“Beyond that, I was dreaming of bigger events for the future…Asking questions is always good, but sometimes the best way to learn is by doing.”
I wrote about Form & Future for the Hike Conference blog, outlining the 2-year-long journey that leads up to what I’m doing now. Running that side project by myself helped me learn a lot about myself and my own capabilities. Partnering with Jason and our board has taught me that we can all do better when we work together.
Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.
“When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”
What I love about this is our potential to change our minds about stress. There will never be a perfect future where our lives are free of stress. How we think about stress and react to it is healthier and more productive than internalizing it, and pretending it will be better tomorrow.
We tend to imagine some point in the future in which everything is seamless and easy. Nothing is stressful or difficult, and no one bothers us. I tend to imagine myself on a farm in the middle of nowhere tending to a garden and my goat, drinking cups of tea and writing. My fantasy is some combination of early retirement and Little House on the Prairie.
My friend just found bed bugs in her beautiful New York apartment. It’s always going to be something—all we can change is our attitude.
I’ve been thinking a lot about stress lately, and the toll it takes on our lives. When we pretend the future will be easy, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. There will always be stress, too many things to do, and lots of things that don’t get done. We still need to relax, take time off, and take it easy on ourselves. There will always be a list of things we don’t get to.
Just remember to take advice from Ferris Bueller: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you just might miss it.
“Even more questions swirled when they considered how an artificially intelligent OS should behave. Are they a good listener? Are they intuitive? Do they adjust to your taste and line of questioning? Do they allow time for you to think? As Barrett puts it, “you don’t want a machine that’s always telling you the answer. You want one that approaches you like, ‘let’s solve this together.’”
"Adorable Clark update: We are trying to train Clark to drink his milk out of a dish rather than a bottle (I am less onboard with this new plan because bottle feeding gives Clark and I play time). But poor Clark is having a hard time learning this new skill. He just sticks his whole head in the pan and blows out his nose making bubbles in the milk. When he finally lifts his head out of the milk he just licks as much as he can off his face and tries again."
My friend McKinley Bryson is an intern on a farm in Maryland. She writes weekly updates on her blog, Home Groan. It’s worth following for the Adorable Clark updates alone.
This year, I went through a break-up and stopped constantly posting my life online. It feels really good to maintain privacy, and a real sense of living life in the moment. It’s a dangerous cycle, measuring our happiness and success by the number of likes we get and comparing ourselves to our peers.
I moved three times, meaning I lived in four different apartments this year. My belongings are a lot smaller, but I still manage to haul a ridiculous number of plants and books from place to place. San Francisco is changing, and it’s interesting to live here at this time. How are we going to preserve the city for those who aren’t ultra-rich, who deserve to live here as much as anyone? I hope we work together to find out in 2014.
Form & Future had a successful year of events at Makeshift Society. It blossomed into a full-blown conference called Hike (www.hikecon.com), coming to SF and Chicago next year.
I’m really grateful for the beautiful friends and family who support me, this year and always. Your love means success to me.
My New Years resolutions are to:
1. Be impeccable with my word
2. Don’t take anything personally
3. Learn to carve a chicken properly, instead of mangling the poor thing like I do now. It deserves better.
Just so you know, I’m planning a conference with Jason Schwartz of The Secret Handshake. We’re working with a team of amazing directors, some kickass volunteers, and generous sponsors to make it all happen.
I’ve been fighting off a cold this week by resting a lot and drinking plenty of fluids. I always feel guilty when taking off work to be sick, because Americans are the worst at resting. I feel like I’m getting behind and not being productive and so on.
“XOXO’s talks had a deep undercurrent of mental health: dealing with stress, depression, impostor syndrome, and doubt. Emotions are good, especially when aired, and stress can be beneficial, but they are not meant to derail you. If the best, brightest, most talented and successful people we have in the independent community are feeling this way, clearly we have some corrosive expectations of ourselves and one another, and things need to change. We have a climate problem with personal consequences.” – Frank Chimero, “The Inferno of Independence”
There are probably seven French words to describe the feeling of reading something that you know immediately to be true. I used to pressure myself to be the best at everything, especially the internet. I crafted interesting tweets, gathered a following, posted regularly, and developed my online presence. Online and offline I felt this urgency to prove myself, to be everything to everyone.
