Stories
March 16, 2022

🍨 The Inside Scoop-Cami Travis-Groves

🍨 The Inside Scoop-Cami Travis-Groves

My love affair with UX research and design began in 2020 — halfway through my penultimate year as a Business Administration major at UC Berkeley. Pivoting into the field with an untraditional background has not been easy, with the greatest obstacle being my own self-limiting beliefs. However, I recently had the pleasure of meeting ADPList mentor Cami Travis-Groves, whose superpower is helping creative people overcome self-limiting beliefs. After an exceptional personal mentorship session, I knew I had to share her insights with the community through an Inside Scoop interview. If you have limiting beliefs, read closely! (And if you don’t…liar)

Cami Travis-Groves is a graphic designer, national speaker, design strategist, and coach based in the Kansas City area. She has been designing for almost 30 years, in various forms, and for various types of clients — from agencies and multi-million-dollar investment firms to one-person startups and international recording artists.

Important questions first — what’s your favorite emoji?

The hug — 🤗

What’s your favorite song right now?

I listen to this like 12 times a day:

Listen on Spotify

…I like all kinds of music — like my eldest turned me onto The HU. They’re amazing. Heavy, heavy metal. Tibetan throat-singing, playing traditional Mongolian instruments. They’re freakin’ amazing:

Listen on Spotify

Now that we’re all set with background music…

What kind of mentorship do you wish to provide on ADPList, Cami?

The kind of mentorship I wish to provide is that which I am giving — to hold up the mirror and help people see what I see as an objective outside viewpoint.

Back when we were hunter-gatherers, and we lived in great big groups, the elders provided one facet of how they saw us, and our parents provided another facet, and our peers provided another facet and our aunts and uncles, and then the children of the group…and we got the 360-degree view reflected back at us. And it allowed us to realize our value in the community. But the way we live now, compounded with a pandemic, has gotten us so isolated, and we end up just banging around in our own heads; so we really have a limited scope and limited viewpoint of who we really are.

And my goal in providing mentorship is just to hold up a mirror and provide a big, juicy, “this is what I see.”

And for the people who are seeing their reflection, it’s up to them to decide what to do with it, but most of the time they go “Oh, damn.”

Do you have any ideas for how we can hold up the mirror as a collective?

Yeah, absolutely. We do remember that we are human animals, who are wired to be social. We are not wired to be isolated. And once things open up, we need to really spend time with people who adore us.

Do you have tips on how to do that? How to be better at identifying and spending time with people who adore us?

Well, when we meet people, we are so walled-up and concerned that they see us a certain way that we are not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is the door through which human connection happens. It can only happen through vulnerability. And it takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is the only way to access one’s courage. So, we really need to remember to show up 100% who you are. And if the person or people that you’re with don’t appreciate you, they’re not your people. They’re not seeing the you you want to be reflected.

What is the most common question that you get as a mentor and how do you usually answer it?

How do I overcome imposter syndrome? How I answer that is by recognizing that it’s the voice of fear talking. You recognize that it’s just a thought. And just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s real or a fact. It means you’ve had a thought. And if you can recognize it as a thought, then you recognize that you can change that thought. When a thought doesn’t serve you, you can plug in a different thought.

As a matter of fact, I just gave a talk this afternoon to a big group of people and it was about taming your inner critic. Everybody’s inner critic is on overdrive because we don’t have all these facets reflecting back on who we actually are; so this inner critic is out of control and trying to steer our bus and saying things are actually worse than they actually are.

So it’s meditating. It’s journaling. It’s being around people who adore you. It’s taking a step back and looking at events, objectively…recognizing and celebrating your wins as they happen, no matter how small. All of these things.

If there are 1–2 things you could tell every single mentee you meet, what would that be?

  1. You’re enough.
  2. Life is an experiment; because when you view everything as an experiment, it shuts up your inner critic and views everything as, “How might I…?” and “What if…?” and “What could I…?” and this gets your noggin all fired-up and excited.

So in other words, be curious, right?

Right.

You have three superpowers: gratitude, curiosity, and vulnerability.

Looking towards your past, gratitude is a superpower — recognizing that everything that you’ve been through has created who you are in this moment. You’ve got to be grateful for all of that because you got to love yourself. And in order to do that, you have to be grateful for everything that happened. I had a sh*tty childhood. Horrible, horrible things happened to me and I’m really lucky I survived. But they happened to me, and not somebody who would have cratered. Not somebody who would have given up. So I’m grateful that they happened to me, somebody strong.

My superpower looking towards the future is curiosity. “How might I…?” I wonder, “What if?” and, again, that gets your brain cells fired up as you think about the future.

And then the superpower in the present moment is vulnerability:

How can I show up as the most me to inspire somebody else to be the most them?

