My partner in this conversation is Matt Kressy, the founding director of the MIT Integrated Design & Management (IDM) program. He’s an expert in innovation, leadership and product development. As an entrepreneur and founder of Designturn, he has designed, invented, engineered, and manufactured products for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. And since 1999, he’s taught courses at MIT, Harvard, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Most recently, Matt is also on the founding team of New England Innovation Academy , the first middle and high school in the country that prepares students to shape the world through human-centered design.
This conversation was really heartfelt and I found it to be a beautiful exploration about art, design, and much of the inner drives that fuel our creative work. It’s a hard one to summarize, but it’s worth your time.
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Transcripts may contain some typos. With some episodes lasting ~2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew Skotzko 00:01:29 Matt, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Matt Kressy 00:01:33 Doing great, Andrew. Thanks for having me.
Andrew Skotzko 00:01:36 Absolutely. I’m so excited for this conversation and I know that we are going to have an interesting exploration together just based on the few conversations we’ve already had. I I’m. So I’ve been, so looking forward to this, so I’m thrilled. We’re getting to do this finally. Well, thank you, me too. So I thought a fun place to start might be a story. I’d love you to tell about a cycling race. You happen to win after taking a few years off from competing and it seemed like it was a really interesting learning experience for you. So I was hoping you could tell me that story. And what did you take from that?
Matt Kressy 00:02:04 Yes, I believe you’re talking about my Wells avenue training, race experience. Yeah, I’d stopped, you know, I’d stopped racing, uh, as very, very serious racer. Well, for me, I was serious, uh, back in my twenties, you know, I mean, if you’re a serious racer, you’re riding, you know, 20 hours a week and I was never able to do that. Maybe I was that eight to 10 hour a week rider. And I think that used to frustrate a lot of my competitors, but in any case, my first daughter was born and I had just bought a beat up old house, um, on a beautiful little piece of land on an island, you know? And, um, and I realized I got to build a house. I got to make this nest for my family. And, um, and I want to spend time with my new little girl.
Matt Kressy 00:02:52 So I ended up stopping riding altogether, you know, fast forward a few years. I’m a little bit overweight. I’m, uh, you know, feeling kind of crummy about that and you know, just not fit anymore. So I start riding slowly just for recreationally and it ends up some folks I’m working with, uh, are writing every day, a client. I have the U S army there they’re a bunch of physiologists has, was with their writing every day at lunch. And they said, Hey, why don’t you join us? So I’d go out riding with them super slow, like ridiculously slow. It was, you know, for me it was like, okay, this is sort of a substitute for golf. You know, doing business talking, you know, figuring out, you know, stuff. So it was worth it. But eventually I did come back to cycling after six years. And, um, there were some physiological changes in me that were significant from that type of training I was doing, which we call long slow distance.
Matt Kressy 00:03:49 Um, and that I think allowed my cardiovascular system and all the infrastructure necessary to deliver oxygen to your muscles, to kind of be established for change. Uh, and it was, it was me being patient with my body and its rate of adaptation, which I think a lot of athletes are not patient and they overdo it. And the body as a result, adapts actually slower. Anyway, that’s the physiologic physiological part. But the mental part was that I had missed the sport and I didn’t realize it. And I lined up for this training race. I’m looking around and I’m seeing all these guys I hadn’t seen in six years. And I just realized at that moment, how much I love this sport. And I love bicycles and thank God that there’s other people in the world. Me, even though I we’re here to beat each other. Right.
Matt Kressy 00:04:40 You realize my God, there’s this weird thing. I love them. I never knew I loved them. I did, I loved them. And I love this whole thing. And I love racing. W you know, and in that race, I was really in the moment as I was, you know, everything you talk about, you know, I got, I finally experienced sort of, I’d always IX. I had experienced flow or being in the zone before, but not like this and not for this extended period of time. And, uh, I ended up winning that race and it was probably the first time I’d ever won that race. And I just remember spraying ending with joy and affection for everything and everyone around me, and also being able to, uh, in that sort of joyous moment was the stroke of my pedaling stroke, able to just sort of really pull up and push down and sort of the coordination with my arms as I rock the boat, I can.
Matt Kressy 00:05:38 And, uh, just, I just focused on velocity. And, um, and that was interesting. I mean, so that was great. Right. And there’s a lot of takeaways there, but one of the other big things I learned is that if you do something right, once you never forget it, you’ve basically built a bunch of neural highways in your brain. And you short, you short circuit that whole build a little path, turn dirt road, you know, secondary road, maybe a highway than a super highway. It was just like, boom, super highway. I could repeat that over and over again. So anyway, that’s, that’s this part,
Andrew Skotzko 00:06:12 It sounded like this is a really big shift for you in terms of the mindset of shifting from, I’m going to say a very outcome driven mindset. I was like, okay, I gotta win. I gotta, I gotta place. Or what’s my number or whatever, uh, to, to suddenly it sounds like you were really just dropped in and suddenly the path itself kind of became the goal.
Matt Kressy 00:06:32 Yeah. You hit the nail on the head. I mean, prior to that experience, I was lining up with adversaries and it was, you know, um, to me it was a knife fight, you know, it was, it was me or them, and everyone’s here to beat me. Right. And I didn’t care about that. It was like you said, results oriented the re it was about winning and that’s it. And if you didn’t win, if, if I thought I was not even gonna make top three, I might even just pull out of a race
Andrew Skotzko 00:07:07 Really. Wow. After
Matt Kressy 00:07:10 That experience, I just mentioned the more euphoric experience. Um, I never pulled out of a race again. I always just finished, you know, because I enjoy the experience. I enjoy the ambience, the, you know, and I would call that earlier state, a state of negativity. Yeah.
Andrew Skotzko 00:07:30 What do you think actually caused that shift for you? Because I feel like that shift is a pretty profound one. It came to you in the, you know, through a bike race, but I feel like that’s a shift. That’s got a, it’s got a ripple across your life.
Matt Kressy 00:07:41 Sure. I mean, it, it does. And so it translates to everything else. Right? So the absence from racing was kind of like, it was a loss and then it came back and as a result, you’re able to fully appreciate it. And you hear this when people talk about being diagnosed with a terminal disease and then they beat it. But then now that they’re back, they have a new appreciation for life and they live their life differently. And I would argue, I’m not sure, but it would be a great study to do now that they’re living for the experience of life and the pleasure of that with it, with love and appreciation for everything that they’re doing, my hypothesis would be that they are actually now more successful in whatever they’re choosing to do. So, you know, love is a big theme of, of, of what I teach now, you know, and I think, um, I was lucky to sort of be exposed to methods and processes that I think are very useful for creating empathy and love and compassion.
Matt Kressy 00:08:48 Um, which, you know, thank God otherwise I’d be reinventing my, my world at this moment, you know? Yeah. So, yeah, I think it’s appreciation. And so what I do is I try to appreciate everything every day, all the time, and that has fine, large, been a wonderful thing. However, when it comes to people, you can get it, you know, I, I’m a human being. And so when I appreciate people and love them and they don’t do the same for me, that can cause, uh, feelings of, um, I don’t know, resentment, that one might not experience if they didn’t appreciate people in the first place.
