#106: Create so much they can’t Ignore you

Create So Much They Can't Ignore You

There are so many tools each within our respective industries, fields of expertise, our hobbies and our passions that make whatever you choose to do so accessible to anyone. If you don’t like one tool, you can simply try another until you gel with something and create a process with it. For designers that would be the difference between using Photoshop, Sketch, or Affinity Design. if you don’t like one, there are more you can choose that essentially do the same thing.

There are millions of artists, designers, videographers, photographers, animators that are sharing their hard work. The work in which they have spent years developing a style, learning the practice, the theories, the principles. All of which are competing in the same space, not against each other, but against the user, the consumer on the platform they are sharing their work on.

Competition is a mentality, where you choose to view someone who does the same thing as you as a competitor or see them as a partner, someone who is an advocate or the craft or skill, like you. A lot of the letterers I know would never consider another letterer as competition. In fact, letterers I know have reached out to me, and I to them, in a bid to meet up, share ideas, tips and have conversations about the artform.

There is no animosity between people who do the same thing unless you choose there to be.

Building an audience and gaining attention allows you to make money, become renown, be seen as an expert, and to make a difference. These factors play a large part in why an artist would want to build an audience and continue sharing the work they love to do. Everyone likes to be seen as good at something. But how do you create this audience ad cut through the rest of the other artists whoa re doing something similar to you. There are two ways;

  1. Develop your own personal style.
  2. Create so much that you can’t go ignored.

Developing your own personal style comes with years of working in the same field, experimenting with various tools, artforms, and inspiration that you sponge from over the years of creating. We all have our inspirations and our heroes in the field we pursue. All of the work from the places we consume them from rub off on us. They leave an impression. I know I certainly have browsed Pinterest boards of lettering and have introduced a certain style after perusing for inspiration. You pick up pieces as you go. And go, and go, for years. But this isn’t limited to just consuming inspiration from your passion. Life events, travel, information and values shape the work you create over your life.

Creating so much work that they can’t ignore you is an excerpt from a Steve Martin interview, in which he says, “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. This is the sentiment in which you have to create so much high quality at such a high volume and at a consistent pace. An extremely tough trifecta of challenges, that if one of them was taken out, the whole thing crumbles and you don’t gain the traction needed to grow exponentially. You will grow slowly over time, but not to its full potential.

When you start to gain traction, more users will see your work, more will the message it offers, the service you offer, the information and knowledge you are giving. It’s when people resonate with the message of your work is when you start to gain traction. When people resonate with it, they are more likely to attribute you as the conceiver of that knowledge, as an expert of that message and an expert in that field. They are more likely to share that message when they feel as though it has spoken to them directly because it is a direct reflection of themselves. Why else does anyone share a message unless it speaks to them and reflects their own values and what they stand for? No one is going to advocate something they are against.

How do you think you follow the people that you follow now? All the photographers, the designers, the painters, the musicians. You have heard of them because they are good, because they have consistently been good, and because they have created so much quality work that you have heard of them. They can’t be ignored. There is a reason you know who about them. They deliver high quality in a high volume on a consistent basis.

More than likely they are on social media, engaging with fans and followers. If they aren’t now, then they are too big to possibly message everyone back. But at one stage they did. Think about how you can reach that level. How can you change your habits to produce more high-quality work, or deliver it more often? What are you focussing on right now that is distracting you from this goal? How can you become one of the greats? The great work gets noticed and doesn’t stay under the radar for long.

You either want it or you don’t. Think about what season you are in right now in your career. Is this the season where you want to explore your options or learn a new skill or experiment with styles? Or are you taking a break, to focus on more personal aspects, your health, family, travelling, making friends, trying new things, etc.?

But if you’re serious about becoming one of the greats a leaving a legacy. You have to make a decision on what you want to do with your passion when your aim is to build an audience. Do you just want to share casually, or do you want to build and maintain an audience for it? Because it you do, then there is one state of mind you need to adopt;

You need to get to a level where you are posting high-quality work on a daily level. 

#105: Why a Body of Work is Greater than a CV

Build a body

For years, the CV has been the staple of employing a potential candidate for a position. It’s a list of your best work, what you’ve studied, where you’ve studied it, where you have worked and the positions you’ve held. An important document for any recruiter to see, there’s no doubting that. But that’s just it. A list. Even if you are a create marvel and have an incredibly intricate system and dedicated website that held you CV with impressive parallax scrolling and interactive features. It’s still a list of things, most of which are irrelevant. So what if I told you there is another way to show off these traits, in a more natural environment, in a way that shows the huge value you have to offer? It’s time to eliminate your CV.

It’s all about having a body of work.

There are far more positives to owning a body of work that you can track, that has social proof, something you can generate income from, something you have built an audience for, something that has a community around it, that you build, from your own dedication to showing up and your passion for succeeding at this thing. Side projects and passions are a creatives’ most valuable currency when applying for day jobs.

If you haven’t reached a point where you can take your passion full-time and make a living at it, but still need a day job to get by and pay the bills. Or maybe your passion lies in a career working for someone else as part of something larger, as part of a great team and a great organisation. Then this post is for you.

It’s absurd to think that a creative should be judged on the merit of what’s listed on a sheet of paper when posting a CV to a business for a creative job. What you should be judged on is what you have built. How have you showed up to this thing you love to do outside of your day job? What have you made in your spare time that creates value, that helps others? When you show up in your free time to do what you love in order to build something in the long term that serves to benefit others, you’re actually benefiting yourself in more ways that one. You get the satisfaction from doing the job, and the benefits of being accredited with building this thing in the eyes of an employer/client. It’s a win-win.

The benefits

Perhaps the biggest benefit that gets overlooked in a body of work – You own a body of work. It’s at your disposal. You can sell it, licence it, print it, whatever you want, no questions asked. When you create a body of work for another business internally, that is not your work. As much as you want it to be, I repeat, it is not your work. You don’t own the rights to it. It belongs to the company you are working for or contracted to at the time. All the more reason to create a contract for your services.

This may not be of any importance to you, but if you’re proud of a piece of work and want to print it, or hang it in a gallery, the company you work for has the right to take you up for it. Owning your own work gives you proof. A proof that you can make this kind of work using your own skill, your own time,  and your own initiative. You can always point to it, and direct others to it. It exists to benefit you personally and professionally, and it serves as your legacy.

