Embracing Your Emotions, Following Your Dreams, and Recovering from Depression with Jeff Buoncristiano
We learned about Carlos' past and how Eric started Beardbrand, so now let's learn about Jeff! Carlos is interviewing Mr. Buoncristiano today. He grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusettes but was born in Maine. His parents got a divorce when he was young, they decided his mother was the best choice to raise him. Cape Cod was called home up until about five years ago (He's 37 now, so you can do a bit of the math), but he didn't live with his mom the whole time. It felt like he was trapped there, but he kept trying to further himself personally and professionally with all the town had to offer, but found they held him back. The thought of actually spending his entire life on Cape Cod never really crossed his mind.
As a child, Jeff always wanted to be a stunt man. This lead to a lot of reckless activities and injuries growing up. He and his siblings used to ask their dad, when they spent time with him, to run to the video store and pick up a movie for them to watch. And his choice in movies definitely influenced Jeff's goals. The movies weren't AAA block busters per say. He loved Chuck Norris and other actors of the like. A lot of the time it led to cheesy action movies about a gymnast who also practices karate. These movies influenced his career goal of wanting to become a stunt man. He would often imitate the moves he saw in the movies by jumping of decks and doing back flips. There wasn't any job he had that moved toward that dream, but then he got accepted into the Stuntman Association of America in California.
This was long before he went to college. He was about 16-17 at the time and was going to fully pursue that, but there were financial limitations that had to be paid up front. He told himself he would pay for it when he graduated high school, but it never really happened. When the injuries started to pile up, his body started to reject the activities he wanted to pursue. Eventually, he applied to college to follow his second love of psychology.
After going to a few classes, he knew it wasn't exactly what he wanted to do. The lack of right answers and ambiguity of the subjects led him to focus on anatomy to become an emergency medical technician. Throughout his time in college he worked jobs here and there to help pay his bills, but then he got a job in loss prevention. His employers then offered to pay for his college if he changed his major to Criminal Justice. During that time, he became very judgemental of people and realized this was exactly what he didn't want to become. The amount of bad in the world overwhelmed him to the point he felt he was going insane. To combat this, and try to see the superficial good in the world, massage therapy was the next adventure. There's still a lot fo stigma against straight men in massage therapy, and it can get really political. The practice is hard to promote, so he went back to something he was comfortable doing and had done before; in home audio video installation. Basically, that means you've got a ton of money and want a home theater, yeah he built those.
That was his job for a decade. It slowly ate away at him, led him to depression, and made him miserable. The main reason he stayed was that it paid well. Happiness was always his goal in life, which he why he switched jobs a lot. The whole idea of creating something on his computer for a living came out of nowhere and hit him suddenly. That was in 2004, and was working three jobs at the time; in-home installation during the day, editing at night, and massage therapy on the weekends. He had almost no days off for two years and saved as much money as he could to move away to where ever he found an opportunity. All the editing skills he's built his life on are completely self-taught. When the friend told him about an apprenticeship in New York he dropped everything, quit his jobs, and moved out.
For that first year, money was rough. Rent was tight a lot, but he had an awesome roommate the helped him out and got him another job as a runner at CBS Sports. He wasn't really making much doing what he wants to do, but he was learning a lot. The value he was getting in trade, was an education of how the industry works. Eventually, one of the producers started going to him to expedite a few projects and paid him $100 each time.
One of his biggest moments was his beard being a side effect of his depression. Really he was broken and gave up on expectations after he went through a rough breakup, and the beard was just something that came out of it. Then he began to realize people were enjoying and noticing something that was generally him. Once he embraced that, he went through a lot of psychological and personal growth. He got through it all after he understood that he was ok as a person regardless of social norms. Oddly enough, before the breakup and the beard, his hair was almost pushed forward in a fringe. In the time he grew his beard, he pushed is hair back. All his style choices were ones that made him feel comfortable and confident instead of a trend. None of it would even be possible had he not his rock bottom.
There's not really a happy medium when he's at work. There's either too much to do, or not enough, but that's mostly because of the nature of the industry of freelance motion graphics and graphic design. He works super hard and doesn't really spend a lot of money cause there is always the fear another job will not come along. Luckily, the education he has helps him deal with that fear and his emotions. He looks at them from a logical perspective and uses psychology to find the root cause and fix it. There's a part of him that's always looking for a quick fix, but those never last.
In the future, he wants to film more content for us and not be as much of a perfectionist in the videos he gives us. But that's what makes him good at his job. In his industry you can't mess up as much as other people. That part of him gets in the way of his personal life. The goal is to learn to let goal. It's ok to have emotions, understand them, learn from them, and set goals for yourself so you can keep on growing!
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