Temporary Lulls Are Just That…Temporary

This post sings a bit of a different tune. It’s more about the lulls in energy or drive that hit me in my daily life, be it work related, training related, or personally related.

It seems more so than ever I am aware that my life really is a series of unbalanced scales. I have a finite amount of hours and energy each day I bring to a project, to school, or to a training session. Sometimes when things in my life don’t seem to be in balance, it throws off the entire equation and I just shut down for awhile. Sometimes that while can last a few hours to a few weeks. And, every so often, I try to take a step back and really examine what I’m doing. Since I don’t work a 9-to-5 job, my projects last anywhere from a few hours to a few months. It’s nice and refreshing to be able to reframe my viewpoint so regularly. In fact, it is a luxury that I quite dearly missed in the spurts I committed to working full-time the few times in my adult life.

Lately I’ve been juggling more design work than school work. Just a few months ago, I was immersed full time in school work. What happened? Did I get bored or am I just coming up against a temporary lull? As you may already know, my interests oscillate between tech/design and health/fitness. One started off as a hobby and became a career, and sometimes it seems like I’m trying to redo that entire cycle over again in a completely different field.

I like to think of these temporary lulls as good practice for the Ironman. 17 hours is a long time to slug away at something. There will be some times when I don’t feel like swimming another yard, biking another mile, or running another step. It is in these temporary lulls that build character and grit. It is in trying times that you learn that the best things in life are the things you earn — education, leadership, strength. The things in life that are worth having are worth working for. Some have to work tirelessly before they see the fruits of their labor. Some people will never reach their end goals, but the journey is so consuming and well worth the investment that it is, in of itself, the reward.

It is in these quiet times I spend alone that I learn the most about myself and the people around me. A little bit of quiet observation unfolds a great deal of analysis of my past and present. I can’t predict the future but I can stack the odds. I can make plans for the future without sacrificing my appreciation of the present. I can honor the past by living fully in the present. I can (try to) learn to let go of the people and events in the past that burns inside of me.

I think the one thing I’ve learned the most in my adult life is how little I actually know. It’s kind of scary. I don’t have enough time on this earth for all of the books I want to read, the languages I want to learn, the places I want to visit, the startups I want to work with, the people I want to meet, the races I want to run. A lot of people at my age (and younger) feel invincible and on top of the world. I feel the exact opposite. I have so much to learn and so little time to execute it in. And, even though one of my goals is to complete an Ironman triathlon, I know that I have a lot of training ahead and a lot of life lessons to learn along the way.

I guess one place where I can start is…how the heck do I work all of the gears on my bike? That’s a pretty actionable first step, right?

A Quick Recap of January #postaday2011

In case you missed it, I cranked out 23 posts in 31 days on personal development, freelancing, philosophy, tech, and design. If you’re looking for something to read during your lunch break, here it is!

Exhausted Kitty

Here’s hoping to the same level of consistency in February! I’ll be preparing for SXSW, exercising a bit more (hopefully) and diving in nosefirst into a new programming language so I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share.

Until then, see you around the blogosphere!

The Best Way To Motivate Every Creative

I love what I do. I love it, I love it, I love it. It is days like today that I thank the starry sky above that I’ve been blessed with the brains, determination, and opportunity to pursue my passions fearlessly.

Dress For Success - Hollywood Taft Building

Last night I slept when I wanted to. This morning, I woke up when I felt like it. Today, I drove through Los Angeles, with the windows down and the sun shining bright above me, to meet with a client. I sat down to a casual meeting over coffee to help a client with her newly launched website and to chat about her concerns and other projects. Afterwards I drove south on the 101 and into Hollywood…the day was so clear that I could see the blue skies behind the downtown LA skyline. I parked, grabbed some lunch, and headed up to chat with Dress for Success Worldwide West about what we could do to improve their website and social media marketing efforts.

Dress For Success Worldwide West Twitter

I spend so much of my time behind a computer, clicking away on my keys, sending tweets and writing blogs (for myself and others). I go through designs like I do laundry. I mentor and I critique and I troubleshoot and every once in awhile I get to peek my head out from the madness to sit across from a client, face to face, and actually TALK. What’s great is that the universe has thrown some pretty amazing people in my path. I admire every single client I bring on — for their determination, their drive, and investing in something that will help make the world a better place in their own special way.

