Do things outside of your comfort zone

Being comfortably uncomfortable is the best place to be in if you want to achieve a lot of personal growth. Both in life as well as in your career as a designer. The wider your comfort zone becomes, your ability to deal with different situations will also become easier. When I began my career almost 10 years ago, I didn't know how to do anything. I was a fresh faced designer on training wheels. 

  • I didn't know how to code
  • I didn't know how to deal with client changes 
  • I didn't know how to conduct usability tests
  • I didn't know how to present my work 
  • I didn't know how to lead a team
  • I didn't know how to design for different interfaces and contexts
  • I didn't even know what we really did as designers.  

But when the chance came, I gave it a shot. If I had continued to only do things that were easy and comfortable, I would still be peddling with my training wheels on. I would've never have grown and learnt how to ride a bike. Sure, there were moments where I fell over without the training wheels on - but I learnt some lessons. So I got back on the bike, learnt from my mistakes and started peddling faster. And because of that, the breadth of my capabilities spread.  I learnt to present to clients, design for various situations and solve a myriad of different problems.

So learn to do something you've never done before. Raise your hand and be that person. Offer to present your work. Start prototyping even if you've never done it before. ASK for that big pay rise. These opportunities present themselves in one way or another. Seize the moment even if it may seem difficult or uncomfortable.  

Your ability to think about the macro and micro parts of design and being a designer will become more rounded because you took the chance to do something different, something that you weren't familiar with. It's easy to want to stay on your training wheels forever, but then you miss out on the joy of riding on a bike and the speed that comes with it. Or even bigger still, to fly in a rocket ship. 10 years in and I've now learnt how to drive a car. And I'm only scratching the surface - there is a whole rocket ship out there that I want to board. Have fun with the difficulty but remember to enjoy yourself. It's all about balance. I want to chase the stars where the people I look up to are. Michael Beirut, Massimo Vignelli, Jimi Hendrix, Roger Federer, Bill Gates and so on. 

So throw yourself in the deep end. You'll be scared, bruised and battered, but you'll come out the other end with a bit more knowledge.

Get really good at something and focus - but when it becomes too easy, you need to challenge yourself - don't shy away from situations that seem daunting and difficult. That's where opportunities lie. So shed off your training wheels, change your mode of transport and embrace the opportunity to do something you've never done before. Complacency is a road to mediocrity. Aim for the stars.