A body of work that is accessible to everyone at any time (via online), is tangible evidence of your work and skills. You can direct people to it 24/7. It’s proof that you know how to do something and that it’s not a bullet point on a piece of (virtual) paper. Your body of work dictates you, it speaks for you instead of you speaking for it. Think of how powerful that is in an interview, or when selling your services. It’s evidence that you know how to do something, and not that you say you know how to do something.

Your body of work helps build your skills. It’s a series of failures and gradual growth of your talent into a fully fledged series of skills. Let’s be honest, when you build something, you’re not just learning one skill. You learn a multitude of skills. As a lettering artist, for example, I film time-lapses of my work on camera and take photos of my artwork in physical form. That required me to learn how to use a camera, edit video, edit photos, and learn the software associated with those skills. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Think of all the research that went into website building in order to house those images and video, how to create specific effects in video, how to colour and tone photos etc. The list is endless, and that’s not even the skill that went into learning how to be a lettering artist in the first place. When you learn one thing in a create environment, be it design, photography, animation, UI, app development, you’re in fact learning so much more about various create outlets, they each feed into another to help you become more knowledgeable and develop an understanding of different practices. Creatives don’t exist in a bubble. Any smart recruiter/client would know that.

You can look back and see your progress as an artist. You can see where you’ve started from and where you are at this moment in time. When I love back at my first lettering works, I don;t get embarrassed or want to delete them. I simply acknowledge that I was not as skilled as an artist back then when I was first starting, and over time and with a lot of practice I have developed and picked up more and more skills, tips and insights into the art form. A large body of work will help you envision where you have come from, where you are, and help guide you to where you want to go.

If there is one thing a body of work does, it’s that it shows your passionate about something.

Passion is the hardest thing for an employer to teach, in fact. I would argue that you can’t teach passion. It has to come from within. It’s a deep seeded drive and will to succeed, in your career, in your hobbies, in your life. It’s a personal goal and something that can’t be thought. When I run my own business in the future, this is the key indicator that I will hire off. Everybody is capable of submitting a virtual form with stats and achievements, but it’s the passionate ones with drive that I want working for me. Someone who has a sense of direction, who knows what they want in their life and career. Anyone can be thought a system, no one can be thought passion.

I got my current day job because of my passion, not because I was qualified. I asked the recruiters (after I was hired, of course) why I was chosen for the position and they told me that it was because I was so immensely passionate about what I do outside of my day job. I work in the largest national newspaper in Ireland, and I’m the youngest on the creative team (at the time of writing). That says something about being passionate.

Find what you’re passionate about, explore your options. When you do find something, build a body of work around it, cultivate a set of skills, leave a legacy around this thing. Over time, you will have put a large amount of time and effort into this thing, you’ve learned a lot and gone through hardships, and sometimes you’ve thought of quitting, but you still show up, you were there for the highs and lows. Show it off!

#104: Maximise your Productivity with these 10 Tools

productivity tools

Maximising Productivity

Productivity is a skill in itself. Setting yourself up to be in the most productive mindset can be hard at first. But over time, you learn to cultivate a growing mindset. One small action leads to the next. Momentum builds momentum and soon you build a productive habit. Like a switch you can flick on or off at any moment, making a conscious decision to be productive.

But what good is having a productive mindset if you aren’t able to harness it to produce results? This is where the tools you choose come into play to help you maximise your productivity. We have reached peak productivity app. There is an app for everything productive you can think of. From taking notes and going distraction-free, to saving articles and making to-do lists. Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve come across (and used) countless apps, and extensions, regarding productivity and making the most of your time, and here is a list of the best I have come across and the ones I use personally on a daily basis.

A list of the best apps & extensions

  1. Panda – A chrome extension that allows you to customise your new tab window with the latest in tech news and the design world. You can customise the layout to display multiple feeds from Hacker News, Dribbble, The Verge, Behance, Mashable. Perfect for a quick burst of inspiration from design feeds and keeping up to date with the latest news on the tech front.
  2. Adblock / Ublock – The standard. Everyone should be using this. Who likes ads? No one. Ads should not be the future of the internet. A crowded, over-saturated market full of click-bait, trite, useless noise that distracts from content. If you have to rely on ad revenue for your business, you don’t have a good business plan.
  3. Grammarly – An excellent extension that scans your text and suggests improvements in real-time without actually autocompleting it to something you never meant to say in the first place, like your default smartphone keyboard. Great for improving your own grammar while giving you simple explanations as to why it’s wrong. Smart, intuitive, and with a nice user interface.
  4. Pocket – This allows you to save articles and web pages from anywhere on the web so you can come back and read it later. By far the best and most effective webpage saving tool around. Collects all the web pages you save in the app into a list of most recently saved. Not to mention a handy chrome extension that lets you save web pages at the click of a button.
  5. Evernote – The seminal note taking app. Available anywhere, at anytime. Also absolutely free. Can use with your phone and on desktop. Allows you to create as many notes as you wish. Although recovering from a recent controversial policy change regarding privacy, and a reduction in the amount of features you can use as a free user. Despite this, it’s still the best in class at what it does. Simple and effective.
  6. Dropbox / Drive – Either one of these storage platforms you use, they do the same thing. Although I personally prefer Dropbox. Syncs across devices and gives enough space to allow for a good amount of storage at 10gb, for a free user. Most professions would find that modest enough, unless you’re in the film or animation industry. Great for if you’re working a day job being able to transfer files to your personal machine.
  7. Wetransfer – Perfect for sending people large files that won’t attach to email. Simple and easy.
  8. Wunderlist / Todoist – Both top of their game, respectively. A checklist / to-do list style app that are both simple, clean and straight to the point. Although you can do similar things in Evernote (mentioned above), their main focus is lists and how to complete them, they offer reminders and notes to accompany each list.
  9. Coffitivity / A Soft Murmur – The perfect tool to get you in the mood to complete your task. You have the tools down, but you need the ambience, this is where these platforms come in. Coffitivity plays ambient sounds from coffee houses / cafes. Just the right amount to help feel like your working in a bustling environment surrounded by people. Distraction free, loops perpetually, and gives you a sense of movement even if you’re working in isolation.
  10. Ommwriter – If Cofficitivy is to your productivity, then Ommwriter is to your distraction. It’s a tool that offers distraction free writing. As I have said before. It’s all about writing. So if you want to write a lot of content, with no distracting tools hanging around the edges, the multiple sub-menus and formatting tools of traditional writers, then this is the tool for you.

