There was a time in the U.S. – not all that long ago – when all of us fell into one of very few homogeneous groups. You were either an employer or employee – there was no such thing as a “gig economy worker” or “startup entrepreneur”. Very few people were openly members of any of the categories L, G, B, T or Q. And nobody referred to themselves as “neuro-divergent.”
If you go back to your own memories of childhood, do you remember a time when you thought you didn’t fit in? You probably do. Because, in reality, there is nothing objective to fit into. We learn to become what is expected of us. Or we did.
Today, we have far greater freedom to become the person we truly want to be. Instead of trying to beat creativity and idiosyncrasies out of people, we see the wisdom of equipping atypical individuals with skills that will let them function, while retaining their individuality.
That is Adela Baker’s job. Adela is CEO of a company called Mind Coach NOLA. Mind Coach NOLA provides individual and group sessions to people Adela calls, “Turbo Thinkers.” Turbo Thinkers are folks who struggle with executive function skills and impulse management. A lot of Adela’s clients are entrepreneurs and creatives.
Growing up in Slidell, Gabriel Flores followed his own path. He started down the road to the million-dollar business he owns today when he was arrested – for spray painting on the walls at Slidell High. Today, Gabriel is owner of The Inkwell Press. The Inkwell Press designs and produces screen-printing and embroidery on a multitude of items, including T-shirts, professional work wear, promotional items like flags, koozies, glassware, and much more.
An even greater connection to Gabriel’s less than illustrious entrée into the art world is his allied company, New Orleans Paint & Design. It’s acronym, NOPD, is a tip-of-the-hat to his origin story, and, even more ironically, the business itself is a mural painting company. You can see NOPD’s murals all around New Orleans, including at Whole Foods, the ACE Hotel, Marjie’s Grill, and in locally shot movies and TV shows.
Talking with Adela and Gabriel brings to mind a two-word saying: “Be You.” Unfortunately, sayings like “Be you,” “You do you” and “Live your best life” have become social media cliches and memes. But for good reason. We keep encouraging each other with these bits of advice because being your authentic self and living the life you want to live with only a minimal amount of necessary compromise is an extraordinary challenge.
Adela is devoting her professional life to giving people the tools to simply be themselves. And Gabriel is a textbook example of the kind of success a person can achieve by having the courage to simply do what makes you happy.