A commitment to growth is the best decision you could make for your life. It is through growth that we level up and are better equipped to go after and receive our desires. Growth allows us to attain our full potential of achievement and experience.
There is a pattern in every quest for growth. We steadily rise and grow and then suddenly we plateau for a while. We get to an okay level of competence or skill and then it seems we can’t move any further. Our beliefs and actions have combine to create this equilibrium. To break through this level, you need to make a quantum leap, and to do that you need to get under the hood and tweak a few things. Things need to change.
You can’t solve today’s problem with yesterday’s thinking.
To make a quantum leap requires a new rearrangement of your internal affairs. It needs fundamental shifts in perception, in belief, in planning and in action. These shifts and changes are difficult to make.
You are who you are now because of the decisions and actions you made. If you want to become a different person, a better person perhaps, you are going to need to make new decisions and take new actions. That sounds super basic but as we all know, the chasm between good intentions and actual action can be very wide. Once you can bridge that gap between what you do now and what you need to be doing, then you will be firmly on your way of change. Bridging that gap is a lot of work and is the reason the entire self-help industry exists. But it starts with letting go, letting go of where you are now to reach towards where you want to go.
You have to learn to let things go. Let go of your assumptions. Let go of your fears. Let go of your excuses. Let go of the way you used to do things. Let go of people and things that bring you down. Let go of your past successes. Let go of your past failures. Don’t get romantic about the things that used to be. Don’t be attached to the way things are or used to be. Let go. Live open and willing to experiment with and embrace new ways of being, new ways of looking and new ways of doing. It is uncomfortable and hard, but the reward is your new level.
As I grow and seek to grow, I understand that I need to let go of a lot of things. If I want a better work situation, then I have to let go of the way I’m doing things now, even though I’ve been doing them for a while and I’ve gotten used to them. Isn’t that funny? How something can cause such stress but we don’t let it go because dealing with that situation is so ingrained in us, it’s hard to let go. We get used to certain kinds of pain, and that makes it hard to disrupt the cycle.
You have to let go of the old to receive the new.
This is a slight rant on something I have been experiencing in the past few weeks.
I started out in this design/design business thing self taught. I learned to use the software and I’ve been sloughing away at it ever since. In the 7-8 years I’ve been doing this, I have probably designed up to thousands of pieces and artifacts – logos, mailers, flyers, websites, etc. Over time I have gotten good at delivering visually pleasing work quickly and within the chaotic constraints of the typical client service business.
For most creatives, the most exciting part of our work is the actual creative part, making the thing, the logo or the booklet or the poster. Many times I have fallen into the trap of becoming nothing more than a tool for the client, a pixel pusher. Do this, do that, move that there, without much regard for my opinion or ideas on what works. That was entirely my fault. I did not understand the value I brought to the table nor could I communicate that effectively.
In the chaotic landscape of client services, things tend to be frantic. Everything is always due yesterday. There is often not a good enough understanding of the connection between design output and business objectives. Design becomes a last minute exercise quickly producing pieces of communication without any form of strategy or intent.
This is a mistake.
Sure you can get a nice looking design out of a competent designer working this way. But creating design that actually works, design that clarifies your intentions and aims your efforts, design that sets u up for greater success beyond the project at hand, that is something else entirely. That is the love child of good process and talent.
The Design Method outlined by Eric Karjaluoto in his book goes as follows: Discovery – Planning – Creative – Application. Newbie designers and most clients are happy jumping right into the creative. However they miss out on the many benefits of engaging the first two steps.
Discovery allows you to fully understand the problem at hand, it gives you context. Ideally, the designer should be able to immerse himself/herself into the world of the client and understand how the business works, what the problems are and how the audience interacts with them. Discovery has the benefit of helping the client understand what’s really going on with the business. Are there gaps in the communications? Do you understand what you really do? Do you understand what you are selling? Do you have objectives, and do you know how you are going to achieve them?
Planning helps connect the insights from discovery to the nitty gritty of execution. It provides a plan of action of what needs to be done, targeted to whom and by when. It gives purpose to your efforts and ensures you don’t waste time going down rabbit holes.
Respecting the process transforms a simple brief for a website for a bus company to a holistic communication solution geared at increasing online sales. Instead of just a website, the client is steered towards adopting online marketing, referral campaigns and developing e-commerce solutions. A directive to design new labels for a budding craft beer brand now turns into the task of the defining and refreshing company brand in light of their new investment, offerings and aspirations. Instead of just labels, the brand is rewarded with a deeper understanding of itself and a roadmap for handling communications moving forward.
