The highly anticipated bout is on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. ET, in Abu Dhabi – exclusively on ESPN+ PPV. 

Former Brazilian champion Oliveira is coming off a round one submission victory over Justin Gaethje, a fight where his title was stripped after failing to make the 155-pound weight limit. Oliveira now looks to reclaim his throne against Russian challenger, Makhachev. 

Praise Makhachev has received

For Makhachev, this seems to be just another fight. His 10-fight win streak has been completed in dominating fashion – smothering his opponents until they eventually quit.

Makhachev is one of the most hyped-up contenders on the roster, with extreme support from friend and UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“If Islam [Makhachev] beats Charles [Oliveira] and then beats new blood from [the] young generation… [If] Islam beats Charles, Islam beats three more fighters, Islam can be the greatest lightweight ever, you know, he has that potential,”

Nurmagomedov told TMZ Sports

Pre-Fight Press conference gets intense

Both men engaged in a heated back-and-forth exchange during the UFC 280 Pre-Fight Press conference: 

A tough path for both fighters

Despite being at the pinnacle of the sport, it has not been an easy road for any fighter by any means.

Win, lose or draw, both of these warriors have not only taken everything thrown their way in the octagon – they have taken everything life has thrown at them as well.  

Oliveira’s journey

Oliveira comes from São Paulo, Brazil. Raised in the favelas of Guarujá, São Paulo – Oliveira’s rough past has molded him into the champion he is known as. Oliveira has spoken numerous times about how life has hit him harder than he has ever been punched. 

“I lost friends to crime. Unfortunately, some died, others are in prison. I still know people who live off it, [crime] they chose it. But thanks to my mother, I chose the right side. We chose the right side, all my family, all my brothers. And bro, I say this a lot, sports save lives,”

Oliveira said on the Ironberg Podcast

Oliveira takes pride in where he comes from. After becoming the lightweight champion, he made it his mission to rebuild his community:

 “This is my grandma’s house; mine is in the back. Now, we are remodeling it, and it’s looking good. Every time I come here, I remember where I come from. I say, ‘Brother, it’s like this, I made it in life, you can make it too,”

Oliveira said in the UFC 274 Countdown Episode

Who knows where Oliveira would be now if not for mixed martial arts? Oliveira remembers his humble beginnings, now taking every opportunity to show fans that he is the “Kid from the favela that has made it.” 

Makhachev’s journey

Makhachev was born in Dagestan, Makhachkala – a place he pridefully represents each time he makes the walk to the octagon. 


“This labor, building, digging, gathering, breeding livestock, it’s all physical labor. Hard work is in our DNA. We worked out using stones, often running up the mountain, sometimes three times a day working out using stones. These harsh conditions create real men,”

Makhachev said in his UFC Origins dedication

“When I started with MMA, my goal wasn’t to become a UFC champion. Representing our republic, our country, is the reason I fight,” Makhachev added.  

What have we learned?

Fireworks will be expected inside the cage this weekend. Both contenders will be looking to prove that everything they have endured in their life was for this opportunity.

Despite what happens in the expected barnburner Saturday afternoon, let us all take a moment to appreciate everything these fighters have been through in their rise to the top.

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sean o'malley

How UFC superstar Sean O’Malley built success outside the Octagon

“Suga” Sean O’Malley is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC today.

Hailing from Helena, Montana, the 27-year-old sensation faces former bantamweight interim champion Petr Yan (16-3-0 MMA, 8-2-0 UFC) at UFC 280 on Oct. 29 in what will be O’Malley’s most significant fight of his career.

O’Malley (15-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) is looking to earn his long-awaited title shot in the bantamweight division with a big win over Yan. He is widely known for his spectacular knockout finishes – six out of his eight wins in the UFC have come by knockout.

With his accumulation of finishes, O’Malley has been awarded the $50,000 Fight of The Night Bonus four times and two Fight of the Night Bonuses, one being $50,000 and the most recent being $75,000.  

Sean O’Malley the entrepreneur

Despite O’Malley’s successful fighting career thus far, most of his money is made outside of the octagon.  

“I’m way more comfortable being in front of the camera now, way more comfortable entertaining and understanding what my job is. I’m an entertainer” 

O’Malley said on Chris Van Vliet’s Insight podcast when asked how he has evolved as his career has progressed. 

“I’m a UFC fighter/entertainer; they go hand-in-hand. Some people are just fighters, and they’re not making the money I’m making outside the UFC. I’m getting paid from merch [merchandise], YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, and Instagram,” he explained.

“I’m making six figures easily – sometimes six figures a month, not even from fighting. Understanding entertainment and being a fighter and balancing that is something I’ve gotten really good at,” O’Malley said.  

Social media presence

O’Malley has a significant social media presence – racking up over 480,000 YouTube subscribers, 150,000 Twitch followers, and 2.4 million Instagram followers, and he is one thousand followers away from a million on TikTok.

Unsurprisingly, his enormous following has resulted in a successful podcast called the TimboSugarShow, which O’Malley and his Coach Tim Welch host.  

What makes O’Malley so likable to the naked eye is that he is simply himself. O’Malley understands he does not need to play a fabricated character to gain fans.

O’Malley is not afraid to dye his hair vibrant colors, spend his time live-streaming video games to his thousands of followers on YouTube, or even get spontaneous tattoos from rappers like 6ix9ine.  

Suga Sean taking over fashion?

“The merchandise drops we’ve been doing go insane. Like the undefeated merch right after my fight, I had to make up undefeated merch. I said I’m going to post this right after my fight – and that did six figures in a week. It was crazy,”  

O’Malley told Vliet.

