I love what I do. And, if a theme has followed me into adulthood and driven my career, it is this: brands are my fascination, my passion.

In elementary school, I found my people—the art kids. We exhaustively sketched the topics of our 10-year-old interests over pavement at recess. We gave each other compliments. We carefully critiqued. We inspired each other.

But we soon encountered a problem—artists “copying” each other’s ideas. With the “copying” came improvements. A different approach, straighter lines, new textures, better interpretations. The new drawings were cooler, more awesome. The fallout was huge. 

Our group reached a crossroads. We wanted to continue to create, but sharing work with the group was now a risk. After intense negotiation, we agreed to terms. Once a member had an idea he or she felt was expressed enough to be ownable, he or she could mark it with a copyright symbol. From that point, the idea officially belonged to that person. No one else in the group could explore the idea. It could not be stolen, for all times, infinity.

Ideas had value, and expressing ownership was powerful. Stating that the concept was created by you, it was original and that you suspected it was good, that others might want to copy it—well that was big. It was official. 

Even then, I knew ideas had value and protecting them was important. In the creative currency of my fifth-grade classroom, giving a classmate permission to recreate and potentially improve upon an original idea was the highest sign of friendship. These relationships were negotiated with seriousness and, when appropriate, royalties were paid in trinkets and candy.

I may not have had the language to describe it then, but I was protecting my intellectual property and that of my friends. Although the tools are different, the topics are more complex and the campaigns have larger audiences, I’ve built my career on that foundation set in fifth grade. I make great work with great people, and I establish systems to protect that work.