Episode 302 — The Courage to Level Up — Matthew Encina
Episode 302 — The Courage to Level Up — Matthew Encina
Matthew Encina is a content creator, educator and creative director with over 15 years of experience of directing, designing and animating.
He previously served as the Chief Content Officer at The Futur and a Creative Director at Blind. He has taught through video content, articles, interactive workshops, and as well as speaking engagements, helping grow The Futur YouTube channel to over 1 million subscribers. He focuses on the subjects of creativity, organization and process. Matthew studied Graphic Design at the Art Center College in Pasadena, CA.
In this Podcast, Allan and Matthew talk about embracing growing pains, leaning into your fears and surrounding yourself with mentors that challenge you to get out of your comfort zone.
Matthew Encina’s Website: https://www.matthewencina.com/work
Matthew Encina on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSLeoz5odIGS2GdlbHbCAUg
Matthew Encina’s TED Talk Start Before You’re Ready: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow2cZxpY2TE
I Just Quit the Best Job I Ever Had by Matthew Encina: https://matthewencina.medium.com
Building a Brand Documentary Series by Matt Encina: https://www.buildingabrandshow.com
Matthew Encina on IG: @matthewencina (https://www.instagram.com/matthewencina/?hl=en)
Matthew Encina on Twitter: @matthewencina (https://twitter.com/matthewencina?lang=en)
[03:42] Matthew Encina Talks About His Background
[09:14] How to Approach Potential Mentors
[15:40] Luck is the Residue of Design
[20:27] Learning From — and Working With — Chris Do
[31:05] Tackling Soft Skills
[35:01] Leaning into Fear and Growing Pains
[37:40] The Art of Journaling
[50:57] Dealing with a Creative Burnout
EPISODE 302 — THE COURAGE TO LEVEL — MATTHEW ENCINA
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 302! I’m sitting down with Matthew Encian, a creator and educator who’s previously served as Chief Content Officer at The Futur and Creative Director at Blind. We talk about embracing growing pains, leaning into your fears and surrounding yourself with mentors who challenge you to grow.
Matthew has been in the industry for over 15 years. Please check out his YouTube Channel because he offers an incredible amount of creative insights. I’m really excited about this Episode.
Please take a few moments to share this Episode with others. I would appreciate that!
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:15] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[1:00:27] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW ENCINA
[03:42] Allan: Hey, Matthew! Thank you for taking the time to chat! Do you want to introduce yourself?
Matthew: Hey, yes! My name is Matthew Encina. I’ve been a creative professional for 15 years, 10 of those years working in advertising and branding. The last 5 years, I’ve been working on educational content at The Futur. Now, I’ve quit all of that and I’m figuring out my way forward. So I’m creating a bit of peace and stillness in my life, to figure that out.
[04:16] Allan: Did you always imagine that you’d be a creative when you were growing up?
Matthew: I think so. I like drawing and comics, and VFX movies. All those things drew me into a career in design and animation. A lot of it was an early influence from my family that always bought me art supplies and encouraged my painting. Going into high school, I learned 3DS Max and Photoshop. So early on I got the inspiration from the Star Wars movies (Episodes 1, 2, 3), all the Pixar movies, and then from having access to that tech in a critical time in my life. Along the way, I had amazing educators and parents that encouraged me to learn even more.
[05:28] Allan: That’s cool, man! I’d love to pick that apart. The one question I always ask: A lot of people have a lot of resilience because they don’t have that type of support. I’m blown away when you meet creatives with supportive parents. You were also able to identify mentors early on. To look at those opportunities early on in your career, were you always someone seeking out mentors?
Matthew: I think it’s both of those things. By nature, I’m a people pleaser. I was an excellent student. Those things were important to me, whether I was influenced by my environment or if it was something I was naturally inclined to do. Excelling in class got the attention of my teachers. I was one of those students that moved the grade point average. Some of my teachers really encouraged me to do more. They made me feel like I’m a big fish in a tiny pond. Right after high school, I went to the Art Institute. It’s a trade school. It’s easy to get in if you have money or loans. It was great to learn all the technical stuff there. All of my teachers saw that I could do more. All of them said, “I think you’re wasting your time here. You should consider these schools.” They encouraged me to go to the Art Center. I initially thought that it was too serious for me. Everyone was so focused on the work. I just wanted to hang out with my friends. When my teachers identified that, those were the teachers that really pushed me. If I didn’t have that, I would’ve settled for less. Chris Do, the Founder of The Future and Blind, was my teacher and one of the people who really pushed me.
[09:14] Allan: I just realized Ben [Burns] (www.allanmckay.com/237) and Chris Do (www.allanmckay.com/125) have been on the Podcast. Now that you mentor other people, do you have any advice for people to get others to get invested in them? When people saw your talent and your discipline, they chose to push you. Some people just ask people to invest their time in them when they aren’t doing the work. They just ask questions. Is that something you’ve experienced?
