Some days, all you have is the process…
If you want to achieve anything spectacular, it’s not going to happen in one furious instant of glory. It will take time and effort and death by a thousand cuts. You have to major in the day to day. You have to break down the big project, the big hairy audacious goal into its component parts and integrate those pieces into ur daily life. If you just focus on getting each day right, on eating the proverbial elephant one bite at a time, eventually the elephant will be done.
But you have to focus, and trust the process. Not just on the days when you are motivated and fired up, the days where everything goes your way. Even the days it seems like nothing is going right, when the challenges and pressure mounts up, or when people fall away because your thing is taking too long. All you need to do is focus on the process. One step after the other. On the good days, on the bad days, just keep ploughing through. One day, you will find yourself on the other side.
As you can see, this requires patience, and a clear long-term view. You have to be playing the long game here, and you have to be playing to win. It will help you stay focused, it will keep you from falling prey to distraction. The process helps to keep you accountable. It doesn’t matter what happened today, if that deal fell through, the client didn’t pay, your boss shouted at you, your girlfriend ignored you. Shit happens! The question is, did YOU do YOUR job, did you trust the process, did you handle that lil chunk of elephant meat for the day?
Especially if you feel like you are starting from the bottom, with the odds stacked against you; but you got big dreams and the stars in your eyes, then you better hunker down and get started on the process. Ignore all that noise around you, the naysayers, the social media, the petty shit and keep your mind and eyes dead focused on the prize. Write the piece, make the call, make the art, learn the skill, read the book, watch the documentary, take the chance, do your job for the day, rinse, repeat.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a big Kanye West fan. I knew the College dropout and Late registration when they came out, but he first truly struck a chord with me with the 808s and Heartbreaks album and since then I have been intrigued by his creative prowess and consistency in pushing the envelope in his craft.
A lot of people say Kanye has changed and they want him to go back to his old stuff and style. These are things people have been saying since he put out 808s. Last week I checked out a 20min video of a Kanye West interview from back in the day before ‘College dropout”…dropped. And I realized like I always suspected that Kanye hasn’t really changed, he has just become more Ye.
I grew up on self-help material and large parts of what I read and learn about today are ideas on life and how to live better and succeed better. A few days ago, Kay remarked to me how interesting it would be to interact with some of the greats at the time point just before they broke out, just to see where their mind was at. The interview with Ye was a time machine of sorts that helped us do that. This is what I learned.
- Sometimes what you love is slightly (or maybe even completely) off the path of what everyone else thinks is appropriate and safe for you. You have to make the decision to be serious about what you want and pursue it.
- There will be haters, naysayers, people who say it can’t be done or who just plain don’t believe in you. That’s fine, pursue your vision regardless, focus on perfecting your craft and soon it would be undeniable.
- Respect everyone equally. Nothing is promised and a lot can change very quickly in life, while you climbing that ladder, respect everyone and treat people well.
- Your work is your responsibility, be involved in every aspect, if something in your project doesn’t come out the way you wanted, that’s your fault.
- Nothing beats authenticity. Put your heart in your art.
- Take inspiration across disciplines, from movies, from art, from everywhere and have a strong creative vision.
- If you have a dream, go for it. You have to see it, believe it and just do it.
- The music is bigger than the media. Forget about the hype. Whatever you feel, whatever inspires you, go with that, and be true to that.
In 2011, I wrote about Career, Passion, Balance and Happiness in response to my friend’s question on the nagging problem of doing a job with high financial gain versus pursuing your passion. I referenced some thoughts from Cal Newport on the dangers of following your passion. Last night, I read another Newport post on why ‘follow your passion’ is bizarre advice, and thought I’d expand my thoughts on the whole issue.
