What Matters to John Geletka

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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.

John Geletka is a founder of Geletka+, an independent agency based in Chicago. He makes content, experiences, films, poems, books, designs, stories, products and that thing that hasn’t even been a thing yet.

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

Trying and learning new things is what I enjoy most in the world. New processes, new techniques and new tools are always a good rush for me. More than that, it helps me thrive in an ever-evolving creative landscape. 

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

When I was in grade school, I loved to make up my own cartoon characters. By 5th grade I’d designed an entire set of new villains that spawned out of my favorite video game, Mega Man. I can remember starting with the bubbly eyes and working my way down, out and around into tons of different characters. I’d write about their powers, build out attributes and pit them against each other. 

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

No, and I’m very thankful for that. Heartbreak, as painful as it is helps define who you are. It builds character and gives you the superpower to move forward in different and new directions. There was once a time in my life, in my late twenties, where everything I had was taken from me. I had little over a thousand dollars to my name after working for 10 years. Being at that financial and personal bottom, taught me what it was like and how to move away from it. I never fear taking risks, because I know how to bounce back. 

What is your biggest regret?

I have a constant regret and it’s this. I never express how grateful I am to the people around me. I’ve had so much help and support along the years from an amazing network of friends who always have my back. 

What makes you cry?

So, I try to laugh about it. Cover it all up with lies. ‘Cause boys don’t cry. 

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

It lasts a long time for me, and really never goes away…. but the reason I take pride changes over time with perspective. What that means is, I used to look back and be proud if my design was published in a magazine, or put on a sign, or something else. Now I look back at the people I worked with to make it happen, the tools we used, the time we put in, the debates we had had and the way we delivered the work. That matters more to me these days. 

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

An afterlife would be quite boring to me. The same baggage, the same memories, the same mistakes. Plus, after so much time there, would I still be learning and evolving? Or would I just get tired. I expect the afterlife to be the same as the beforelife, but I’d be open to coming back as another form with a new perspective.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I compartmentalize things, bury things and never look back. This is a strength for sure in moving forward in the world, but it can also be a real weakness because I have buried, forgotten and moved well away from people for what most would consider minor infractions.

What do you love most about yourself?

I love that at 40 I’m still learning, still evolving and still caring about the world around me.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Shrimp Fantastic. It was an old Bennigan’s special I used to get in school as a kid. It was basically shrimp tempura serviced on a skewer shaped like a crown. There was nothing better and I felt like the king of the world when I ate it.