In the past year, I’ve slowly given up on these notions. Only in the last six months have I been able to step back from my online community and decide there’s a different way. I found the pressure of comparing myself to successful people and keeping up with the oh-so-rapid internet just too damn much. Having a side project is shit if you don’t have friends to grab a beer with. I spent college being mostly too busy for my friends, and I don’t want to fall into that trap again.
It’s like Frank said. If he’s feeling the pressure, and I’m feeling the pressure, and the talented, respected people we look up to are feeling the pressure, something’s gotta give. We’re hurting ourselves with stress.
I want to make things that help other people live their lives, and I don’t want to ignore the rest of my life to do so. Instead of making things for my own recognition, now I’m making them because I want them to exist.
Be nice to yourself. Give yourself a break. Remember that no one expects to be [whatever amazing thing you think you’re supposed to be.] Make things with vigor because it brings you pleasure. Make your dreams more about other people, and less about yourself.
“As I continue to get better at my craft, it’s important for me to remember why I loved it in the first place. So many of us set this aside and simply do what others suggest, never finding our own voice, and forgetting why we set out on this journey in the first place.”
The two IDEO-trained founders of Curiosity Atlas are looking for a Brand Communications Fellow this summer. Please forward to any undergrads or new graduates you know. More details on their site: http://curiosityatlas.com/summer-fellowships
Curiosity Atlas Fellowships
With summer just around the corner, we are thrilled to announce our inaugural Curiosity Atlas Fellowship Program. We are looking for one talented, curious Fellow to each take on a distinct project over the summer within a creative and collaborative team. These projects together will lay the foundation for Curiosity Atlas to grow and thrive over the coming year.
1. Brand Communications Maven
This is a part-time (10-15hrs/wk) opportunity for June through August 2013 - great for undergraduate seniors, grad students, or recent grads. While this is an unpaid fellowship, the rewards are infinite! They include cool portfolio work, mentorship & guidance, an expanded network of creative & entrepreneurial people in SF and taking part in quirky, fun SF experiences!
We’ll brainstorm and plot together once a week; other project activities happen independently and on your schedule.
Do yourself a favor. Read this post, then re-read it, then share it with people you love.
Stories—my grandmother’s, mine, yours—aren’t linear. They come in different shapes and sizes, and they don’t usually move in straight lines. Sometimes life is orderly, but most of the time, it shoots out in a lot of different directions at once and you have to just go with it. Stories don’t always fit on a page or in a room or whatever else kind of box we want to put them in. Some begin and end in the same sentence, and others unfold over dinner parties, weeks, or lifetimes.
I really screwed up at my job yesterday, and a small domino set of days before that. I didn’t put the time in, and my work suffered. Is it the end of the world? No. Did it feel like it? Yes.
What I learned
Ask for help as many times as it takes. Even if you don’t know how to describe the problem, try. Start communicating what you’re having trouble with, and you’ll find the answer together. Keep asking for help until you actually feel confident about the answer. Do not wait until the last minute to press the Emergency button, red lights flashing. You need help the second things start feeling shaky. The sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be on the right track again.
What older, smarter people said
Shannon Fong, Associate Director of Industrial Design at Smart, said needing help never goes away: not as a senior designer, not as a director. Everyone needs help, everyone keeps learning. Over time, the anxiety that accompanies getting help as a beginner fades.
“Wouldn’t it be sad if you graduated college, and were already the best you were ever going to be?”
What a recent graduate said
Xiulung Choy, industrial designer at Smart and recent grad like me, said his best professors were the strict teachers that no one liked. The professors who would count you tardy at 9:01, or not accept late work. “You can’t give your client a doctor’s note and turn in work two days late.”
School is practice. Practice makes you suck less
Whatever your weakness is in school, from timeliness to critique to showing process, will be magnified in real life. Every single person you’ll ever work with has weaknesses. The trick is knowing yours, and working extra hard to correct them. I’m not sure if that ever gets easy, and I don’t really mind.
Be ready to put the time in. When you screw up—and you will screw up—take responsibility. Find colleagues who will be honest with you, and help you grow.
Crying in the bathroom at work is okay. Breathe through your nose slowly. Splash cold water on your face. If you’re crying at work more than every once in awhile, that’s too much. Find a job that makes you cry less, or toughen up. You’ll be fine. Wear less makeup. Dress cooler than you think you are. Smile more.
I recently tweeted “Fear is useless,” and got a mix of responses. There were some favorites, a direct message about different kinds of fear, and friends who disagreed. I’m glad they thought differently, because it made me think about fear a little more in-depth.
