Michell C. Clark is the epitome of a young creative in 2018. With drive and passion Michell has become a leading social influencer and culture shifter. I originally met Michell in the mid 2000s, at the time he was a young blogger in the DC area. While attending a military academy in New York, Michell launched the blog Artistic Manifesto a platform where Michell was able to showcase new music and independent artists. This self-identified passion project led to Michell being recognized by industry peers and legendary publications such as JET and Black Enterprise Magazines. Michell C. Clark continues to do the work as he prepares to release his first printed book which is titled Keep It 100: A Series of Daily Affirmations for Millennials Who Are Tired of Being Called Millennials.
Q: Michell, I first met you as a blogger in 2009, can you share some of your background with our readers?
Michell: Yeah sure, I went to a military academy when I graduated from high school back in 2008. I thought I was going to be anofficer in the military. When I got there, it was a pretty isolated campus. I ended up discovering myself while I was there, but not having the means to actually connect with people and meet folks like myself who had interests in creative things, hip-hop culture and things like that. So, I took the internet as a way to discover more about myself and to meet like-minded people and that’s what kind of pushed me into getting more serious about figuring out social media and making it work for myself. When I got my first job a few years later and ending up leaving that job I decided that I wanted to use what I learned over the years and start showing people how to build social media presence and achieve their goals as well as to tell different stories and partner with brands as a content creator.
Q: When you started Artistic Manifesto in 2009, social media was not as expansive as it is today. Can you share how you were able to measure success when you first started your blog?
Michell: When I started I was 19 years old, I was just looking for a way to be involved. I wasn’t looking at stats too heavily. I wasn’t looking at numbers or follower-ship at all for the first couple of years. It was strictly a passion project. About three years in I started looking into the unique visitors I was getting and being intent on building a Twitter following. Especially because Twitter is the best platform for link sharing.
Q: How would you say the content creation industry has shifted since you first began?
Michell: It’s a lot more saturated, there are a lot more people who want to get involved. I think a big part of it is… like with Instagram being pretty much the biggest platform for our demographic there are just so many tools in place that make it very easy for visual content and for you to share written content. There are so many different platforms that are out there. When I started all we really had was Facebook and Twitter was just getting started. I didn’t really care about Instagram at all. Now there are just a lot more options. I would say the standards in terms of what is expected in terms of quality have gone way up. I think that it’s more saturated, there are more options and more opportunities than ever. There are more people who are viewing this as being a potential career as opposed to something you do in your free time, than was the case in 2009.
Q: In 2016 you left your corporate job a decision that you considered to be the most important decision of your life. Can you share how this decision required you to be clear about your goals?
Michell: In 2016 I had been working for the Princeton Review for about two years at that point. It was my first and only full-time job out of college. I was very happy to have a decent salary, good enough to pay bills and a DC adjacent apartment. I was super happy to just be out starting to have a bit of agency in terms of finance and everything else. I enjoyed the job. I was able to not be in the office five days a week. l was able to travel and meet different people and work essentially as a traveling ambassador for the company. I ended up getting word that unless I met some very specific sales goals within a couple of months that they would recommend me to be let go. They were some pretty unrealistic sales goals for one person to meet in an entire metropolitan area as one person. I took that, and I used that as an inspiration to go ahead and create my website. So michellcclark.com was born largely out of frustration and irritation with the situation. I had more of a desire to start my own thing.
I decided that I probably was going to get fired, so I decided to leave. I took what I learned about social media and learned influencer marketing and made a coaching platform for social media. There are still times now where it is a stressful lifestyle to be a part of, but I really just believe that choice has forced me to grow so much into the person I’m supposed to be as opposed to someone who is kind of complacent. It was definitely a tough transition to grow into, but it just helped me so much and put me in a place to learn more about myself and what I could do as a writer, content creator, coach all these different things.
Q: With such a major life change and transition how were you able to keep your confidence during the moments when things were difficult?
Michell: I wouldn’t say that I’m always confident, but I’ve definitely been intentional in trying to remind myself that I have all the agency and resources and association and friends that I need to succeed. I try to hold on to memories of how I’ve been able to pivot when need be, make changes when need be and what I’ve been able to accomplish thus far with all the things that I do and don’t know and remind myself that I’ve never been perfect but I’ve consistently been more than good enough. I know I work hard, I know I have intelligence for it. So, I just remind myself that I can continue to find solutions to whatever problems I’m facing and just be able to build what I want to build. I also try to hold on to the vision that I have for my life and remind myself that it’s more than possible and that I’m going to achieve it. You can choose to be confident or you can choose to be unconfident you’re still going to have some failures either way. So you may as well do your best to remain confident. Keep gassing yourself up, keep friends around you who do the same, keep learning and keep pushing forward.
Q: What can you share with others about making room in your life for the success when you have a vision?