Notable mentions – 1 password, F.Lux, Google URL Shortener, WhatFont / ColorZilla, Momentum, Simple Countdown, Caffeine.

These tools are some of the best there are out there at what they do, they promise to make you a more productive person. But what are productivity tools, if you don’t use them? They were created to help your workflow, create valuable content faster, and help you work better. Some are paid, others are not. Trial and error will see you through. Some processes you may have your own tools for that you like to use, ones that are probably not mentioned here. Everyone is different.

The best process is the one you know.

If you do your work a different way t someone else, it’s not their responsibility to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. It’s easy to get distracted with the tools themselves, to consume and try to learn them all at one time can be a distraction in itself (meta, right?). Introduce a new tool to your process to see if it enhances your work life, then when you make a decision on one, move to the next. Pick and choose what works best for you.

Remember, no tool will ever do the work for you. You will need to sit down and do the hard work yourself.

#103: How to be Open to Change

Change

On the 3rd weekend of January 2017, I had a life-changing experience. I will never forget the date. I was the first time I had ever experienced a motivational coach. I attended as part of an advertising conference for my day job. The entire company was booked in for a team training session to start the year off on a high, a blank slate, a new beginning, a fresh start. But I was in no way prepared for what I was about to experience that weekend.

I have blogged consistently for 2 years about productivity, positivity, professionalism, being open to change, and adopting the mindset of an expert. I have written about these topics through personal experiences, through best practices in the industry, reading and learning about theories and principals to live by and how these all work in conjunction to make you a better, more effective and productive person in both your professional life and in your personal life. I would consume books, articles, reports, blogs, podcasts, courses, and various other mediums in order to best help people who are willing to learn and become a better person through implementing and applying the topics I write about.

This conference personified everything I had every written, read, talked about, and seen regarding positivity, health and professionalism.

It reinforced my understanding of community and being around people who want to see you grow, and want to help you grow. These are the people who will pull you up and not drag you down. You need to find the type of person who is happy for your success, not people who are jealous of it. Success breeds success. It generates momentum that can carry you forward. In a way that’s contagious. It snowballs your productivity and rubs off others. Something shared is something gained.

Something shared is something gained. There is no point in hoarding knowledge. What benefit do you receive? If you know something that someone else doesn;t. You may think that by knowing something that someone else doesn’t, makes your expertise appear high. But imagine you were to teach that information, share it with others so that they can mould it to their own. Create their own style and become a success from it. All it takes to teach is to know just one thing that someone else doesn’t. All you need is to reach one person with your message and that person will attribute you as their inspiration and hold you as the person who they learned their skill from. This has happened me on a few occasions, from this, I consider those people to be my heroes. No one is going to copy you, you’re not going to lose work and as a result, lose money. Your teachings will exist only to skyrocket your expertise and professionalism to a place where you’re considered the most expert at what you do. How high in demand do you think you will be in then?

Actively seek criticism

That’s one of the hardest things you can change about yourself. To go out of your comfort zone so much that you seek to look for imperfects. In a world where we hide our most sensitive imperfections, and with so much social pressure to conform to a certain look. This is the same with a creative passion. Your work will be judged against others. but those that do the judging aren’t the ones you need to care about because they don’t care about you. They don’t care about your artwork, being in your audience, helping you become better. They have their own insecurities that they mask in the form of judgement or anger.

The great artists and creatives are the ones who are comfortable with their work, they have carved a style for themselves after years of practising and applying their work to real life situations. In the beginning, you’re going to feel like you’re not good enough, and that’s a feeling even the greatest artists go through, but you will feel it because your work hasn;t stood the test of time. You haven’t got that big of an audience, that great of a network, or as much of a knowledge about your craft to form a confidence that you need to as for criticism of your work. you will be protective because this is something you have dedicated time to. Your work will speak for itself over time. And in that time, you will carve out a style for yourself, meet and grow an audience and network of like-minded people. Which lends itself to a quote from Dale Carnegie

Never critisise. Never condemn. Never complain.

Make a conscious decision to change something that you don’t like about yourself. If something is making you unhappy about your hobbies, or your life, or you think your career is going in the wrong direction. Maybe this thin that you thought is your passion is actually not, or maybe your haven’t found your passion yet. Change it. In all of these scenarios, you have control. You hold the keys to do whatever you wish. Give yourself time and space to explore new hobbies and find a passion. Take up a night course, and actively work towards changing your career.

Change starts with you.

Your professional life starts with your personal life. Not the other way around. If you’re unhappy with your work life, then it’s your personal life that needs changing. Take up something new, say yes to more things that are new, put yourself in new experiences and actively seek out new places to travel to, new friends to make, new places to eat food, walk a difference way to work, drive a different route, say hi to a stranger. Share your work with more people. Maybe you’re too shy to share your work. This is a problem I struggle with. Tell people about it, especially if it’s sole aim is to help others with their struggles, like this blog. It’s not shameful, and it’s not sleazy because you’re not selling, and you’re not gloating. Simply bring it up in conversation. Ease it in. Chances are, people will be impressed by your work.

A healthy body is a healthy mind. Start with your fitness. Choose to be a healthier person. Exercise more. Eat better. Start a routine, mark it on the calendar to build up momentum. Make a small change today that has a big impact on your life.

You’re not going to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. They need to open to learning and change. But before you start with other people, make a change yourself.

Think of the one thing about you right now that you would like to change. And no matter the situation or circumstance, promise yourself that when you wake up tomorrow, you will actively seek out a way to change it.

#102: How to Stand Out in a Noisy World

Stand out

It’s hard to imagine, for those of us that want to get to the top, to be at the top. How does someone get there, how have they amassed a huge social following? How can I exert enough influence on people so that I can get to the top of my field and stand out? How can I be known, how can I make a difference to people’s lives so that they remember me or want to hear what I have to say, learn from what I have to teach, or buy what I’m selling? Standing out in a noisy world is difficult, even when you know the formula, and there is a formula.

Standing out in an ever distracting and frenetic world with popup ads, videos, gifs, images, clickbait, fake news, never-ending information on social media, and never-ending social media for that matter. There is always another app that wants your attention (or money). It’s hard to escape the general noise all around you. It’s the world we live in. More than likely if you’re even reading this article that you have embraced this mentality. You know it’s noisy, and you know everything and everyone is vying for your attention. Most things are not going to resonate with us. This is what you have to understand when you want to stand out in the first place; Most people aren’t going to care. You can’t reach everyone. And you certainly can’t please everyone.