Andrew Skotzko 00:09:28 I so resonate with what you’re saying. This, this has been a major theme in my own journey of the last, you know, I don’t know, 18 months, two years where it’s just like, oh shit. Like if I it’s interesting, cause you, you start to have to, I, I don’t want to project on you, but my experience has been that as I learn to realize, where am I, where am I like giving from a place of expectation, right? Where, where is this sort of subtle behind the scenes expectation where I’m not really freely giving? I, you know, I’ve heard it called a covert contract where I’m doing something, but I’m not even maybe conscious of it, but I’m actually secretly hoping you’ll love me back or you’ll validate me or you’ll tell me I’m smart or whatever. And then when that maybe doesn’t happen, I get really pissy. Yeah.
Matt Kressy 00:10:13 That’s exactly what I’m talking about.
Andrew Skotzko 00:10:17 Well, I guess we’re just a bunch of human beings trying to human this thing out. I know,
Matt Kressy 00:10:21 You know,
Andrew Skotzko 00:10:23 This human thing thing, it’s tough, man.
Matt Kressy 00:10:25 It’s hard. It’s really hard. You know, we, yeah, we want to be loved, you know, and we go to great lengths to be loved and everyone thinks that they’re loved for different reasons. So they do different things. Right. And, and, and then you meet these people. And so they do one thing to kind of try to get love from you. And you’re doing something else to try to get love from them. And there’s a disconnect. And then there’s the disappointment and the, and the, you know, the pissing this, yeah. I know all too well. Yeah, me too. You know, you, and
Andrew Skotzko 00:10:56 I think we’re both very relational people. I think we just see the world through a lens that sort of founded in this desire to love and, and sort of through, uh, a fundamental worldview of interconnection. Yes. Right. It’s like, I can’t, I don’t, I don’t know what it is to look at the world and feel not part of it, if that makes sense. It’s like, I don’t know. Does that mean, just want to say, make sense to you and I’m curious if that shows up for you.
Matt Kressy 00:11:19 Yeah, it does. I, it makes so much sense to me. You know, I got thinking who wouldn’t think that way, do you know what I mean? It’s like, how could someone not feel a part of this world it’s either the natural world or the human made world? Um, we’re all a part of it. And we are all interconnected, whether we like it or not,
Andrew Skotzko 00:11:42 What’s that Genesis of seeing the world that way. And do you think you had to go through a process to, to shift to the place you’re in now?
Matt Kressy 00:11:51 I think about that a lot. I don’t really know resulted in how I, you know, my reality. I don’t know how I got to my reality, but I think there, there are some factors in my childhood that, uh, I think were important again, I don’t know which ones were most important or the drivers, but I suspect the following were big drivers. One was that I was ostracized outcast and, and bullied. Uh, middle-school primarily, um, that included, obviously students bullying me or, or ostracizing me, but it also included my teachers. Wow. Yeah. So, and, you know, one of them ended up being fired for, uh, inappropriate behavior, um, shortly after I left. So that, that, uh, you know, as painful as that was, and it was painful. I mean, there is nothing worse and I was a sensitive person, you know, as a sensitive kid, I was not callous or, or, you know, full of abroad or anything like that.
Matt Kressy 00:12:53 So it really, really hurt me. But what is caused me to do was reflect and think and ask questions. Why, why is this? And also, is there something wrong with me? I mean, you know, the insult of choice was faggot. So I was, I was a fag and, you know, I was like, am I gay? You know? And I was like, no, I’m not gay, but you know, it made me think about it. And then I realized, you know, what, these guys, none of them are gay and they’re real assholes. And all of a sudden I was like, maybe gay people are really nice, you know? And, um, so it, it sort of started flipping things right. In my mind where it caused me to be open, you know, to question authority, to question peer pressure, to question group think. Right. And so I’ve always, from that point on been an incredibly independent thinker.
Matt Kressy 00:13:54 I don’t take anything for granted. If an expert tells me something, I go and talk to the people to find out if that’s true or not. Um, it makes so much sense to me. Yeah. And, and the other thing is that it gave me empathy for people who are labeled or ostracized. So I actually identify, you know, like I’m an angry white guy and I’m angry at white people, you know, that’s kind of a weird thing. Right. Um, and, uh, and I’m, I’m sure I’m not alone. Right. But I’m not an identify actually with, you know, minorities and, and, and people who are made fun of, you know, I’m like, I have so much empathy for those people from what I went through. And I’m very, very grateful for that. I mean, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that everybody is recovering from childhood, right?
Matt Kressy 00:14:41 Yeah. So now I have empathy for everybody. We’re all recovering from childhood. And now all those kids that were treating me like crap, they had terrible home life. I never knew that, you know, or my parents might have told me that I’m like, yeah, you don’t know what you’re talking about. They sure seem happy in school. And, um, now that I see how their lives turned out and I see how their parents kind of, you know, lived out their lives, it ain’t pretty, and it started making more sense. So that’s why now I’m really dedicated to the idea of breaking that cycle. I think if there’s one thing we can do in this world to improve our society, uh, it would be to improve our parenting, to break the cycle of bad parenting, you know? So, um, did you read the book a hillbilly Elegy?
Matt Kressy 00:15:31 No, I’ve not read this. Guy’s incredible. And, um, it really gives insight into kind of generations of poor parenting. You know, where someone has a kid at age 16. I mean, that’s a kid having a kid and guess what? That 16 year old’s mother is 32. Right? So now you’ve got three generations where everyone’s having kids it’s age 16. And in this particular book, what was amazing is that the, his grandmother lived long enough. Cause they’re all dying from drugs at early ages, but she lived long enough to kind of mature to a point I think, in her early forties to basically go to him and say, you can do better than this and that little planting, that seed of a higher expectation seemed to have made a huge difference. And anyway, that I think if we can, there were other elements, other brilliant things that happened, you know, like he went into the military and it, it taught him basic skills of, of, you know, hygiene and respect for himself and how to make a bed. And I was like, these are things that you and I take for granted and mainstream the people on the end, in our society, we take it for granted, but we will never be happy or safe. And we will never feel fulfilled. I think until everyone in our society has those same sort of basic kind of respect for themselves and in a healthy start to life. You know? So that’s something that, you know, that deals with the new school I’m working on.