On a day like today I am happy that I chose to follow the path of greatest resistance, that I chose to ignore the naysayers, and to chase my dreams. To be a creative is to be a very special person. So, my dear clients, when you wonder what it takes for a creative to do their very best work for YOUR project, keep some of these points in mind:

  • Give them the freedom to be creative. That is why you hired them, after all. (Check their portfolio beforehand to make sure they work in the style you are looking for.)
  • Realize that you’ve hired them for their professional opinion. They won’t always be identical to yours. If you’ve been stuck with a yes-man I would start looking elsewhere because it’s obvious that they’re not thinking…they’re just doing.
  • Give them space to create. It’s very hard for people to be creative on demand. Maybe if you stopped calling so often or sending a deluge of emails they might have the time to sit down and do the work without constant interruption.
  • Remember that creatives do their best work when they’re inspired. If they’re not answering your calls or emails right away, it might be because they are doing research or contemplating how to approach your project.
  • Give them definitive deadlines and instructions. If you absolutely need things a certain way, let them know up front. Otherwise, don’t get upset if they can’t read your mind.
  • Challenge them. If you think the work they’ve produced is mediocre, say so…but give constructive reasons as to why, so that they may improve and create their work in your image.
  • Be thankful. Just as much as you screened them and (hopefully) wrote them a check, they are doing you a favor too. They are sharing their gift with you so that you can, in turn, share it with the world. Don’t ever forget that they’ve chosen you, just as much as you’ve chosen them.

Are you a creative with something to say? What suggestions would you give?

Unleashing The Humble Artist Inside

Butterfly Hair
By Anahata Katkin

For the most part I don’t really consider myself an artist. I think it’s because I’m jealous that real artists have talent. (Designers have talent too, I suppose. Just a different type of talent, a combinative talent of sorts.)

Which then begs the question, what is the difference between art and design? I’ve entertained this conversation with a few close friends, all of them being artists…none of them designers.

For me, here are three key differentiating factors:

  1. An artist’s work is created for themselves. They consider the audience but their pieces are mainly a form of expression with no real objective of audience resonation. They do what they want. A designer’s work is created for an audience and generally has to be accepted to be seen as successful.
  2. Artists use their hands, and there’s often physical labor involved with creating their art. Most of the designer’s work is cognitive and two-dimensional. Unless they take part in the production process the physical labor of bringing their work to life is generally outsourced.
  3. Artists are more involved in the message. Designers are more involved the form and function in communicating a message.

I personally consider design to be 50% art and 50% science. There is an art to visualization and arrangement, and there is a science to branding, messaging, and client management.

When designers get caught up in the 50% science, it’s important to take a step back to recognize that the other half of what we do is artistic. Unleashing the humble artist inside is difficult and can take months or years of prying and prodding. Some people are uncomfortable with critiques or showing their work to the world.

What I’ve found to be successful at reigniting the artistic spark inside of me is to go find people who are better then me — people I look up to, people whose success I envy, people who ooze creativity in every aspect of their lives. Perhaps it’s the lifetime of responding to negative reinforcement, but for me it works. I create my best work when I am stressed, depressed, and otherwise pressed for time. I think on my feet. My heart bleeds. I cry. It’s amazing.

For example, let’s take Jhonen Vasquez, the creator of Invader Zim.

Jhonen Vasquez
Photo Credit - http://biorequiem.com

I’m obsessed with the TV series and watch it religiously on-demand via Netflix. It’s an insanely smart and clever series. I don’t even want to really explain it here because I would do his work injustice, so do yourself a favor and go watch “The Revenge of the Zit Boy” and have a blast. I follow him on Twitter and his ramblings are fascinating…as the ramblings of a true artist usually are. I go to his blog and his extended ramblings all make sense. I can see the artist in the work. What a privilege to have this type of technology available to us today to peek into the minds of true artists. (Could you imagine what Da Vinci’s timeline on Twitter would have looked like? Or what Salvador Dali’s blog would’ve contained?) I read his blogs and peruse his sketches with admiration and slight envy. I wish I could be as bold…but I suppose I’m the only one holding myself back.

Why I Love Social Media

It’s fun connecting with people online…but it’s even better having the eyes and ears of all of your friends a few keystrokes away. Luckily for me, all but one of my friends from art school is on Twitter so it’s great being able to keep up with their projects.

I shared a minor victory on Twitter and a few minutes later, the following virtual high-five/fistbump ensued.

Amara Poolswasdi