Michell: That’s a really good question actually. I had to internalize in particular over the past 6-8 months just re-emphasizing the importance of being able to say no. Not out of selfishness or out of lack of desire to help other people but to realize that whatever I say yes to and whatever I agree to do that I’m saying no to everything else that I could be doing with that time, energy and effort. So just remembering that my time is one of the most valuable things that I have and that I work best with a clear thought process and a clear conscious. So, if I allow myself to get wrapped up in other folks, whether it’s their problems or their desires to use me as opposed to collaborating with me without a relationship… I have to be comfortable with saying no to that. If I allow people to come into my space to take, take and take what really do I have for the people who I love and for what I’m trying to build for myself and for my family. It’s not that I don’t want to help everybody, it’s that I’m one person and I have be able to prioritize the people who I love, or I could lose them too. I could not be any good for them anymore I could not be any good for what I have to accomplish. I just have to remember that everything that I have, every resource, every time block, every jolt of energy is all limited and it’s all worth preserving.
Q: In 2018 you decided to close Artistic Manifesto was this a difficult decision?
Michell: Honestly it wasn’t, because that was the first thing that I built but it wasn’t the only thing that I built. I knew what I was capable of and knew there was more that I could accomplish. It wasn’t a huge revenue stream for me. I honestly felt that I created a situation where my talents weren’t truly being appreciated. I was kind of limiting myself. I wasn’t worried, I was more so excited for what I would be able to accomplish with that additional time and energy and motivation that comes with starting new projects. When I started the blog, I was 19 years old, I didn’t really have much thought about longevity in an industry setting. I was excited to take what I learned for the seven or so years that I ran the website to build something new and better. It was exciting to let go of what I had been doing for so long and to focus on figuring out what I wanted to do next.
Q: I recently heard you say that you believe that God used your mistakes and moral lapses as a vehicle to fuel your success in the present, can you share what you meant by this?
Michell: Yes, for sure. That was from my first keynote speech that I ever gave in my life at Fordham University for an entrepreneurial conference. I was talking about how I was expelled from West Point, a military academy and how I also like I said before was put in the position of where I was given the choice pretty much of leaving my job or getting fired not too much longer after. So those are probably two of the most traumatic long-term situations that I’ve been through in my life. I’ve never want to repeat or relive what happened in the moments, but I can definitely look back and say that experiencing those low moments and being left with no choice but to find a way to push on despite all of those things is a big part of what forced me to become as confident, as driven, as resourceful, as focused and just as thorough as I am today with how I approach my life and my business.
Q: With all that you have learned, how do you include those lessons in what you are doing now and what do you have planned to accomplish next?
Michell: Now I line up what I do professionally with my passion and my interests. I am releasing my first ever print book on September 18th it’s titled Keep It 100: A Series of Daily Affirmations for Millennials Who Are Tired of Being Called Millennials. I am incredibly excited to release it and I’m going to be putting forth a lot of energy and effort for that launch and essentially, I am going to put together my own book tour so that I am able to get out there and travel and meet people. I’ve been writing for almost my entire life, so it will be different to have an actual book out there.
Q: So, we know you like gourmet pizza.
Michell: I like all types of pizza, I’m a pizza love to the core.
Q: In DC where can we get the best pizza?
Michell: My personal favorite is And Pizza, they’re all over the place, they’re open late you can get whatever toppings you want. They even have a bunch of healthy options as well.
Q: We know your love of music has played a major role in your personal and professional path, if you could only listen to three artists for the rest of your life who would they be?
Michell: Man, that’s tough because you know I love me some music. If I could only pick three I have to have a rapper in there and I would pick Jay-Z because he has so many different eras that I can draw from. I can listen Reasonable Doubt, I can listen to Blueprint, I can listen to Watch the Throne and 4:44 and hear so many different eras of rap. I think he’d hold me down for a long time. I probably would pick Stevie Wonder because Stevie Wonder is Stevie Wonder and I love Stevie Wonder as I think everyone should and I would go with Janelle Monae just because she’s incredible.
Q: Lastly, how are you making e-mail great again?
Michell: I’ve been on a mission over the past couple of years to give people a newsletter they can look forward to of just some actual useful things. So, Make E-mail Great Again, I send it out every other Tuesday and I include a playlist called Clark Strikes 12 and I put 12 different songs on there every single playlist and the catch is that I never use the same artist twice. I am up to like the 30th edition, which means I’ve people close to 500 different artists from different eras. I really prioritize sequencing, I think of it as a movie. I try to really give some value to my music lovers who have been with me since the blog days and then I tie in one actionable social media tip to help other people who are following along for the social media insight who are building their own brand or business and also sharing what I’ve learned from tough personal moments. I do my best to keep it limited and as solid as possible to make it worth everyone’s while.
For more information on Michell C. Clark and to sign up for his Make E-mail Great Again newsletter click here.