Austin Kleon: Keep Your Day Job

Artist and poet Austin Kleon (whose best-selling book Steal Like an Artist continues to inspire) explains why you should keep your less-than creative day job, and how to do it while pursuing your art on the side. Kleon writes:

“You have to pay the bills and feed the mouths, and you do it however you can…And my experience has been that economic security has always helped my art along more than any kind of ‘spiritual’ freedom or whatever…You always have a day job. Just hang in there. This is what I recommend: get up early. Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today.”

Read Kleon’s full explanation on how dull day jobs can actually help creativity thrive here.

Relevant: Cal Newport’s chapter in Maximize Your Potential, “Cultivating Your Craft Before Your Passion.”

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Stop Dirty Networking: Make Friends, Not Contacts

Matilda by Danny DeVito

Matilda by Danny DeVito

Research has found that people who engage in “instrumental networking,” where the goal is career advancement, made people actually feel physically dirty. So dirty, in fact, that they thought about showering and brushing their teeth! 

As creative professionals, it’s understood that for the sake of our careers, we must constantly expand our networks of potential partners and clients. But how can we do that without repulsing people? Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, suggests ditching traditional networking altogether:

Those who are best at it don’t network – they make friends.

. . .

Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people…When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.

Opt for spontaneous networking, where the goal is the simply the pursuit of emotional connections and friendship

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Keep a No List to Show Time Saved

Rejected designed by Yazmin Alanis from the Noun Project

Rejected designed by Yazmin Alanis from the Noun Project

When you say “no” to something, you’re choosing how to spend your time. Over at her blog, Bobulate, NPR creative director Liz Danzico describes what would happen if we focused on keeping a No List, and the surprising benefits of doing so:

When I say no (e.g., conference talk invites, ‘pick my brain’ invitations, jury solicitations), I immediately add my regret to the No List. I nurture this growing list of no-things, adding category data like dates events would have happened, themes, and date turned down.

Too much yes, I quickly found, is unsustainable and unhealthy. What could I make from no? So I started a list. Instances of saying no… Suddenly, I’m making list of cities not seen, airplanes not embarked, and time saved, rather than time taken away. Several months later, I have a made a substantial something. It’s how I’ve marked time.

To keep a No List means simply writing down any time you say “no” to something. By tracking everything you decline, you are not only saving time by focusing your efforts on the most important things, you’re also refocusing your attention onto the things you’re truly passionate about.

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Open Thread: Do You Involve Customers In Your Creative Process?

Collaborative-Learning designed by Duke Innovation Co-Lab for the Noun Project

Collaborative-Learning designed by Duke Innovation Co-Lab for the Noun Project

That’s right. Clients don’t have to just be on the receiving end of our work. Patrick Hanlon at Inc. explores the ways that clients can become collaborators. He writes:

Today, consumers aren’t just your buyers, they can also be your collaborators. They can help you design, build, promote, and sometimes even distribute your products or services.

He pulls an example from the business world about working with customers at the onset:

First, collaborating with customers during the product innovation and design phase helps marketers understand real need states.  P&G, GE, Yum! brands, and others bring consumers into early stages of design and development.

Hanlon stopped short of really answering the question, so let’s discuss it ourselves. How can we collaborate with our clients to enhance our work and processes? How can we use them to gather invaluable feedback to make sure what we’re doing – whether it is building a product, developing a new service or executing new promotional ideas – is actually effective? How can we then turn clients into fierce ambassadors invested in our work, of which they feel ownership in?

Let us know in the comments what your experience is with customers as collaborators.

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When Is Something “Good Enough” to Ship?

Envelope by Ana María Lora Macias from The Noun Project

Envelope by Ana María Lora Macias from The Noun Project

No one really cares that you’re an overachiever. As creative professionals, we’re seldom satisfied with our output because it’s seldom perfect. But more often than not, good enough is perfect. Head of Creative & Design at HubSpot, Keith Frankel, shared a simple guide to recognizing when a deliverable can be considered “good enough.”

  1. It successfully solves the problem, addresses the need, or conveys the message intended.
  2. It is clearly and distinctly on brand.
  3. The quality of work is consistent with or above the level of previous work.
  4. It has been thoroughly yet objectively scrutinized by other qualified individuals.
  5. The final decision of preference had been left in the hands of the creator.

According to Ayelet Gneezy, Associate Professor at the University of California in San Diego’s Rady School of Management, “You really, really want to keep a promise, and anything beyond that is marginal, if anything…Don’t kill yourself trying to over deliver.”

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James Victore’s Tricks and Treats for Getting Motivated

If you’re struggling to feel motivated, using tricks or treats may be all you need to get the momentum going again. Illustrator James Victore swears by the unique approach to getting unstuck:

The first step of getting motivated: identify the type of motivation problem you’re having. Are you not motivated by the work itself (such as it doesn’t excite you) or are you lacking internal motivation (like a lack of energy because you didn’t sleep well last night)?

Once you know the type of motivation problem you’re having, you can motivate yourself with tricks like forcing yourself to work for one hour by using a stop watch, or promising a co-worker or peer that you’ll get something done in the next 30 minutes. Anything that can “trick” you into getting started on the work.

Alternatively, the treats approach is just that — a literal treat. If you make progress on (or finish) the work, reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting for a long time.

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Maximize Your Post-Conference Experience

Brainbox  designed by Simon Child for the Noun Project

Brainbox designed by Simon Child for the Noun Project

We’ve all been there. Attended an exhilarating conference, met fascinating people and left charged… Only to get back home, feeling overwhelmed, pulled quickly back into our day-to-day, to the point that we don’t follow-up or follow-through to maximize our conference experience.

On Linkedin Pulse, Nedko Nedkov offers strategies for acting on the learning that takes place at conferences. He suggests:

Before you leave the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.

During the team meeting, Nedkov suggests a conference debrief of what was learned and what’s to come, including any assignments. During your personal one-on-one, he suggests that you go through any conference notes and start identifying to-dos and what’s next.

The intentionality of sharing and considering what you learned and turning that knowledge into action can possibly make the difference between harnessing that electric energy that we feel after an awesome conference and feeling guilty that we did nothing.

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