O’Malley was referring to his limited undefeated hoodies and t-shirts, which are now unavailable. He offers shirts, hoodies, slides, and even a ‘Suga Sean’ costume, a pink wig you can wear on Halloween, all found on  

“I have YouTube, Twitch, podcasts, all that stuff I do is another way for people to interact with me – and it’s all genuine, organic stuff. It’s not like God I have to do this, I want to do everything I do, and I think people know that – it’s a fun way for the fans to interact with me,”

O’Malley told Daniel Cormier on the DC Check-In. 

What can fighters learn from him? 

In a sport where nothing is promised, Sean O’Malley is an example of what to do with your career in Mixed Martial Arts; fighters should use the platform they are given to expand their sources of income.

No athlete wants to be stuck in a position where they struggle to make ends meet after losing a fight – O’Malley has shown the benefits of having various sources of revenue and how being your genuine self is key to gaining fans.  

It will be fascinating to watch Sean O’Malley build his notoriety inside the octagon and how he will continue to grow his brand outside of the locked cage doors.

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Working in a toxic creative space? Here’s to pushing out the bad vibes

There might be nothing worse than working in a toxic creative space…

Toxicity is the quality of being toxic, very harmful, and unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way. It happens to be a slow burn that we all face in our lives.

Whether from exterior influences or if it is coming from inside ourselves, toxicity will, in due time, take over your mind and body while hindering you from reaching your creative potential.

Everything from the crabs-in-a-bucket mentality to the haters-gonna-hate, scenarios we find relatable. Self-deprecation is also considered a toxic thought process and not the reality check we think it is. 

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These are key drivers of a toxic creative space. We have expectations of our lives as much as someone has expectations of us, and often creating an infrequency between the groups and the individuals.

Toxicity comes from more than one place in our lives.

Bodying the toxic work space

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In a survey conducted by Fierce Conversations in 2019, they found that 44 percent of respondents said the number one response is to ignore toxic co-workers.

Although 50% agreed in 2017, the downturn fails to suggest enough to cancel out toxicity. The survey also concluded the 72% of respondents wish their employers were less tolerant of toxic employees. 

Stacey Engle, President of Fierce Conversations, says, “the fact that confronting problematic employees directly is people’s third choice of action should be concerning to all organizational leaders. The amount of time and energy that can be saved by providing employees the skills and empowerment to address issues head-on.”

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The fact is, there will always be someone who will want to see you in a subordinate position to them, or in no position at all. And you may think you haven’t received a fair shot at life. But dissidence will not help you get ahead in life and reach our creative goals. 

When the toxicity stems from a superior or an equal counterpart, the result will lead to failure if the communication doesn’t change.

Ignoring the toxicity will not help while addressing the matter head-on creates anxiety. Believe that change will come from how you perceive your situation, and you will be able to work through it.

Overcoming your own toxic headspace

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Subconsciously, most fall victim to comparison scenarios in relationship to hyper-connectivity. This constant distraction from social media like Instagram and our smartphones discredits our livelihood and our accomplishments. 

It’s difficult to acknowledge the obstacles we have conquered for the possible privileges afforded by others in this condition. A constant rundown of why someone else is where they are and why you remain where you are, holds you back, hindering creativity and adding toxicity.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard sums this feeling as, “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” The anxiety you feel is letting you know that something about you can change your environment.

Other factors included jadedness, becoming overwhelmed, and even “gassing” yourself up to believe you are owed something you hardly worked for yet. These are the telling signs of creative toxicity within ourselves. 

A life not grounded in reality but floating high in a proverbial castle is how we may craft our self-image. American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Henry David Thoreau

He encourages the “big idea” creative to take the small, consistent steps of brick-by-brick construction of your vision.

If self-doubt of your abilities comes from “thinking big” and the anxiety and the inability to take the first steps – in any direction – you may want to narrow your perspective on the idea.

Ease the creative process by doing the little jobs that get you closer to your goals. You want to drown out that toxicity with small actions in “building that castle.”

Navigating the toxic shared space

Beyond the hype of creativity and creating the world around us is social engagement and community upbringing.

Alliances with like-minds and same or adjacent skillsets bring creatives together to achieve common goals. Within that lies an enormous amount of altruistic individuals who support other participants of the group and their creative endeavors. 

Harvard Biologist E.O. Wilson outlined this way of thinking as “eusocial” behavior during a talk at the Geological Lecture hall at Harvard University.

Human social behavior evolved through competition with groups of related and unrelated individuals, working selflessly to benefit the group and not for selfish gain. 

Facts or nah?

Eusocial behavior is responsible for the survival of the smallest creatures like ants and mole rats in Africa, as well as evident in human cultures.

If you are a supporter of creativity from others and seek to benefit the group, you gain positive ground, reducing the creative toxicity by changing your environment. Eusocial communities are in sync with one another and are reluctant to extend themselves outside of the group, though. 

This external push is often what social and working environments use to protect and grow their creative space. This group will avoid toxicity for the benefit of preserving their environment and creativity.

The creative toxicity you experience may be from being in the wrong group. But you may not be presenting yourself as related to another group. You may be holding on to past thoughts and emotions of inadequacies. 

Reliving past moments or trying to correct something you have no control over stunt your evolution as a creative. It won’t help with the toxicity in your environment, rather keep you in the thick of it. 

Seeking to change who we believe we are with who we want to become creates harmony. Especially within our creative space, although it may be anxiety-filled as well. If the past has you stuck, the growth you seek, and the future of your creativity is at stake.

Changing up your space

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What has to change is your attitude toward toxicity and how we perceive ourselves. Disconnect from that toxic creative space and recognize that it is a place to create. Realize your worth as a creative and transform those defeating thoughts. 

Change in perspective happens when we pivot from defending ourselves from the toxic creative space to accepting who we are and change. We have an opportunity to elevate our vantage point to where our goals are always visible, and we move toward them earnestly.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.