Saying yes to the uncertain or how I quit my day job

sam bradd, artist, vancouver, image, what is graphic recording, what is graphic facilitation, illustration, image, vancouver, graphic design, union, illustrator, best practice, vector, best practice, visualization, visual learners, infographic, graphic design, mind map, mind mapping, visual practitioner, creativity, sketch noters, visual notetaking, consultant, facilitator, visual thinking, information architects, visual synthesis, graphic translation, group graphics, and ideation specialists, live drawing, group facilitation, group collaborative work, world cafe, conference, information design, information designers, virtual coaches, educator, non-profit, progressive, environment, sustainability, community, health, indigenous, aboriginal, youth, teens, adult learners, adult education, empowerment, justice, childrens book illustrator, leadership, team building,I could say that 18 months ago, I quit my day job. But saying “I quit my day job” to be an illustrator/ graphic recorder/ artist in this economy is pretty dramatic.

Looking back, it wasn’t a big leap.

Instead, I said ‘yes’ to a series of small steps.

First, I said ‘yes’ to something new. Something nobody in my family had tried.
Then I said yes to learning more. This was humbling.
I said yes to uncertainty. Financial and emotional.
I said yes to trust. I had to trust my creative skills even though I was unproven.
I said yes to my capacity. I couldn’t yet make what I pictured in my head- but I knew I would get better, faster, the more work I tried.
It was hard to say ‘yes’ to working in collaboration. But I said yes to partnership, even though it’s less scary to work alone. It opened doors and gave me feedback right away. This most of all made me take on fantastic, unusual projects.
And I said yes to focus. This is the unglamorous part like working late or keeping deadlines or getting paperwork in order from the very beginning.

It was an unusual decision for me to leave stability. It was a great job: a full-time position at a fantastic non-profit organization. My coworkers were great (hi folks!). The position was challenging. The cause was personally important to me. I had been working towards a job exactly like this for a very long time.

But I found that more and more, I was spending more time on art-related projects. Weekends and vacations working for clients. I asked for a reduced work week. I found a happy outlet managing freelance work, I was proud of the results and at the same time –  it felt selfish to be drawing. I could be reading another report for work, or researching granting guidelines.

So before I made the shift  – I had to say ‘yes’ to one more thing.

Yes, creativity matters. Creativity helps solve problems. It’s a skill that shows up in communicating, sharing messages, and building teams. Creativity is foundational to work that helps build a better world. It’s not unique to artists –  it’s everywhere. It helps non-profits do as much as they do with as little money as they have. And it helps me get up and make a drawing or tell a story when I didn’t have an idea to start with.

Creativity is the magic glue. It’s the change catalyst. Creativity is how ideas + audience + social and environmental problems + compassion = change.

So 18 months ago, and 12 months ago, and 6 months ago, and yesterday – I took a leap. I found another way to be part of the change. It turned out to be another way to say ‘yes’.


  1. Shelley Hourston says:

    Love this post, Sam! What a lovely unfolding. Just today I came across a quote that is my new favourite:

    ‘An answer is always the part of the road that is behind you. Only questions point to the future.’
    –Jostein Gaarder (Norwegian teacher, author)

    Your ‘great coworkers’ miss you … but you’ve been called to do wonderful work!

    • sambradd says:

      What a beautiful quote. It’s true, isn’t it. Things make sense when we look backwards at them – like finding a writing voice after many years. It doesn’t look like your style when you start out, but in retrospect it couldn’t be anything but that.

      Rock on, coworkers! Til our paths cross in the office and not just online!

  2. Rena says:

    Sam – wow. I remember when we did craft market together all those years ago now – was that your first? It was mine 🙂 I also remember the first time I saw one of your illustrations – back when I had just started at the sfss – it was a map of Canada with little drawings representing the character of each place… I was so impressed by your skill! Gosh, I also remember when you took a leave from work to focus on your art – you totally inspired me… And you continue to do so. Seems you’ve been saying yes for a while! So proud of you! You give me hope 🙂

    • sambradd says:

      Hi Rena – oh man, what a great memory. We split that table, right? I think I was making hats back then and you were working with leather. That was fun! Okay, so you and Z have always been an inspiration. Not many people get to set up a darkroom in their house. You’ve been laying the foundation for lalabug for a long time too – your designs are truly beautiful!

  3. Coniqua says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m trying to launch myself into the world of graphic recording and it is inspiring to hear how others have made a career out of it.

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