Gift is cursed II

I had a thought tonight, somewhere in between designing a flyer, a website layout and then another flyer…a flyer I was designing for the third time. The first time, the client (a friend of mine who I’ve worked with for 3 years now) wanted a demo flyer for his event. The second time, I had to make it more ‘blingy’ or something because of the venue it was moving to. Now i must redesign it because the venue manager doesn’t like it and thinks its to similar to the other fliers I did for the club last week. And this is after we decided to have a general set format for fliers a few weeks back. You know brand consistency and all…

Today, I hate being a designer.

Thats what I said to Khanyi tonight in the middle of our word association game on BBM. She then proceeded to write this inspired from that sentence.

A few hours earlier, I had tweeted another thought ‘All of a sudden my entire life feels like an elaborate trap‘.

I’m trapped in design. I design all the time. All the freaking time. I wrapping up my architecture degree…I have to design buildings. Things can get pretty fucked up really quickly. Architecture for me is as much a test of my psychological state as it is a test of my actual design skill. I have to deal with resolving all my negative emotions surrounding school and my experience years ago while navigating the design process and engaging in the minefield that is architecture. Architecture is like designing on 6 different fronts simultaneously and still not knowing where the hell the design is going to end up. It is emotionally exhausting and it requires complete immersion.

I work as a freelance graphic designer. I used to love graphic design. I still do. However the kind of work I would like to create and explore is hardly the kind of work the clients want done. Everyday, I get emails, BBMs, smses. Everyone wants a piece of me. Everyone wants a piece of my gift. They want a flyer, or a logo, or a business card, or a website. Some people just want a pretty picture of themselves designed by yours truly. It’s nice to be wanted…it also sucks. The gift is a curse. Many times the client is ignorant, they just want something that looks cool to them. I have no energy to time to argue or educate. I sense the anger flash within me, I let it go, I smile, I make the change. I don’t care, I just want your money. This is my bread and butter, this is how I pay the bills. This is how I make sure there is something to eat and the lights stay on. Spending 80% of the time doing work I never want to lay claim to. Because I’m long over the rush, the validation, the 5mins of recognition of ‘oh what lovely work’. I just go through the motions to get to the money. This is how I live.

And everyday, I feel like I’m dragged deeper and deeper into the trap that is my life. I’m a puppet, I have to dance for the ones who hold the strings. Somedays its the lecturers, other days its the clients. I don’t hate the lecturers yet…most days I hate the clients. Because of the demands they make, because of how long it takes them to pay.

So to escape I hold on to the things that make me happy. The designers that inspire me, and the websites full of cool, awesome things. I hone my ideas and work on my personal projects (my book, my idea for street wear, my graphic experimentations) far away from the public eye. I indulge myself.

I write.

and keep threading these treacherous creative waters…hoping eventually I can get more of the gift and less of the curse.

The Motivation

There is a kind of greed that envelops us all – the greed of achievement. We all feel the intense pressure to achieve something, to make something of ourselves. We have known it all our lives, so it feels normal.

This kind of greed is useful. Because of it, we have everything that we have, the society around us, the jobs and professionals, the gadgets, the technology, and so on. The greed has given us movies, books, music, cultural artifacts and all the experiences that add that intangible etheric value to our lives.

But in a time of over abundance of everything, perhaps we should question this greed; rein it in a little bit. I walk into my local bookstore and I see thousands of books and publications. And I always think to myself “Where did it all come from? Why are people writing so damn much? How many of these would be read? How much of this is just going to end up in landfill? How much of this is even useful? “

It gets worse when I go into a place like a Christian bookstore. I see thousands of books on so many different ideas and ‘revelations’ and doctrines all stemming ‘supposedly’ from one book (The Bible). And this one book itself has many translations, sizes, kid versions, teen versions, family versions, ad infinitum.

There is just so much stuff.

And we feel like we should do so much stuff as well. Especially if you have the fortunate misfortune of being told how special and gifted you are, or how much potential you have. Then you begin to feel like you ought to start a few companies, write half a dozen books, build a foundation, launch a clothing line…do this and do that.

But why?

