Advice

Bryan Espiritu might just be the busiest man in Toronto. Here's how he does it all and still stays sane.

This Toronto Creative Director Figured Out the Secret to Productivity

I’d been hearing Bryan Espiritu’s name for years before I met him in 2014. It was at a Christmas party for the advertising agency where I worked. That night, Espiritu was introduced to the company as a new hire, with the job title of “creative catalyst.”

In addition to my job at the agency during the day, I worked on freelance writing gigs at night, kept a consistent gym schedule and promoted and DJed a monthly hip-hop party—all while in a serious relationship and trying to maintain a moderately active social life. It was a lot. Finding any semblance of balance was a constant battle, one that I routinely bungled by spreading myself too thin.

And it wasn’t just me; surviving a full workweek while also finding time for exercise, hobbies, side projects and relationships is basically the new normal in the age of emails, iMessage and WhatsApp. But being normal doesn’t make it easy.

Which is precisely why I find Espiritu so intriguing. Not only did he come on board at the agency I worked for but he did so while owning and operating The Legends League, a popular streetwear brand, and working as a visual artist, art director and writer. Plus, when I talked to him that night, he was personable, patient and present. It felt like he had mastered the art of juggling a half-dozen different roles while managing to stay grounded.

This year, he added another lofty title to his curriculum vitae: author. Espiritu’s first book, 3 Things, born out of a regular series of self-improvement tips from his compulsively readable Twitter profile (@legendsleague), is the perfect read if you’re looking to reset and recharge. The advice oscillates between the kind of sage guidance gleaned from experience (“1. Negativity will grow if you feed it. 2. You can’t choose what happens but you can choose what happens next. 3. Sometimes you’re the problem.”) and irreverent musings on daily life (“1. Bacon and Eggs. 2. Wine and Cheese. 3. Naked and Netflix.”).

Suffice it to say that Espiritu has cracked the code on how to prioritize work, pursuing new interests and well-being, so I called him to ask him how he does it.

TITLE: You’ve done so many different things creatively that you must have dealt with your fair share of rejection. How do you make sure failure doesn’t cripple your progress?

ESPIRITU: I think the way that I bounce back from creative failure or any kind of failure is to just continue working so that I’m constantly improving to such a high level that I don’t look back at the experience like it was painful.

If you break up with the love of your life, you’re going to be fucking heartbroken, but if you get into 10 other relationships, the heartbreak might still be there, but it won’t be as potent. I do my best not to let things fester.

I remember when I was super-young, like 12 or so, I saw Stevie Wonder on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Somebody asked him what the best song he’d ever written was—and this is fucking Stevie Wonder, mind you—and he said, “I haven’t written it yet.”

I don’t feel like I’ve done my best work yet. So when I fail creatively, I think, “I’m just looking for my best work.”

You have a crazy work ethic and a hustle-first mentality. How do you make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically with a schedule like yours?

I’ve only learned to balance taking care of my body as I’ve gotten a little bit older, because I discovered that I just can’t stay up for days at a time anymore. I had to realize that if I’m going to eat pizza every day and ramen every night, my body is just not going to function in the way that I need it to. So the discipline to take care of my body and my mind has a lot to do with day-to-day choices.

So sometimes when I think “I feel like having chicken right now,” I’ll also think “Or you could just make a fuckin’ salad, dude.” Because as much as you want to achieve creatively or professionally, you just won’t be capable of doing it if you’re not taking care of the machine.

How do you take care of your mental health?

I started seeing a therapist again. And that is a very important thing, especially for creatives. Because the better you understand yourself, the better you understand how to communicate your ideas and share them with others.

For me, therapy is like having a personal trainer for your brain. I think a lot of people say: “Why do I need therapy? I’m fine. I don’t have any problems.” For me, I look at it as, “No matter how good I am now, I want to be better.”

Are there any work habits that help you, too?

A lot of my mental stability and ability to balance my life comes from writing lists. Because it’s very easy to get really bogged down by the things that are on your mind, like “I gotta invoice this client, I gotta go to this event, I have this meeting to go to for a future project.” That’s a lot bearing down on you. If I don’t write these things down, then when I interact with my niece, for example, I don’t treat her like I’m her uncle; I treat her like I’m a fucking robot on a mission—because it’s in the back of my mind that I have all these things to do. If I just write a list, it makes it a lot easier for me to be human when I need to be.