Make sure your motivation for accomplishing your goal is inherent. If your goal exists just because you want to prove the naysayers wrong, that may not be enough to get you through the challenge. Your goal has to be something you genuinely want to accomplish for yourself.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregory Buissereth.
Author-illustrator Gregory Buissereth is a seasoned creative with years of experience in painting, storytelling, and animation. He’s written and illustrated two books; the first titled Simple Mathematics: A basic guide to being the best version of yourself and his latest, a picture book written to help children learn how to combat negative self-talk titled The Doubt Bug. Gregory’s passion for community service, comedy, and design are what primarily fuel his work.
For the last five years, Gregory has been immensely involved in his community. He had hands-on roles in everything from operations coordination for one of Chicago’s most influential nonprofits, SocialWorks — whose sole mission is to empower and inspire youth through arts education, volunteering on The Night Ministry’s outreach bus handing out food and supplies to Chicago’s mobile community, in addition to being a youth-worker and program specialist for an emergency youth shelter, mentoring Chicago’s most at-risk teens.
Gregory is passionate about helping those in need, specifically those experiencing homelessness. Through his experience, he’s learned that the greatest way to combat poverty is to invest in the youth through education and mentorship.
As a kid growing up in the underfunded Chicago Public Schools system, Gregory never imagined himself becoming a published author-illustrator. Not because he thought he wasn’t smart enough, or unable, but because he didn’t see many people like himself (a person of color) in those positions. Through his writings and illustrations, he aims to extend the reach of his mentorship to kids of color in the inner cities and expose them to not only the arts but reading and writing as well.
His goal is to serve communities by encouraging tomorrow’s leaders to be the best version of themselves.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
I’m a second generation Haitian American and Chicago native. I love art, I love people, and I love creating art that helps people. I grew up watching my mother be active in and serve her community, which has inspired me to do the same.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m currently illustrating a flipbook for SocialWorks’ newest initiative, My State Of Mind (MSOM). SocialWorks is an organization that I have been involved with for a number of years, which aims to empower youth through the arts, education and civic engagement. Through the MSOM initiative, the organization is working to create a mental health guidebook that will provide a range of information about mental health services available in Cook County, using tools that help people access the mental-wellness services they need most, no matter their race, language, or economic background. The flipbook will serve as a fun and colorful guide and resource for those just getting started on their wellness journey.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
I believe what makes my work different from others is that my work is an extension of my passion for service. I create to reshape culture positively, to let people know that they aren’t alone, and I create to empower and inspire folks to prioritize producing a better tomorrow.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
All the time. Whether that idea was going to Colorado to run my first high altitude marathon at 10k feet above sea level (never having been in high altitude before) or writing my first book, people tell me what they believe is impossible all the time. The usual reaction is laughter because they think I won’t do it.
Andre Muir, one of my closest friends of 20 years (and amazing filmmaker by the way), laughed when I told him I would write my first book Simple Mathematics. And, let me tell you, I thought about that laugh up until I published the book! But, in his defense, he knew that laugh would fuel me, so I thank him for that. People will always try to put you in a box; they will always try to limit you because if they can limit you, it validates whatever limits they have put on themselves. You should be motivated to accomplish the impossible because by proving the naysayers wrong, you liberate them and let them know that they too can do more than they think they’re able to.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
I went on to run that marathon in Colorado and beat my personal record for a half marathon. And with that, I inspired some of my other coworkers to run the Chicago marathon the following year. I published Simple Mathematics and went on to publish a second book The Doubt Bug, and now that same friend Andre Muir, who laughed at me before, may be one of my biggest fans today.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I wouldn’t say there’s one particular person; rather, it’s a group of brothers that helped me get to where I am. Oscar Salinas, the former global copywriter for Wilson sports, helped me identify the importance of finding my writing voice. Even before I could afford a copyeditor, he was there helping me out — copyediting for Simple Mathematics.
Then we have Andre Muir, who challenges the thoughts that need to be challenged and is brutally honest with me. He helps me identify and face questions I’m often reluctant to face. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s essential to have someone who cares enough about you to be brutally honest with you.
Lastly, we have Grant Chappell. This guy didn’t just say he believed in me or how incredible my work was. He has purchased every poster, sticker and book I’ve put out, and he believed in me so much he became an investor for The Doubt Bug. Talk about “helped you get to where you are” The Doubt Bug would have never been printed, published, and this interview wouldn’t exist if Grant didn’t believe in me.
So to these guys, my brothers, also known as “The Vault,” I am truly grateful.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
My experience growing up with two competitive older brothers definitely contributed to building my resiliency. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to prove the naysayers wrong. We competed about everything from who would get the best grades in school and who had the best drawing skills — to who could run the fastest. My resiliency to naysayers, no question, comes from my experience growing up competing with my older brothers Cliff and David and proving them wrong.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
5 strategies I believe people can use to harness a sense of tenacity when proving naysayers wrong:
- Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. Don’t feel bad that naysayers don’t believe in you; channel that negative energy into fuel to prove them wrong.
- Every challenge sets a precedent. If you accept defeat today, you may find yourself accepting defeat tomorrow. Keep that in mind when you feel like giving up.
- Combat the negativity with positivity. When the naysayers give you ten reasons why you can’t do something, go out and find 20 reasons why you CAN do it.
- Make sure your motivation for accomplishing your goal is inherent. If your goal exists just because you want to prove the naysayers wrong, that may not be enough to get you through the challenge. Your goal has to be something you genuinely want to accomplish for yourself.
- Keep your eyes on the prize, respectfully heed warnings, but ultimately tune out the noise and distractions and focus on how awesome it will feel when you have accomplished what you set out to accomplish.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
You can either be the victor or the victim. I refuse to be the victim, let alone let anyone limit or discourage me from what I believe I can achieve.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement that I would like to inspire, that I believe would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, would be changing how people see service; changing the way people view being selfless; and above all instilling kindness for one another. I want to inspire people to be themselves by overcoming themselves.
I think being detached, “it’s their problem, not mine,” is so deeply embedded in our culture today. I want to inspire a movement where everyone discovers how beneficial it is to give back — a movement where people aren’t afraid to be kind to themselves and to others.
A great example is SocialWorks in Chicago and the dedication of its leadership — Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith. When Chance the Rapper and his nonprofit SocialWorks donated one million dollars to Chicago Public Schools, their continued and consistent work empowered youth. He not only inspired the nation to invest in education and ultimately the youth, but he inspired all of us here in Chicago to be great artists and use our talents to help others. That opened up a lot of people’s eyes (including mine) to the wonders of service and giving back. So I can’t even really say I want to “start” this movement; rather, this is a movement that I aim to continue. My goal is to continue the movement of people being kind to themselves and others.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes! They can follow me at @boose._
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!