Like, this is how I am in-person — there are no walls up, there are no fake faces on. If everybody showed up as their most authentic, messy, human selves, we’d be so much better off as a species.

What kind of impact are you trying to make in the world with your design skills?

I’m a recovering graphic designer, which means I only come out of retirement if there are books to design. And I love doing books, so I started my own publishing company; I will publish books whose mission is to spread love in the world. Through my design, I spread love. I spread good juju. And that’s actually that’s my mission in life, whether it’s coaching or mentoring or designing.

What is one of your favorite books that you’ve encountered or published that spreads love?

One of my favorite books is called The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. It is one of the most delightful, sweet, deliciously illustrated books, and you can open it up and read a page and that’s the message you need, but you can also read it from front to end and it’s a story.

Another book that is stellar that most people have never heard of is called Orbiting the Giant Hairball. It’s written by a guy named Gordon McKenzie who used to work at Hallmark while he was still alive, which is oddly enough here in Kansas City. But I found the book when I lived in Dallas, so I didn’t know, but I actually met him. And it’s like, it’s like a nine-year-old got a hold of your book and there are doodles on every page. Chapter 19 is my favorite. You open up to chapter 19 and chapter 19 is one sentence:

“Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.”

That’s my favorite part of that book. I love that.

LEFT: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy; RIGHT: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

The book that I recommend most to most people to read is called What happened to you? by Bruce, Dr. Bruce Perry, and Oprah Winfrey, and it’s for anybody who’s had to deal with any kind of childhood trauma. Really eye-opening to learn what’s happening in your brain and what’s happening at a physiological level as you move in the world, and as you cope in the world, beautiful, beautiful book.

Tell me about a time when you didn’t know if you would make it and how you overcame it.

There was an instance at work once — this is when I worked in a corporate job — where my manager and I butted heads pretty hard. At the time, I was not emotionally healed enough to express myself calmly, and, at that time, the only time I cried was when I was angry. And it went very, very badly. It started out bad and it got worse. And my boss ended up shouting at me, “Oh, yeah, well, I don’t like you.” Like, why is this suddenly personal? I’m talking about the design here. But recognizing that situations like that don’t define you. They’re things that happen to you. They don’t define you — only if you let them.

Everything is temporary. And if you view everything as an experiment you have so much less pressure on yourself to do it just rightSo I guess the lesson in there is even if you screw up massively, even if you scream at your boss through a snotty-faced, red, teary, whatever…in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t have to define you.

Do you have any advice on how to take things less personally as a designer?

Yeah, you have to be able to step back and be the witness to what happened. In situations like that, what we normally do is we go to our friends and say “This just happened” and the friends are like, “Oh my god, that was so mean,” but they’re hearing your side of the story. And it’s so hard to be able to unplug the emotions and step back and just look at what are the actual facts. What would a witness say? This is this happened and then that happened, and then that happened…there’s no emotion there.

So looking at things more objectively, right?

Right, but that takes some serious ninja-level skills and practice. That’s when it’s good to have the practice of journaling. Journaling, get everything out on the page. You can vomit it onto the page, get the emotions out on the page, which is a wonderful way to express them safely, rather than screaming at your boss. And then, when that’s out on the page, and when you’ve calmed down, the front part of our brain can engage. The intelligent part of our brain. When we’re overwhelmed, our limbic system in the backside of our brain is like, “Run from that bear. Scream at that bear.” And the smart part of our brain is completely offline, and we’re kind of stupid. When we slow down and we write and reflect, this part of our brain goes back online, we can be logical. The phrase that I learned early on in my career, which helped was the HR gals’ favorite phrase:

I feel ___ when you ____ . Can we____?

And it’s allowing space for you to feel. “When you” is citing a very specific instance, and not an accusation of any kind, just stating a fact. “Can we” is proposing a solution. You know, “I feel threatened when you tear down my designs in front of everyone. Can we do this in private first?” or, “I feel like I’m not seeing when you talk over me at meetings. Can you just repeat back what I’ve said to make sure I feel heard?” I mean, it’s huge. But it’s very simple to do. I feel ___ when you ____ .Can we___ is a great tool.

Ok, I saved the most important question for last. Would you rather live with a barnyard of animals in your house, or live in the barn with the animals?

No? 😂 I don’t like being dirty, so neither one of those sounds appealing. I really dislike being dirty. Even when I was little I’d come inside and go, “Mom, my hands are dirty!” Mom’s like, “Hey, wash your hands.” And I washed my hands, put on clean clothes, and go back outside and get dirty again.

Ok…but you have to choose one.

It sounds colder in the barn and I don’t like being cold. So I would say in the house. And at least I could have a room of my own that would be cleaned that would include a shower. And they would not be allowed in the kitchen because that’s just gross.