Rushing through the design process to the production bit might be satisfying in the short term, but you miss out on a ton of value left on the table in the long term.
Live with intention.
About 5 years ago, I wrote about the idea of looking at life as a design problem. As a designer, solving problems, or creating approaches to nebulous situations fascinates me. I enjoy balancing a mix of contradictory ideas to find a workable whole. The mindset and toolkits of the designer are uniquely positioned for innovation. They allow those who use them to create something remarkable.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about ‘life by design’ – the idea that you can intentionally design the kind of life you want to live. Not a new concept at all, it’s the core idea of personal development. But I’m wondering what happens when you apply design techniques and thinking to life and growth.
I think that is my personal theme for the New Year. 2016 was a good year for me, despite the shit storm it was out there. I spent more than half of it pulling back, learning, digging deep and setting up foundation for the things I want to do next. It has shown me glimpses to the great power of planning; of strategy and letting your actions build on one another.
Sometimes we find ourselves in tough places, where external conditions are so strong that it seems near impossible to live the life we want. But still, there is some sort of way out. Being a designer means looking at what we want and taking stock of the situation at hand, and fighting until we find some way to make it work. There is a loophole to exploit; there is a different way of reframing the problem. The solution may have to be hard earned, but we will find it.
On a long enough timeline, you can innovate your way out of any problem.
Which means that no matter how bad things are today, something can be done, you can move from point A to point B. You can take action such that over time, you will grow into and live the life that you desire.
It starts with intention. To design anything, you need a brief, something to focus your efforts. Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? What do you want to have? What do you want to give? What obstacles do you face? Take a honest look in the mirror and take stock of yourself, your desires and your present situation.
Sometimes the solutions are obvious and simple. It’s getting ourselves to take action that is the tough part. You can design change into your life by transforming your environment to suit your new goals. You can set up your routine in such a way that it supports you and propels you forward. The company you keep, the media you consume, the habits you develop all drive your outcomes in seemingly innocuous but powerful ways.
More often than not, the solutions are not obvious. You will have to explore and experiment and endure the process. The more you ask, answer and tinker, the more you will learn and the answer will emerge.
It’s a proactive way of looking at the world. You acknowledging that though there is a lot we don’t control in the world, we are ultimately responsible for what we choose and what we do. Life is not a linear path, it meanders. It’s full of ups and downs, back and forths. It’s messy. But we are up to the task. We will live by design.
And other things.
I was catching up with a friend on Twitter, and she mentioned to me how she needed to execute on her projects more and do some writing and shooting (she is an aspiring producer), but the main thing that keeps tripping her up was the idea of failure. She was so scared of failing she would sabotage herself before she could even get started.
But that’s nonsense.
You need failure. How else are you going to learn. Embrace failure as a key part of the process. Failure is how you get feedback. Failure forces change. School teaches us that we need to have all the answers up front. We need to be perfect. But we are just not perfect, we don’t have all the answers, we don’t even know what we don’t know. So you have to try stuff, and that stuff will probably fail. But you will learn something and then you will try again. And if you try enough times, eventually something will stick, you will taste success.
This doesn’t mean don’t be prepared though. Do your homework, do your research, learn as much as you need to. But add a generous dose of action to all that learning. In fact the action is a huge part of the learning. The doing makes your efforts tangible, it makes the journey to your goal more visceral.
We get too preoccupied with succeeding or being perfect. We are scared of getting dirty, we are scared of the mess. Our focus should be on the process. The doing is what’s important, the doing is your spiritual practice. If you focus on getting the day to day right, letting each swing rip, each stroke in, You will work your way past many ‘failures’ into success.
Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. Don’t let the need for perfection cripple you. Let failure be your teacher. Let failure lead you to your eventual success.
Trust no man
But the one above
And the one in the mirror
Rely on yourself first. At the end of the day all you got is the man above (God/Higher Power) and the man in the mirror. Everyone else has to earn your trust. Even YOU have to earn your own trust, with action, by doing what you said you would do, by executing against your goals.
People will fail you. Not because they are being sinister, its just human nature. There is a lot going on at anytime, and its our nature to look after ourselves and ours first then reach out to others.
And of course I am being hyperbolic to make a point. We still have to trust. We can’t survive alone. To exist in the world, we have to trust each other. I trust you do your job, and you trust I do mine well. I trust whoever made the train to have done a good enough job to get me to my destination safe. I trust who ever made my phone to have done it well enough to function properly and get things done. There is always that layer of trust needed to function in the world.
