So it’s self reflection time. I turned 30 about 2 weeks ago. I’m in a good place, full of gratitude and joy for how life’s shaped up. I’ve done more than I have ever dreamed of as a kid and I wasn’t sure where I’d be or how I’d end up. At 30 I feel successful, which is kind of taboo to say. Because you’re not allowed to say it. You’ll look like an asshole or a jerk with no humility. Like look at this ‘fucking guy’ who does he think is? Let’s take him down a notch!! But I’m not successful in the traditional sense, or what people define as success – I’m not a multimillionaire, I’m not famous or run a huge company. But it’s my kind of success. I’m happy, my family and friends are in good health, I have meaning in the work that I do, I have freedom to work on and do the things that I want and I try to help others as much as I can. I DON’T have all the answers. I get scared just like you, I get nervous, I worry sometimes and have problems like everyone else. But that’s a part I wouldn’t remove because that’s what makes us grow and makes life interesting.
This is me at 8 unaware of what life is going to throw at him!
So what is it that I want to say? The grass always looks greener on the other end. We see other people doing amazing things and we want to do the same but it feels impossible or so far away. When I first started designing professionally 10 years ago I sucked. I didn’t know much compared to everyone around me. If you want to see how noob I was – and to show you that we all start somewhere check out these old journal entries from my internship/junior design position in 2007. The web was a different place then and I was a kid with a milk moustache. But this journey of creativity and making things for a living was something I didn’t expect. I never thought about my career or what I wanted. I kind of fumbled my way through it all and put the pieces together as I went along. I just loved the process of creating, designing and getting better – so I always showed up and just made a start. Tiny steps that led to a fulfilling career 10 years later.
Today when I see young designers reaching out – I know that these girls and guys who are proactive and ‘hustling’ are the ones that will go on to do great things. I just know they are going to crush it and leave me in the dust one day. And I love it. It’s like watching talent grow and it’s amazing.
Sometimes I like being a novice again – because that’s when it’s exciting and you learn so much. Learning about how to design better work. First it was about just putting a comp together that looked decent, then about how to map out logical flows that users could understand – then it became more in depth with how to align business goals and to use design thinking to solve problems and to impact people. There is no “you’ve learnt everything and let’s call it a day” moment. Even when you look at others it seems like everything they touch turns to gold. But it’s because they once made a start long before you had even heard of them and they kept putting in the reps to get better, to evolve and figure things out. So whether you are young, old, junior or senior it’s about stretching one’s self to create work that is meaningful and the best that you can do. Because that’s what the world needs, your best work and something that will bring you fulfilment. Whether you are about to enter the workforce, just starting your freelancing career, just started running your business, or blog.
Be patient. It’s not a race – take your time and enjoy yourself. Just show up, put in the reps, put in the work, persist and good things will come to fruition in the long run. If a fumbling designer like myself can find success, I have no doubt that you can too. We all lead different lives but we can make meaning in what we do. The key is to make a start and put in the effort. No one has it all figured out when they first start. No one is an expert immediately. But over time we hone our craft and little by little we learn a few things – things that other people value and pay us handsomely for, as we make a living doing something we are passionate about. Define what success means to you and go for it– just make a start and soon things will turn to gold.
Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in day out