Attention is the greatest invisible currency of the 21st century.

You have to find the people that you want to reach, the people who are going to understand your message and buy your story. People want to follow a journey. A personal story that they can picture themselves in, they have to fit into this narrative. If you can create this narrative of a personal journey of learning, of developing skills, of teaching people what they want to know, and of understanding what the struggle of people who are in a similar situation when starting out, this is how you stand out from those who are simply making content for the sake of more content.

In saying this, you don’t want to create content that you don’t enjoy simply because it makes more sales, or because you know it will get most attention online or the most likes. This is a quick road to burnout, forgetting why you wanted to stand out in the first place. Don’t lose track of the reason you want to stand out. write down your goals and the deeper reasoning to why you want to stand out from the rest. Why do you want people to follow you? It can be as shallow as to simply be popular or to get attention, or it can be deeper such as financial stability, to start a business and make it your source of income.

You’re never a sell out if you worked hard to achieve something.

We [Humans] compare ourselves to those who are better off. Nothing will ever be perfect as long as we can be better or have the next better thing in our lives. That can take the form of physical possessions or it can manifest as something greater, such as celebrity status or fame. Fame encompasses much more of a greater scope than it did traditionally in the past, even 20 years ago. Back then fame generally meant being an author, a musician, an actor, or something from the mainstream media or traditional outlets.

But now, fame encapsulates so much more than this. You can be famous, and create a niche for yourself of various different mediums. The internet has levelled the playing field. We each have access to our own unique audiences and creative outlets. Propagated by online and social media, these outlets range from being a popular Youtuber, a well-known fashion blogger, a video game streamer on Twitch, a comedian on Snapchat, or a speaker on Facebook Live.

There is so many places to be, platforms to be on and content to consume. It can be information overload at the best of times. It’s tough not to become anxious with the thought of starting out for the first time, where you end up googling ‘How to be a famous photographer on Instagram’ or ‘how to be a successful video streamer’. The problem is not how or where to do these things. The problem is finding what you love to do. Everyone is googling the same thing. Don’t worry about being famous right now, worry about finding what you’re good at and more importantly, what you love to do.

Standing out is not a goal in itself. Standing out is a byproduct of doing what you love and being great at it. Give it time. It will happen.

So how do you stand out? What is the secret formula to becoming an overnight sensation? There is no secret, and there is no such thing as an overnight success. Standing out is a product of 3 principles;

  1. Curation – Pick something you like to do and go all in on it. Lay all your cards on the table with this thing, and only share this thing on your social channels. You want to get to a point where people know what it is that you’re consistently sharing so that you build an expectation of that thing. Start a new dedicated social media channel for the thing you want to share. Talk about this thing, and I mean in detail. Go into the finer details of your hobby/profession and carve a niche out for yourself. Say you’re a photographer (that’s kind of basic), you need to focus on an area that’s the only thing you share, be specific. You’re a photographer who takes landscape shots, this is better, but you can go deeper. You’re a landscape photographer that uses drones to shoot mountains/waterfalls. That is so specific that it allows people to automatically carve a space in their mind for the type of work that you do. It allows you to be memorable.Granted, this is going to be a bit more difficult because it’s so niche, compared to general photographers who are already established. People only have so much room to consume the same amount of content. But who you will reach is those already in the photography field. Those looking specifically for mountain/waterfall shots with drones or seeking to learn how to do these specific shots for themselves. Now what you are after doing is establishing yourself as the most expert in your field because you have carved out such a niche that people attribute you with being the most knowledgeable about the subject because it’s the only thing you share on your social media channels.
  2. Quality – This is crucial to standing out. And arguably the key principle to anyone standing out from the crowd. Being incredibly skilled at your passion/hobby/profession that it shows in each and every form of work that you do. The fact that you have mastered your craft is the easiest way to stand out and take your place in your respective field. This comes down to showing up every day, pushing the boundary of what you do, implementing more extravagant work, practising what it is you love to do. And not just practising, like in some autonomous mode, but deliberately practising, using brainpower to become better on purpose. Read books on it, put those books into practice. Watch tutorials, put those skills into practice. Look at Pinterest/Instagram for inspiration, put that inspiration into practice.
    You have to work really hard at this thing. You’re going to get rejected. You’re going to fail. You have to find out if you love what you do and have what it takes to stick it out for the long run. The people who stand out to you have been doing this thing for years. Think of your favourite actors, your favourite artists. They have been showing up, getting rejected, failing at this thing. You just don’t see that struggle (most of the time), because we naturally like to share our successes. We don;t like others to see when we fail or can’t do something. Keep at it, you will improve, your time will come.
  3. Network – Get around great people, follow great people, follow ‘smaller’ people who do exactly what you do, talk to them, email them, get to know them, grow together, share tips, share hints, share you process with them. Comment on their posts, their artwork, to really make your name stick. When you develop friendships with people in your network, it allows you to grow in a way of social proof. People who are curious that they see your name pop up on this person’s comments, again and again, see that you do a similar thing.This sort of approach is a little bit like piggy-backing, which in itself isn’t a great way to become known for something, there is a limit to how much you can post without being known as just that person who is there all the time. It can come off as though you are trying too hard to be known. And do not post things like “I’m an up and coming artist, can you follow me?” or anything of that ilk. It’s a sure-fire way to discredit your entire work/brand. The work itself may be good, but it screams of desperation that your work doesn’t stand for itself so you need to push it on people.
    Be nice to people who do the same thing as you. Become so good that you can interview each other or work together on a project. Don’t have a hidden agenda. Make friends for the sake of making friends, not for the sake of making followers.

Standing out means to know what you want to stand out for. Pick a thing that you want to be known for. Go all in on it. Only share that thing on your social channels so that people can pigeonhole you and can categories you in their brain, “Oh, he’s the lettering guy”, “This is the landscape painter” etc. Show up every day and develop your skill, start to implement greater ideas, bigger, more expressive work. Your work will start off being mediocre, but then when you look back on it, you will realise that you have come a long way. People realise this too.

Social proof isn’t the only way to stand out, but it does help. People who don’t know you will often look at your followers to get an idea of just how valuable your work is to others. It acts as a catalyst. The more followers you have, the more you will get. You have reached the point where trust has been established with enough people that others automatically assume value and respect for you in a field that they know nothing about.