Andrew Skotzko 00:17:02 Yeah. I wish I were definitely gonna talk about that. So I probably went
Matt Kressy 00:17:05 Way off track there, dude. I’m sorry, but
Andrew Skotzko 00:17:09 No, no, no, no, no, this is perfect. This is so interesting to me in our first conversation. One of the things I instantly resonated with about you and about your worldview, everything you just said was this idea that inside every single person, there is some unique contribution waiting to be made. Yeah. Right. There is something in there that every person has to offer and holy shit, what a loss, if society is not benefiting or even getting a shot at benefiting from the best in all of us. And so I think there’s something really not only profound, but beautiful about that idea of creating. I’m just gonna call them vehicles for giving life to that, that, you know, self expression in people. And so that’s, that’s really something I resonate with a lot in what you’re saying. Um, and I think that’s actually something very central to the show is every conversation in some ways exploring how do we help people be the best learners, creators leaders they can be because they have something to contribute. Um, and so I think it’s fascinating what you starting to explore, particularly with the, with the school, which I’d love you to talk about.
Matt Kressy 00:18:05 Yeah. So this is a new school it’s in Marlborough, Massachusetts called the New England innovation academy. Probably the most unique aspect of the school is that we’re actually making human centered design entrepreneurship, uh, and innovation, that sort of centerpiece of the curriculum and the, your traditional academic subjects like math and science, humanities are, you know, uh, they all will be taught, you know, the same content, same, you know, you’ll get the same sort of information the students will. Uh, but they’ll get it in a way that they apply it to making something in the afternoon. So in the morning, let’s say they’re all kind of, uh, in class and they’re learning formulas, or maybe they’re learning about, you know, geography or they’re learning about politics and, you know, 600 CE uh, England in the afternoon, they’ll take all of that stuff they learned in the morning and they’ll be making a catapult, you know, and they’ll be calculating trajectory and, you know, dealing with air density and they’ll be deep working with woods that are maybe from, you know, England from that time, you know, and they will maybe be doing, playing where they’re in teams and each team has maybe a different castle around England, you know, and they’re gonna use catapults to kind of establish superiority or whatever.
Matt Kressy 00:19:34 But, you know, I doubt after the idea being that if they do that kind of, you know, and this might be a week or two week or three week module, we’re still kind of designing the curriculum. But the idea though, is that after that kind of experiential making experience, I doubt very much they’ll, they’ll ever forget how to calculate a trajectory. They will forget, you know, what, um, you know, the king of England was, was thinking at that time period and that stuff I don’t even know,
Andrew Skotzko 00:20:05 But what’s more interesting is that it seems like you’re, you’re tapping into some really experiential ways of helping them actually learn how to learn. And the learning is so much more powerful and real when you’re doing something with it. Absolutely like building a catapult, which w you know what, 13 year old kid does not want to build a catapult, let’s be real. I want to build a category.
Matt Kressy 00:20:25 Okay. Um, yeah. So, so that, that’s the school. And now that there’s the human center design part of that curriculum is the part that, you know, teaches the students that independent thinking based on connecting with other people, you know, so human centered design is really this process of the four. You start creating a solution for people. You actually go and talk to them first and find out what they might while. Yeah.
Andrew Skotzko 00:20:56 Yeah.
Matt Kressy 00:20:58 But nobody does it, you know,
Andrew Skotzko 00:21:00 That’s the, that’s the real shocking part. Oh.
Matt Kressy 00:21:02 And worse. You’ve got people who claim to do it. And then they do it kind of, you know, without integrity, which is basically democracy, you know, democracy was this idea that we’d have people, these representatives who would understand what their constituents want, what the citizens want. And then they’d all get together. And they’d design things for us, like policy and experiences, right. And services, and what’s happened. They don’t do it for us. They’re doing it for themselves. You know? So that’s the integrity part. And so human centered design can, can kind of suffer from the same, same fate. But the big thing here is that we want our students to have this process that is automatic. If there’s a problem or something they don’t know or understand, they have this automatic reflex to go out, talk to people, understand their needs, understand their emotions, feel empathy for those people, and then form an opinion. And if that’s a habit, right. And let’s say every kid in our country had that as a habit, I think that would fundamentally change our, our society
Andrew Skotzko 00:22:10 Here. Yeah, totally. I think when we spoke last time, you were talking about this idea of wanting, you know, whether it’s with this school or with the work you’ve done at MIT with the IDM program, this idea of infusing all the citizens and future leaders of our country with this worldview, for lack of a better term. Yep. Exactly. What is it that changes when someone starts looking through this lens?
Matt Kressy 00:22:34 First of all, they, they start connecting with people. They have conversations. I mean, I think all the benefits I just mentioned happen, but some of the things I haven’t mentioned are that they start, I think if you’re practicing human centered design, you start to realize that going out and talking to the people and talking with people and connecting with them is, um, a very pleasurable thing to do. Oh, it’s so fun. Yeah. And you’re doing it with the idea that you are going to try to help them and helping people is a very, it feels really good, you know? Yeah. And by helping them, you’re going to make money. You’re going to profit because your product is going to be more desirable because it’s going to meet their needs better. Right. And you can sell it for either more money or you’ll sell more of them. So your volume and profit will increase and you’ll have a better business. So it’s a sort of me for you.
Andrew Skotzko 00:23:35 Yeah. For sure. I was out for a walk this morning and thinking about, what did I, where did I want to go in this conversation? One of the things that just popped into my head after our last conversation was this idea of, of putting your joy in service to others. And that if that’s like the ultimate win-win, as far as I can figure it out and that’s, that’s what I’m hearing and what you’re saying.
Matt Kressy 00:23:52 Yeah, absolutely. You know, some of the best products are designed by people who love the, you know, they love that product. They love that genre or that category, or they’re, they’re lead users of the very product themselves. Sure. And that’s also, you know, like something, I talk about a lot and I think my students really kind of think I’m a flake, but, uh, I’m tired. I, I will sometimes go into this one little talk really about how love creates great designers, crazy great product. Right. And I think
Andrew Skotzko 00:24:25 You call it the utility of love. Yeah.
Matt Kressy 00:24:28 And you know, so if you grab a doorknob and you twist that door knob and it just feels solid and makes a nice sound and the door closes nicely, you know, love and appreciation, right. You, you got to appreciate that, that that’s a really well done. Doorknob, you know, sounds mundane. Right. I mean, that’s why I picked Dorn up. Cause it’s, you know, it’s like, how can you be delighted with a doorknob? Well, guess what you can be. And they’re thrown onto the sock, by the way, you know, and they’re hard to use or they’re loose or, or, you know, you gotta pull on them, but the door needs to be pushed open or whatever, you know, so stupid things like this, you know, and I think great designers are always appreciating and loving things around them and they see things and then they, they build a library in their mind of beautiful things.
