The recent emotional upheaval in my life has rekindled my drive towards artistic ambidexterity. Although I like to think of myself as a talented designer and creative marketer, there’s something to be said about pursuing something for the sheer love and thrill of it…not worrying about branding it, hanging it up in a gallery, or hoping that someone else loves it as much as I do. Enter love #2, love #3, and love #4 of my life: photography, illustration, and dance…all of which I resolve to do much more of in the upcoming year. Although I haven’t necessarily been repressed or restricted from practicing them, I have definitely been a little more preoccupied with work and love these past few years.
Today I’ve had a little bit of fun in downtown Seattle with my Android app RetroCamera. I’m hoping to catch the sunrise tomorrow morning in town before my plane heads out.
Living in mid-city Los Angeles I frequently face the issue of homelessness. My particular section of Wilshire, called Miracle Mile, has a few regulars. When it gets too hot out, they chase the shade with all of their earthly possessions. When it gets too cold out they huddle in thick blankets and build forts out of cardboard boxes and newspapers.
Yesterday, in my privileged state of being, I was enjoying a hot cup of tea while reviewing some reading for my public relations class. I love to people watch so I get very distracted if a tea house begins to fill out with transient or purposeful souls who are looking for a quick respite from their everyday routine. I stared at my book but opened my ears and listened to a man who had just sat down to converse with a woman at a nearby table.
“This is the time of day I hate the most” he says.
“What do you mean?”
“…Night. It’s when I can’t go home, because I don’t have one.”
“It’s the stigma of being homeless, I guess.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes before he got bundled up and left the coffee shop to seek temporary shelter elsewhere.
Homelessness is an unfortunate reality here in Los Angeles. With it comes a myriad of social stigmas, psychiatric issues, and financial ramifications. I try to help as much as I can by giving out food. (Unfortunately, that is not always the preferred method of dealing with the homeless.) I purposefully don’t finish my Subway footlong or carry an extra full bag of groceries hoping that I will be able to help someone for just a few hours with their problems. Sometimes when a homeless person is refused service inside of a coffee shop or convenience store I try to speed through my checkout just so that I could hand them a small gift card…but they’ve usually already snuck away. What breaks my heart the most is watching other people ignore their cries for help.
The only real difference between the sheltered and the homeless are four walls. The fact that my mother was on the brink of homelessness when she and her eight other siblings were orphaned at a young age probably have something to do with my hypersensitivity of this issue. It is a large-scale problem with multiple variates, and it requires the attention from and coordination of many different societal institutions to fully address. I hope that one day, somehow, the playing field will level, but I suppose that transcends our current material world. After all, some people can still feel spiritually or emotionally homeless within their own home.
I am a true believer that most of our problems can be solved by returning to nature.
We face a lot of complex issues everyday. Maybe someone at work is under-performing. Perhaps you are feeling conflicted about a loved one. Maybe the external pressures you feel are just too much to bear. When things get rough, consider taking a step back and consider returning to your natural roots for a little bit. You don’t have to go completely Walden on us — a short walk, hike, bike ride, or ocean appreciation lunch break will do — but most of the time, giving yourself a change in environment can reframe your perspective.
Nature has a perfect order about her. Completely self-correcting and forgiving, the great outdoors can stand to teach you a lot about balance and harmony. Nature is not possessive or emotional; it reacts on both metaphysical and chemical logic that transcends human rationalization. There are no shades of gray really, just an endless array of possibilities that come in all shapes and sizes…if you know where to look.
On the other hand, Nature knows when to work on a problem and when to obliterate it as well. Admittedly we’re humans, and therefore emotional, so we can’t completely devoid our behavior and rationalization from said emotion. But again, if we could take a step back to reframe our perspective and understand a problem for what it actually is — not what we think it might be based on how we are feeling today, or how someone is telling us how to feel — we might actually be able to solve some of our problems.
A young up and coming star in the start-up world recently confessed to me that he hated networking. I sighed (with great relief on the inside) told him to join the club.
I’ve been to mixers, networking events, tweetups, meetups, etc — all in the name of being more social. When you’re tethered to your computer for most of the sunshiny day, you tend to gravitate towards being as social as you possibly can in the small bursts of availability that you have. Getting yourself “out there” is pretty nebulous for most people. “How do I meet new people?” “What do I say?” “Where do I meet these people?” Oh, the anxiety!
Well, I would not say that I am some sort of networking rock star but I happen to do perfectly fine at events. At first I hated going to them, but after a few events I realized why I disliked them so much. It was my fault. See, I was going into it with some sort of crazy notion that I would meet some fabulous people that I would be able to plug in to whatever my project was at that time. That was the wrong attitude to have!
Stop networking to gain business contacts or collect cards, and just get yourself out there to meet new people. Honestly, the best way to network is to do so with no intentions outside of just making friends. Some people are meant for “working a room,” and all the power to them. However, if that’s not your thing, I am sure that this rather innocuous five step plan can help you!
Walk up to someone who is alone
Acknowledge something about the event you’re at
Ask an open ended question
Are you familiar with the adage, “Only boring people are boring”? Well, if not you should burn that into the insides of your retinas because I find it to be very true. Learn to keep the conversation going and learn to be your true self, and soon, these events will be a piece of cake!