You may get more traction the more and more followers you start to accumulate, but it’s the smaller pieces and those followers from the beginning who are the ones who joined your journey of progression, the ones who commented and reached out to you who were the ones that believed you were great at what you do.

You may have ideas of what you want to stand out for or become known for but when you actually go out /sit down to do it you may find out that you don’t actually enjoy the act of doing it. This is why it’s important to find what you enjoy doing for the sake of doing it. Do what you love. Worry about that before you worry about standing out. Give yourself permission to explore what you might like doing.

#101: How to Inspire Change & Why Resolutions Don’t Work

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New Year, New You

It’s that time of year. The 1st of January. A significant time of the year, not only because it’s the first day of the new year, it’s also one you have been waiting for for the last week, or month, or even few months depending on how badly your year is going and when you consider it a write-off. It’s the next significant milestone in the calendar for you. But, why is it so important to people and why is there so much stock put into one day on the calendar year when there is no cultural, religious or political event that takes place on this day? It’s so important to people because it’s the day they change their life.

This is the day when they are finally going to get in the mood to change, the stars will align on this day, a week from now, 2 weeks from now, or 3 months from now, is finally going to be the day they decide to change. But why so far off? Why wait to change. You’re the only person in your life who can a) inspire change in yourself and b) Take action to follow through. You’re the only person in your life who can control what you do. 

Change isn’t easy. If it was, we would all be doing it.

It’s a mindset. Being able to establish and build habits to do something takes time. It’s not a switch you can just flip. The only switch you can flip is the decision to turn up, no matter how hard it gets. Make it become a reflex. Think of it as ‘this is something that I do’, not something you have to do. There are 2 approaches to successfully building a habit and sticking with something;

  • Find something you enjoy doing
  • Make it part of your life

When your fit something into your life by allocating a dedicated time for it, you embody it. It becomes your life, something people associate with you. Through doing it regularly at a specific and dedicated time, it becomes a habit. This only works when the first two practices work in conjunction. What you enjoy doing will find it’s way into your life easier. Likewise, you wouldn’t make something part of your life and spend so much time on it if you don’t enjoy doing it.

When the two are working in conjunction and you have found something you enjoy doing, the key component to marrying the two practices is a goal. A goal unites the two ideas and gives you a cause to work towards. Without a goal, you strive towards nothing. There is no end in site. With no end in site, you can quickly lose focus give up entirely. For the idea of being trapped with no progress is worse than constantly spinning the wheels, burning energy on something that your not getting better at, or feeling closer to the end.

You start in the gym to lose weight. But what happens when you don’t see the lost weight? You take up cycling so you can take part in a race. But what happens when you aren’t tracking your time or distance? You take up the piano to learn a new instrument. But what happens when you can’t play a popular song? These are all common goals that are set in each of these fields when first taking up the hobby.

Doing something wayward and without clearly defined goals is a surefire way to give up without remorse. Goals offer recourse, a sense of direction, something to aim for, and accountability.

New year resolutions are easy, that’s why everyone does them.

Even the most well-intentioned changes via resolutions are well and truly faded over in the first week of the new year. The over indulgence over Christmas, the ‘end of year’ mentality. The start of a new year, the idea of being a fresh year, to erase the past, to start over, take-it-from-the-top, let’s get off to the best possible start and change what was wrong about me last year. It’s the time of the year when you reflect on the year and what went right and what went wrong. We strive to improve ourselves all the time in life. It’s one of our better traits as human beings. It’s empowering to improve and get better. improving our health and way of living.

How To Change

What you should do is plan. Like when I mentioned before about planning your next day the night before. You should plan your next year a week in advance (or even a month. Granted a hard thing to do what with the hectic nature of the end of year rush, day-jobs tying up loose ends, the build up for Christmas, and the numerous social events over Christmas). When you plan what you want to do in the next year, it gives you clarity in the rest of your life and a goal to aim for. You can take it month to month, and then week to week, breaking down the key moments and parts that comprise the larger goal.

Instead of resolutions, set goals. Create a list of things you want to achieve over the course of a year, and then plan these out. This way you won’t become pressured to follow everyone else who is doing the same thing (a bad way to life your life). Resolutions don’t work because when everyone starts something at the same time, it’s easy to compare your progress to someone else’s, regardless of the hobby, or task etc. If you not used to change or simply beginning to change your mindset and are insecure about your new ‘resolution’, then you’re an easy target for a defeatist mindset and to then give up. Humans naturals compare themselves to others. What you have to do is learn to understand the differences between you and another human being and their situation or circumstance. Learn to be your own person with your own goals, values, and circumstances.

If something isn’t hard then it’s not worth doing.

Whatever your list may be; maybe you want to travel more, take up a couple of new hobbies, learn an instrument, start writing, change profession, change your lifestyle. It all starts with the two practices; Find something you enjoy doing. Make it part of your life.

If you’re looking for a more detailed insight into creating and sticking to long-term goals, I’ve written about it before, here – #37.

As a bonus here is a task list to help get you off to the best start of the year;

  • Start a social media account – We all have one, I know. What I mean is: start an account dedicated to the thing you love. Share your feelings with it, your ideas on it, be yourself with it and show others how much you care for it, either anonymously, or as yourself. The key is to only post about this topic. You have to curate this account. It builds public accountability, makes you report back to people that you have made promises to, makes you stick to your word. People get invested in these things. They want to hear the stories of others, the highs, the lows, the triumphs. People love stories.
  • Find a community – A place where people share the same interest and goals as you, somewhere people are going to help you thrive and succeed. Join this community. Share your problems. Pay into it. People don’t pay to be trolls. Paying is a filter that blocks out those who aren’t serious about what they do. I recommend the Seanwes Community.
  • Cull your friends – I get a lot of flack for this subject, but it works (and incredibly well). Let this post do the talking – #08.
  • Travel more – Go to more places that you have never seen before.
  • Keep a diary – Yes, a daily diary. One you write in, physically. I started keeping one in 2016 and it was one of the best decisions I made that year. The ability to look back at the things you did that day is incredible, it allows you to charter your progress and see where you had fun, made changes in your life, improved yourself, and shows what you learned.
  • Take more action – You’re the only person who controls you. You decide what action to take and what not to take. Take more action. Spend less time pondering. Schedule time for thinking and pondering. If in a difficult situation or crossroad, ask yourself, “What would [your hero] do?”.
  • Remove distractions – Turn your phone off at night. Buy an alarm clock. Spend less time on your phone. Spend less time consuming social media. Spend more time doing the work that matters to you.
  • Meet more people – Spend more time dedicated to meeting new people. You’re going to meet bad people but spend more time around good people. Different scenarios and situations put into perspective your life and help boost and improve your own values. Make deeper connections with people you like. Ask the girl out. Have difficult conversations with your partner, and your best friends.