Because this is what it means to be successful? Because our idols have done the same, so we must follow suit? Such extremely high standards may have the potential to spur us to great action, but it has the high risk of significantly adversely affecting our happiness.

Because the motivation is all wrong.

So people begin to set all these arbitrary goals and targets for themselves. If they are not millionaires by a certain age, they are failures. If they are not like Mr. Mogul with a real estate empire spanning all 7 continents, they are not good enough. These are reasons of pride, envy and covetousness.  It is so easy to fall into this trap. We live in the society of the spectacle. Media exalts the superstars, the super rich, the super famous, the super talented, the super everything.

We forget we are quite super already, quite extraordinary creatures, flawed sometimes, problematic yes, but ultimately exquisite and beautiful people.

Achievement is an amazing thing. Every person must endeavor to meet his/her potential. But whatever you choose to do, and however you choose to explore your potential, let it be something you do first and foremost for you. Do it because you have no other way you could live. Do it because even if you did it all your life without recognition or appreciation, you would still do it. Do it because it is your destiny. Do it for the love.

That’s the right motivation.



No More Mr Nice Guy

I have a problem. I am too nice.

There, I said it.

Over the years, people have said it to me a lot. But now I KNOW for real. I guess you only really hear a thing when you willing to hear it.

In 2010 I stayed in a flat with three other guys, racked up a debt of 25 grand in the process and proceeded to shoulder the entire bill myself. I find it hard to say no to people who ask me for favors, I have too many clients owing me money…I give a lot of discounts, stuff like that. I’m always saying ‘nah, its fine, its chilled’.

It’s not that terrible a thing…being nice; I’ve always been nice, as far as I can remember. But some of my flaws were thrown in sharp focus for me recently and I had to really face it.

It’s my nature to be nice. I would bend over backwards for a lot of people. I’m very lax about a lot of things; I have a high tolerance level for some kinds of bullshit.

I’m nice mostly because I don’t like conflict…in any form. I run away from it. I would rather things were smooth and chilled always. I want people to like me. I don’t like offending people, I don’t like hurting people, I don’t like disagreeing with people, stuff like that. Every time I do have to disagree or disappoint people, I cringe inside. I would rather stew in my dissatisfaction and anger rather than confront issues, sometimes. If there were a major conflict, I would retreat into my own space and pretend it did not exist or ignore everyone else and do exactly as I please.

I don’t think that is very healthy…especially when I end up in situations where the people around me are happy and sorted, but at my expense.

People always look out for their best interests. Life is a power struggle and every social interaction is a negotiation of the dynamics between yourself and other people. People will always try to see how far they can push things with you and how they can relate with you. Its nothing personal, they just trying to get theirs, it’s just the way it is. So if everyone is just looking out for their best interests, perhaps I should do the same more aggressively. Especially because being nice comes so natural to me. I’m so used to compromising that I only realize now that I could actually get more out of life and my relationships with people.

I’ve been thinking about what I really want from some specific areas of my life lately. Mostly relationships. I’m clear on what I want from my work and general lifestyle, but I just realized I haven’t applied the same rigorous process of questioning to my relationships. Now I’m thinking it is quite possible that many of the people in my life choose me, as opposed to me choosing them? I think I am friends with some people because they need something from me, not because I gain anything from them. It is possible I don’t pursue relationships actively; I just get bundled up with the people who chase me. And they take and take and take.

The downside of being too nice is that one begins to allow the bitch nigga syndrome in others. Now Bitch Nigga Syndrome or BNS is when an otherwise capable man acts like a lil bitch. It can manifest in various forms, failing to handle a situation, selling dreams and never delivering, basically failing to play his position as a nigga. Now when you are a nice guy and your friend exhibits BNS symptoms, it is easy to sweep things under the rug, sympathize and say it will all be okay. When in reality, what you should do is slap a nigga cold across the face, hand him a fresh pair of bitch free balls and tell him to man the fuck up.

I realize now that I have done a great disservice to many of my friends by being too nice.

The other downside of being too nice is allowing BNS in oneself. Skating around issues, pleasing people without speaking my mind, without taking charge, without taking exactly what I want. Not holding myself to a high enough standard, not handling my responsibilities or following through on my agreements.

