Cap Watkins, lead designer at Etsy, wrote at length on how he got his start. New to San Francisco, he sent out 20-30 emails to designers he respected but had never met. He got only one reply:
Daniel Burka (who at the time was the creative director at Digg) said that, sure, he’d love to grab coffee. We set up a time and I took the train to the city to meet up with him and his friend Mark. We chatted for awhile and, just before we left, they both mentioned that they were going rock climbing the next morning with friends, and asked if I’d like to join.
Absolutely, I did. The next morning I hopped on a 6am BART train from Oakland into the city to get the climbing gym at 7am. There, I met a few more people, which turned into a few more people, which turned into a few more and suddenly I wasn’t all alone in Oakland anymore. And months later when I was let go from PMOG, I had good friends who helped me find contract work while I looked for something fulltime. Eventually, my friend Willo introduced me to the guys at Zoosk and suddenly I was off to the races, designing products for millions of users.
I wonder sometimes about where I would be now if Daniel hadn’t responded to that email.
Cap’s journey (which you should read in its entirety) gives us two lessons:
It reminds us of Ben Casnocha’s theory from his interview with 99U EIC Jocelyn Glei: “Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky,” he said. “They’re attached to people.”
As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our most-shared Twitter links for your weekend reading pleasure.
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Though the advice “just do what you love” sounds great, it can also come across as unrealistic. Not all of us have the luxury of not worrying about steady income, supporting others, or health, after all. Leo Babuta of Zen Habit can commiserate, and lists the three conundrums you must ask yourself first before making the leap. Here’s one of our favorites:
Will earning money for what you love make you stop loving it? When you do what you love for a living (let’s say, writing or helping people), don’t show up every day for the money. That’s a lousy motivation, and eventually it’ll become drudgery, because money isn’t something you can really love. Instead, show up every day for a better reason. I show up every day and put in my hours because I hope what I do will help people, and I love helping people. It never gets tiring, never becomes drudgery.
American culture obsesses over the idea of finding our “on true passion” in life; just make sure it’s a passion that fits your life too.
Read the rest of the questions here.
Focused purely on idea execution, seamless design, and empowering you to take action, our 99U Conference takes a different approach from most creative conferences. We want everyone who attends to walk away with pragmatic insights on making ideas happen, a new set of creative allies and connections, and a refreshed (and re-amped!) perspective on how to get started changing the world.
But we felt like our existing website wasn’t quite conveying what makes 99U so special. To better embody how much love and care we put into the conference experience, we fully redesigned conference.99u.com.
We’re doing everything in our power to make 2014 our biggest and best event yet — a dose of idea rocket fuel that motivates you for months to come. Come check out the new site, and get a sense of the experience. We’d love to have you join us this May.
Since 2012, the To Resolve Project has been a running compilation of artist’s resolutions for the new year, each designed and made to be downloaded as a background for your iPhone 5. It’s a great way to stay motivated with simple, gorgeous, reminders to focus on improving yourself.
Check it out here.
Creatives and mental issues, like anxiety or depression, have been famously paired together for centuries. Gila Lyons explains in The Millions:
[Sigmund] Freud posited that artistic creativity is a product of neurosis; Marcel Proust claimed that, “everything great in the world is created by neurotics;” and Seneca quoted Aristotle as having said, “No great genius was without a mixture of insanity.”
It can be an (often terrifying) catch-22; do you need to be a little “mad” in order to be a great artist, and if you lose that madness, do you lose any of your creative spark? It’s an issue Lyons herself was dealing with when she started suffering intense anxiety and depression that was crippling her life, but (in the final year of her MFA) she was also terrified of losing her artistic edge.
I had heard of many artists who had gone mad or suffered from horrible depression, and took the popular prescription of the day, never to write or create again. Their troubling symptoms had been muted, but so had everything else, their thoughts, perceptions, libidos, and ability to access deep feelings. They reported feeling emotionally void, deadened, seeing life as if through a veil.
In the end, Lyons decided to take the medication and get help. While she admits to a muting of the overwhelming need to create or sensory overloads, she also raises the question of if creating from a place like that is really any better or more productive than from a place of well-being.
I wouldn’t trade the happiness, the sense of balance, the self-reliance, or the improved relationships I’ve gained from medicine for writing. And perhaps I don’t have to decide between mental health and creativity. It seems that, whether mad or not, people are driven to create in order to understand something about themselves, the world, or their experiences and perceptions… It’s possible that the medicines I take could help me travel a clearer and more direct path to that place…
Read the rest of the article here.
Note: Depression is not something to be taken lightly. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
We all have an inner critic that nags at us to do better, give up on our dreams, or compare our work when it’s not fair to do so. On A List Apart, author and speaker Denise Jacobs writes about how to quiet that inner critic in order to produce more ideas, have more confidence, and be more productive. Some of our favorite points:
If you’ve been battling it for years, ur doin’ it wrong. Ignoring the critic doesn’t work—it will only make it more devious and insistent. Trying to strong-arm and exert your will over it will do the same. You’ll need to equip yourself with a combination of willingness combined with some tried-and-true methods to turn down the volume.
Be proactive. Don’t passively accept everything your inner critic says as gospel. Challenge the truth of the critic’s information…Think about how bad external criticism really is in the grand scheme of things. Admittedly, it’s no picnic, but you always live through it and come out the other side, right?
Reassign duty. Oddly enough, the inner critic does have a place in the creative process. Unfortunately, it is overly eager about helping and usually jumps into the process too early. Tell it to go take a long lunch and come back when you are vetting ideas, or editing a written piece, or determining the best of several design iterations. Those are ideal times to exercise discerning judgment and a critical eye.
Be deceptively non-committal. Trick your inner critic by using a bait-and-switch tactic. When you feel your inner critic trying to put the brakes on your motivation, enticing you to procrastinate, deftly sidestep it by telling yourself: “I’m not really going to do x, I’m just getting ready for it.”
Your inner critic can be responsible for feelings like exhaustion, dreading going into work every day, or like you’re constantly fighting a losing battle. When you let your inner critic get the best of you it means missing out on opportunities to grow, being less productive, and not creating the awesomeness you were meant to create.
Learn how to banish your inner critic by treating it how it’s meant to be treated, read Jacobs’ full write-up.