We had the good fortune of connecting with Taz Lake and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Taz, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Everything meaningful we do flows from passion. Finding it may be the most important journey in our lives. I did not choose to pursue a creative career. I was a pre-med chemistry major and art minor at Duke. Other than creating beautiful canvases, what I enjoyed most was the laboratory. Though processes were rigid, discovery kept my interest. And blowing stuff up. My transplant immunology research was fascinating, but a burgeoning web industry drew me away. It was everything… technology systems and creative arts rolled together. I built my first website in 1994, but back then the Internet was in its infancy. There was always something new as it matured. I got bit by the computer bug and never returned to science. That natural propensity for bits and bytes held me in a multi-decade career, but my primal thoughts turned to making money. I was the first in my family to go to college. My dad was an enlisted Marine. I grew up in an abusive home. There is no rich uncle. For me it was work, school, or death… there was no parachute. I realized I could make a good living at web technology jobs. So, there was a practical consideration. I was fortunate it also met my creative desires. Without knowing it, I lived by the tenets of Ikigai. It is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. It combined passion, mission, vocation, and profession, leading to delight and satisfaction. The financial benefits created leverage to do more in life and help others besides myself. It is not good enough to be creative. Adapting and harmonizing with competing priorities is a skill. We all must land somewhere between ‘what we want to do’ and ‘what the world needs’. That is how we get to create more. Today I am enthusiastic about building a legacy through lasting creations while leaving things better than I found them. That is why I love making art or solving systems problems. Unfortunately, in the technology industry, platforms I put in place might disappear in a decade. Yet I have canvases I created thirty years hence. Paintings are like mainframes. They endure even though they fade. I get letters from people who discover my works acquired decades ago. They share what the art meant to a loved one, or still means to them. They express thanks for my books or other writing. No one has ever written a letter thanking me for the three-year strategic technology roadmap I gave them fifteen years in the past. Though I am always excited about solving problems and helping model the way to sustained value for organizations, as I grow older my creative drive sustains me. I still create technology products in my little incubator, but I know these are just transition state systems. They will only be “final” when and if bought, integrated, and remixed. But a painting, book, or movie stands alone. My novel The Last Minder, my capstone on web experience management Damaged Joy, or my first short film The Best You Got. These are me, but they are not mine. They are what I leave behind. I live life with as few regrets as possible. I have never regretted creating. I did not choose it. It chose me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve answered a lot of this before, but no, nothing is easy. My first book was called “The Myth of Easy”. I think we underestimate complexity in our lives and the work we do. For example, writing a novel. That is hard enough by itself, but complexity increases if you want to write a well edited novel, market it effectively, distribute it according to plan, advertise, and so on. There is so much more than creating the final product. This is true in software, too. And making movies. The parallels across these fields are astonishing really. Lesson learned along the way? Don’t live someone else’s dream.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We are suburbanites, but make it into the city for events and nights out. Atlanta is one of the best food cities in the world. I can say that with confidence after my travels. Dependable restaurants like Bacchanalia or new comers like Lazy Betty rival restaurants in any city. It may seem only for kids, but the Georgia Aquarium is a special place. There are plenty of hikes and mountains nearby, so you’ll get your workout as everywhere in metro Atlanta is a minimum of 1000 feet above sea level.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Sounds cheesy, but my wife is one of my biggest supporters and encouragers. She is quite talented herself as an engineer and top notch pianist. Much like me, she uses both sides of her brain so we are in tune with each other. We also balance each other from a risk-taking perspective. She is more conservative than me on that front.
Other: https://www.twitter.com/TheFishPhillips https://www.facebook.com/CrabbyRabbitProductions/