Matthew: I think if you’re seeking mentorship, it’s hard to find these days. People feel like they’re strapped for time. To ask them to invest their most valuable, non-renewable resource — their time — it’s a big ask. People forget that! People hit me in my DM’s all the time. The ones that do it the wrong way go for the ask right away. They’ve built zero rapport, zero relationship. They’re a stranger yet they ask me to review their portfolio. I respond with, “I don’t really know you yet.” The people who do it right develop a relationship first. They compliment my work. They build a conversation before even trying to make an ask. Those are the people who are good at genuine conversations, questions. That works on a lot of people. I do that as well. [12:30] If you’re looking for a mentor, before you make an ask, develop a relationship first. That’s the key thing. Once you give advice, the person is asking more questions before even applying what you just gave them. It’s a sign that it’s not a good investment of my time. I love having conversations with people to whom I give a small piece of advice and they come back a month later, “Ooh, I applied that thing at work and then [XYZ] happened.” They follow up with me. They put my words into action. Those are the people I like to keep in my life and mentor.
[13:36] Allan: That’s a good point! You can’t propose marriage after the first date. If you were to break it down to actionable steps, it’s about treating others like human beings. But I guarantee some people will dismiss it. I think most people aren’t aware of how busy you may be. I think that’s great advice.
Matthew: I still try to be as responsive as possible to everyone who DM’s me. Unless they’re pitching me, in which case I’ll block or mute them. I like meeting new people and hearing their stories. That’s important to me. I’m really approachable in that way. Most people just take advantage of that.
[15:40] Allan: How did you get your first big break after college? Was it easy to get that first job?
Matthew: Many things in my life were acquired very easily. And I say that and I feel gross saying that, like I [was born with] a silver spoon. But my wife will mention this to me sometimes, “I don’t know anyone with your work ethic, Matthew!” Even on my days off, I’m productive. It doesn’t seem so much to me. I take for granted how I approach things. When I choose to do something, I like seeing them to the end. I want to see things be done well. The reason [opportunities] come easy to me is because I do the work. I see it from my parents who are both immigrants to this country. I’ve seen them work their entire lives. My dad never gets upset for working on something, or complaining. That example was reinforced throughout my life. My first job as a creative professional was a graphic designer for Scratch Magazine which is a local punk magazine in Orange County. My schoolmate really liked my work and he was working there. When they had an overflow of work, he asked me if I wanted to come work for them. That was really fun. Many of my future opportunities came that way as well.
[18:39] Allan: There are so many things I’d love to touch on! I’m curious about the immigrant work ethic. Immigrants are the ones that choose to make their mark. In the beginning of VFX, everything was being done in the States. I had to make that hurdle to come here. Most people make that hurdle and they work for it.
Matthew: It’s like putting someone through little tests. The ones that have to jump through a few hoops, they’re way more committed because they’re willing to take action. Immigrating is no small feat. Once you’re here, everything is new and foreign, and you’re treated as such. As you take these steps, they do add up to something special in terms of work ethic and mentality.
[20:27] Allan: Yeah, you’ve earned it. You mentioned 2006 and meeting up with Chris Do. Is that when you moved over to Blind?
Matthew: My whole journey with Chris started in 2006. I was at the Art Center and I just switched to motion design. I fell in love with it because it combined static design with moving animation, which is the perfect blend of everything I like. It was about mixed media and it clicked so many boxes for me. Chris has a pretty infamous reputation. He was one of those teachers who was difficult: he was hard to impress and he made you feel you could work harder. That was the word, but then I got into his class. My goal was to get an A, and it was really difficult. He taught a storyboarding class and sequential design. It was excellent! He was one person that would ask you to present your work and ask why you did that. Most students can’t be that articulate to explain why they did things a certain way. After going through that process though, it develops a lot of clarity and intention in your work.
A lot of creatives are so focused on the aesthetics and the technical part, they forget the why: Why are you doing these things? Just that repetition of his asking developed the storytelling skills in me and sharpened some other skills that I had. I took his class and then I took it again, and then I took it again. During our winter break, I asked if I could intern at Blind. That was my first motion experience in the industry. I only interned for him for a month. I knew you couldn’t work freelance until I had experience. Right after that, I started freelancing while I was still at school. Blind also hired me back as a freelancer. Then I started freelancing at other places. But that was my start with him. Eventually, he invited me to be a Creative Director on his roster. I was hitting a ceiling by freelancing, but Blind felt like home and I had a mentor in Chris. I took that job and I was there for 10+ years.
