This past week on January 22nd, I turned 22. In order to keep this theme of 22s going, l thought I’d share 22 things that I’ve learned. As I’ve had these experiences this past year, I’d like to share a few things that I didn’t know before and how I’ve learned from them.
1. I’ve Learned Best by Teaching What I Know.
Having to explain things that I just know intuitively, forces me to reevaluate what I know. When I have to articulate what I know into words, it helps me understand my processes better because I have to break it down for others. Teaching reinforces and clarifies my own knowledge, just as much as it helps others.
2. Creating for Others is More Fulfilling than Selfish Creation
I’ve found out that when I create work for myself, a small percentage of people might like my work, but it wouldn’t be anything that deeply resonated with them. When I’ve created content specifically for helping others, solving problems, and addressing needs, I’ve found it to be the most rewarding type of creation. Now, I try to align what I’m good at, with what I like, and with what others want. I’ve realized that’s where I make the biggest difference and get the most fulfillment.
3. Create Great Work and People Will Find It
It all starts with great work. My best work has almost l always gotten itself found and shared without any extra work.
4. The Process is Just as Important as the Product
It’s easy for me to rush to conclusions. However, I’ve learned the design process shouldn’t be rushed. The tangential ideas explored throughout the process is necessary to turn a good design into a great one.
5. Getting Outside Perspectives Helps Validate My Solution
It’s easy to get caught up in my “perfect idea” and try to keep it a secret from everyone else. However, my best work has come from allowing people in to my idea, concepts, and allow them to give feedback. Although my work may look good from my perspective, there’s often a side to things I haven’t seen. I can try to review my own work with many revisions and time spent sleeping on the idea, or I can speed up the process by asking others.
6. Optimizing My Consumption is Necessary for My Production
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in hours and hours of social media, Netflix, funny videos, and time wasters these days. However, it’s important for me to limit and consolidate the time wasting material. Those activities affect my mindset as a producer. Entertainment puts me in a passive mindset, while education puts me in a productive mindset.
Also, it’s never been easier and cheaper to learn and improve through educational videos, podcasts, books, blog posts, etc. It just take a conscious decision to consume things that actually fulfill and enrich my life. I’m a strong believer in the saying, “The person you will be in five years is based on the books you read and the people you surround yourself today.”
“The person you will be in five years is based on the books you read and the people you surround yourself today.”
7. Surrounding Myself with Like-Minded Individuals is Very Important
Going to my first local design conference, going to my first meetup, and surrounding myself with like-minded individuals online have been the three biggest catalysts for my growth this past year. The best way to keep myself constantly improving is by surrounding myself with the people who are where I want to be.
8. People Resonate with Messages More than Interesting Design
People are bombarded with interesting images everyday, but writing and creating a story is what has provided depth to my work and made it stand out. I realized that both designers and non-designers can appreciate a message more than just technical proficiencies. My work has become more resonant once I’ve attached a message to it.
9. Having My Own Website and Email Newsletter is Extremely Valuable
Social media is important for me to share and engage on popular platforms, but the engagement there is fleeting. After I reorganized my website and started my newsletter last year, I realized so many benefits. It’s so important to have a home base for all of my content, and a place where people who care about my content can have direct access to me. Investing in setting up my own platform takes time and money, but it has been worth it.
10. Saying No is Difficult, but Necessary
It’s easy for me to default to saying yes to opportunities that pop up. That’s until I realized that saying no makes time, and saying yes fills time. I have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, and in order to do more with those hours, I need to say no to doing certain things. It’s hard sometimes, because I often disappoint people by saying no to good opportunities. I do so in order to have the capacity to say yes to great opportunities, and to do the work that fulfills me.
11. Writing Case Studies is Powerful
An image of a logo on my website or social media may be discovered, but without an explanation of the process, there’s no depth to it. Case studies set my work apart in the reader’s mind as strategic design, and showcases my knowledge as a designer. For the few that really care, they will spend a disproportionate amount of time viewing and reading about my work, compared to a design with only an image.
Case in point, a LA Times reporter contacted me about interviewing me for the LA Times Article he was writing on Snapchat geofilters. He told me that he decided to contact me because he read through my case study and was really impressed by my design process.
He told me that he decided to contact me because he read through my case study and was really impressed by my design process.
12. Sharing Failures is Just as Important as Sharing Successes
In order to illustrate why I turned down every client work request in 2015 and I take fully responsibility of the clients I take on, I shared the story of one of my first major failures as a designer.
It was the story of how taking on a client from hell ruined my passion for web design. I shared it to illustrate that I wasn’t selective with clients, nor did I control the on-boarding process with my work. I shared how this type of unprofessional practice ended up costing my passion.