Matt Kressy 00:25:15 So it’s, uh, what’s great about it is that, you know, the, that process of building a library of beauty in your mind is very positive and very fulfilling. And then it ends up being really useful when you’re sketching something. And you’re pulling from all these different, beautiful experiences that you’ve chosen to remember and catalog, because I think a lot of people actually choose in life to catalog negativity and you see them, you can feel it from them when you’re near them. And it’s a shame, you know, but they’ve chosen to remember, and that’s a fear-based approach, right? And the opposite is a love based approach or an opportunity based approach to life. And it’s just so surprised, you know, love is, so it ends up, you know, that it’s, that fear is really at the heart of so many of our problems. Maybe all of them fear in its more extreme forms manifest as, as violence and hatred. Right. Hatred. Doesn’t just sort of, you’re not, you just don’t hate first
Andrew Skotzko 00:26:28 Fear, then you hate. Yes. Right. You’re taught to hate
Matt Kressy 00:26:32 To also look at fear. And that’s another reason. Love is such an important thing is that love is this beautiful thing that displaces fear, a fear is darkness love is light and it of comes in and it illuminates all these dark areas. Then all of a sudden that fear goes away. And then when the fear is gone, guess what you can do better. You can love. And now you’re in a positive reinforcing loop as opposed to a negative reinforcing loop, which is where the fear gets you. But anyway, that’s a little bit off phase from this idea of cataloging beauty, but, um, that’s something that I have always done and I’ve been appreciative of that. And that beauty comes not only in manmade items are, but also in nature. I mean, nature is a huge part of my life. And, but also in humans, when I see people doing beautiful things that will bring the tears and it could just be some kindness I see randomly, or it could be someone, um, you know, playing some music on a guitar that’s just incredibly pure and authentic, you know? So that’s, that’s what I live for, man. That it’s those things.
Andrew Skotzko 00:27:40 Well, one of the things that I really dig about, what you just said was this idea of cataloging beauty. And as someone who’s come to the visual arts side of life, the arts and creativity side of life, much later, it was not really a part of my world growing up. Um, don’t really, it just wasn’t there. Um, and, and not through anybody’s fault, it just was missing. And so that’s been a bit of a novel concept for me. And one of the things I’m curious about thinking about what you’re talking about with cataloging beauty, and one of the things I love about design is it’s much more a way of seeing than anything else. It’s a way of looking at the world and approaching the world and interacting with the world rather than any specific skillset like drawing or CAD design or something like that. I think a lot of people, particularly they have a background like me, where they were not very engaged with. Let’s just say the visual side of life and, and visual expression. How do you help them believe that? How do you help them believe that they’re actually a designer too, even if they’re like, but I can’t draw a map or I can’t,
Matt Kressy 00:28:40 You know, fill in the blank. This is actually something I grappled with myself. Um, you know, my father was extraordinary painter and I w I watched, I would watch his process. Um, his process consisted of just like you said, seeing things, you know, we would, uh, we had an old 53 Willys Jeep, didn’t go over 35 miles an hour. And we lived on a mountain in New Hampshire. So we drive, you know, it seemed like hours from town to home, home to town is only three miles. But, uh, you know, the, the point though is that we’d be driving and, and he we’d be driving along. And you think, look at the color, look at the color of that roof mat, look at that, you know, or look at the shadows on, or look at those leads, look at that and look at the negative space, you know, coming through.
Matt Kressy 00:29:29 And we every, and he’d say, you know, every day is different. I drive this twice a day and every day I see something different and beautiful. And that’s sort of, I think, where a lot of what you and I are talking about came from in me and he would practice painting, right? So let’s just think of an artist this way. I believe, uh, an artist, we are all artists. Okay. Uh, in, in this first foot phase of being an artist. And that first phase is to see and feel we all do that. And then what we do, uh, this is what really separates, I guess, real artists from us is that we practice something some medium, whether it’s painting sculpture, violin, oboe, tympani, drums, guitar, voice, right dance, we practice something some medium. So that the feelings that we have, the things that we see that are so profound and delicate, that we can actually share that with other people, because we can’t show them what we saw, or maybe what we saw as an amalgamation of all kinds of shit.
Matt Kressy 00:30:47 Right. But how can we get that same sort of cathartic feeling or whatever to, well, I’m going to play guitar for you, or I’m going to make a film, or I’m going to do a painting. And so that part, so there’s the input, the feeling, and then there’s the output, the expression. And the expression part is where we associate the, the talent of artists. And to me, it’s the first part. Can you feel, do you have the courage to feel deeply? Do you have the courage to love deeply to be hurt deeply, to feel things, to feel joy completely. If you can do that, and it has meaning to you, and you want to share that with others, you will fucking figure out how to express it. You will spend hours and hours and hours for that guitar hours and hours, you will write, you will paint. You will do whatever it takes. You will do it until you can get it out. And that’s what makes the artist. But that expression part is a skill. It’s a craft. The passion part is the input. That’s how I see it. I just made that all up now, so I could be wrong.
Andrew Skotzko 00:32:10 Fucking amazing. I’m moved by what you just said. I wish I had an extra mic that I could drop for you right now. It’s like, I mean, I’m so glad this is being recorded. Holy shit. That as you were saying that literally one of the things that went through my mind was, Hey, he’s completely right. But B, that actually is when I think about it, that way, like that there’s this two-part process. Right. And, and it we’re all artists and we just, some of us just choose different or resonate with different mediums that we may not necessarily societaly may not be considered quote, unquote, art or creative, for example. But like, when I heard you talking about this, I was like, oh, well, that’s, that’s certainly how I feel about dance. I love dance. So I feel about writing. I love writing, uh, to you about music, but then what I also felt was like, oh, that’s also actually how I feel about personally. That’s how I feel about building organizations and companies. That’s like, that’s my inspiration for building a company is what you just described. I’m like,
Matt Kressy 00:33:09 Oh shit, that’s awesome. Like, that’s so
Andrew Skotzko 00:33:11 Cool because I’ve had that moment of like, I see something and I want to give that to you. And the craft I’m practicing is how do you build a new face in the world? Right.
Matt Kressy 00:33:20 And in a sense, we’re all frustrated artists. You know, I think everyone has feelings and ideas and none of us, no one, no one, not even the great, you know, are able to express completely. What’s what they have in their mind. Um, but some do it much better than others, you know, or,
Andrew Skotzko 00:33:43 You know, there’s a, there’s a bit of language that I got from an earlier guest on this show. Uh, Derek mills and Wilmington is so willing to all this stuff in the show notes for the listener, but he, uh, he runs this company called glow that I really, really respect. And they are yoga and meditation app. They’re one of them. They’re actually my favorite one, by the way, if you’re looking for like, I want to do great yoga from home, check them out, glo.com. I’m not getting paid for this. I just love him. I so respect the way they’ve built the company and transformed the company. And there’s a bit of language he gave me that helped resolve, um, tension in my mind. And I think is behind the scenes for a lot of people, which is, if you’re somebody who’s interested in the conversation we’re having, I assert that a big part of what moves you is the possibility, the potentiality of things. One of the downsides of that or things that can be a downside is that by definition, you cannot reach your potential because the moment you think you did, there’s more. And that on some level that’s deeply frustrating.
