Jed Smith Interview: Creative Marketing Exec Thrives in Italy as Artist
Diana Landau | October 10, 2023
This month Carl chats with Jed Smith, a former top marketing exec who worked with brands all over the country, including Athleta, where he was the Senior Creative Director, before making his next big move 10 years ago--to Italy. Jed has embraced (un)retirement as a very accomplished artist and photographer. He is also the author of the recently released book "Under the Oak with Agnes."
Jed spent his growing up years in Columbia, South Carolina. His father was a nuclear engineer and his mother was an artist and art teacher. "She really brought out my love of art and expression......I am so grateful for that." As a teen in Clemson, Jed says he didn't feel confident then and wasn't sure about his place in the world. Everything came together for him in college when he entered University of Georgia's School of Graphic Design.
Jed studied art abroad during college in Cortona, Italy. "I wasn't prepared for how it blew me away!" Living in Italy ignited a hunger in him to one day live in a different country and culture. Through his career, Jed lived in 15 U.S. states. (He adds that his mother always said he was restless.) Years ago, Jed was working on a photo shoot in Italy for Athleta and stayed longer for vacation. Soon he was touring properties with a real estate agent. He'd just sold his home in San Francisco and he decided to buy a home in Italy.
Jed has embraced his (un)retirement life in Italy. In addition to becoming an author, Jed blogs regularly on his Italywise.com about making the transition to living in a new country and wants to help others with adapting to a new culture and language. He also recently launched a new standalone website, Jedsmithart.com for his incredible paintings and photography. "Wake up every day and remember that your ability to create is without limit," he says.
Now 67 and living on the Italian coast, Jed is on the move again--this time to Ragusa, Sicily. "With everything I've learned, it's important to surrender. Show up, do your best, tell the truth and then let go of the outcome!"
Jed Smith's tips on making the leap to a new country and culture:
"Americans don't often understand the flipside of immigration. You can't just waltz into another country. Research and plan as you begin to navigate the process."
"Be careful how you balance the romantic side of your dream with the practical realities."
"Without a command of the language, your experience will be so limited."
"My pet peeve: Don't try to pack up your culture and move, only leaning into what's familiar."
"If you're not feeling a little nervous, you're not taking the committed leap! Demonstrate to the universe that you are serious about the step you're taking."
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the "I Used to be Somebody" blog.
Super-Fan (Un)Retirement Success Stories: Robert Francis James
Diana Landau | January 04, 2021
Based in our nation’s capital, Bob James enjoyed a 40-year career in marketing and PR. His clients included tech companies, manufacturers, financial services firms, publishers, trade associations, and government agencies. Besides steering clients’ campaigns, Bob spent much of the 40 years’ time writing copy, contributing articles and op-eds to trade magazines and to big-city newspapers like Newsday and The Washington Post. He even ghost-wrote speeches for a U.S. President (hint: the one who starred opposite a chimp in the 1951 film “Bedtime for Bonzo”).
Bob climbed off the marketing merry-go-round the day he turned 65, devoting the next 18 months to the hunt for a second career. “I’d been working 40 hours a week since I was 19, and was happy to step out of the rat race,” Bob told us.
“That said, I felt unmoored after I dropped out. While I told myself that was okay—I was taking a ‘gap year’—still I’d spend my mornings obsessively watching podcasts and reading books and blogs about retirement lifestyles and ‘encore careers,’ making lists of possible second-act careers.
“But none of the business pursuits I landed on felt quite right—or, indeed, sustainable. I tried a part-time job, but hated it and quit after three days (the red uniform required didn’t help my morale). At one point, I even started to draft business plans—one for a trade publishing company, one for a tour operator, and the third for a recycling firm. But all those ventures seemed formidable, exhausting, and way too risky. The research I did only persuaded me that the businesses were personal dead ends.
“Meanwhile, I filled my afternoons drawing and painting and studying with great teachers at two of the local arts centers. Those pursuits soon became the highlights of my week, second only to joining my wife on Fridays for Happy Hour at the pub down the block.
“Then, suddenly, one day in class I dashed off a painting the teacher (not kiddingly) called a ‘masterpiece,’ and I realized that—with enough effort—I could move beyond ‘hobby painter’ to ‘professional painter’ status.
"Strange as it sounds, Covid-19 pushed me to act on that thought. Locked down and unable to venture outside much, I instead hired an artist’s consultant. With her guidance, I built a website, launched a blog, commissioned a logo, printed business cards, joined local arts organizations, and applied for exhibitions and fairs. The new business was up and running in less than four months, at a cost of less than $5,000.
“The best way to prepare for your second-act career is to pursue a passion project—or two or three—without any thought of monetizing them. Then, one day, things will click, and you’ll be off to the races!"
Bob now paints small expressionist still lifes in oil. He spends his days on the lookout for objects that evoke tranquility and domesticity, and paints them in a realistic fashion. By applauding the plain and prosaic, Bob’s paintings ask viewers to slow down, step back, stop doing and start looking—if only for a moment.
For more information about Robert Francis James go to: robertfrancisjames.com/
Super-Fan (Un)retirement Success Stories: We want to hear from you! Submit your personal stories of professional (un)retirement success to firstname.lastname@example.org.