We take as much abuse as we feel we deserve. By being too nice, I retain the flexibility to hold myself to lax standards. I can choose to keep my word or not. I can delay on delivering a piece of work, or bail out on appointments and meetings, things like that. If people take advantage of my kindness, I can punish them in those little ways. So I guess it all balances out somewhat.

But nice guys do finish. I’m learning to be more balanced, to have a warrior, take-no-prisoners mentality. I’m learning to be firm, strong, sometimes ruthless. I’m learning to get mad and tell people off. I’m learning to sit people down and tell them exactly what I think. I’m learning to be a man.

Why your New Year’s Resolutions will not work

Gather round, gather around children, sit at my feet, let’s discuss. I know it’s that time of year when ordinary folks begin to get ambitious. You have looked over 2011 and hopefully reflected and done a review. You are now looking towards 2012 with a heart full of hope and the fresh promise of a year that won’t be like the last one, or the one before that, or the one before the one before that. Yeeah…lets face it, 2012 is going to be the same as 2011.

Statically and experientially speaking, you have a track record of fucking shit up. You say you’re going to eat healthy and hit the gym hard in the New Year. Well…um…last year we said the exact same thing and what happened? Yeah that’s right…you went a total of what? 2 times. I guess that is an improvement from 2010 where you never bothered to sign up for membership. So you know what? I am rooting for ya…I think you can manage 5 times over the entire 12 months of 2012.

Come-on now, don’t look so sad. Chill out. Grab a beer. The world is ending in December remember…wait, let me check quickly…um…yep, everything is still set for destruction in December 2012. I recommend that you have a year long party, like just rip into it. Drink, eat and merry yourself silly until it all comes crashing down. Make the most of it.

No? You don’t want to do that? You still want to try.


Gimme that list.

Alright, lets see…you want to wake up early, go jogging, pay more attention in class, get a promotion, double your income…quit your job, start a new business, get married, be a better person…damn this is a long list.

Okay, maybe I can help you out after all.

You see the thing is, if you want to have a chance of achieving even one thing on this list…I’m going to have to kill you. Or better still you can just kill yourself. There is a reason why you are not doing these things right now. It’s very simple. The reason is this – you are not that person. For changes like this to occur, first off, you need to become someone else, a better version of you.

The first thing we are going to start with is desire. How bad do you want this new thing? If it’s a nice to have, I really can’t help you. You are going to fail. It needs to be a must have. Your desire needs to burn white hot. What’s your motivation? What moves you?

Think about the person who lives your list of dreams effortlessly. What is he thinking? What is he feeling? How does his inner being work? What’s her motivation? Until you can think as they think and feel as they feel, you have little hope of sticking to your resolutions. Spend time delving into the psyche of the person living the life you seek and absorb the traits. If you really grasp this, you are halfway there.

Third come to full terms of the reality of this new life you want to create? You want to wake up early? You have to sleep early…no more late night TV or video games or whatever your distraction is. You want to improve business. You going to have to study your business, take it apart, put it back together, optimize, trim the fat, try new things, closely monitor, adjust, you know how it goes. You want a better school term? You are going to need to work hard, ask questions, jack up your study techniques, and apply yourself. You want to spend more time with the family? Well, guess what, you have to work less and delegate more. Are you sure you can live with the reality of this new life? There are tradeoffs, changes to be made. Do you really want to risk your present comfort? You need to fully accept the entire reality of this new life before you can have it.

Draw up a sketch of what this new life looks like, trace and anticipate all the ripples that would flow right through your life. Embed new rituals into your schedules, anticipate sticking points, get a buddy to help keep you on track, join a support group, get a mentor, get all the resources you need.

Fourth thing you should know is this – start small. Don’t let the euphoria of your enthusiasm fool you. Unless you are running on the copious amount of emotional energy that comes from trauma like heartbreak, divorce, death or near death…take it easy. Start small, observe yourself, take note of the feedback of your experience, make adjustments if you need to and keep going. Keep upping the ante; take on bigger challenges, do more.