Andrew Skotzko 00:34:38 And that really used to piss me off. I was like, fuck, how am I? Shit. I’m just like, I love this game. But at the same time, I can talk about spiritual frustration. But the language he gave me that helped was this idea that, yeah, you’ll never reach it, but you can always live into it more fully. You can always like take new ground and take new ground in embodying and expressing it. And it’s, for some reason that seemed to like bridge the gap there. So I just wanted to offer that
Matt Kressy 00:35:01 Up. I love that. So true, good stuff. One
Andrew Skotzko 00:35:04 Of the things that occurs to me is that this way of, I’m just gonna say this way of being is widely applicable. Right? You can apply this to anything. And I guess my question is if we, if I’m gonna use design as, as the shorthand label for that way of being in thinking and showing up, I imagine that you have had a conversation many, many times where you’re sitting with somebody and they don’t know where to, where to apply that skill set or, or in which ways to apply that skillset. It’s how do you guide people to discover where to apply that skillset, you know, choosing what to work on, choosing which ideas to pursue, and where do you find those vehicles for the expression? I’m curious, how do you, how do you guide people there
Matt Kressy 00:35:41 With integrated design and management at MIT? It’s not, um, you know, we are not we’re, the, their expression will be business or, you know, starting a company, creating an organization, creating a product, you know, something like that. So, or what we like to say is we’re teaching them to be combos, composer, conductors. What’s that mean? Well, most of us are brought up thinking that we’re going to be virtuoso, you know, soloists. Right.
Andrew Skotzko 00:36:17 Okay. I’m going to be the best painter ever, or the best programmer or whatever, the best programmer.
Matt Kressy 00:36:23 And you focus on that. Are you going to be the best mechanical engineer, right? Or you’re going to w whatever it may be, that’s biologist and that’s wonderful. And that’s great. And that, that can be incredibly gratifying. The people in IDM really come to learn how to put together an orchestra of people like that, and to give them a melody to play together and to kind of manage and curate that melody as they are working together to, to, to know when the violin should be louder. And the tip is to be quieter, to know when the, you know, the it’s a piano concerto and the piano is gonna, you know, kind of steal the show for a couple of minutes, you know, they’ll, they’ll know in a business, that’s all happening. You’ve got all these different soloists that are playing together, right. And they’re reading off each other too.
Matt Kressy 00:37:20 And that’s another thing that, you know, when I’m designing or developing products, I am working with a team of people and they’re the, you know, the seasoned ones we know kind of automatically, it’s like a jazz band, you know, you’re riffing off of each other. You’re sensing things. All of a sudden someone makes a mistake and you’re like, damn, that sounds good. And now you weave that into your thing. And their mistake becomes, you know, a feature right. Of the piece. And so product and businesses and anything that we’re working on are all like that. You know? And so we’re trying to create people who know how to orchestrate or manage those types of, of ensembles, so to speak. Now that said, we get lots of people that come to, I get lots of students that come to me and say, you know, Matt, I don’t know what w you know, what focus on here or this or that.
Matt Kressy 00:38:15 And so, um, I usually start with a simple question, you know, which is where do you see yourself in 20 years? And it’s surprising how few people can answer that question. And it’s also surprising how many people find that an uncomfortable question. Well, I don’t know, you know, I’ll, I’ll, uh, you know, I’ll be, they’ll give me some really vague kind of vision for themselves. And for me, I’ve always been the opposite. I’ve always had a very specific vision. The vision would change and evolve, but I always had a specific vision, you know? So, so, but by getting sort of 10,000 feet up and looking down, let’s look at your life from 10,000 feet, what will fulfill you? And then let’s reverse engineer out of that 20 years out. Let’s, let’s just back out of that, all the things that will have to happen between now and then, or the things that can happen. I mean, two can predict what has to happen, but, you know, at least let’s map out something. And usually that will kind of either aluminate them that, you know, they’re completely off track at the moment or that a lot of the stuff they’re doing is great. They didn’t realize it. And that’s usually the case. The
Andrew Skotzko 00:39:30 Idea of fulfillment is one of the most powerful ideas that I know. And it’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about when you think, when you use that word, or let me ask you this a different way. Let’s say you’re sitting with one of these, these folks, right. And they say, and you ask them, you know, what’s your life? What do you want your life to look like in 20 years? And not just your job, not just your work, but like your life. What is it you think people get fulfilled by, or where do you think people find fulfillment? Are there patterns?
Matt Kressy 00:39:56 That’s a really hard question to answer. I don’t think, I, I don’t think I can answer it, Andrew, because, you know, I would have, I would have to have where the amount of students that I work with, I would need to go forward 20 years with all of them and then have an intimate glimpse into their life to see if they’re fulfilled. And if they’re not, what, how that relates to other lives that were, that people had designed for themselves. I can tell you that from my kind of, um, from an anecdotal perspective, from the observations of my life, um, from the experiences that I personally have had a fulfillment really comes from the things we’ve talked about, uh, loving other people, uh, loving the earth, um, uh, helping other people, uh, but a huge part of it is balance. And that’s a balance between sort of all the dimensions that we exist in.
Matt Kressy 00:41:01 And so for me, and, you know, I’m, I’m, you know, I think I’m more practical than most. So the answer, you know, what I’m about to describe, you’re going to be like, eh, it’s kinda, you know, it’s not very, um, I don’t know cosmic, but you know, we’re obviously physical things. We’re physical creatures. We have these bodies, right. There are these amazing mechanisms. All those things need to be taken care of and taking care of them being fit, uh, and taking care of our bodies and the time that it takes to do that, that’s one part, the balance. Another is our, our kind of mental state are, and, and intellect, and that needs to be practiced in an exercise as well. And then there’s the spiritual side, you know, which, uh, for me is actually just connecting with nature and the universe, you know, in the, and what’s interesting is all of these things kind of feed each other.
Matt Kressy 00:41:57 So if I’m on my bike exercising, uh, that’s good for my body, but it’s also allowing me to sort of move through time and space, you know, and feel, and smell and sense and hear. And, um, you know, like that trip with my dad in the truck, up the, up the mountain, every bike ride is like that, you know? And so I’m, I’m working on my spirit and I’m working, and then I’m thinking about things so intellectually, but, you know, my intellect is not, it’s 10% now when I go to work at MIT or, you know, working at Nia, uh, then my brain is 110%. And, um, my body is, you know, festering and, uh, and, and my spirit is getting a little depressed because it’s mired down in all this minutia, right. And so then, you know, I need time for my spirit. And what I do for that is I play guitar, which is off to my left, or I play piano. And, uh, you know, it’s for my own personal consumption, it’s, it’s not about the result. It’s about the experience. And that allows me to kind of, it’s like a sort of assisted meditation, you know, and, but all of these things feed each other. And I think you can do more of them at a higher level if you are imbalanced. And if you’re not imbalanced, you can only get to a certain height with any of them. In my opinion,
Andrew Skotzko 00:43:21 You’re really onto something there. One of the insights I had a few months ago, I was going through a really hard time at, at the time. And I had this realization that I had a, or have long hat. I think I’m over it now, but I definitely growing up had this conditioning, a toxic relationship with my work. And what I mean by that is I, and I was conditioned in such a way similar to you where I often struggled with a sense of inadequacy or feeling unimportant or not belonging and not knowing my place in the world, all those, all of those difficult emotions. And I had been conditioned to look to my work, to fill all those needs, right. It’s almost like I was, I was trained by my life growing up that your work was the one sort of the one source to rule them all to, to fill that bucket so to speak.