How I found my ‘passion’
I never knew I was going to enter the field of graphic design; it wasn’t even an option in my mind until I came across it at college. My first attempts at designing were not because of some burning passion, but because I honestly preferred to tinker with things than party. And that was my thing, instead of going out with my friends to party, I would sit in my dorm most nights and write…thoughts, feelings and ideas on how I wanted to grow and improve. If I didn’t feel like writing, I would read, or make beats…eventually I started playing around with Photoshop. Because of my background or general predisposition to visual art (I was pretty good at drawing/painting as a kid), I guess it took a hold of me quite quickly. Another thing that made it stick was the fact I saw myself as the visual guy and pretty soon, people started asking me to design things for them. So with my utterly rudimentary skills in Photoshop, I started working on real life projects very early. One project snowballed into another and soon I was gathering tutorials, looking at magazines and learning about design on my own…and I was hooked, and I developed a passion.
How I chose a ‘career’
Circa 2008/2009, I was studying architecture, dabbling in graphic design and choreographing hip-hop dance. At this time, I was actually known more for dancing than design. I knew I really didn’t like doing architecture, and I needed to transition into something I enjoyed and could work at to become good in. At this point, it was between dance and design. I was very pragmatic about the whole thing. The possibility of growth in dance was limited, I mean, what happens when pop locking and krumping goes out of style? Can I keep dancing in my late 20s and 30s and on? What do I do after that point? Teach? How much money can I even make off that? On the other hand, design seemed like the sort of thing I could carry on into my 70s…if I lived that long. And as a designer you have a much wider sphere to work in and there are more things you can do. So I chose design. I figured as a person with a lot of drive, I could just throw myself into it and work at becoming as good as I can and make something out of it.
My point here is that even though I was probably more passionate about dance than design at that point, dance would not have survived becoming a career for me, but design could. So passion is not the sole determinant of a career path.
Follow your passion?
Newport approaches the whole passion argument with the view that we should not assume that we are hard-wired for a specific economic pursuit, and spend all our time being dissatisfied trying to find that one magic job that we are passionate about. The whole premise of his latest book is that happiness and fulfilment in careers (things we all want very much) have nothing to do with a pre-existing passion. Instead fulfillment is connected to things like autonomy, competence, etc.
And I agree.
I love being a graphic designer because I work freelance (have control over my time and how I use it), I’m good at it (competence), and as a field it gives me options on where to grow into and what to do with it. My developing a passion for design has helped me to put the hours in to grow my skill.
While pre-existing passion can be a great starting point for a career, many people now feel that to be happy in their work, they need to first identify that burning passion. Which becomes very tricky, because not many people can easily point to a passion, and even when they do, not every passion can translate into a career. Plus, we often have it backwards; passion only develops after you’ve put in the time to grasp the skill.
I think the problem with passion is our misunderstanding of its role, and its confusion with mere interest. If you mix interest with competence and a compelling reason, you begin to get passion. The rallying cry behind the ‘passion movement’ is really less about jobs and more about life. The question is are you turned on, tuned in and tapped into life? The experience of being really into something and diving into it to master it and serve with it is much preferable to just grinding out a bland existence at some random job. Living passionately has more to do with your values and the way you approach life than the actual thing you do.
Follow your passion doesn’t necessarily mean make your passion your job. It means fill your life with more passion. Nurture your soul, pay attention to your longings and grow them. Passions can be investigated as jobs or they can become side projects and hobbies. Passions are the fuel to life. Not all passions should become jobs, not every passion can survive becoming a job. Because no matter how passionate you are about something, a job is still a job. It won’t be 100% perfect. So in career choice, yes don’t blindly follow passion, be strategic about it.
Getting rich off your passion
The cardinal rule of making money is find a way to take people’s money from them, or, make things or do things that people would pay for. Passion focuses on you, what you like to do. To make money, you have to focus on the customer. Making your passion into a career means finding a way to make your passions serve the interests of others. To make a living or get rich off your passion, you have to live in the sweet spot, the intersection where your passion is something people would pay for. Otherwise just get a job that pays you enough to live on and leaves you enough time to indulge in your passions in your off time. That is what hobbies are for. And if you want a job you enjoy, it makes more sense to cultivate the traits that foster job satisfaction rather than blindly following passion wherever it leads you.