[25:12] Allan: Once you get to a point where you’re getting abundant opportunity, you start to look at what else you can get, be it experience or challenges, it becomes less about the money. They money will come. For you, was it about being around other creatives that would help you grow?
Matthew: It was two things. As a freelancer, being an animator, I learned everything I could. It was a whole aspect of me that needed to grow, which is my soft skills:
- Learning how to pitch and present;
- Learning how to deal with clients:
- Learning how to train and direct a team.
I wanted to challenge myself in that capacity. Chris is a mentor by nature. I knew I’d gain a lot of momentum and skills.
[26:44] Allan: Coming back to Chris, do you feel that it still rings true that he’s intimidating and hard on people?
Matthew: I think he’s still intense. He’s spending a lot of time on Clubhouse. A lot of his audience know him. But other people will wander into rooms and he puts them on a spot. And you can hear people shrinking on the other side. Now, he’s more nurturing and he helps guide you. He’s worked on his own skills. I’ve seen his personality blossom. Now that he’s done stuff on YouTube, his personality really blossomed. There is more to him.
[28:56] Allan: The first time I ever met him, I finished a big project at my studio. He asked me to come by and present what I did. He was the only person in the room who felt cold. If anything, he was just analytical. There are soft skills that you dial up. Knowing him from a business sense, those are the things you do when you’re negotiating, for example. The more you can be silent around someone, the more comfortable you become around each other. When I take clients out, I’ve learned to introduce silence just to get comfortable.
Matthew: It’s a skill that I learned from him and developed over the years. I was always uncomfortable with small talk. Learning to be comfortable in silence helps me have more fulfilling conversations.
[31:05] Allan: I feel like you definitely have a knack for getting people’s attention, either for yourself or your work. Getting people to notice is so difficult, and to get people on board. Do you find that there are certain soft skills that come naturally to you? Or did you have to work on them?
Matthew: Having conversations like this and speaking in front of people used to terrify me. Public speaking terrifies people because they feel they’re being judged, while the only person judging you — is yourself. So understanding that it’s your own ego that’s getting in the way and creating an unusual filter, those are the things I’ve had to work on. By nature, I’m more of a shy person. I listen more than I speak. Being around Chris and other people I admire taught me a lot. I’ve learned to break it down and emulate for myself. And it comes from Chris asking, “Why and how did you do that?” It’s about becoming observant and realizing that there is a formula for everything. And it’s become crucial for my career because starting as a graphic designer and moving into motion design, and learning technical skills, watching tutorials, breaking down commercials helped me add to my toolbox whenever there is a problem in front of me. In the beginning of my career, I may have had three tools. Now I have a whole wheelhouse for when I have a challenge that needs a novel solution.
[35:01] Allan: Why would you want to lean into those pains?
Matthew: This is a fascinating question. Because I’ve had a lot of great mentors in my life who’ve pushed me in the directions that felt scary, I was always fine on the other side of it. It was in 2015 that Chris told me that I had to work on my public profile. He told me to go speak on stage. All the fear in me bubbled up. He and other mentors pushed me in that direction of fear before. They taught me that it’ll be alright if you just jump in and learn how to swim. That gave me enough confidence to take that first step. So I remember soon after he convinced me to do a public talk, I got my first speaking gig. It was the universe speaking out: My friend at Cal State, Long Beach, said they were throwing their own TED Talk. In 6 months! I said yes. Before that, I had an opportunity to speak twice: once at DMALA and then in the Philippines, in front of 4,000 people. Once I got into it, I realized it was fantastic.
[37:40] Allan: I noticed you do your own journaling. Is that something for personal or creative stuff? Do you find yourself addressing your fears through journaling?
Matthew: Call it journaling, I think the art and practice of writing has been beneficial for processing things in my head. I’ll give you an analogy. If we were looking at a tangled ball of yarn. As we write, that ball of yarn starts to untangle and you can articulate that. The process of writing has helped me process my feelings if I’m going through something personal. If you were to ask me a raw question, the first time I’m going to respond, it’ll come out as word vomit. It’s going to be messy. The second time someone asks me that question, it’ll be tighter. The third time, it’ll be tweetable. If you have a dialogue with someone, it helps articulate it. If you have a blog or a journal, you get your thoughts into a more impactful pattern.
[40:30] Allan: I’m the worst person to journal. I have notes around me all the time. With you, do you write freehand or type? Do you do it for a set time?
Matthew: I tend to do things in sprints. If I’m feeling really emotional, I will do the 5-minute journal. It’s a prompt based journal in the beginning of the day where you set your intention. It will ask you about what you’re grateful for. At the end of the night, you reflect. I love that and go to that whenever I need to develop a more positive outlook on my life. When I’m working on a public speaking gig, I will spend a couple of weeks on the outline and what I want to say. And then I’ll practice it via a social media post or a video. Do people even care about this subject? Will people respond to it? That form of public writing is also really helpful. I’ve also tried freeform writing. There is the book The Artist’s Way and it talks about the Morning Pages. The whole point to get the fog out of your head. I’ve done all those things in sprints.