Andrew Skotzko 00:44:14 And what I realized in this flash of insight was like, oh wow, I’ve asked for it to do so much more than a camp. And ironically, like when I would feel those things and I’m reflecting on basically my entire twenties, I would go harder. I’d go harder at the work, expecting it to, to, you know, oh, I just got to go harder. I’ll break through, I’ll find the next thing, whatever. And it never really worked. Or it only worked for a very, very short period of time. And what I realized was that by going harder on it and asking it, it actually makes the problem worse because the solution is not found there. The solution is in, in what you’re pointing out is balanced. It’s like, oh wow. A internal sense of lack is not going to be addressed sufficiently by anything external. And so I just, I don’t know. I just wanted to share that I don’t actually know where I’m going with this, but it just seems kind of, that’s what I, that’s what came up for me as I was listening to you.
Matt Kressy 00:45:00 Well, I love what you said. And, you know, I think it made me think of it or frame it this way. If you’re balanced, you’re inspired. And when you’re inspired, you can do really good work, right. When you’re out of balance, or if you’re doing work in a state of stress, you’re, it’s hard to be inspired. It’s hard to, to think about how cool this will be. You’re not thinking about that instead of thinking about how cool this is going to be when we’re done. And that’s, that’s how, when you’re, when you’re creating great shit, that’s what you’re thinking. That’d be so cool. Right? There’s all kinds of energy and solutions you never would have had without that, you know, and the opposite and the other opposite end of the spectrum is, oh my God, if I don’t get this right, we’re going to fail. Oh my God, we are, oh, you know, let’s, how are we going to make this work? You know, nothing good comes from that. Well, you know, you might survive, but you know, nothing, nothing that,
Andrew Skotzko 00:46:05 Yeah. That is not the place of highest inspiration. Yeah,
Matt Kressy 00:46:08 No, no, no. So, you know, you got to stay away from that balance. Is it for me, you know, it’s, it’s taken a lot of discipline. I mean, I, you know, I, I’ve always been a terrible student and it, um, you know, I’ve been very passionate about this balance my whole life. And that’s why, you know, a certain point, I’m like, Nope, I’m done studying, this is just not going to work for me. I need to go outside and climb a tree. And, uh, and so I would, and my mom would be like, you know, you’re going to have fail and yes, I would fail. Um, but, uh, I learned a lot in that tree and I think we all learn a lot in trees, you know, and sometimes I have students, they’re just like, you know, uh, one student recounted the other day, uh, in front of me, he was reflecting on his time at, at IDM with me.
Matt Kressy 00:46:55 And he said, do you remember that time? I came to you and I had no internship or job for the summer. And, uh, and I was really kind of down about it. And I was thinking that maybe I should just sort of take time to reflect. And do you remember what you said? And I was like, no. And he’s like, you told me that’s a great idea, but to do it completely like go lay in the grass face down and look at every blade of grass, you know, and smell it. And I was like, Hmm, that’s, that’s probably pretty good advice.
Andrew Skotzko 00:47:28 I given that, you know, and I
Matt Kressy 00:47:31 Do that now. And then, you know, um,
Andrew Skotzko 00:47:34 I’m thinking of right now, is this something you said a few minutes ago? I think it sort of got it almost like got overlooked in, in the, in the amazing thing. You just amazing download. You just dropped on me about like the, you know, what it is to be an artist. Right. And we talked about the input of the passion and the feeling, and then the output of the expression through some medium, but there’s something you said in there that I think actually might be a bigger deal for a lot of people then at least I’ve appreciated, which is the feeling. I think a lot of people have shut down the feeling. They have shut down emotion, they have shut off emotion. And there’s probably a lot of reasons for that. And from all sorts of different things, whether it’s their, their own past pain, they’ve experienced, whatever. And I’m curious why you think that might be, or what if you’ve seen people having to learn to turn that back on how they’ve gone about it. And for some reason, this is really reminding me of the distinction that I’ve heard. I think we’ve talked about before about empathy and compassion. And I’m curious, what, how does this all bubble around
Matt Kressy 00:48:36 For you? Well, I, so I, you know, I have a lot of students that are just very sensitive. Um, they come in and they’re, they feel they get hurt very easily. Um, and what I tell those students is that, you know, look what you’re feeling is the result of basically a little superpower that you have, you know, you have a little, a little like a, you know, a spidey sense, right? And you are seeing, feeling perceiving things that the other person doesn’t intend for you to feel or know in a way you’re kind of reading into their mind and you’re violating their privacy. And that in a way is a great skill or, or, or super power to have, but it’s a double-edged sword. You have to be careful with it. You have to be responsible and you have to understand that some of the things you’re feeling don’t have anything to do with you, you know, so, but that sensitivity, uh, I do want, I like framing that as a superpower.
Matt Kressy 00:49:50 Number one, because it is super important, but the, the other burden is that you get hurt. You get hurt from that. Um, and, uh, people who have that are super sensitive and continue to be sensitive, they deserve a lot of, they need to be recognized as people who are courageous. And, um, because you know, I have lived my whole life that way. I’ve chosen not to turn that off. And as I’ve gotten older, I will say that I have become a battle, Warren. I am not like I was when I was 13 or 14, super sensitive. And not that a learn right back then it was incredibly painful. Now it’s less painful, but now I feel like I’m not sensing enough or I’m not feeling enough. So I have a different worry now. And so I’m trying to sensitize myself, uh, get back to that.
Matt Kressy 00:50:52 Um, but yeah, you know, and then I think all of this, so this, this is also can be dangerous because if you are very, very sensitive and you feel these emotions and you don’t know how to process them or acknowledge that this has nothing to do with me, you can start feeling fear or animosity towards other people, which can now set you up for a lot of negative negative interactions. And you become basically an over-sensitive kind of, um, you know, aggravating person to be around, you know? And, and so that’s the other thing you gotta be very careful, you know, basically if you can’t recover from the trauma of what you sense, you better stop sensing so much, you know, or reducing the amount of people you expose yourself to. So, you know, I’m, I have to do that. I have to consciously limit the amount of people that I, uh, spend time with because it’s, it can be too much of a burden for me, but I’m exposed to a ton of people in my role at MIT.
Matt Kressy 00:51:59 Right. So it brings me to the topic, you know, as I mentioned earlier, I’m stepping down from my, from my role as director of IDM. And, uh, this is one of the reasons the energy drain, the energy drain, the amount of people that I love that I watch and cannot, I can’t give as much as I want to so many people. Sure. Uh, so there’s this quality issue that I can’t really, I can’t really do. The other thing is that it’s now turned into, you know, in the first three years, it was this euphoric experience of, of creating this like really different, you know, graduate program at MIT of all places, you know? And, and then it started to become more operational. And I learned something important about myself that, you know, managing and, and dealing with all kinds of minutia and little problems day in and day out. And, uh, that’s just not my, my cup of tea. It’s not what interests me. It’s not what causes my energy to go up. It actually causes my energy to go down. And, uh, and then Nia kind of hit the scene, New England innovation academy. And that was like, my God, here’s my next creation. And I need to spend time with that. So the time was right. I love it. I
Andrew Skotzko 00:53:21 Love it. You got, when you feel it, you gotta, you gotta ride that wave. Yeah.
