We had the good fortune of connecting with Kirstin Winkler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kirstin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
It would be somewhat of an exaggeration to claim “Mo’ Risk – Mo’ Fun” as my life’s motto, but a certain fondness for risk and welcoming change has frequently rewarded me with growth, opportunity and, well… mo’ fun. And in those rare moments when my risk/reward calculation didn’t add up and ended in disappointment, it still served as an important lesson that likely prevented further emotional faceplants down the line.
Taking chances on people and opportunities has enriched my life, career and relationships in so many unforeseeable ways and has given me the ability to avoid boredom, stagnation and complacency. Whether the risk of dropping everything to move from Munich to Los Angeles with 2 weeks notice, heaps of bravado and naiveté, yet zero savings and an outdated Nokia flip phone without an international plan… The risk of joining a mysterious, globetrotting nomad in Paraguay for a 3-week road trip through South America after having shared only one mediocre meal and an above-average roll in the hay… The risk of diving into a 2-week shamanic ayahuasca retreat in the remote Andes mountains without prior experience with psychedelics… Or leaving a secure, prestigious and well-paid job to follow my inner Bourdain and focus more of my energy on experiences vs earnings despite the brisk risk of decreasing my brag-worthy credit score.
Risk—mostly the smart and calculated kind—doesn’t always result in life’s greatest accomplishments or joys, but it usually shakes things up. Like that poorly-timed, FOMO-inspired cryptocurrency investment that still has to be recouped. But that’s counterproductive to my argument here, so let’s stick to the positive… for those of us who crave growth and a sense of feeling alive, it seems to be an inevitable tool and a must for longevity as a risk-taking entrepreneur.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I consider myself a storyteller, whether through my longterm career as a creative producer in film and television, a digital marketing manager, entertainment consultant or travel writer. Storytelling gives us a sense of self, of history and of culture, but first and foremost it is a powerful tool to create emotions, to make people feel… whether through the written word, imagery – still or moving – or music. Entertainment is a very straightforward way of telling a story and of creating emotions, but even with travel writing, I look at it through a storytelling lens and focus on the unique feeling that a destination can evoke in us. Even in my digital marketing and entertainment consulting work, I focus on the story and the emotion a client wants to create around their company, product or content. And while most of my work happens underneath a storytelling umbrella, no job and no day is identical and my career is marked by variety and continuous evolvement. Boredom and stagnation are not part of the schedule and that I’m extremely grateful for.
My professional path wasn’t always easy, as it hasn’t been linear nor singularly focused and probably will never be. Most societies reward those, who have one dominant skill and a clear focus, who channel their +10,000 hours on precisely that linear path. My curiosities and strengths however have always been changing and evolving and I rarely stand still. This has lead me to a multi-hyphenate career that mirrors my diverse passions and talents. But in a culture where specialists are praised and ‘multipotentialites’* often considered indecisive and unfocused, it has taken time to value my broader sensibilities in the same way I would admire a single-focused expert. But understanding ourselves with all our unique strengths and weaknesses is a required precursor to creating authentically, which is where the magic happens. Early in my career, working in a very male-centric environment, I assumed I had to be like “one of the guys” and it took years to realize that I was able to bring value by adding a different perspective and lending my specific voice added more nuance to every conversation. It took risk and trial & error to discover my own story and the niche I wanted to occupy and I am sure this idea will continue to change and evolve.
*(I adopted this term from Emily Wapnick, who gave an interesting TED talk on this topic)
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It is LA’s diversity and variety that make the city so special and a week-long itinerary would try to reflect exactly that… Geographically, a day trip beyond the city limits to Joshua Tree would be a must, with a visit to the Joshua Tree Coffee Company to fuel the day, the relaxing sound bath at the Integratron and a juicy bite of bbq meat with some live music at Pappy’s & Harriet’s. In contrast, another day would be spent hiking the Santa Monica mountains, rewarded with an Americana brunch at Old Man’s Place, wine tasting at Malibu Wines and seafood dinner on the Malibu Pier, that – despite being rather touristy – is well worth the crowds. Within the city limits, I take every visitor from East LA’s neighborhoods via DTLA towards the West Side.
LA’s prominent Mexican influences would inspire several culinary stops, from Frogtown’s Salazar to Boyle Height’s street taco truck Mariscos Jalisco. Magal BBQ is the gold standard for Korean BBQ, lively and delicious and a stop at Hama Sushi in Little Tokyo would definitely make the list. Venice’s Gjusta for midday sandwich and Manhattan Beach’s Fishing with Dynamite and their key lime pie are definite addition to LA grazing tour as well.
And while a culinary tour of LA is a must, so would be a visit to The Broad and a performance at the Philharmonics, a relaxing day at the romantic El Matador Beach and dancing Salsa at Hermosa Beach’s Lighthouse. For Magic and Old Hollywood lovers, I’d add in a night at the Magic Castle and a more adventurous guest would get to join me on a tour of LA’s underground tunnels.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Vin Diesel: I owe the opportunity to get my foot in the “LA door” to Vin, who took a chance in me and sponsored my very first U.S. work visa, so I could move to Los Angeles and start building my career. For that I will be forever grateful.
Peter Greenberg, “The Travel Detective”. An old friend and inspiring travel journalist, Peter has nudged me to expand my addiction to adventure and start sharing my experiences and discoveries through travel writing/blogging, something I hadn’t considered before.
Nat Geo for their endless inspirations to get out and explore the unknown.
The headshot (first image) with the Sony logo is from Dave Allocca The car shot with roof tent should go to Dominic Yard