[43:42] Allan: Have you ever tried The Artist’s Way Journal?
Matthew: I have not.
[43:59] Allan: I also noticed you play the guitar. But with journaling, David Allen whom I’ve had on the Podcast said, “Your brain is for creating ideas — not for storing them.” (www.allanmckay.com/94 and www.allanmckay.com/182). That rang true to me! When you put it on paper, you can focus on the things you need to focus on.
Matthew: I just experienced this phenomenon! I had all these things to do and I haven’t been able to do them because I got caught up in a train of thought where someone asked to send me a new desk. I started thinking about my office space and my brain started expanding, and it was getting out of control. It was chaotic in here! What got it out of my way was getting my sketchbook out and putting it on paper. It made things concrete. It stopped all this wandering momentum. Then, I was able to tackle things on my to-do list.
[46:45] Allan: Most people aren’t aware that they’re constantly sabotaging their own time. You get distracted all the time. If I set out with a to-do list — and I used to be really notorious about it — it ends up making me feel like a loser. That’s where I trained myself to do a wish list of things to come back to. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you allow for other things to pull you in different directions. How strict are you with your to-do list?
Matthew: For me, one of the most helpful things — is to cut my goals in half. Whatever it is that I’ve set out to do, just cut it in half. I keep a little post-in notepad. Whatever I can fit on that pad, that’s all I have to do that day. It helps me mitigate. What is that one thing you can do well that day? That helped me develop a relationship with my own productivity. Sometimes, I can get 20 things done in one day and it’s good feeling wise, but it takes a toll on your body. Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You have to space it out and you can take breaks. It’s prevalent in many working cultures. We feel like we have to be productive all the time. Yes, those things are important but you can only do it for so long.
[50:57] Allan: I’m curious about leaving The Futur and going on to do your own endeavors. You’ve mentioned burning out before. What helps you get back on track and get creative again?
Matthew: Burnout for me is waking up and doing the work, but feeling unfulfilled by it. It doesn’t matter if I put in 6 or 12 hours, but it didn’t feel like I got a lot done. Working at The Futur — even though it’s an amazing company to be at with Chris and other great people, working on such an important mission — all these things didn’t add up anymore. The Futur is a startup and I’ve worn many hats there. I’ve felt like I’ve learned everything I could. I hit a bit of a growth ceiling. After a while, especially after 2020, I didn’t even have the camaraderie with my colleagues and friends. Over a year, we communicated over Slack. That got me to a burnout point.
[53:32] Allan: So for you, what do you think is next? I was talking to one of my team members who’s working two jobs and he’s going through a burnout.
Matthew: I decided to leave because I felt burnt out. I also didn’t feel like I was giving my best energy. I spent many years giving my energy to other people, and I had little left for myself. My main purpose for the break is to take off all the obligations and put things back slowly: Is this for me and is it fulfilling? It took me a while to ramp down. I got away from the buzz of everyday. It gives you no room to hear your own voice.
[55:39] Allan: For me, the most underrated button on your phone is airplane mode.
Matthew: That’s a really good hack. And you realize that it’s weird because you keep reaching for the phone every 7 minutes. After 20 minutes, you’ll forget your phone is even there. That’s a great way to create some silence and stillness in your day. You’re looking for the thing that’s pulling you. I’m definitely in that process and I’m listening to what’s pulling me creatively.
[57:01] Allan: Maybe we could do a Part 2 someday! What was your response to having your DIY video of setting up your desk go to 8 million views?
Matthew: That was wild and unexpected. Working at Blind and developing The Futur, I was working two jobs. After a while, we realized we should put all the eggs into one basket. I made the transition working for The Futur. Then, I started creating my own content just to practice and share things I’m passionate about. That DIY video just popped off. Then I started creating even more content and it got more and more traction. That allows me to create a side income outside of my 9-to-5. I’m so blessed to be able to say that I can quit. I have to be responsible with my money, but I’ve also diversified it: affiliate commissions, my courses at The Futur, ad revenue. All these things started off small. Now, it’s giving me a sustainable living.
[59:42] Allan: That’s great! Having money means having such freedom. That’s so critical! Where can people go to find out more about you?
Matthew: They can go to www.matthewencina.com or every social platform.
[1:00:21] Allan: Thank you! This has been awesome!
Matthew: Thank you, Allan!
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Matthew for taking the time to chat. Please take a minute to share this Podcast with others.
I will be back next week. I will be sitting down with the infamous Bosslogic.
Until then —
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