(last updated on April 29, 2014)
This morning I had a few interesting insights, which I feel compelled to share:
I work better if I document as I go. It is how I focus. I have been thinking that focus is some mystical internal state that I had to achieve as a form of enlightened awareness. Actually, that’s probably still a laudable goal, and I shouldn’t be so quick to toss Buddhism out with the bathwater, but HECK, why not work with what I got? WRITING ABOUT WHAT I DO is MY PROCESS.
The kind of design I do “is what it is.” I shouldn’t worry about what I wish I could do. As I’ve written before, I’ve had a lot of trouble accepting the “designer” label for myself, because I can easily see where I fall short. I have very high expectations for Design, on the order of enlightenment again. That’s great, but I am going to start accepting that what comes out of me is what comes out. People seem to like it, now that they can see what it is through the work I’ve made publicly available. The work examples themselves form the basis of a “contract of understanding” now. I just need to be firm about what it is that I can do well. Which leads to the next insight…
I’m never happy if I don’t have enough. But maybe I do. You know how there are some people who are financially very successful, but never are satisfied and always want more? I have been so glad that I didn’t fall into that category, displacing my happiness in the shallow pursuit of infinite wealth. But then I realized that for me…money has been replaced by skill acquisition. I’m just as guilty of displacing happiness because I “never have enough skill” and feel like I’m not measuring up to my potential. Well…that isn’t very enlightened or cool.
Distilling these insights to general principle:
- If you’ve ever been frustrated that you aren’t doing something quite right, take the advice I got from the TV a few nights ago: If you knew the answer, what would it be? Start with what you know. Use your existing processes. We’re conditioned to think that there’s the “right tool for the job”, not to use flashlights as hammers, or screwdrivers as crowbars, and that tends to carry over into our mental processes…there must be a correct way that isn’t the way I’m doing it. If there are no technical and physical constraints, and it’s not going to actually kill you if you’re wrong, then take your strongest asset and try to make the job fit. I liked what Phil Torrone said at SXSW this year, about their acquisition of a programmable laser etcher: When you have a laser…everything looks laserable. We laughed because we knew that wasn’t true, perhaps even imprudent, but joyful in that pure hacker way. But heck, if all you have is a laser and you like using it…why not apply it? I think that productive people may accept this without question.
The phrase, “Be satisfied with what you have” has never sat well with me, because it’s often delivered in a dream-crushing manner. If you’re a dreamer and a schemer like me, that attitude is anathema to the very core of your personality. So let’s rephrase this in a more positive light: Live your life like a toy collector. Instead of fixating on the end of the journey—for me, that was being Award-Winning Super Designer—work on acquiring that next great piece that moves your collection of experiences and skills in the right direction. If you’ve ever collected anything, you know the joy of this process.
p>I guess the theme here is finding joy in processes that you can embrace and work with now, bootstrapping your way to greater productivity. This may seem obvious to most of you out there, but it’s something I have to constantly remind myself of because I’m impatient. Oh, so impatient.