I wrote “Fear is useless” because I was frozen about starting a two-week project over smack dab in the middle. I had been working in one direction, and then was presented with compelling reasons to change my approach. I was under pressure, and I really, really wanted this client presentation to go well. I wanted to succeed so strongly that I was afraid of failure.
Being scared of fucking up was keeping me from getting my hands dirty, from doing the work I knew I needed to do. In that moment, sitting at my computer worrying about how to do what I needed to do, fear was hurting more than helping. Sending that little message to the world was my moment of resolve, giving the middle finger to the silly human feelings that were keeping me from doing a good job. After that, I signed out of Twitter, rolled my sleeves up, and dedicated myself to working out the problem.
What I learned–or what I remembered–is that fear is useful, depending on what you’re scared of and why. I’m scared of being a boring person. I’m scared of dying a boring person. On my tombstone they would write nothing, because I gave nothing. So I work hard, and I make things with my hands that feel important to me. Lots of people feel this way.
Stephen DeStaebler says this more eloquently than me:
“Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.”
If you haven’t already, go read Art and Fear. When I follow the authors’ advice closely, I have a greater chance of conquering fear.
What are you scared of? How does it hurt you? How does it help you?
Recently, Sarah Parmenter posted an article exposing her abusive experiences as a speaker in the web design industry. Publishing the truth is a display of both her strength and vulnerability. Since then, Whitney Hess, Leslie Jensen-Inman, and Relly Annett-Baker have each written about their similar experiences with abuse as speakers at public design events. I respect all of these women professionally, and am grateful that they are bringing awareness to what it actually feels like to be disrespected, undermined, and exploited. These are not isolated incidents, and they won’t magically disappear.
Note: Leslie’s story was personally disheartening, because she was the female mentor who encouraged me to pursue a career in web design and technology.
In the comments section of each post, I noticed a theme: fear. Women who are new to design and technology are expressing their reservations about participating in our community, and how they’re scared to speak publicly. We know that when we step on a stage, there’s a damn good chance we’ll be publicly criticized for our gender, appearance, our knowledge of the subject at hand. What’s worse, we may be stalked, threatened, or verbally abused. Why bother putting ourselves in that horribly uncertain space, when we can stick to the sidelines safely?
Please, please don’t keep quiet. Don’t stay on the bench. Don’t let bullies–or the fear of bullies–keep you from becoming a speaker in our community. We need your voices, your opinions, your insights. What you can contribute to the world is bigger than small-minded people who have been taught that women are second-class citizens who aren’t to be taken seriously.
Sexism will never completely disappear. And there will always be racism, violence, and poverty. It’s disheartening, I know, but stick with me here. Just because the dark, horrible, make-your-blood-boil things in life will always linger doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to change them.
Every time you speak publicly, you win. We all win. Every time you give in to the fear of trolls and abusers, those fucking cowards win. Men who abuse women for speaking publicly are afraid of losing their power: they’re afraid of your power. Putting yourself out there is not going to be easy, and your fear is absolutely justified. I want you to know that I’m on your side. A whole vibrant community of good-hearted people are here to support you.
Public speaking is already intimidating. The fear of bullying, trolling, stalking, threatening has no place in our industry. Thank you to those who are speaking out, and thank you to those who are calling for change.
How can you start speaking? Make friends with women who have experience speaking. Ask their advice about finding friendly venues to speak at, and how to brainstorm topics that you’re comfortable speaking on. Don’t let age, experience level, or any other excuse keep you from speaking. You are worthy, and you are capable of whatever you put your mind to.
At the end of last year I predicted that 2012 would be full of changes, and it certainly was. I’m grateful for love and support from close friends and family, and encouragement from mentors. Thank you to the people who kept me grounded during a whirlwind year.
Undergrads, a word of advice: I was contracting for a startup and finishing school at the same time. Do not do this. When your plate is too full, you end up half-assing some things. In the words of Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” I spread myself too thin, and by the end I was exhausted.
On the bright side, I survived being in over my head. I clearly divided school and work in my mind by scheduling time for each. Every day, I determined the most important items I had to complete, then finished them first. When you’re drowning in to-do lists, efficiency is your best friend.
The UTC Art Department helped me find my voice–and the courage to speak up–as a young person. I learned how to think critically, make things with my hands, and to give and accept critique. I learned how to work in large groups, and let projects push my boundaries. I learned that I favor being part of a community, that I’m happiest there.
