EMBRACE PAIN AND USE IT AS FUEL

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DEX BLACK

CREATOR OF FIRE

CREATIVE DIRECTOR, WARRIOR, FATHER

It’s been a year since we launched Labor and a lot has changed since then - especially for Dex. Originally this was supposed to be a joint interview but as I thought about it more, I realized that Dex should be the only one that’s heard. I felt like he has overcome much more adversity than I have and continues to do so every day. Dex sets an example for everyone who’s trying to make it out of a dark place. When there’s no light, you must start a fire.

WHAT HAS CHANGED FOR YOU THIS PAST YEAR?

A lot has changed for me and I think a lot has changed for the better. I’m not sure how much I’ve learned but I feel like I have changed my disposition and I’m more open to learning now than I was before. It’s not that I felt like I knew everything that I needed to know, but I don’t think I was ready to deal with the specific areas of personal growth and now I’m ready to be more open with all aspect of my life.

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF ADVERSITY?

I’ve been thinking about adversity a lot and I don’t think I’ve ever had to define it. I think adversity is just that resistance life puts in your way. It’s that struggle and difficulty that makes you feel sometimes overwhelmed and requires you to battle against it. Overall I would equate adversity to resistance.

WHAT IS THE FIRST LIFE MOMENT YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU THINK OF ADVERSITY?

I think my childhood. My childhood was the most difficult part of my life so there’s a lot in there. I was super lonely - I don’t think there was any part of my childhood when I didn’t feel lonely or the odd one out. I was always the weird one, the different one like I didn’t fit anywhere. I remember not having any friends in elementary school and I’m not being dramatic. I really didn’t have any friends. I remember teachers feeling bad for me and trying to “be my friends” but they were adults and I was a kid. I don’t think I ever really learned how to socialize from an early stage. There were a lot of things in that part of my life that were a challenge. It was one of the darkest periods of my life so I try not to look back.

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THAT PERIOD? OR HAVE YOU?

I don’t think you can overcome what happens to you as a kid because you’re in such a formative stage that everything that happens, stays forever. They become scars and they mold your personality. I can tell you that the adversity I faced as a kid made me introverted and unable to connect with people. It’s still here with me till this day and it really take a lot of me to connect with people and trust people. What I learned is to forgive. I started to understand why things happen the way they happen and why people behave the way they behave. It took me a long time but I learned to forgive them all and accept them as flawed human who were doing the best they could with what they had. They themselves were going through their own adversity. There wasn’t any one person who was being malicious. They were just reacting to their own life struggle. So I learned to be grateful for taking care of myself one way or another.

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“I feel like I come from nowhere and there’s nothing behind - me not even my grandparents. So I feel like it’s my responsibility to build something.”

WHAT IS THE MOST ADVERSITY YOU’RE DEALING WITH NOW?

Well we’re recording this interview at a period that seems to be at the other side of adversity. I think the last year and a half has been the most challenging period of my adult life. Right now I feel relieved - like when you’re climbing a mountain, it’s so steep and so difficult but when you reach the summit, everything is downhill from there. There’s a moment where you can stop and look around and really enjoy. It doesn’t matter how committed you are to climb. It’s still going to be hard. I feel like at a moment now where I can breathe, relax, look around and appreciate things more. I’m trying to find myself again.

IT’S INEVITABLE THAT ADVERSITY IS GOING TO COME UP AGAIN IN YOUR LIFE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE ALL THE ADVERSITY YOU’VE OVERCOME SO FAR IN YOUR LIFE HAS PREPARED YOU TO OVERCOME ADVERSITY IN THE FUTURE?

Definitely. I feel like adversity has been in my life most of time, there’s always a constant battle with things. I can’t look back and think of any times when things have come about easily. Everything has been a struggle and I’ve learned to appreciate it. That’s always a blessing because it builds character. Even though I’m not perfect and there’s a lot of things I want to work out about myself, I like the person I am. I’m certain that I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t experience those things in life. So I take the good with the bad and it give me perspective. You can enjoy more of the good times when there’s adversity to contrast with. A few years ago I didn’t care about anything and I was very reckless. I was super impatient and after I went through some recent adversity, I realize how patient I can be. I didn’t even recognize myself. Adversity is what made me patient.

IT SOUNDS LIKE ADVERSITY CAN VERY MUCH BE A POSITIVE THING.

Adversity is a positive thing. I think about it all the time but not only from my perspective. I had a kid and I over protect him and try to give him everything. I don’t want anything to happen to him but then I feel like I’m doing him a disservice because falling on the ground and getting frustrated and trying to figure out things is part of learning. He’s not going to be both physically and mentally resilient if he doesn’t face his own adversity. My instinct as a parent is to give him everything and make life as easy as possible but I think it should be the opposite. I shouldn’t pamper him so much because it builds character and personality.

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“You can’t be a good fighter if you don’t train and the only way you train in life is through adversity.”

SO MANY OF US AIM TO FIND HAPPINESS OR LOVE - THESE THINGS THAT HAVE POSITIVE CONNOTATIONS. DO YOU THINK THAT WE SHOULD STRIVE TO FIND ADVERSITY? IF IT’S SOMETHING THAT HAS SUCH A POSITIVE EFFECT, SHOULD WE GO AFTER IT?

