Design, zen and happiness

Sometimes I think about how lucky I am to have fallen into design. To have carved out a great living doing something that I really enjoy. To be able exercise my creativity, create things and to solve interesting problems on a daily basis. It is pretty fucking dope and surreal when I think about it and I try not to forget that. Despite what I write on this blog I don‘t take myself too seriously. Shits just fun and games and I just try to enjoy the ride, learn new things and make the most of everything.

Make no mistake things do go haywire sometimes, but they are never as bad as they seem. Most of the time no one is going to die if something goes wrong, digital design is very forgiving as we can just patch things up, fix and iterate things. It might be a shitstorm for a while but it will pass. The same can not be said for the medical profession where mistakes can cost someones life and it is highly stressful. Or in corporate jobs where things can become so monotonous and disengaging that it feels like ground hog day. A few of my friends work in corporate environments and I can assure you it’s balls.  

So if you’re a designer just remember how lucky you are to be able to do what you do. You get to create things, put it out into the world and get paid doing it. There’s a lot of heavier shit and real issues happening all around you and you get this privilege to do this for a living. Real talk: My dad came to Australia on a boat after the effects of the Vietnam war. He worked his ass off doing labour intensive jobs for years to give my brothers and I a better life. I will never forget this and I am grateful for everything he’s done and worked for. So I don’t waste this opportunity and make the most of it. What is a better life? More money? More fame? More opportunity? Perhaps. But I find most of those things to be more of a social trap, with society dangling this carrot in front of you. I think having the freedom to choose how you live your life and what you want to do is that better life. I don’t have to worry about food, shelter or the basic necessities anymore. Nor do I have to worry about my family or I getting shot or killed on the streets. So if I have the courage I can design my day to how I want and what I get up to. Focus on prioritising things that mean a lot to me and what I love doing and work around that. I define success through happiness. It is a key metric I use to measure success. And I’m happy when I’m designing and working on interesting projects. I really subscribe to the idea of flow. 

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI

“He discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this “optimal experience” they feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” In the footsteps of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi insists that happiness does not simply happen. It must be prepared for and cultivated by each person, by setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple for ones abilities.”

This is the exact feeling I get when I look at a blank canvas when I start a project. I look at all the research I’ve done, and think about the massive hurdle in front of me. I always wonder whether or not I’m going to deliver something great. I find that joy occurs when you have a connection to the work, that you really believe in it. Then I put on the headphones and turn it up to 11. Looking at this canvas and the design riddle that I am trying to solve, I slowly piece together the parts. Translating my thoughts onto paper and pixels.  The best moments are when I become so focused that nothing else around me matters, I get in “in the zone” and in this zen state of flow. I look at the clock and next thing I know 4 hours have gone by. I look at this canvas and theres something there. I gave life to something that didn’t exist before. It’s too much fun and I don’t want to stop, I want to ride this momentum of flow/inspiration whatever you want to call it. 

And then I keep at it for a few days and the happiest is when three things happen. I hit this point where I think this it! This is what I’ve been searching for all this time, this is the solution that I’ve been trying to meld and peel away. Iteration after iteration. I become so fucking satisfied. Another peak is when the client loves it and stands behind the work. It feels like we’re a team and we created something great together. That I haven’t let their trust and investment in me down, that I delivered on my promise. Thirdly is seeing the work out there, seeing it connect with people, help people and resonate with people. Our job is fucking awesome, have fun and grab it by the horns and make the most of it. Because most people aren’t as lucky as we are. So find your happiness and do your best work!