New York City - Brand Development & Social Anthropologist
We’re all instinctive learners. It’s this thirst for information that’s responsible for the average browser to have at least 5 tabs open at any given time. But how much we learn from any experience, or, from all the tabs crowding our browser, is entirely up to us. Like any great athlete, a great student is disciplined, passionate about the subject and, of course, endowed with a certain amount of natural talent. Thurman Wise embodies all of the qualities of great student. He earned a more traditional degree in Political Science. Post grad, he moved to NYC where he studied social anthropology and the art and history of the cocktail behind New York’s bars. Currently, he’s exploring international business and creative strategy as a Brand and Concept Development Consultant for brands like Absolut and Our Vodka. Thurman will always be working towards a degree in Life, with a wildly persistent belief that there is more remaining to be learned than will ever be known or shared.
TSP: Can you please share a little bit about your past? Where you’ve been? What you’ve done?
TW: I would love to say that my past reads like the script to any of the Indiana Jones movies, even the last one would be fine. However it has been a bit more tame. I grew up in Orange County, went to university in San Diego and then, after graduating, moved to New York, NY. Along the way I aspired to being many things: a cowboy, ninja, pro baseball player, the president, and a professor. In a way, I guess I have always had some big dreams. I have always had a pretty clear path until I made it to New York. The idea was to take a year off before graduate school. The outcome was something very different. After running through my savings, my best friend Mitch got me a job at a restaurant in the city. After about a year I was able to work my way to bartending and instantly fell in love with the craft and the amazing role spirits have had in American history. I decided that perhaps graduate school was not the route for me and that there could be an alternative way to learn about and appreciate history. I worked in some really amazing bars for the next 6 years, honing my craft and getting to experience New York in a way that most people don't, behind the bar.
TSP: So, instead of a more traditional graduate degree, you opted for an alternative classroom and alternative subject. What did you learn?
TW: Well, it’s kind of crazy to think about. If I were to have gone the tradition route, I would now just be graduating, assuming I went all the way through the PhD track. I’d just now be starting my career. A giant learning is that you can in fact learn outside of a formal educational institution. It’s a hard one to learn because we’re so conditioned to believe the current [education] system is the only qualified system available to us to gain the knowledge and accreditation we need. But that’s just not the case. The thought that you can only be educated within a classroom is no more; there’s a tidal shift happening in education. To put it bluntly, though, we must recognize and appreciate the simple fact that you can learn from being present, from listening to those around you, both your junior and your senior, from actively participating in and applying your talents to your interests and passions. Another major takeaway is regardless of where we’re being taught, whether in a classroom or outside of one, we need to want to learn. Everyday there’s an opportunity to learn something new. But it’s not a given that we will. If we don’t seek after it, it’ll just pass us by.
TSP: What are you up to now?
TW: Currently I am in Brooklyn, NY working as a Brand and Concept Development consultant in the spirits industry. Basically this is a fancy way to say I help alcohol brands come up with and realize new ideas. I could not imagine being anywhere else professionally; it’s really exciting to help companies find new ways to be innovative. I was really lucky to be able to transition from behind the bar into a career that mixes my love for the craft and its history with building new ways for people to enjoy spirits, responsibly of course! Personally, at the moment I am just trying to be curious and help people be creative. I haven't quite figured out just the right way to do this, but right now it means traveling as much as possible and connecting with people that want to create.
TSP: Can you share a few of the brands you’re working with?
TW: The main brands that I consult for our Absolut and Our Vodka, at least of the ones I can talk about.
TSP: What about “inspiring creativity in others”? How have you found success in that so far?
TW: There are a lot of people that I work with that do not believe they are creative people. At least that’s what they say. It’s wild. Often times, the way that they see the world, the way that they are thinking, it’s actually extremely creative. I’ve found that the context one is in, the role that they have, has a great affect on one’s view of him or herself. So it’s important that we take people out of those contexts, and give them license to express their thoughts, questions and ideas. Just because you’re not in the marketing department or equipped with an MFA does not mean that your ideas are not relevant, meaningful and exciting. For me, it’s just a matter of helping people recognize this, in any large or small way.
TSP: Where do you hope to go next?
TW: I know that the things most important for me to achieve in my future are to have freedom, be somewhere warm, and see the world with my love. I imagine freedom, meaning I can continue to work for myself and choose the projects I work on. Somewhere warm hopefully means Panama City or maybe it’s just a nice picture of somewhere tropical above a cozy couch in New York. And, well, seeing the world with my love is pretty straightforward. How I get there I am not quite sure just yet. I hope the path is full of amazing collaborations and great projects. Ideally, I will have a creative agency of my own, giving me a way to reach out further than my own two arms and make meaningful change.
TSP: How do you plan to step towards those goals?
TW: Growing up my mother and father always taught me that the root to success is simple: be a good person, always help others, keep your head down and work hard. They always said that if I did this everything should work out. So my plan is just that, be the best person I can be, never stop working hard, help as many people on this journey and always be humble.
TSP: How can we, the TSP community, help you get to where you want to go?
TW: I would say continue sharing ideas, wisdom, and friendship with one another. In a way we are all in this together and if we can build collective creativity and wisdom, then there is no reason we all cannot get to where we hope to go. As it relates to me, personally, well, I’d love for this community to get in contact with me to talk about the spirits industry. In the spirit of TSP, the more we can talk to one another about the things we’re working on and passionate about, the more meaningful and significant our ideas, initiatives and businesses will be. Sometimes things just need a little light shed on them, you know? I see conversations with the TSP community is that light.
TSP: What's the best way for someone to get in touch with you?
TW: There's Instagram; I've closed my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Email is also great: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thurman Wise on Instagram