Never buy the lie that your job is “just a job.” Nothing you do 40 hours a week is just a job. That’s just your life. – Jon Acuff
I debuted this at a lil party/exhbition on my birthday…Dreams of a Gem-In-I. All attendant quotes are from Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman series”.
I hope you like it
“You get what anyone gets – you get a lifetime”
“it’s more than that. The things we do make echoes…Our existence deforms the universe. THAT’s responsibility”
“Dreams shape the world”
“Dreams are composed of many things, my son. Of images and hopes, of fears and memories. Memories of the past, and memories of the future…”
“Some things are too big to be seen; some emotions are too huge to be felt”.
“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up”
“It is sometimes a mistake to climb; it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you don not climb, you will not fall. This true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?”
“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly”
“Omnia Mutanur, Nihil Interit.
Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost.”
I’m designing again. I woke up today, and I didn’t feel like a knife was being pushed through my brain every time I thought about design or I sat down by my desk. I actually felt like creating.
So yay me!
The past two weeks I’ve done nothing. Well the odd tiny design here and there, but more or less nothing, except chill and drink…some days excessively, but I’m calm now. I lost both my phones, and as inconvenient as it was, I wasn’t that sad about it. In fact, I was pretty relieved. I had a valid excuse to not take calls, detox from crackberry addiction and just plain avoid people. Finally, I was on vacation. The first 24 hours were rough. I grieved so hard like I lost a dear friend. Day 2 I felt lost, adrift at sea, cut off from everyone. By day 3, I was all good. It felt like my fantasy of walking down the streets of a remote town where no one knows me had come true. It was awesome.
In the past 2 weeks, I’ve read a few things, watched a few videos, had a few epiphanies, gone for a photo shoot, thought about life, what I’m doing, where I would like to take things, etc. Couple of things I learnt.
- Be Happy: I have stripped away all my goals and only defined one objective. Be Happy. Simple, wake up, follow my bliss, be happy. Done.
- Stop working/Start playing: I mentioned in Nothing that I didn’t really enjoy designing anymore. I sometimes take things too seriously. I desire success, I desire growth and so on, but life is life. I have to enjoy it. I’m experimenting with the idea of playing with my work. This means tinkering with new ideas and techniques and just having fun with it and doing as good a job as I can. I’m hoping that coming to my work with the spirit of play will allow me to be vastly more creative and have more fun.
- Do less. Now this one is going to be really hard, because as I write this I have a pile of work I’ve ignored waiting for me. But I’m trying to do less. If I could only work on one major thing a day, that would be great. I want to extend The do less philosophy to life in general, especially with media consumption. I have the habit of always reading something, a book, a blog, a magazine, twitter feeds. It’s information overload. And this is not just fluff stuff, I am constantly reading articles on creativity, self-improvement, ideas, books on success, books on social dynamics, psychology, etc. It is a bit too much. I’m doing my best to cut down and focus on a few books at a time, or only a couple blogs in a week. The idea is to consume less, do less, but do that little very well.
- Life-Expectancy: There is the idea that the universe arranges itself around you according to your expectation of it. If you expect getting what you desire to be a long and arduous strenuous road, then it will be that. If you expect the process to be fun and easy, then it will be fun and easy. Quite interesting because we are so conditioned to expect success to be difficult to achieve, and while some effort is required, perhaps there are always easier more fun ways to get what we want. Or maybe not. But it’s a cool experiment for me to go forward in the rest of the year with the expectation that school and work would actually be pretty cool and fun to handle as opposed to a hard grind.
All I’m saying is that I want to have fun with life. I’m tired of stress. I know we all think its impossible and that’s not how life works. I’m saying screw that. I’m going to try it out and see what happens. I’m going to practice following my bliss, which is kind of like following your passion, but with an emphasis on joy. I choose to do more of the things that bring me joy, that make me come alive, and less of the things I don’t like to do. And to bring a spirit of joy to every part of my life
This experiment is how I can make my entire life as fun and playful as possible. And it starts by watching more Community and Parks and Recreation. #TroyBarnes #RonSwanson