Interviews with respected industry creatives are an exercise in repetition. “Was creativity part of your childhood? Did your parents support you? When did you first start designing?”
The similarity to origin stories is remarkable. Batman’s parents were killed at an early age, he inherited wealth and embraced the darkness to forge a better tomorrow. Jon Contino came from a long line of artists. He spent his youth experimenting with hardcore rock before embracing his destiny. Superman was sent to a foreign planet where his adopted parents raised him and kept his past a secret.
We’re constantly trying to reverse engineer greatness. The questions are meant to tell a story that an audience relates to, but do they instead perpetuate a myth? A myth that unless you’ve followed the same path, you might not have the skills necessary to succeed on a similar level?
It’s at this point when the interview takes one of two paths. The respondent goes on to answer more boilerplate questions about their path or (more interestingly) is prompted to discuss how their journeys can teach us lessons for tomorrow.
I think those questions are the nuggets everyone waits for. How can we talk about tomorrow? How can I understand something about this person that gives me a helpful perspective? Some history teaches us valuable lessons, but much of it doesn’t. Let’s be more specific with our questions, getting to the heart of the matter quickly. If a personal history is vital to our understanding of tomorrow, by all means, let’s talk about it. But when it simply reinforces the myth of talent, let’s abandon it and focus on how we can all be great in the future.