Be yourself, first and foremost. -John T. O'Callaghan

The things that made you weird as a kid make you unique today.
— James Victore

I’ve always had this weird high functioning ADHD type of disorder. I don’t know if it was ever a disorder or not but at a young age I was able to harness it and use it to my advantage. I am scatterbrained almost 90% of the time and I do have way too many different hobbies, but they often each feed off of each other. Whether I’m in my shop making a knife, sitting down to design a board with Haze, or shooting photography in the water, being in a constant creative headspace is so beneficial and so rewarding. Here are a few invaluable lessons I’ve learned to help keep me there.

Continually refine and develop your trade. The longer you do something the more chances you have for being noticed. With diligence and focus, your skills will develop and your presence in that field/industry will grow. Practicing patience and persistence allows things to run their course, and when the great opportunity shows up, your honed and constantly developing set of skills will allow you to take on any challenge with full conviction. I realized this important lesson only recently. With a new sense of wonder and an open mind, I’m having more fun as I continuously learn the skills and secrets of the trade that I have not yet figured out.

Don’t be afraid of judgement from haters. As an artist, I’ve always had this weird sense that people will judge my work. I’ve been scared of it basically my whole life and it was the major obstacle for me finding my voice and my own style. This fear of judgement acted as a semi-regular voice in my head that would nag and temper my projects towards the conservative. My thesis project in college was actually a case study based on my fear of judgment. For me, this was the most pivotal point to me finding my voice. What I learned was that my whole style comes from knowing that I have this constant fear of judgement and my strength comes from developing methods for moving past that.

Once you get to the point where you can just say fuck it, I’m going to “do me”, that is the most freeing moment that you’ll ever have in your creative mindset. As designer James Victore says, “The things that made you weird as a kid make you unique today.” Whether it was my surfing, artwork, photography, knife construction, or anything really, I always felt like I had to fit in a certain mold. This is especially true today when you have the availability to see anything in the world from a square box in your pocket. It’s really hard not to be influenced by everything you see going on around you and begin to think that you have to fit in a mold that everyone else has created and is living in (perceivably so, at least). A lot of times you just have to turn that outside noise off and help yourself find yourself. Outside influences and style, yeah that all helps and I hope to set goals to strive for, but if the goal that you’re driving for is to copy someone else’s style, then what’s the point in doing it for yourself to begin with?

Be yourself. I’m very much a chameleon, I adapt to the surrounding around me. This has a huge influence on what I’m doing at work and what I’m creating. It’s really, really important to notice this to identify and work around it, and as hard as it is, it’s for my own good. In my opinion, the coolest you can be is when you’re fully being yourself.

All in all, constantly refine and share your work.  Don’t be scared. The more exposure you have to others the better, and the more chances you’ll have to learn those people’s tricks for overcoming their internal struggles. Develop and/or grow thick skin. The more haters you get the better you’re doing.I struggled for years to show my work because of the fear of judgement, and the second I had that “fuck it, I’m going to do me” moment and I started showing the world what I was too frightened to in the past, everything began to click. 

-John T. O'Callaghan


About John:
John does many things. He is a Creative Director at a design studio and media marketing firm in San Diego, CA. where he conceptualizes, designs, and executes a number of complex media campaigns with a team of artists and designers. He creates a line of custom knives at OC Blades, where he sources unique materials to develop one-of-a-kind knives for the kitchen, camper-van, back-country terrain, or for your cheese platter. John is also a magician behind the lens – He is skilled in multiple camera set-ups and never ceases to find new angles and perspectives to the subject matter.

Find John on Instagram (@JohnTOcallaghan & @OCBlades) or at his website (www.JohnTOcallaghan.com).