Finally, don’t give up. Or give up… I don’t care. Do whatever you like. If your resolutions don’t resonate with you, no need sticking with them. Find something that does and do that instead.

Happy now? I really think you should go with the whole party till the end of the world thing, but if you really must, what I just told you should help.

In summary, one, really really want this. Two, know psyche of the person you need to become to live what you want. Three, accept the new reality. Four, start small, make adjustments and then pick up. Finally, keep on truckin’…whichever road you choose.

Class dismissed.



Death to The Cool

“So, it turns out, many things in life are bullshit. In actual fact there is not damn thing to aspire to in this world unless we make it up for ourselves.
The cool kids, for the most part, are stupid, or just really adept and making their vintage clad, bright colour, same venues club hopping lifestyle appear grand.”

– Gugu Kweli Kheswa (Meditations on Cool Kids and New Age Cow Dung)

This was the first thing I read this morning, it made me smile and inspired me to write this piece. The idea for which had been in my mind for sometime but I was just too lazy to sit down and actually write. So, thank you Gugu :).

I don’t want to be cool, and at the same time, I really want to be cool. It’s quite the tense situation. But wait, what’s the definition of being cool? Just try and think about it for a second, what the hell does ‘cool’ even mean. We use the word so much it’s meaning has become dense and obscure. I’ll proffer a definition. ‘Cool’ in the context that I use it means ‘something that is awesome, appealing without trying too hard, something that has certain panache’.

Cool in its pure state is a quality that emanates from a state of being.  Someone who is cool has their shit together in away that they just exude this compelling, charismatic vibe. Fake Cool is slapped on, like varnish on cheap furniture. It may shine, but don’t be fooled by the gloss.

We all want to be cool. As much as I hate it, I want be cool too. Everyone likes the cool guy. Everyone wants to be like him. Like everyone else, I want to look good, I want to command respect and I want to be admired. I want the jealous glares from the haters and the adoring stares from the damsels. I want the cool.

But really, I don’t want to be cool. You want to know why? Because ‘Cool’ has become fucking cliché. I mean, it’s all about the look now right? Give me the right clothes, the right accessories, and some Ray Bans. Hit up a party; pretend to have loads of fun. Quick, get the camera; take a ‘cool’ shot. Launch Photoshop; apply a black & white, sepia or blue green gradient filter. Slap cliché statement or corny ass quote in Helvetica (all lowercase letters)…aannnnd…we are done! WE ARE SO COOL!!!

I hate all things cliché.

But clichés are clichés because they are usually true. So yeah, some of these things are actually cool, the clothes are nice, great design, some photo shots are imaginative and all. But once every Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, Mary and Lucy are into something, I want out. That’s just how I am.

Cool used to be a thing we associated with excellence, or at least an innate charismatic quality. But we all want to be cool, without the work so we have quickly degenerated to a state of being cool for cool’s sake.  It’s a lifestyle right? Cool is a lifestyle.

*I hate anything with the slogan like…’it’s a lifestyle’. (Now when I say I hate, I don’t mean I hate hate, because well sometimes the statement may be true. It’s just that my ‘hate’ is a knee-jerk reaction to statements people throw around without thinking about what they mean)

With the help of Facebook, WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr, & Twitter, we can all now pretend to be cool. We can present a veneer of awesomeness, glitz and shine without the most important ingredient of the ‘Real Cool’ – ‘substance’.

Fame used to be a side effect of success. People knew you because you did some shit, you launched a business, you made great music, you contributed something of value to society, something so valuable a lot of people liked it, and by consequence liked you. However, somewhere along the line, fame=success. Today, you can launch careers by releasing a sex tape. You can be famous without having done diddlysquat.

I don’t want to be plastic. I don’t want to be cool if that means following the latest trends and copying everything I see on the damn screen (any screen – TV, computer, iPad, Blackberry any glowing rectangle). I want to be authentic. I want to be…*gasp*…real. I want to wear the clothes because I like them, because they are well designed, because the level of craftsmanship and detailing on the garments are impeccable not just because they are the hottest things around right now.  I don’t mind being trendy, but I want to be real, My cool is more than skin deep. I want substance, I want intellect, I want conscience, I want soul. I want to think free thoughts, appreciate things and hold on to a set of values not dictated by media, corporations or governments.