Matt Kressy 00:53:24 And, but most don’t, I, you know, I think it’s important to note that some people will stick with the, you know, safe, the safe job, the safe job for me would be with MIT, but that’s not for me. I, I have the, I know that that’s not, I have the discipline to take action on what my kind of heart is telling me.
Andrew Skotzko 00:53:46 I really, I really, really resonate with what you’re saying. Um, it’s in it with everything you just said, because I think I, I almost went the opposite way where I think I was much more shut down and like sensitivity wise and have been learning to open up, back up all the time. Cause I, I think it was actually a very sensitive kid who learned to shut it down and then have had to undo that as an adult. And it’s been difficult in a different way. But the thing that really resonated with me, or one of the things you were really saying, there was like, I remember a very difficult period last year where I was just like, wow, I feel like I’m being sucked into a black hole by people because I, I would feel, I would feel so much, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t mine. It was like, what I was feeling was it was not mine. I was just picking up on their state, even when they weren’t saying things, I could just tell and starting to learn. Like I didn’t, I don’t think I had good boundaries. Didn’t know what good boundaries were. Certainly didn’t know what, like an energetic boundary was. And it had to learn to be like, oh, wow, there’s okay. How to modulate. That is a, it’s a whole thing. I love that you were aware of that. And it took action to, to, to go with it.
Matt Kressy 00:54:47 Jen earlier, Andrew, something that I think is really important. And that is the idea of external validation. Yeah. That’s something that I’ve always struggled with as well. Uh, the need for that. And I think that comes from being bullied, you know, where it’s like, oh my God, does anyone like me? Right. And, um, and so, you know letting go of the need for external validation, I think is really important. But you know, this whole idea of human centered design thing now is sort of in contrast to that because, you know, if you’re relating to me or you’re in my life, I want to make sure you’re happy. So maybe I should understand your needs. And also, is there anything I can do better? You can drive yourself crazy with that stuff. You know what I mean? So you gotta be really careful about all of this.
Andrew Skotzko 00:55:28 Uh, there’s a fine line between being generous and being codependent. Yeah. Right. That’s what I’ve learned in my own life. I’ve learned this the hard way. So, uh, anyone who resonates with that, I invite you to go look that up. Um, there’s this pressure, at least that I feel at the front of things to see how it’s all gonna work out. Right. Like before you even start to see like, okay, how does this piece connect to that piece? And how does this all roll up to some like, oh, really big, cool, important thing. That’s like significant and meaningful, whatever. And to see all that before you even do it, which does that start how it works, right? Like you can’t, and, and I I’m noticing this pattern in myself and it actually with a few other people that I’m close with and I’m like, okay, I know this doesn’t work, but what do we do about this? Because I see it all, all over the place. I’m curious, what are we doing?
Matt Kressy 00:56:17 Yeah. You relax. All right. Good. And it’s hard to do. Um, so, you know, I backed MIT. It’s a whole place full of people that want that sheet music all written out every rest, every, all the phrasing, every note, right. They want that plan. You know, the irony is that they will, they will write that sheet music. Right. It’ll take them months. They’ll have that whole thing planned out and then, okay, let’s start. And everybody starts playing the music and about three bars into it. Everyone’s improvising because nothing is how they predicted it to be. Right. So I think one way to think about that is that when your predictive ability is a hundred percent, correct, a hundred percent of the time, okay. Then make those plans. But until then you should practice improvising. That should be what you think about is more about, okay, what do I need to improvise?
Matt Kressy 00:57:25 What are all the factors? What are the ingredients I’m going to have around me? You know, for this thing I’m doing, and can I pull and push and, you know, include or whatever, stop, you know, all these things at any given moment. So really flexibility strategy should really be about building in lots and lots of flexibility. Uh, so that all the good stuff can unfold without being truncated because of some rigid plan. I don’t know if that makes sense, but you know, like a lot of the plans that people make, uh, they make them without fully understanding all the opportunity. That’s going to come to them through the process. And as a result, when they’re so focused on the plan, they have the opportunity. Can’t be seen it’s outside of their field of vision. But those that can improvise when they see an opportunity. They’re like, what was that? Oh, wow, okay. That’s an opportunity. Let’s change our planning and fold that into what we’re doing right now. There’s a balance here as usual, right? So I like strategies with a structure, like think of it as a chord progression, going back to music, you got a chord progression. You’ve got to build off of that. Right. But you don’t have to write every single note out.
Andrew Skotzko 00:58:43 It sounds like, do you need sort of some directionality and some basic flexible structure, like a foundation you can improvise from like, let yourself go and explore. But in some broad direction you find interesting and meaningful. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense to me, you know, generally relaxed.
Matt Kressy 00:59:00 Yeah. Go with the flow. You can’t go wrong unless you’re, unless you’re blinded by negativity. If you are just, if you just jump in to the flow of whatever you want to do, and you just pull from your library of beauty, I guarantee you, at the end of that flow, you will have something that was more beautiful than what you started with.
Andrew Skotzko 00:59:22 Yeah. To the bike race, and right. Being in it, like for the joy of the ride. Yeah. It’s like, cool. Find, find a ride you’d like, and then pointed in a direction you like, and enjoy the damn right. Exactly. Right. What just popped in my head though as well. It’s like, okay, well, what’s, you know, emotions drive everything we do on some level. And I was like, well, what’s in the background of this question. I’m asking, it’s like, it’s really a tension between, you could say love and fear, but it’s really about like, okay, that training, that predictive ability you’re pointing at, it’s really a desire for control. That’s right. And it’s like, okay, well what’s, what’s, what’s what’s going on there. And can I move through whatever is with that to a place of trusting. I think that’s kind of what I’m seeing is this dichotomy between trust and control and trying to shift the balance a little bit. Yeah. Um, you know,
Matt Kressy 01:00:06 Trusting that improvising will yield a beautiful result. That’s the trust part? Another way to think about it is, uh, you know, we love certainty, right. Uh, but we are fearful of uncertainty. And if we can learn to become comfortable with uncertainty, you are happier and you actually produce more beautiful things. And that’s what I think artists and designers do very well, uh, is that they’re comfortable with that process of, you know, uncertainty that comes with trying to figure out a way to express complex emotions or ideas that are in you. Right. How do you do that? Well, it’s trial and error, right? It’s iterative. Um, it’s all these things that, you know, every, all the, the business world is now recognizing as fabulous processes for, uh, making complicated business decisions, right. Businesses uncertain. So, you know, these intuitive methods of creating really lend themselves to any complex murky problem. But the key to it is to go with the flow. It’s just to relax, you know,
Andrew Skotzko 01:01:24 Love it, the pivot now. And we’ll start to close out the conversation with a couple of rapid fire questions. They’re short questions, but your answers could be as long as are, as you feel interesting and
Matt Kressy 01:01:33 Enjoy, uh, yes.
