The journey is everything
First, here are a series of Tweets and a story about my children which inspired this week's article.
Later this year, we're travelling overseas fora number of weeks. My wife and I are looking forward to exploring new countries and sharing new experiences with our three children.
Our three children haven't stopped talking about the flight there.
- The food we're going to eat on the flight
- How big the pillow will be
- How many times we will run up and down the aisles
- How many naps we're going to have
- How long it will take
- How many movies we're going to watch
- All that iPad time ...
The list goes on.
For them, the excitement is in simply going — for us it is in the destination.
It had me thinking about that Designer in every studio that tries to work on all the projects. The one that never admits they can't do 'that'.
It got me thinking about the Designer who has 'Design Director' or 'Creative Director' on their business card, with 27 LinkedIn connections and an employment section on their CV that is no more than three paragraphs.
It also got me thinking about the anxiety and awkwardness that is created when some people are asked to show the work they did in the areas they claim to have worked in some time ago - but that work never surfaces.
I see it.
I see the self-preservation in some young people who are protecting themselves as they try to arrive at some predetermined, perfect destination.
I wrote about it in The Perfectionist Trap in November 2016.
Recently, a young Designer said to me:
"I will learn all of this and will be as good as you are, by the end of the year."
Another said to me:
"I'm working hard to get to that next level."
Personally I don't think what I do is very complex. In all honesty, it isn't complex at all. Better people than I are people are saving lives, moving mountains and reporting from the front lines of some of the worlds toughest conflicts — what I do for a living is pretty fucking simple.
But it's taken me (and some of you) a long time to know what we know — even if what we know, is that what we do is simple.
Meanwhile this young Designer who was going to learn all that I knew, was overwhelmed with the amount work he had on his plate, the hours he was working and the 'hack agency' he was currently working in.
This young Designer was so focused on comparing himself to others that he failed to see what was in front of him. His anxiety was so finely tuned that he was failing miserably at achieving much at all.
In meetings he would try to impress his superiors by cramming as many words, ideas and concepts into every sentence. He was a terrible listener, who spent most of the time thinking about what he was going to say, rather than responding to what the other person was speaking to him about.
He was blind to the fact that he was surrounded by people who cared about him and supported his career growth — and instead of spending time truly learning about himself, was trying hard to meet what industry he worked in deemed to be 'the next level.'
Something indefinable. Something the doesn't actually exist.
For me personally, the journey of my career has been the greatest part. All the failures, all the people, all the fun and all the sadness. All of it.
Yes, there have been awards, celebrations, presentations and impressive client wins. But they all pale into insignificance when I look back at the path I have travelled and the obstacles I overcame.
I don't celebrate awards or a long list of agency names.
When Designers begin to tell me about working 'here' or 'there' as a way to explain their experience - I tune out.
When Designers tell me of someone achieving 'Senior Director of DesignGoodness' at [insert agency name here]. I tune out.
Because I can hear fear talking.
Because I've heard it all before.
Because what they're telling me is that they're just like everyone else who worked 'here' and 'there'.
What they're telling me is that a title is more important than experience.
(I'll pause here so you can think about that last sentence for a moment ... )
If only they stopped trying to prove something to everyone else and focussed on learning about the vale they have and can give to the world.
Their own value.
Their own strengths.
When someone tells me about their life experience in the context of their career - I tune in.
Too many Designers are chasing something that doesn't exist. Too many are blind to what is in front of them - opting to chase a dream of having 'Creative Director' on their business cards.
What if we embraced the 'now' instead of trying to chase perfection?
What if we all simply played to our own strengths, instead of looking to the side to see what everyone else is doing?
What if we all celebrated one another for doing our own thing instead of judging something that can not, and should not, be judged?
What if I said to you I wanted to celebrate your journey?
Imagine for a moment a young Designer looking through an award annual and idolising those businesses and people within it. A familiar picture for all of us no doubt. Imagine the distance this young Designer has, from where they are to the work they view in awards annuals.
The distance is incredibly vast.
Yes aspiration and inspiration are important — so is a healthy balance of practical self awareness.
Being consumed by the glitz of other people's work is, in my opinion, a distraction.
Being focussed on what you need to do to achieve your own goals, is practical.
The journey is everything.
Young Designer, the world you live in is filled with possibility. You can go from idea to execution in a matter of hours.
This is the opportunity so please don't let it slip by.
Take the bull by the horns and remember that chasing perfection is the surest way to not achieve it.
There is no destination.
The journey is everything.