I want to be real. I want to be me. I want to enjoy good design because it IS good design. I want to read tons of books, I want to sit down and think on them, ponder the finer points of life. I want to write…things that matter, things that inspire. I want to do real shit. I don’t want to be cooped up in the simulacra of academia.  I want to get my hands dirty in the world out there. I want to tackle our problems. I want to learn what interests me, I want do whatever I do for the love…of it, of God, of people, of the world.

I just want to be real. I’m sick of the illusions, of the fantasy, of the posturing, of the games and pretense.  I don’t want to be cool, I want to be authentic…I want to be real.

I don’t know what to write (things I hate)

But, I really feel I should write, so I will anyway. I’m typing this straight from my head, no editing, except to fix typos. But what should I say? How do I feel? I feel a lot of things. Right now, tired is what I feel mostly. That and slight annoyance. I’m pissed at someone. I shouldn’t be carrying it around though. He annoyed me in the morning, I should let it go. There. Gone.

I haven’t felt like talking much. I feel like there is nothing to say. That’s why I haven’t written either. I feel like there is nothing to say. I haven’t read much as well. I feel like I spend too much time reading blogs, articles and pieces of books. I feel like thinking. Deep thinking. Meditation. I should do more of that actually.

I censor myself a lot. I noticed that. It doesn’t feel like a good thing. I find it hard to be honest and blunt. I want to be completely honest. But it feels like the hardest thing ever. I don’t know what you would think of me, if I told you exactly what was in my mind. Not like I really care per se. But somehow it bothers me, so I guess I do care. I really don’t want anyone’s approval. It’s nice to have it though.

There are a lot of things I used to do, that I don’t do anymore. I don’t pray anymore. I don’t feel the need to. It’s hard to explain. It’s like living in a state of communion. I just do my best to keep my mind and emotions in a certain state, and stay in flow. If I need something, I ask for it. I don’t set goals anymore. I have no need for them. I just focus on being happy every day, and doing whatever I want to do, as much as possible. Not saying that I don’t tackle meaningful or big projects. I’m saying that I have no need to prove myself to anyone, and I have no need for prestige or titles or whatever illusory thing people chase after these days. I don’t talk so much. I prefer to do stuff. I know people who talk too much, I listen politely, but I hate it.

I’m beginning to hate clients. They are getting more and more annoying. So, I’ll rant about them next. I hate clients that give unreasonable deadlines. If you want good work, it takes time. I hate clients that ask for a million changes. I hate it more when I have to redesign what I have already designed. I hate clients who imagine what I do is easy. The fact that I make this look so easy and I perform miracles, does not mean that it is. And all of this adds to my general stress and cuts down the time I have to actually do some really cool work. I really want to do good work, sometimes they are make it really hard for me.

I hate…okay not really hate…maybe more like despise social networks. They are cool, and they are useful. But people spew so much banality and inanity on them…day by day. I hate twitter, and facebook. Sometimes, it is marginally useful. Someone posts something of value, a link, a blog, an image, etc and it makes it worthwhile. Otherwise its mostly bullshit.

I hate idiots.

I don’t like church. It really feels like a waste of time. And before someone says some shit like ‘Come to my church, it’s really awesome.’ I want to clarify that I do not need some feel good, multimedia explosive, motivational speech spewing, dogma preaching, we are so awesome and spiritual service. I have no need for fun or experience in this regard. I just have issues with the entire framework of religion and it’s implications. Label me a heretic. Don’t misunderstand me though, I still believe that God exists, and I believe in the Christ, but not in Christianity and religion as it exists today.

I hate beggars. Especially those boys that run around Hatfield asking for money. Like really….all day every day?…really…how about finding a proper hustle, no matter how meagre and working from there.

I don’t like the fact that every time some people visit me, I have to give them money. I really don’t mind giving. It’s just…really? every time?

I hate dream sellers. People who talk about stuff they want to do, and never do it, never show quantifiable progress. I especially hate it when they try to rope me into their agendas.

Okay. I’ll stop there…I’m just angry today. Forgive my ranting.