By Jonathan Rays

I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?

I have found myself in a unique business. It isn’t the typical 9 a.m.–5 p.m. job, and weekends and holidays also aren’t always days off for me like most industries. At Shine Illumination, my team and I create huge Instagramable installations and experiences at public spaces, like retail centers, hotels or harbor boardwalks. Though we build experiences for holidays year round, the months leading up to the winter holidays are our busiest times where the team is trading off breaks to work around the clock for days, sometimes weeks straight. Every year we ask ourselves ‘how are we going to get this done?’ and every year we manage. My team is like a family, and we support each other like a family. That’s a component of what drive me.

Overall, I’m driven by knowing that I can create memories and experiences for my children. One of their favorite things to do every December is go down to our local harbor in Dana Point, California to walk through the #HappyHarborDaysinstallation we built. This whimsical waterfront winter wonderland is magical for them, and it’s an incredible feeling to be able to see them enjoy something we’ve created. It’s magical. The most important thing I can do is leave a legacy of me through them.

They know how hard I work in these months leading up to the winter holidays, but the reward is always getting to enjoy the season with them as we enjoy the things my team has created. When my children see me creating and building these amazing experiences, it breeds creativity into their life. Their love of life and excitement is what drives me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? What lesson did you learn from them?

While I do have a few role models and mentors, I’m a firm believer that not everything can come from one person. I take bits of pieces from everyone I encounter, even if it’s completely unrelated to my work. I believe the most important thing to remember is that life is ever changing. What works now may not work in the future, which is why I challenge myself and my team to never stop learning. There is always going to be someone doing something that you too can learn from.

There is one person in particular who must have been that ‘right person at the right time’ for me. He was a great mentor and had an obelisk on his property with the words “Scio te Ipsum” scribed in Latin on it. I wasn’t too impressed with it at the time until I learned what it meant – “Know Thyself.” Since then, that has been my number one reminder in life. I must focus on my strengths and be aware of my weaknesses.

How do you push through your worst times?

As discussed before, the months leading up to the winter holiday can be considered my “worst times” because of the sheer amount of work that has to be accomplished in a short amount of time. Grit is the first thing that pushes me through these hard times – I know the work we’re doing will change the lives of the people that get to experience is, and I have confidence and courage in that outcome.

I also am determined to never fail. Because failure isn’t an option for me, I am quick to find solutions to every obstacle in front of us. I believe this is why we’ve been so successful year after year.