Moved to Atlanta in June…
Our house in Atlanta
…for exactly one month. I already had a job in San Francisco, and was itching to move. Stephen and I agreed that we would move together after he found a job in the city. One week after I moved to Atlanta, Stephen accepted a job at Airbnb. We spent the next two weeks saying goodbye to friends and family, and one week packing.
Drove across the country with my love in July.
Leaving my sister’s house in Nashville to begin our roadtrip.
Our Tahoe Airbnb
Since Stephen was on his way to work at Airbnb, he planned each night of our trip with a different Airbnb host. In hindsight, we wish the trip had lasted longer, but we were so damn excited about moving.
Moved to San Francisco, and found an apartment in two weeks.
Our first month in San Francisco was spent living out of suitcases with an Airbnb host. We discovered our cozy Bernal Heights apartment through a friend, and we were the first couple to tour the place. We were nervous because the landlord still held an open house the next day. Everything worked out in our favor, and we moved in August 1st.
Founded Form and Future.
Form and Future started as my senior thesis, and grew into a long-term side project. Working on Form and Future has helped me learn about editing, writing, publishing, designing dynamic content, and marketing. When I graduated from UTC in May, I vaguely understood that I had more to learn about being a designer. Seven months later, I realize that I’m really just beginning.
Many influences in my life are sources of encouragement, advice, and contributions along the way. I’m deeply grateful for the following people, all of whom are fantasticly wonderful human beings.
Joining the about.me team completely changed my life, and I was lucky to get the gig. The people who make about.me are some of the kindest, smartest, most damn awesome dark-comedians to work with. Working closely with Shawn and Ryan taught me to never settle, always do my best, and ask for feedback frequently.
Leaving about.me was a difficult decision to make. Instead of working remotely, I wanted to work with senior designers in an office every day. In order to grow as a designer, I sensed a need to develop skills by working with clients. Saying goodbye was bittersweet, and I hope we get the chance to work together again.
Said hello to Smart Design in October.
I was fortunate enough to join Smart Design as an interaction designer. The designers at Smart range from graphic design to industrial design, from interns to senior designers. Our clients range from OXO to companies that are working to bring their products and services into the future. Smart is a sincere company with a lot of heart, and I’m proud to work here.
I’m grateful for my life, and every person in it. There’s room to grow personally and professionally, and I look forward to doing so. Let’s all do our best this year.
In orchestral music, the last note of a piece is the most important note, because it is the last note the audience will remember. My band director advised us, “No matter what happens during the piece: no matter how many times you mess up, strive to make the last note strong.”
When I near the end of a difficult activity - running, writing, or designing - I’m always tempted to let my energy fade a little bit at the end. I’ll think, “I’ve done the work. I’m tired, it’s almost over, I can just slow down.”
There are two problems with slowing down.
When I relax a little bit: leave some corners unpolished, or skip the last half mile, I’m cheating myself. I know I can do better, it’s just a matter of doing so.
The second problem with slowing down is that the end of an activity can disappoint the people who work with you. It disrespects the integrity of the project.
The key to overcoming this is reframing the activity in your mind. Time is valuable, and any time you spend doing something is worth doing well. It also feels good to actually complete a fast-paced activity. Choosing to not complete a project strongly is laziness.
The last 10% of a project takes 90% of your time. Make sure your last note is strong - it’s what people will remember about you.
Thinking about how the majority of design work isn’t “sexy”. It’s working with others, organizing the moving parts, and getting a project to completion that makes up the most design work. It’s the heavy lifting that will make you a great designer.
"I once read that safe-crackers rub the tips of their fingers with sandpaper to increase tactile sensitivity. It make their fingertips ultra-sensitive and enables them to feel the nuances of the lock’s gear mechanism, as they rotate the dial in search of the magic combination that will open the safe. It’s the same with graphic design: the more sensitive you become to the world around you the better you will function. This means studying design in all its contemporary manifestations, as well as design history and the visual arts in general. But it also means studying the world beyond graphic design."
I moved to San Francisco three weeks ago from Atlanta, GA, and Chattanooga, Tennessee before that. I lived in San Francisco last summer for an internship at about.me, and fell in love with this city.
I’m here to be part of the technology and startup scene. More than that, I’m here because of connections I’ve made and continue to make here. The tech and design communities are incredibly closely knit, and I feel welcomed and encouraged with each new person I meet. It gives me the feeling that more things in my life are possible here.