Legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser – the mastermind behind the “I ♥ NY” design – shares ten life lessons in this blog post recapping an AIGA talk he gave back in 2001. Get ready for great insights without the candy-coating. Here’s one of my favorites, a counter-intuitive perspective on the value of professionalism:
Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative – I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression.
Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.
Occasional 99U contributor Scott Young recently posted a great, no-nonsense piece on the importance of showing up. Reading it is sort of like getting a talking-to from your favorite high school sports coach. In short, it’s just the sort of ass-kicking you may need to get your creative project in gear. Here’s an excerpt:
Finally, as it got later and later, I told him out of frustration that he said he wanted my advice, and, “Step one was to get to the gym before it closes!”
He laughed at my exasperation and we did go to the gym before it closed. Since then saying, “Step one!” has been an inside joke for whenever someone fails to put in the basic effort for a goal they supposedly care about.
How often do you forget step one? Wanting to be a successful blogger, but failing to write regularly. Wanting to get in shape, but not showing up at the gym. Wanting to learn a language, but never having conversations with people who speak it.
Step one is interesting because it only requires effort. Writing a bestselling novel requires some luck and skill. Writing a novel requires only that you show up to write every morning.
Because step one isn’t dependent on any external factor, it is also a good measure of how committed you are to a goal. If I professed a desire to be a great writer, but I never wrote anything, I’m simply not committed to that goal. There’s no excuse for failing step one.
Our thinking out how we work shouldn’t just be limited to small-bore questions like “How can I get through more email?” or “What can I do to manage meetings better?” From time to time, we need to step back and take stock of the long view. Or, as Clay Collins writes in this fantastic post, “sometimes our lives don’t need optimization, they need to be fundamentally reconfigured.” Here’s Collins on finding perspective:
There are no perspective hacks. None. You just have to suck it up, live a little, and wallow in the mud of life. You have to get your hands dirty with this beautiful business of living. You have to question, meditate, and fail often. You simply have to make space for perspective and hope that it will come eventually. You have to spend time in a manner that would seem self-indulgent to most.
An incredible tale of perseverance and innovation, this Men’s Journal piece profiles Daniel Kish, a blind man who has learned to use echolocation to navigate the world with such precision that he can even engage in challenging sports like mountain biking. Thanks to Kottke for pointing us to this stunning story:
On the cusp of tackling his first book, writer Steve Silberman collected sundry bits of wisdom from writers of all stripes, including Jonah Lehrer, David Shenk, Sylvia Boorstein, David Crosby, and many more. But you don’t have to be a writer to take something away from this piece. Here’s author and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow on writing and the creative process:
2. Write even when the mood isn’t right. You can’t tell if what you’re writing is good or bad while you’re writing it.
3. Write when the book sucks and it isn’t going anywhere. Just keep writing. It doesn’t suck. Your conscious is having a panic attack because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing.
4. Stop in the middle of a sentence, leaving a rough edge for you to start from the next day — that way, you can write three or five words without being “creative” and before you know it, you’re writing.
5. Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.