Andrew Skotzko 01:01:35 The enjoyment of the ride. Okay. So the first one is I know that, um, you know, the idea of paying it forward is important. And I’m curious, who is a mentor or somebody who really made a difference for you, but just curious, like who is that person? And what, what did you think, what did they teach you?
Matt Kressy 01:01:56 Tons, tons of people. Yeah. You know, like when you, so remember I catalog beauty, everybody’s my mentor. You know, I had lunch in a diner yesterday and the owner of the diner was there that I got a little mentoring from him, you know, I, uh, I mean, they come from every everywhere. There have been a few pivotal mentors. That’s probably what you’re getting at. Right. Obviously my dad was a huge mentor. My mom, huge mentor, you know, entrepreneurial, super creative right. Just super inspired. Um, I, I really, uh, model a lot of my life after her. And so my dad was in, you know, an introvert and reflective and philosophical. That’s me. My mom is an extrovert, you know, super entrepreneurial and a pistol. Right. Right. And then, you know, when I got out of college, I got this job, um, uh, in a furniture store.
Matt Kressy 01:02:55 I was, I couldn’t get a job as a designer cause, uh, I don’t know why I just didn’t have a great portfolio. I don’t think my teachers liked me very much. Uh, so I didn’t get any good recommendations, but I, so I was, I was, this is a great story. Um, I hope it’s not too long, but I’m living with my, my girlfriend and her mom just outside Boston. And I was like, I got to get out of this house. We, Karen, I got to get out of this house. We cannot live with her mother any, any much longer. So I was like, I’ll do anything. So I went and I applied for a truck driving job at a art supply company. I figured I’d get a discount on art supplies. So that would be cool. I go up there with my portfolio, the guy sits me down and you know, I’m in this like cubicle farm. And he’s like, all right, do you have any felonies? And I’m like, no. And he’s like, how about, uh, moving violations or, you know, outstanding warrants for your arrest? I’m like, what? No, no, no. And he’s like, all right, well, I think you got the job.
Andrew Skotzko 01:03:50 I’m like, thank God. And he’s like,
Matt Kressy 01:03:53 What’s that? You got there. And I said, oh, this is my portfolio. He’s like, what’s a portfolio. So I start showing them all these products. And I had gotten a patent by then and stuff. And he’s like, all right, you’re not, you’re not getting this job. I was like, what are you? You’re killing me. I got to get out of the house,
Andrew Skotzko 01:04:09 You know, and he’s a freak right here. And so
Matt Kressy 01:04:12 He left and he, he came back with the VP of marketing, um, and, uh, Neely and AUSkey and Neil, uh, basically whisked me off to his office, hired me as a furniture salesperson. I made peanuts, but Neil was an HBS grad. He taught at Radcliffe and he agreed to teach me business, uh, after work now in that. And, and he did any taught me, you know, cashflow projections and you know, how to manage inventory and, you know, just all kinds of stuff. And so he would, and he was, uh, also just full of energy and had a beautiful way of, of, um, of explaining things that was entertaining and inspiring. Right. So that was, he was a really big mentor.
Andrew Skotzko 01:04:59 Um, I’m gonna ask you one more question and then we’ll close out. Okay. Last one is just, what is a quote or a saying that’s important to you and what about it speaks to you?
Matt Kressy Well, boy, let the, I have a few here that I love and, um, you know, Ralph Waldo Emerson, uh, seems to hit a lot of things on the nose for me. And so these come from him. Um, so I think all of these Andrew relate directly to our conversation today. So I’ll just read you, I’m going to read you like four or five. Every man has his own courage and is betrayed because he seeks in himself, the courage of other persons. And that’s what you and I are talking about, where we need external validation. Well, Ralph was also sensitive to that, which is very interesting, right.
Matt Kressy 01:05:58 Um, here’s another one, nothing great was ever achieved without him. And that to me is, you know, about appreciation and love, right? Appreciating and loving things is what causes us to be enthusiastic. And that’s what makes us create great things. Um, here’s another great one from him. You cannot do a kindness too soon for, you never know how soon it will be. And, uh, you know, I love that. Um, you know, I think, you know, to me, that’s basically like, wow, you know, why am I not being kind right. Well, you know, I could get hurt, but you know, what hurts more to have and kind to regret having not been kind when you could have been, you know, so for me, that’s a really important thing is to live your life completely, to live it fully, to be tired and beat up at the end of it, to look back and have to get Greg, I fear the most is to not have lived my life, uh, to its fullest, you know, and every day, yeah, right there.
Matt Kressy 01:07:11 Yep. I hear that. The one that relates to improvisation versus planning, don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions all life. Is it experiment? Right. So jump in there, relax. And then this is probably my favorite. Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. So that’s yeah, I think because I have that on a painting across the room right now I have a painting. Someone sent me, um, done by human cloud. Uh, it goes by gaping void. That is exactly that. Uh, and I will send you a photo of that after this and we’ll put it into a show note. So I think that’s, it’s such a beautiful, a beautiful one. Yeah. That’s awesome. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. So we’re not alone that guy wasn’t, you know, it, wasn’t an idiot, so now.
Andrew Skotzko 01:08:06 Awesome. Well, Matt, thank you so much for spending the time with me today. What, uh, what, uh, I don’t even know the right word, but it seems to me what a privilege, what a pleasure of conversation has been. We’ve explored so much territory. So just thank you for having this exploration with me. I really, really appreciate it. Um, and I guess just in closing out, what would you, what would you like to leave the listener with?
Matt Kressy Well, I guess it would be, you know, to do your best, to love yourself and love others. And of course, loving yourself allows you to love others more fully and to not be scared of the potential hurt that can come with that. It’s better, you know, I guess another quote better to love and lost than to never have loved at all. And I think that, you know, that’s true on more of a high quantity kind of, uh, basis.
Matt Kressy 01:08:59 So I guess that’s the thing I, I would, uh, and to love in many different ways to love all things and to find beauty and appreciate that in your life. Um, I think that’s how we really can live a joyful life. So I leave it at that. And well, Andrew, I also want to just express my appreciation for the conversation with you. It was an absolute pleasure and a privilege. So thank you.
Andrew Skotzko Absolutely, absolutely. And if people want to reach out, follow your work, where would you have them go?
Matt Kressy Well, they can go to, um, I guess the best place would be, uh, New England innovation academy website. And that is N E I academy.org. Uh, and, uh, you can see all the great stuff we’re doing there. Um, you can also visit MIT IDM website.
Andrew Skotzko Well, thanks so much again and have a great rest of the day. And I look forward to seeing how this all evolves.
Matt Kressy Thanks so much, Andrew, have a good one.