#100: The Consequence of Distraction

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Eliminate Distraction

How do you get to that next level? An elite level where you are renowned amongst your industry. The place where your heroes and inspirations are. Where people have tens, even hundreds of thousands of followers and admirers. Did you ever wonder how they got there? And how they stay there? It’s no secret. It’s down to a concept that is so rare and so hard to find in our changing society. Something that’s so sparse. It’s down to ‘Deep work’.

‘Deep work’ is a concept coined by author Cal Newport. Where he describes the type of work needed to become prolific as deep, thoughtful, and skilled. We live in an age of highly technical machines that do a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ in our work for us. Machines capable of doing incredible things for us. Creating art, analysing spreadsheets, producing SAS’s (Software as Service), and countless others impacts in various industries. All of the things that matter in our society. There are people in any industry who are top of their game. The go-to’s, the household names, the ones who are so prolific that their work is known throughout various industries and societies, worldwide.

But this is the question. How did they get there? How did they become so prolific and so skilled at hat they do, especially in a world filled with noise and distraction, a world where you can access any amount of knowledge and information in your pocket. Social media and information overload is a real problem for people. The key is the art of concentration. The ability to focus on a subject, become comfortable with delving deep into that subject for periods of time and not become distracted.

Those who are most valuable in our economy are those who are able to learn complicated things quickly. To master the art of ‘Deep Work’.

Learning to focus in a distracted world is how you are going to become prolific in your industry and skilled at what you do. Start by reducing the amount of time you spend online. Online is a form of entertainment for the most part. If you want to do anything great, you have to limit the amount of entertainment you consume. Put a timer on how long you spend on social media, how long you play video games for, or whatever else it is that you consume as entertainment. Learn to be disciplined. This may sound harsh when you are used to doing everything you want, whenever you want. But if you want to do great things in your life, you need to put in the effort to learn something, a skill or craft, without distraction, for a long period of time, which may take an entire career to master. Nothing good ever came from something that wasn’t worked for, let alone anything at all. There is no such thing as an overnight success.

Distraction is a problem that affects us all. When we are doing a task for a long period of time, or hours on end, we take little breaks in between to help our brain recover from long periods of intense focus. This is natural. I encourage people to take more breaks if anything. But it’s after these short breaks, that’s where the problem arrises. How long are you taking with your breaks, how hard is it to focus and tune yourself back into what you were doing? What is it that you are distracting yourself with that’s pulling you away from the task that needs to be focussed on?

Are you taking a break every hour to walk outside, get fresh air, a drink of water, and to stretch your legs? Or are you taking your phone out, checking your Facebook, your Snapchat or endlessly scrolling through reddit, bingeing videos on Youtube, or any another entertainment site? This is a bad kind of distraction and only serves to pull you away from your work in a mental capacity. You’re going to have a hard time focussing on a tough topic such as coding if you are switching between entertainment on a regular, consistent basis instead of leaving the computer or workplace to do something more physical, something that is not associated with consuming. Keep your brains power at a maximum by getting away and not

Keep your brain’s power at a maximum not consuming useless information. This is why you’re best utilising your brain’s knowledge and power when you first wake up. As I’ve written about here, in post #1 and again in post #21.

How to Thrive

Cal Newport describes the two core abilities necessary for thriving in our economy as;

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

This is what the concept of ‘Deep work’ is described as. The ability to learn how to stay undistracted in a noisy world, become comfortable at staying in a state of deep focus for long periods of time (which may or may not be at the same time, but over the course of years in order to learn do master a skill), and to produce at an elite level.

These are all skills you must learn yourself. Schools and colleges don’t teach the art of discipline and concentration. Nor do they equip you with the understanding of real world businesses. What colleges do is teach you how to learn, in a bid that you will understand the act of learning and how important it is for your future self. Fall in love with the act of learning. Technologies are so complex and situational in the real world that you cannot expect a school or college to prepare you for everything. There is no way that you should expect them to somehow prepare you for each situation. They give you the skill of learning so that you are able to learn and problem solve given the unique situation.

As Cal Newport explains it;

“Giving students iPads or allowing them to film homework assignments on Youtube prepares them for a high-tech economy as much as playing with Hot Wheels would prepare them to thrive as auto mechanics”

Deep work is as equally valuable to our economy as it is to you personally. The ability to produce at an elite level at a consistent and persistent level doesn’t go unnoticed within your industry. The topic of Deep work ties hand in hand with ‘Deliberate Practice’, as talked about before in post #66.

How are you going to stand out from the rest? How are you going to do great work that is talked about and noticed within your industry? Start by loving to learn and then learning to concentrate. Reduce distraction = Do great work.

#99: Developing a Successful Mindset

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Success mindset

Have you ever wondered what makes people famous and what keeps them there? How Elon Musk and Bill Gates are among some of the driving forces in innovation, progress, and change in our society? How do you reach that plateau of success and how can you learn to be like them? They didn’t get there by accident. They got there by being prolific at what they do, working hard towards a clear, defined goal, and developing a successful mindset to do it. In a world where people fold at the slightest set of difficulty, there’s merit in developing a mindset for greatness and reaching the status you’ve always wanted. It’s a long road, but it’s there for the taking.

cultivating mental resilience provides an incredible advantage. By building the ability to stick it out as those around us give way, we are setting ourselves up for success. – Charles Chu

Think creatively, of where you want to be, and how you will get there step by step. Picture in your mind the position you want to be in then envision the hurdles you will need to overcome to get there ie. If you want to be a successful artist, first you need to become great at what you do, this requires learning and practice. Then you need to build an audience, you do this by curating, being consistent, creating quality work and allowing time. After these steps and building a name for yourself, depending on what industry you are in, you may get offers to interview for personal blogs, for magazines, to guest on a podcast, or even speak on TV or on Radio. Not to mention that your work travels further than you think, this means more clients, which means your more likely to find better clients among them. The quality in the pool rises.

The important thing is to chart these steps and understand what’s needed to overcome these obstacles and plan ahead. To learn art you need to sit down and practice, learning techniques, developing a style, knowing its history. You can plan for these by dedicating a specific time in the evening after your day-job for deliberate practice. This is one example of how to tackle an obstacle on your way to success. It’s all about a road map, envisioning how you will get there, identifying the hurdles that could get in the way and are most likely to get in your way.

