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“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.”

Timothy Goodman, Forty Days of Dating

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The Long, Hard, Stupid Way

What happened

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.

Appendix

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.

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Confidence

If you don’t believe in your work, no one else will.