I am the quintessential over achiever. It’s not something that I’m really proud of. It’s just a part of me. When I was still under the auspice of my lovely parents, they would always remind me to sleep…take a break…enjoy my youth. However, I realized that when I left the nest things got immensely worse.
I launched my own company in the midst of a recession right before getting laid off from my full time gig. I was pulling long nights and weekends for a startup. In between hustling new clients and taking meetings I decided that this was the time I’d go back to school. Then factor in the residual work that it takes to keep all of these ventures humming along with some modicum of success — homework, late night accounting and billing, shooting off emails at 2am, coordinating teleconferences over multiple time zones — and you have yourself one tired puppy.
One way I’ve decided to overcome this is to not sit at my desk for too many consecutive hours at a time. Now, mind you, this is coming from someone who spends at least 12 days in front of a computer, 7 days a week. (Insane, isn’t it?) This little trick I’ve devised requires only some tealight candles and a glass.
When you sit down at your desk to work, light the tealight candle. Place it in the glass so you don’t burn your office (home or otherwise) down. Immerse yourself and completely focus on your work without distraction. When the tealight goes out, take a break….and then repeat. If you still decide to power through after the light goes out, just think back to the quote I opened up this post with: “Remember, the candle that burns twice as bright burns twice as fast.”
In my case, the book should be titled “Your ALWAYS Online life.” For as long as I remember I gravitated to the computer to fuel my interests, educate myself, find work, make friends, and connect with other people. I can even remember that my first paycheck went to web hosting. (I’m serious! I’m still hosting with iPower.com after 10 years.)
Technology is a wonderful tool if you know how to use it to your advantage. The title of my book is broad enough in so much that it lends itself to a series of eBooks that will eventually help other people bridge that gap between their real life persona and their online life.
The gravity of my involvement with the Internet really sunk in deep this last week. I recently landed a new client for my company, Unicorn Press, and had a number of live work sessions scheduled with him. I worked with him primarily via email and instant messaging. Just yesterday I was hammering out a short paper for my public relations class I’m taking through the CyberCampus platform at Golden Gate University for my masters degree. I’ve sourced out new business from an online community for designers, developers, and marketers on Elance.com and took teleconferences with a business in Australia and a non-profit in Seattle. Last week I joined eDiets.com for a second shot at lowering my cholesterol, but instead of doing it alone, I wanted to work with a community to successfully reach my goals. I sat through an amazing live streaming events demo with Vokle.com to learn more about how I could help my virtual startup, The Rainmaker Network, reach our student base more effectively. Last night I sent out a tweet querying my friends on some recommended late night drives and immediately got some responses. In short, I had a pretty amazing week…and most of it was spent online.
Over the last 10 years the Internet has proliferated into a vast and deep ocean that I’ll never be able to completely experience. I am amazed by its power to bring people together and rip them apart at the same time. I hope that through my series of eBooks, I can help some people make sense of this completely new world that exists within our own!
Ahhh, the eternal struggle. How does someone balance all of their obligations and cram 30 hours in a 24 hour day?
I stumble and fall but I find that most of my lessons are learned when I get back up. No one likes a frazzled and stressed person! The time has come that I put more personal responsibility into my schedule instead of filling it up with more and more project work. If I can’t be relied upon to take care of myself, how will my clients be able to trust that I can take care of my managed aspects of their business?
With this realization, I have decided to be proactive, rather than blindly placing the blame on external factors. The only way to achieve happiness is to manage what you can control…and, chances are, you can control your environment. For example, I can’t blame anyone else for my over-committed schedule but myself! The key to balancing obligations is to never actually attempt to cram 30 hours into a 24 hour day. It means breaking up chunks of work into manageable pieces so that the right amount of time can be devoted to each project. It means saying “no” to projects that you are disinterested in. It means that you have to plan fairly far in advance and to stick to your goals in the face of procrastination, laziness, and sloth in general.
Jon Bernstein, the author of The Power of The Notebook, says that when you write down your goals you are more inclined to put a plan of action together to achieve them. Here are my goals for the remainder of the 2010 year:
Maintain a regular exercise regimen and train for a 5K
Delegate tasks to my employees at Unicorn Press and trust that they have the judgment to get them done properly
Be more disciplined and focused with my masters’ program classes
Make it a habit to answer every email in a timely manner.
Regularly go “off-the-grid” to recharge my batteries (no pun intended)
I was recently in a discussion with a confidant about the philosophies behind the graphic design profession. What does it take to be a great designer: skill, talent or personality? In a perfect work, preferably a combination of all three!
However, when there are weighing factors, I would say that one trumps the others. Having a great personality is key to being successful in any profession. In particular, graphic designers need to be able to relate with and relay visual communications to an audience. They must also be able to liaise with other creatives, deal with copywriting, marketing, PR, and advertising folk. How can they do that with a stale or negative personality?
The thing about skill and talent is that they are complementary. You can at least build off of what you have. On the other hand, it’s really hard to retool your personality! Consider this philosophy for your next team assignment or job interview. It might take you places!