What Matters to Justin Ahrens

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Rule29’s Justin Ahrens has an unwavering ambition to “make creative matter.” He’s dedicated to smart business, beautiful design, & innovative thinking that inspires a positive effect on the world.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Making something or being a part of something that makes someone else’s everyday better.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

These two memories are somewhat intertwined. The first is when we had family gatherings, my family members would point to things or give me something to draw. I always thought it was fun and I enjoyed their reaction. The second was getting scolded in school because I would draw my answers to tests or math quizzes.

What is your biggest regret?

My biggest regret was not asking more questions and living my own life earlier. I lived in a way to please or get acceptance from others well into my adulthood.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

For too long, I numbed myself and I packed it way, way down where I didn’t think it could get back up or escape. As we know, it does, and I need to deal with it all over again. Now, when those moments come, I try to lean into them as much as possible, with open arms and feeling all of it.

What makes you cry?

I cry at so much. My kids tease me because I will cry at a great Geico commercial. But what truly makes me cry is just pure lack of humanity from one person or group to another. I’m at the age now that I understand where it can come from and can also see the great damage and the wake it can cause in healing and human experience. It’s such a waste…

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Depends on what it is, but it will never fully leave me after I’m done if it’s a project and I get to see it over and over at times. If it’s a task, it’s basically reset the next morning… like Groundhog Day.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I do. I believe it all had to have a beginning. In that beginning, there was love, peace, and light. I think that is what is waiting for me… and for you.

What do you hate most about yourself?

Those times when I believe that little voice and have no confidence in who I am.

What do you love most about yourself?

I love the energy and being around me when I’m feeling confident and in a good space. I feel like I could literally do anything! Those moments, and that version of me, is what I’m working to be present as much as possible.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

My absolute fave meal is one with old or new friends that truly turns into a moment. Breaking bread with others is, I think, a spiritual experience. Add an amazing location and well-prepared food and it is off the charts. I believe in that transformative shared time together. If you are asking about what is my fave meal or food at home… well, that’s pizza or something straight off the grill.