Last week I met with someone I think I'll be mentoring over the year. I say 'I think' because it's really up to her, I guess. It takes two to tango when mentoring is concerned. If one party isn't into it then it won't work.
This Designer was (is) quite experienced. She's completed degrees, studied overseas, has a love for typography, communication design and experiential design as well. She works in one of Melbourne's well know cultural institutions and also teaches.
She's quite remarkable if you ask me.
Her one question for me when we met was what to do next - how to focus her effort and become a better, more mature Designer.
How to grow into the next version of herself.
But, she has competing interests. She loves academia, she loves her work as a Communication Designer, loves her study and practice of typography and teaches.
She's also someone's partner, has a mortgage and a life outside of work.
It's a resounding theme amongst Senior people in our industry — so if you're a graduate reading this article, you've been given fair warning - do something now to avoid feeling lost or confused in ten years time.
My answer to this question was 'Chariots'.
When I mentioned it to her she looked at me like I was a complete idiot.
Chariots Jim? Seriously?
So I told her this story.
I have a lot going on in my life:
- I have three children and am married to a truly extraordinary woman
- I co-own Tank, a Melbourne-based strategic design firm
- I own and run The Strategy Masterclass, an online course that teaches strategy to people working across a range of fields around the world
- I help my wife run Photify, an iOS app that prints your Instagram and iPhone photos
- I'm addicted to Crossfit
- I also write this weekly journal
- I'm someone's son, brother and friend and I make sure I maintain and nurture those relationships as well
Needless to say, my life is busy but I'm not complaining, because each one of those things is important to me and each one of them is purposeful.
What do I mean by purposeful?
Each one of these things moves me towards the life I want to live. Each one of them in some way moves me forward towards the goals I want to achieve.
Firstly, I'm clear on the vision of the life I want for myself, my children and my family - and I use each one of the things on the list above to move me towards that life.
Basically, everything I do is for my children. I try to stay healthy and strong so I can be around for them as long as possible — and chase the Zombies away — when they come.
I work, so I can pay for their birthday cakes. I draw to allow myself some stillness in this noisy, crazy world.
This simple 'centredness' allows me perspective.
This provides me with the basis for all of my decisions — daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly.
And this is where Chariots become relevant.
It occurred to me as I was faced with this question from my future mentee, that the Chariot is the perfect analogy for how I think about these different aspects of my life — and how I recommended she approach her challenge of wanting to become the best version of herself and get a grip on her competing interests and lack of focus.
If I was to see all of the things I do in my life as a horse on a chariot, pulling me towards my goal — and I on the chariot wiht my children and my wife, whipping them, urging them to move me forward — I am clear as to their role and their purpose without getting emotional or romantic about the whole thing.
They are there to move me forward.
They are there to move me towards a goal.
And if one of them slacks off — if one of them slows down, or if one of them ceases to move me towards that goal at all, I let it go. If one of them begins pulling me in a direction, away from my goal, I cut it loose and I focus on the things that will move me toward my goal.
So, to answer the question of what to focus on, where to put your energy and what to do next ....