You have to play the long-game.

The long-game

Playing the long-game is hard to consider. Especially in a fast moving society. ‘But, how can I get ahead if I’m playing the long-game when everyone I know or follow already has an audience? I have to keep up with them’, you may think. That’s your first problem, comparing your own progress to someone else’s. It’s not about where you are compared to them, it’s about where you are compared to yesterday. How are you going to show up today, what are you going to create that keeps you progressing along your journey to where you want to be? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the platform/audience of the people who you follow.

It takes years of behind-the-scenes work to build up a catalogue of quality work, establish your professionalism and expertise, and the momentum needed to carry something through to the next level. Whatever that may be to you; 10k followers, high profile clients, more sales of your artwork, invites to interview for magazines or prolific websites in your industry.

Everyone’s drive and end-game are different. We each have different goals we want to achieve and reasons for starting in the first place. What is important is that you can’t reach these goals or take yourself to the next plateau without developing a successful mindset to do it. Find what drives you, and use it to reach your goal. What motivates you to wake up early and show up to make your work every day. Have you got a hero, someone you admire the work of, to guide you and teach you their best practices. Find that person. If it’s an artist, a musician, an architect etc. or maybe they aren’t in your creative field at all. What’s important is that you syphon their creative energy and use it to drive you.

Drive vs. Motivation

There’s a difference between drive and motivation;

  • Drive – The factor that makes you take action.
  • Motivation – The reason you do the action.

You need to have the motivation in the first place before you can have drive. Motivation is the reason you get up in the morning to do what you do. You want to become a prolific artist, an incredible photographer, make your parents proud, prove a nay-sayer wrong, or become a videographer that has your movies play in cinemas. Motivation is the reason you start something in the first place.

Drive is the action you take to get you to the destination. Think of it in it’s most literal form. Drive gives you the energy to get where you need to go. Some of the best ways to find drive is to be around other people who are driven, those who have a motivation and an energy to get things done. Other ways to get drive is to have an accountability partner. Someone you’re accountable for, if you don’t show up to do this thing, you’re letting them down. At most points in our life, we are accountable to someone. Never underestimate fear and jealousy as a determining drive factor.

“You can’t steer a parked car” – Seanwes

Your motivation will give you drive at the beginning, but it’s naive to think that this initial burst of energy will carry you through the long run. This is why you must find your passion. The thing you love to do more than anything, this will give you a huge drive. But again, it being your passion alone isn’t enough to take you through years of practice and hard work to get it to where you want.

This is why people give up after doing something for the first couple of times. They don’t have both the drive or motivation for it in the long-run. One will only get you so far without the other. When it gets hard or you come to your first hurdle, people usually give up, because they don’t see a reason to do it anymore. There is no reason to put themselves through so much heartache to do something that was only for a bit of fun in the first place. This is why you come across so many blogs with 3/4/5 posts. Which is fine too, everyone has to experiment and try a new thing to see if we enjoy them. The real test is if you persevere through the challenges, show up consistently, and prove that you are serious about what you do.

Live a better life

Some general advice on living your life better and developing a successful mindset in everyday life;

Think outside the herd. Don’t blindly follow. Question what you read, identify ulterior motives. Don’t do something because everyone is doing it. Don’t care what others think of you, because they don’t care about you anyway. You’re worth and reputation is more than someone with that kind of mindset. Don’t judge others. It’s easy to do but remember that everyone has a different set of circumstances and was raised with different morals and values. It’s assinine to not care about what others think of you but then for you to judge others for thinking like that. Become a producer, not a consumer. Make more work than you consume. Support the artists you admire. Do what makes you happy, regardless if others don’t want you to. Cut back on social media (Unless publishing and promoting your passion/work). Don’t read comment sections. Read more books. Develop a passion for succeeding. Experience new things.

When is the last time you experienced something for the first time?

The only thing you can control is the action you take right now to become a better person. Someone you can look back on in 2 years and thank for making the decision to change for the better.

#98: How to Avoid Going into Debt

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Do not go into debt! If I could offer any advice about money, it’s that; Do not go into debt. How you handle money is a lifestyle choice. People have different ideas, practices, and views on how they handle money and what they do with it. I’m not here to tell people what to do with their money. I want to offer an insight into how I made a decision at a young age to treat money. I want to help others understand that money can be viewed in many different ways; from frugal and thrifty, to excessive and even wasteful.

Money is still a faux-pas where we are afraid to talk about it. This hampers people to the point that they’re uninformed about making decisions with money and they end up getting into debt. It’s time to be open about money.

There are so many horror stories that you can read about how someone went into debt and how it nearly ruined their life, lost them their job, their family etc. and how by changing their lifestyle and saving up they turned their life around. But what if there was advice for the person who didn’t want to get out of debt because they never got into it in the first place? Because they were smart bout how they handled money. If there’s one principle to live by when you don’t want to ever get into debt, it’s this;

‘Buy what you can afford and don’t live outside your means’

But this isn’t always easy. In fact, this is how I have lived most of my life, by adopting this principle. It won’t always be comfortable and there will be certain times when you may feel the pressure. It’s doing things the harder way by developing a discipline and a knowledge of understanding what it is you can afford, the foresight into when you can afford it, and debating whether you need it or not. Something is either a ‘need-to-have’ or an expense. ‘Need-to-haves’ such as food, clothes, and shelter are basic human needs. Expenses such entertainment and even charity are something that you can go without until you can afford to introduce it into your life when you are able to. When you have the margin to.

Think of it as; can you afford to this thing or can I go without for a couple of weeks until I have the money for it? Video games, music and TV subscriptions, even health insurance; these are all ‘nice-to-haves’ that you can forgo until you have the income to provide the ‘must-haves’. For example, When I transitioned to working freelance, I had to cut back on my expenses. This included buying video games, and even cancelling my health insurance. But this scarcity led to me changing my mindset – I knew my health was important to me, so instead of paying for a service in case something happened me, I replaced that by going for a run in my local park. This way I was saving money and improving my health both mentally and physically by getting outside and away from sitting at my laptop. It was a win-win.

That scenario required me to be in a state of scarcity to understand this. I couldn’t afford a ‘nice-to-have’ such as health insurance, so that forced me to live by my principle of; ‘Buy what you can afford and don’t live outside your means’, and by doing so, helped me out in the long run because it changed my lifestyle and saved me money.

