How To Be Alone – for the On Being Project

Having recently gone through the loss of my second parent, I can tell you that even though you are surrounded by loved ones and friends, you are at times overcome by a complete sense of “aloneness”. And it’s OK. The feeling will sneak up on you and be triggered by the smallest of things. You are caught up in a memory, and then reminded that you are in a sense an orphan even though you’re still married, have siblings, close friends, and extended family.

Today while catching up with the latest On Being podcast I bounced over to Vimeo to watch one of their latest animated shorts. It was on a topic that is reflective of what I wrote above – being alone. This wonderful short animated film by Leo G. Franchi was written and read by Pádraig Ó Tuama for The On Being Project. It brings up the topic and places it in front of the viewer delivering its message with a calmness that captures those feelings, that that are sometimes, more often than not associated with being alone – anxiety, quietness, distance, awkwardness – and lets you know that its OK. That you simply need to breathe. To be aware of yourself and know you are alive at this moment in a universe that is forever changing.

A Few Suggestions For a Succesful Year as a Designer

As 2010 starts out, many people are facing the reality of either starting a new job or a new career. Below are a few common sense rules that I am going to try to follow through out the course of the next year. While I have listed these in reference to a career in design, they are applicable to almost any job.

• Find the right place to gain as much experience as possible in the shortest amount of time that you can. This may mean a small  independent design studio, a large agency or it could be hopping jobs every 2 years depending on what’s available in your area.

• Work in a place that is worthy of your time and talent. Don’t settle for any job. If you settle, you won’t learn anything. You’ll be depressed and resentful, and that means no room for growth.

• Put more effort into your job than expected and do it cheerfully. If you are the whiner or the person that just does the status quo, you will be perceived as less valuable. Like it or not, this is the way it works. It’s human nature.

• Be generous with your contributions to the team’s work. Do not try to take credit for every idea you came up with. It’s a team effort. The mark of a true leader is a person that gives credit when credit is due. It shows professional maturity, and makes you look like a champion of others skills and talents.

• Become the most positive and enthusiastic designer at your workplace. A positive attitude does more to sell your skills than just about any other thing you can do.

• Be forgiving of yourself and the people you work with. Everyone makes mistakes even when they only have good intentions. Don’t let your mistakes or the mistakes of others make you lose sight of long-term goals.

• Commit yourself to quality. Never settle for something less than your very best. Perfect what you do, become a master at your craft.

• Persistence pays off. Great work never just falls into your lap. You need to work for it, refine it, perfect it.

• If you clearly see you’re going into the wrong direction with your strategy do not be afraid to stop and rethink everything. This means even if you have to start everything from scratch. Better to get it perfect then turn in shoddy work that undermines your skills.

• Discipline yourself to save money on even a modest salary. This will give you the freedom to change jobs when things go bad and will allow you to take meaningful breaks that refresh your mind and body. Think about the age-old story of the ant and the grasshopper.

• Don’t blame others. If you’re unhappy about something take the initiative to change instead of whining about it. Nobody likes a finger pointer, and you never know when you might end up working for the people you are complaining about. The design world is a tight community, and you can never predict who you might be working for or with in the future.

• Commit yourself to constant improvement. Technology and the industry changing very quickly. You have to keep up. This means carving out time to learn new skills, software, strategies, etc. If you don’t keep learning and improving, you will fall behind.

• Treat your colleagues and clients with respect. Your professional happiness isn’t based on the number of awards you have or how much money you make.  It’s based on the relationships you have with your colleagues and clients. Treat them with respect, and they will respect you. It’s a two-way street.

• Be loyal to your clients and your employer. It will be appreciated even by the competition. If you go around bashing your employer, the people you work with, a client you have, this all comes back around. The world is a much smaller place these days. If you shoot your mouth off, it will get overheard or spread by someone else.

• Be a self-starter. If you identify an idea take charge and go for it. This shows that you are a leader, and that you have the kind of business acumen that leads to success.

• Be decisive even if it means you’re sometimes going to be wrong. Trial and error are the best ways to get experience, learn and grow. I don’t know of a single individual in the creative field that has hit a home run every time. Failure is a great tool that can help you learn, and contrary to popular belief failing isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s called trial and error.

• Be bold and courageous with your work. When you look back on your professional life, you will regret the things you didn’t try more than the one you did.

• Don’t take all advice for granted. Pick what’s useful for you. Make up your own rules and change them at your will. It’s your life and your career. The more experience you have, the more the rules will change. As you gain more and more experience your role will begin to shift from advice getter, to advice giver. That shift is more powerful than you think, because you become the source of influence for a younger generation of designers starting out.