I met Ari Kuschnir a little over a year ago. He’s incredibly charming and charismatic, qualities that make total sense for a man who runs a highly successful new wave entertainment and production company out of Brooklyn, New York. On paper, it would be easy to feel intimidated by Ari—yet in person, his nature is approachable and grounded. He’s captivating in a way that makes you feel like you have been invited to be a part of the magic—his magic.
Last summer, Ari, his then-pregnant wife, my partner, and I all met for dinner in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. Over the course of the meal, we exchanged our own individual recipes for self-care, balance, and happiness. I left the evening feeling incredibly humbled to know someone who is not only accomplished in the realm of professional achievement but also committed to his own definition of success: being an active participant in taking care of his body, mind, and spirit.
Very recently Ari became a father, and I begin our conversation by asking what that experience has been like for him. We talk about the notion that once you have a child you recognize that nothing will ever be the same and that your core has been shaken and moved from its original foundation. We explore nature vs. nurture, what parts of a human’s being is predetermined, and how you inherently see yourself in the new life that is just beginning to take form. I am undoubtedly inquisitive about the topic because I am still trying to make sense of my own desires to have children, regularly noodling on how it will affect my work, my relationships, and my own need for regular self-care.
Our conversation continues with an exploration of Ari’s past. Born in Colombia, Ari’s teenage years were lived amidst the chaos of the Colombian drug crisis. During that time, an army draft existed for all men entering into their eighteenth year. Although Ari’s family wasn’t wealthy, he grew up in a bubble of the Columbian society that gave him enough money to pay his way out of the draft. However, before he could be officially released from his duties, he had to follow along with the procedures for the day of his enlistment, patiently waiting for an official to tell him that he had received permission to be released and sent back home.
Somewhere, somehow, something got lost in translation and Ari found himself on a military plane being flown to an army base. Ari’s anxiety was palpable and the boy next to him asked him what was going on. Without a moment’s hesitation, Ari shared the horrific nature of what it meant to be drafted and pulled away from his family, friends, and what he had thought would be his future. However, for the boy sitting next to him, none of these fears rang true. Being drafted into the army meant free food, free lodging, daily exercise, and the opportunity to protect his country. Ari remembers,
“It was so clear that reality was subjective in that moment and that something that was terrible for me was the hope for this person that had come from nothing and that I had never been grateful that I had been born and had all these opportunities.”
This experience catalyzed Ari’s purpose in life, forcing him to examine how to use his opportunities as a means of becoming the highest version of himself. At this point, I don’t hesitate to ask Ari the big questions, fishing around for his definition of what makes a meaningful life. After only a moment’s hesitation, he shares his mission to “enable creative projects, creative storytelling projects that raise collective consciousness.” To me, this definition clearly aligns with Ari’s experience back in Colombia. Discovering that he has the conscious opportunity to rewrite his own story, he now feels called to help other creatives do the same. We go on to discuss the dance of what it means to be alive. I share that I think the meaning of life is to “walk on a spiritual path” and Ari adds in that we “ideally do it without suffering or contributing to suffering.”
The conversation then segues to the present with a few anecdotes of what happened along his path to get him to where he is today. One of the things that we discuss is how professional purpose, the things that we do that allow us to lose track of time, is so deeply connected with our own intuition. Ari shares that as his personal mission expands—seeking opportunities to make a greater impact on the world—he has had to let go of some of his professional gifts (video editing) to allow for such growth. This notion reminds me of a particular StartUp podcast episode with Alex Blumberg, co-founder and CEO of Gimlet Media. During the episode, Blumberg’s employees have reviewed his managerial skills and he is processing the results with an executive coach. His experience mirrors that of Ari’s, discovering the need to let go of the things that he loves and that he has worked at his entire life in order to become the leader he needs to become. In the episode he states,
“I need to figure out what morning and evening routines will support me in being more prepared for the meetings I have scheduled each day . . . I’m not disciplined in that way. Like, it’s clear that I have to get good at certain things that I’m not good at. And it makes me worried that I will have to become a kind of person that I’m not and [that] I’m not sure I wanna be. . . . The thing that’s not reflected is that I love what I’m doing right now and I love being involved in all these things; it’s really fun. And . . . it’s really fun to be really good at something. And that’s what I feel like I am right now. And I feel like a little bit [of] what’s being told is: you have to stop doing the thing that you love and you’re good at and get good at something else.”
After a little more conversation, I ask Ari what he can pass on to someone who feels out of sync with his or her own intuition and core purpose. His response reminds me of the StartUp episode, the dinner I had with him a year ago, and the words I echo over and over again to my clients: take care of yourself, get enough sleep, exercise, eat nutritious foods, read books that open your mind to new ideas, and most importantly, let go of old stories that you have of yourself and the world around you. He says,
“Compos[e] a story that feels in alignment with [your] intuition, [your] instinct, th[e] core [of] who you are. If you upgrade your story, you upgrade your life. If you upgrade the stuff you put into your body, you upgrade your life.”
In the Four Agreements, author and Mexican shaman Don Miguel Ruiz writes about how he changes his story:
“I change my story by changing what I believe about myself. When I clean up the lies I believe about myself, the lies I believe about other people change. Every time I change myself, my whole story changes to adapt to the new main character.”
These words and the conversation I shared with Ari make my heart feel full. It is an honor to be connected to a leader in the world that is asking big questions of himself and those around him. It is not only by choice but also by duty that he continues to pick up a pen and rewrite his story over and over again until it is most closely aligned with his highest self.
Ari Kuschnir is the founder and executive producer of m ss ng p eces, the award-winning new wave production and entertainment company inspired by the limitless potential of storytelling and technology.
Since 2005, Ari has been leading, advising, and completing creative projects that resonate, seeking to shed light on people, projects, and ideas that matter to him as well as the community in which he surrounds himself. He consistently pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in storytelling, most recently through radical, never-been-done-before projects in video, interactive video, and virtual reality.
Ari has collaborated with some of the world’s leading artists, agencies, brands, and organizations. He has been featured on the Creativity 50 list and sits on the board of advisors for the Future of StoryTelling. He frequently speaks at conferences as an industry leader. Last year, m ss ng p eces catapulted to Creativity and Advertising Age’s Production Company A-List.
Ari lives in Brooklyn with his wife Michelle and their daughter Luna.