JJ Miller Founder & Director – J.J Miller Productions
"I do not believe in shortcuts or tricks to success, but I do hope that by sharing a bit of my story, I can inspire others to overcome whatever adversity they believe may be holding them back in life."
Growing up, school was always a struggle. At a young age, I found out I was dyslexic and was forced to attend a private school away from my friends. My childhood struggles in the classroom couldn’t have been more opposite to my successes on the athletic field. It was a unique balance that kept me going and kept me pushing forward mentally.
I always thought school wasn’t that important. I always had this feeling I would find another path to success. My personal opinions on the education system and its relevance to my life differed quite substantially from those of my parents. They were adamant that my disability was nothing more than a hurdle I had to overcome, and they would be damned if they were going to let me fall victim to it.
My parents were right. Their determination to see me succeed would eventually ignite my own desire to take control of my own future and not allow myself to be defined by dyslexia.
While it may have taken me longer to do the same work as my classmates, I put my head down and got it done. I realized that with the right work ethic, I could achieve the same feats. The kind of ‘old-school’ mentality of, “you do it until it’s done right” was ingrained in my DNA from a young age.
My Dad played a massive role in helping me develop creatively. When I was growing up, he worked for General Motors; once he noticed my interest in the creative process, he did everything in his power to help me grow. We went to auto shows to study the designs of cars, analyzed television commercials, critiqued print ads, and talked to the creatives at various ad agencies. My Dad showed me that there were careers outside the normal nine to five and again drove home that as long as I worked my ass off, nothing could hold me back. Looking back, I was really blessed to have had that influence in my life. At one stage during this time, it was like a lightbulb in my head went off. Suddenly, my disability seemed less like a hurdle and more like an open door. I realized I could make a life doing what I love. I could be creative.
My days in college were filled with the two things I loved: baseball and creativity.
I studied graphic design believing it would allow me to work at an ad agency or become a creative director. However, it was there where I discovered my true passion: photography. I had always enjoyed taking photos, looking at the composition and trying to get the best shots possible, but it was only when I got to college that I could turn my passion into a profession. I never realized that with enough skill, it could be a viable and profitable career choice. I mean, sure, Hollywood directors and fashion photographers maybe, but that was a whole different world to me. I continued to pursue down the graphic design path, and did freelance jobs to get me through college.
After a few photography classes, and some time in the studio, I submitted some projects that blew my teacher away. He turned to me after one class and told me, “You’re doing things most people can’t do. You’ve got a real eye for it.”
Ironically, the freelance work I had been doing made me realize that graphic design and dyslexia did not gel well together. I was great when it came to creating unique images, but when I was asked to create a project with lots of words, my dyslexia would make it a struggle.
I came out of school and started my own production company, which was pretty risky my first year out. Basically, I’d just do anything that would pay me at first. I’d do a lot of web design, I’d do a lot of photoshoots, and then coached a lot of baseball to make ends meet.
Most people aren’t willing to work a 16 hour day, seven days a week, which is what I did the first few years to get my business off the ground. The success I’ve achieved in my career has not come by chance; it’s come from my willingness to put in the extra hours. In almost every situation, you can move forward in life if you just put in the time.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my experience of creating the Pitchers Power Drive would help propel my production company in ways I could’ve never imagined. It just so happened that my two loves growing up, sports and creativity, were destined to not only collide, but to become my niche.
One hot summer day in East Cobb, Georgia, I bumped into Justin Niefer, the co-founder of Evo Shield. He was blown away by the marketing and branding associated with the Pitchers Power Drive and asked me to put him in touch with the production company responsible.
“You’re looking at it,” I said as I chuckled.
He was shocked, and just like that, I had landed my first big name client.
As the years have gone by, we have grown to become a full-scale production team, and our work has followed suit. There is never a day, though, that I do not think about my scrappy roots that have led me to where I am now.
If I could give any piece of advice to anyone who feels slighted, angry, or held back by their imperfections, it is this:
You’ll never find success inside the box, so think outside of it, break down the walls and work harder than the person beside you. Look inside yourself to find what it is that makes you tick. Every single one of us is different; our strengths and weaknesses are unique. It’s never too late to hurdle your weaknesses and overcome whatever adversity held you back in the past.