But when the chips are down. You have to be able to rely on yourself first. Do not put yourself in the position where your destiny, your life is in the hands of another person. Don’t have your survival be dependent on the kindness of strangers. Take care of yourself, rely on your self.
Of course there would be times you absolutely have to trust others. You had to trust who ever cared for you when you were born. Sometimes things happen e.g. you get hurt and you have no choice but to rely on the kindness of others. It is great that we have the capacity for compassion and altruism as a species.
But as much as possible, understand that people will fail and things will go south. Have a contingency plans in place. Rely on yourself first, be the last line of defense in your life against life’s shit storms.
Self-reliance means taking responsibility for yourself and your life. Not outsourcing that to an institution, to a company, to a social group, or to a guru or pastor. It’s your hand on the steering wheel of your life’s experience. You need the ability to access your reality as clearly as possible and know what you need to do to get what you want in every situation.
Do clients or customers tend to take a while to pay? There are many ways to solve that problem in human behavior. You could take on as many jobs as you can take and so that those who do come through can tide you over while the others take their time to settle accounts. Or you could streamline your business and only target premium clientele. Or you get the money upfront or at least half of it. In every situation where things could go south because of the human condition, as much as possible, make alternative arrangements. Rely on yourself to solve the problem.
Even in life itself. Rely on your self, on your mind, on your reasoning capacity. Instead of blindly following every advice, test it against your experience and your make up. No one has the answers, and no one knows you like you. So take responsibility for your journey, seek our knowledge and wisdom, learn from others. But ultimately, the decisions are and must be yours.
Take care of yourself, rely on yourself, and you will be able to take care of others.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
There are many things that are good, but only a few that are truly important, and truly great. Many times, what stops us short of greatness and our full potential is not failure or doing the wrong things. It’s giving too much time and energy to things that are merely good.
Good is answering every email in your inbox, and promptly too! (yay inbox zero). *Smh*. Good is tidying up your workspace and making everything extra super duper organized. Good is answering every phone call and every request, living at the whims of everybody’s agenda but yours. Good is accepting every social invitation, (you know you gotta nurture those relationships). Good is…well…good. Good is normal. Good is average. Good is mediocre.
Great? Great is harder. Great requires a little more time, and a whole lot of thought and experimentation. Great is uncertain. Great is what’s truly important even though it may not scream to you with the urgency of that last email with the title ‘Re: Incredibly Urgent! ‘. Great is the work that you really feel drawn to create. Great is that project you want to undertake, the book you want to write, the business you need to redesign and optimize. Great is that sweet spot of exertion, mission, creativity and impact.
Not everything is equal. It may take the same amount of time to make those edits for that client that it would take you to draw up a strategy for your business. One will reward you right now. The other will pay you dividends for months or years to come. One is good, the other is great.
Somehow we already know this but what keeps us running on the ‘good’ treadmill instead of steadily plodding along the ‘great’ trail we ought to be blazing? Lack of focus and misplaced priorities. If you are not focused, If you have not taken the time to be self aware enough to know what you want and what is truly important, you will not make it to great. You are not working at great because you want to please everyone. You are not willing to draw a line in the sand and say NO! You think you are multitasking god. You are trying to do everything, and eventually the days will slip into weeks and the months. You suck at everything because you have not committed to one thing.
You only have so much energy and time in the day. Spend the best of it on the most crucial things. Do the one thing that sets you up for more success in the coming year. Take care of the one thing that would make everything else easier.
Don’t procrastinate your great by focusing on the merely good.
There are two qualities of important great things that make procrastination so hard to resist:
- We are not clear on what it is, what it takes and how long it would take
- The great thing seems too big and insurmountable
It is much easier to take the easy wins, answer those emails, get on those other tasks. It makes us feel productive. It is easier to get stuck on just good.
To reach for great, you need a new set of tactics
- You need to block off time to sort out or get rid of the ‘good’ stuff. Get them done, outsource, etc.
- Block off time for the important. Block off time for great everyday. This is the time you shut off from the world and work only on the important thing.
- Break it down to its component parts and work on it piece by piece.
- Meditate on your great thing. Think about it all the time. Why is it important? What do its component parts look like? Flesh it out in your mind, make it tangible.
- Just start. Once you begin, you build enough momentum to make it stick and carry you to the end.