Sharing my failure helped people connect and relate with the message on an emotional level. They were able to put themselves in my shoes, which resulted in a lot of heartfelt engagement from the people who deeply connected with the message.
13. Showing My Work is Important
It’s easy to rush to conclusions, and it’s hard to slow down to go through all the important steps. But I’ve realized that my math teacher was right: showing my work actually helps me arrive at the correct solution. It takes time, but it’s hard to see what connections I’m missing if I don’t do the work to go through the process.
14. When I Give Freely of Myself It Often Comes Back Around
I’ve realized that if I give more than I receive in return, things just often come back around and repay themselves. When I give to others, they are likely to feel compelled return the favor in some form.
15. Having a Questionnaire is Essential
My questionnaire has been a life saver. It has freed me up from spending a lot of time in emails asking the basic questions about a potential client’s project. The questionnaire serves a functional purpose to capture a lot of preliminary information upfront that is needed with every project. As a side benefit, it allows us to use that saved time to be spent on the deeper questions that really matter.
It has also been a wonderful way to filter out the clients who aren’t serious and want something quick and cheap. I want to do great work that provides value to the client and I’ve found the questionnaire useful for prequalifying the client to make sure we’re a good fit.
16. It’s My Responsibility to Take Care of the Experience
The client is coming to me for my work, but they’re also come to experience my process. Same thing with my audience. They are seeking my content, but they are also seeking my quality. Whether is my audience or potential clients, they are going to have an experience with my personal brand one way or another. It can either let it happen haphazardly, or I can take control and shape a positive experience.
17. It’s Important to Separate a Client’s Goals from a Client’s Plans
A client’s goals are what I need to uncover as a designer. However, the client’s goals and often be intertwined with a preconceived plan of how I might achieve those goals. The goals are often worth pursuing, but the plans are often misleading. As the designer, it’s my job to figure out the best course of action for the client’s goals through my process. The first steps towards succeeding in the project is when I separate the goals from the client’s plans.
18. Give Myself Time to Think Before I Say Yes
When presented opportunity or idea in the moment, it’s easy to react by saying “yes” or “sure” to please someone. Often I’ve regretted saying yes when I haven’t taken the time to think things through. I’ve had to default on a couple of those snap judgements, because they conflicted with prior commitments that I hadn’t taken into account. Each time I agree to help someone out, I’m essentially saying no to everything else that was prioritized before them. So, it’s much better for me to ask for time to think about it, than it is to say yes, only to come back and say I can’t.
19. It’s Important to Make Things Easy For the Consumer to Access
Being a content creator has really shifted my mindset on the ease of use for the user. Everything from the blog post titles, sub-headlines, links, and featured images are created to make it easy for users to access my content. I’ve spent time in sharing my ideas, so it only makes sense to improve the paths to access my content so that it can reach and affect more people.
20. Community and Competition Cannot Coexist
It’s really difficult to have a sense of community among other designers and artists if I also see them as my competition. Design and art are communities that thrive on community, sharing ideas, and helping one another. I’ve seen a lot of the people who do things similar things to me as competition, but it wasn’t until after getting around those people when I realized how silly it was to think that way.
21. There Are Some Things I Just Can’t Teach Myself
I’ve been a self learner for most of the things that have interested me. I need to have a passion for it in order to learn about it, but this can also be a point of weakness of mine. Some of the most important lessons comes from doing things you don’t want to do. It’s easy to be passionate about the fun parts of design, but it’s harder to teach myself things like proper process, critiquing work, and team work.
The past 3 semesters in my design program have showed me that school has a unique value proposition to being an autodidact. It intentionally puts me through the rigmarole of projects focused on instilling particular lessons and values. There are certain barriers between head knowledge and experiential knowledge. There are just somethings that are learned best when someone is leading me and I’m experiencing the troubles hands on.
22. Comparison is Useless
It’s hard not to compare myself to others. It comes from wanting to find a way to see if I’m making the progress along with the other people doing the same things as me. I’ve found this to be fairly useless. The only person I can and should compare myself to is me. I’m the only one with the same goals, abilities, and circumstances.
Each time I compare myself to someone other than myself, I find myself unsatisfied with the conclusion. This is because other people have different circumstances than I do. I can’t see all the different variable that are unique to them that have allowed them to be where they are today. I often overlook things like age, financial barriers, years of experience, and responsibilities that all are unique to each person.
It’s always a struggle to avoid comparing myself, but I try to keep my focus on where I am, where I want to, and the steps I’m able to take each day to get there. I’ve realized that this mindset is much more empowering, because those are the only things I can control.
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