Yea I definitely think so. The pursuit of happiness is probably the most pointless pursuit that there is. You can waste your life trying to be happy. I think happiness is a byproduct of doing the things that you like and reaching the point in your life where you’re doing the things you really want to do. To get there is only through adversity. You have to put up a fight. I like to think of myself as a fighter. That spark and that fight in people is what I like the most. You can’t be a good fighter if you don’t train and the only way you train in life is through adversity.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT SOME PEOPLE JUST CAN’T SEEM TO OVERCOME THEIR ADVERSITY?

Being close to people who don’t fight is something I know very well. It’s hard to explain but I think it comes down to your very basic survival mode. You have to fight for your life. We as living things have that instinct inside of us so I don’t understand why some of us don’t put up a fight. When it comes down to certain things that are affecting your life so much, that’s when your survival instinct should kick in. Maybe it goes back to what I was saying earlier. If you don’t have enough adversity as a kid, maybe you don’t learn how to deal with it at all.

WAS THERE EVER A POINT IN YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU’D BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY?

I think I always knew I would overcome it. I think that’s part of what’s necessary to overcome adversity is to trust yourself - to believe in yourself when no one else does. I think that’s quintessential. Maybe this answers the previous question - maybe the people who can’t overcome adversity is because they don’t trust in themselves. You need to declare your value and stick to it. If you’re a human being, you have value and you deserve better than this. You know there’s this quote I read as a teenager and I love it and it’s always stuck with me. It says “you must embrace pain and use it as fuel in your journey.” I love it and think it makes perfect sense. Yea life is going to hurt but what are you going to do with that hurt? Are you going to carry it on your back and have it weigh you down or are you going to burn it and use it as fuel to get to where you want to be?

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“If everybody rejects you and tells you that you’re not good enough, just be stubborn and do it anyway.”

WE’VE TOUCHED ON ADVERSITY AS IT RELATES TO GROWING UP AND LIFE IN GENERAL. CAN YOU SPEAK TO THE ADVERSITY YOU’VE HAD TO OVERCOME WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CAREER?

Well there’s a saying in Mexico that says “a job is so awful that they have to pay you for you to do it.” Careers are always a complex theme. I think that no matter what you’re doing there is going to be struggle and adversity but what i’ve learned is that you have to be stubborn. To accomplish whatever you want to be, do, or become, you have to be really stubborn. For me I wanted to be a Creative Director and it doesn’t matter what happened in your life, you have to be really stubborn about it. You have to tell yourself that that’s what you’re going to do and that’s it. If people don’t like it, if people don’t believe in me, if people don’t think I’m good enough - no matter what issue people want to bring up I’m going to stick to it and claim it. I’m going to outsmart and outwork everyone around me and I’m going to learn from everyone around me. Those are tools I’m going to use to put up a fight. Other than constantly learning, it’s just being stubborn and speaking out. You know right now I’m starting a new job and I’m really excited about it. It’s my second position as a Creative Director and I realized that it’s not so much about your technical skills, it’s more about your disposition. It’s about seeing the bigger picture, management skills and how you relate to people and how much you want to be involved with bigger things.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH?

Short term I want to be really good at what i do. I want to learn a lot. I want to be one of those people who are super knowledgeable - that whenever you’re in the same room they bring some calm because they have so much knowledge and they know so much about what they’re talking about. I want to be a role model for other people under me. Obviously I want to do something bigger and impact people through LABOR. But in the bigger picture I want to build a legacy. I’m not sure what that means yet but I’m sure LABOR is part of it. I want to impact people in a positive way. I want to do something so good that it’s going to stay behind even when I’m gone. I want to do something so good that my son is going to be proud of it once I’m gone. I feel like I come from nowhere and there’s nothing behind me not even my grandparents. So I feel like it’s my responsibility to build something.

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“I want to do something so good that my son is going to be proud of it once I’m gone.”

LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT - LEGACY. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN RIGHT NOW? PAINT THAT PICTURE.

I feel like legacy is a way to transcend - to stay here in the world after you die. The only way you achieve that is through impact or creating something so great that stays forever. If you can name someone who’s dead right now, that’s legacy. When people know even though they’ve never met you, that’s legacy. I think legacy is different than fame - I don’t want to be famous. I just want to bring something of value. But in order to do that, what you bring has to be so great. So I think legacy is a unit of measurement for how many people you can impact in a positive way. That’s how I want to measure myself.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PEOPLE ON HOW TO LIVE A MORE MEANINGFUL AND CREATIVE LIFE?

One thing I firmly believe is that nothing worthwhile comes easy so you have to become a warrior and put up a fight. Nothing is going to fall in your lap - especially the life of your dreams. Never settle. Probably the worst times of my life have come when I settled. It just creates drama and struggle that isn’t worth it. So don’t settle, put up a fight and be stubborn. You know what you want so listen to your heart, follow that voice and be stubborn about it.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Watch the full interview here: