For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to create stuff and be around other creatives.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be Batman, a policeman, a social worker, stuntman, youth pastor and a DJ.
Ah, a DJ.
When I was little I was fascinated with the radio. I really thought bands went to the radio station and played their music live as you were listening. Then my mom shattered my world by explaining what an album was. Stunned but still in love.
I would spend hours in my room with my little portable turntable-in-a-box, spinning my 45s (google it) and talking into my homemade microphone. I’m pretty sure I probably did news and traffic reports too.
Flash-forward to college.
There I am rocking a really nice mullet, thinking of anything but school when a friend tells me a local radio station is hiring! I applied and to my surprise they hired me!
The radio station was a small, day-timer, all gospel radio station managed by an older guy who lived at home with his parents and his pet pig. True story.
Imagine how my world went boom when I finally got the chance to be on the radio! Yeah, spin records, play tapes, talk into a real mic and get paid for it. Okay, the pay sucked but I was working in radio.
Then a few years later, TV came knocking in the form of a brand new start-up station that would eventually become part of the first group of FOX affiliates.
I applied and despite a rough interview and no TV experience, the hired me as their Promotion Manager. Counting the Graphic Artist, we were a team of two. I made $14,000 a year, before taxes, and was having an absolute blast!
This is when I completely fell in love with the creative process. Writing, shooting, editing, being on-camera and behind-the-camera. I LOVED all things about TV especially the creative side of it.
My daily task: create something from nothing.
I. WAS. HOOKED!
At first I wasn’t very good but I still loved every minute of it. In no time at all, I knew that this was what I should be doing. Creating content using the magic of video and audio.
Over the years, I would work for other TV stations affiliated with FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC and The CW in Nashville (my hometown), Charlotte and Raleigh, NC. I went from being a promotion producer to senior producer to On-Air Promotion Manager and eventually Creative Director at FOX 50 which became one of the most respected and forward-promotion-thinking FOX affiliates in the country.
I lead and mentored an amazing team of creative producers, artists and others. We played. We created. We took chances. We won awards. We made lots of money for the station. We had fun!
Then, the TV business changed.
Downsizing and doing more with a lot less became the norm. Budgets were cut. Teams were cut. Projects were eliminated. Taking chances gave way to playing it safe.
For 24 years, I worked for an amazing company. A company whose owner, Jim Goodmon, knew every employee by name and was willing to lose money and be unpopular if it meant doing the right thing.
As family friendly as the company was, it was still a business and my position was eventually cut.
If you want me to be bitter, sorry I’m not playing that game. They took care of me for 24 years, then gave me a severance package and helped me with the transition. For that, I will always be grateful.
When Jim came to tell me that he was eliminating my position, I remember him saying, “Kevin, it’s going to be hard.”
And he was right.
But hard can be a good thing. It made me step back and do a lot, and I mean a lot of introspection about who I am and what I’m supposed to do.
“Wait,” you may say “I thought you always wanted to do creative stuff?”
I did. And I do. But I also allowed myself to do something I was so against. I allowed myself to be defined by my job. By my title.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I LOVED what I did and I loved my team, who, for the record, was way more creative than me on any given day. What I mean is this. Before when people would ask, “what do you do?” I would say “I’m a Creative Director” and they would usually say “Oh!” even though there was a strong chance they had no idea what I really did.
Now I was on my own and when someone would ask what I do, I would hesitate, fumble around, mutter things about creating and change the subject.
I had allowed my job, my what, to define my why.
I had gotten it all out of whack. So I did A LOT of journaling, praying, talking with friends and crying out about what I was supposed to be doing.
Then it hit me.
It’s not about the what.
It’s about the why.
I say this with the full disclosure that I can still occasionally struggle with this. Being a creative person trying to create content you like is hard enough. Add in starting and running your own creative business and it easy to increase your insecurity and uncertainty.
Jim was right. It was hard.
But I wouldn’t trade the struggle for anything.
“What the?” you may say “Are you crazy?”
Here’s what happened. My struggle got me out of the comfort-zone I had settled into. A trap, if you will, of making a really good salary with great benefits but not being pushed anymore to really do anything more than what was expected. The trappings of trying to do what was safe and measurable too often led to just being and maintaining.
I haven’t admitted this to a lot of people, but when my position was eliminated it ended up being the best thing that had happened to me in a long time. For the first time, I was free to do as much or even as little as I wanted to. I could create something just for the fun of it. I could choose who I worked with and worked for. Yes, I have bills to pay and a family to support, but I do have the freedom to partner with companies I like and want to help. For example, I love working with non-profit organizations. I love helping a group of people whose only concern is helping someone else. That is freedom. That is fun.
I finally discovered what my real why is and why it is more important than my what.
My why is this: Honor God. Support family. Help others. That is the core of why I do what I do. Why I want to use the gifts I’ve been given.
And the crazy part. Everyone has gifts.
Some of your gifts may be similar to someone else’s. Some gifts may be really, really different. But our gifts are really just on loan to us so we can “gift” someone else with what we have.
Yeah, let freedom ring!
Along the way, I did apply for other Marketing jobs. Some in TV and some outside “the business.” Most of the time, I would get nice compliments with a lot of “thanks for applying” but never an offer. Some I never heard from again.
I realized that God had closed that chapter of my story and had turned the page on my next chapter. That’s when I believe He made my why very clear. Actually, He’d made it clear before, I just didn’t listen very well.
I started my own company and called it KEVIN KOLBE MEDIA, LLC. I named it after the things I could remember and relate to – my name and the fact that I love media.
I decided to use my gifts to help businesses and non-profit organizations get unstuck and create something that will help them grow. I’m really good at creative ideas that lead to real solutions. I have the gift of thinking big and beyond the usual.
I also love helping people explore and use their creative gifts. I believe it when the bible says that God created each of us as a masterpiece made anew in Christ to do the good things He planned for us long ago.
Masterpieces with purpose.
It took me a while to understand my purpose. My “what”. And that’s to help and encourage and teach and inspire others to explore and grow and make an impact.
How do I do that? By using my years of experience in marketing and media production, I can help others with marketing strategy, consulting and video production. I can mentor others to help them see beyond what’s just in front of them.
So, that’s my story. Ok, that’s not all of my story. It’s the part about my creative journey. I’m also a Jesus freak, a husband to an amazing wife and a dad to three of the best kids I could hope for. Plus, I’m a huge Batman fan, coffee drinker, TV watcher and music lover too.
Now that you know why I do what I do and why.
What about you?
What is your why?
What is your what?
What impact do you want to make in your life? In your community? In the world?
I hope we connect, learn about life from each other and then create something together. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help you.
Remember to “explore your wonder!”
Thanks for stopping by.
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Kevin Kolbe is an award-winning producer, storyteller, and creative dude with over 30+ years in marketing and media. He head’s up Kevin Kolbe Media, LLC and helps people explore their creative gifts and share their story with the world.