Most of us like to help others in some form, but can you afford to give to charity when you can’t provide for yourself? It’s about being smart with your money. It’s about making smart choices.

You can’t tell people what to do with their money, nor condemn them for how they spend it.

I know a lot of people, friends and family members (the ones that do talk about money), who choose to live a life of comfort by going into debt and living outside their means. This is the wrong advice to be giving to young people, college students, teens, and even kids. You may have been thought to compromise. People may say, “going into debt is bad, but you need a car for work”. The important part is to prepare for that scenario so that you don’t have to go into debt, or get a loan out and accrue so much interest and debt. Remember, when you get a loan, you’re actually paying more for something than you would have if you were to save up and buy it outright with your own money.

If you don’t have money for something, don’t buy it.

Here are 5 ways to help train yourself and change your mindset when it comes to money, saving and staying out of debt;

  1. Save for a rainy day – Because you never know. Sometimes something springs up out of nowhere and without warning or just cause. A car accident or a medical emergency, or something else of a smaller magnitude. When you have some savings put away, you can dip into it to cover the cost and keep you out of debt. Open a new account with your bank or credit union, deposit a certain amount of money a month directly to it, or have a cap on how much you keep in there. It will give peace of mind and clarity in case that day ever comes.
  2. Have a budget – Keeping a budget is a smart move. Say you earn €2,500 a month at your day job. Allocate a certain expenditure towards the things you need to pay off – your rent or food. Do the same with your savings account as I just mentioned. Maybe you deposit €50 a month into it? Likewise with entertainment, events, and charity. When you know how much you can spend, you can plan further in advance.
  3. Keep a diary – Inevitably, you’re going to over-spend from what you allocated in your monthly/weekly budget. You can’t account for unexpected things that crop up. So when they do, keep a diary of all expenses you made that week. Then look back and analyse what you spent that you could have instead saved on. Maybe you didn’t need those new shoes, or maybe you don’t need those €5 coffees from Starbucks twice a day.
  4. Live within your means – This means knowing how much money is coming in, and how much is going out. How much can you afford to spend vs. how much you’re earning? What kind of a life do you live? Start working toward that life without working outside of it. Everything is relative. The person buying a €50,000 watch is living the same life as someone buying a €50 watch. It’s just at different ends of the scale. A different circumstance. If you’re ever feeling bad for not being rich, remember, there are people who live on less than €1 a day. You’re doing just fine.
  5. Don’t take out a loan – Please, do not do this. By doing this, you’re in fact living outside of your means even though you think you aren’t. By taking on a loan, you’re paying more money than if you had saved and bought the thing outright. Do you want to be in control of your life, or do you want it to control you? The master or the slave. Choose one.

Is it going to be easy? No. But it’s incredibly rewarding to know that you own everything you have. Your computer, your car, smartphone, DSLR, even your house. It’s all about choice and understanding which is the wiser choice at the time and living a life within your means. Is something going to set you back and make you struggle? Or is it going to make you grow and help towards a future payment or investment?

There’s a lot to be said about buying things that you like or will eventually own. If you want to buy something that will make you happy and can afford, I suggest buying it. Start by not justifying Debt. Don’t make excuses for poor choices. Take responsibility. You never have to go into debt, it’s your choice. There are always alternatives for whatever scenario you are considering. Buy what you can afford, live within your means. There is no such thing as ‘good debt’.

Don’t be afraid to talk about money. What you earn is not a reflection of who you are as a person. You’re more than the work you do and the money you have.

#97: The Mediocrity of Big business

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Changing the big business mindset

Work is something we have to do, regardless if it’s our life passion, or if it’s bridging the gap to our dream job. There is so much pressure from external forces, mainly societal expectations, that are creeping into our mainstream mindset. These expectations take the form of owning a business being the ultimate goal someone should aim for, and not to aim for this means to live a life of mediocrity, one without success. I talked about this a few weeks ago (Read here). But remember, a dream job is still a job. Money has to come in from somewhere to pay to bills.

But for those who do start their own business, there are untold pros and cons that only by starting a business you could ever discover. The risk you assume pays off in the satisfaction and monetary gain if you are successful or in any way making a decent living from working for yourself or starting a business. You call the shots. The thrill of being your own boss, you take the highs and the lows. When things go bad it can be unfortunate, but when things go good, and you feel your business building momentum, bringing in more customers, more inquiries, more exposure. Having something you can be proud of is one of the best feelings you can attain.

In the post a few weeks ago, I talked about this entrepreneurial pressure, and how it’s forced down our throats (newsfeeds). It can lead to a feeling of self-doubt, “Why haven’t I done that?”, “How has this 22-year old made €50 million from an app? why can’t that be me?” First of all, these are niche cases. How many people in the world do you think are in the same position? Not every 2nd person sitting next to you in your office is making millions from an app they created. And also, the media has a way of sensationalising batch cases, picking the most successful stories and running with them. They’re interesting, generate ad revenue for that media company and the people reading about them want to know how to get to that position, it’s a motivating factor.

But before you springboard to a new business, you will need to work for another business in order to pay bills, live your life, and then save up towards your business. A process that can take a number of years to achieve. Maybe you work for a small company, you’re paid averagely, you enjoy the work, you get to be your own person and make decisions that matter, you’re constantly learning, but you don’t get bonuses and it’s long hours. Or maybe you work for a big business, you’re not paid your worth, you don’t enjoy it, but you’re bonuses are incredible and you get the opportunity to take classes and courses to better your skill and benefit the company? What’s important when you’re starting a business is that you are always learning at any given opportunity. Put yourself in situations where you will be held responsible.

Find your motivating factor and live by it as close as possible.

Big business vs. your business

Rarely can a big business foster everyone’s best interests. There are too many people with varying roles with each their own varying needs and requirements. The business does the best for you, but in its grand gesture, is, in fact, a feeble effort. This is when the theory of average comes into play. When you play the game of ‘average’, no one wins. When something is created for everyone, it’s actually created for no one.

When you work for yourself, be it photography, videography, 3D modelling, animation, you are well versed in taking action and being intuitive about your work and what needs to be done to finish something, get it through deadline, start a new project, get new resources, tools, equipment, and all the things necessary for you to do your work. The point being; you know your problems. You know what’s needed to fix them and you know you can simply buy them to solve the problem. No one else in that business knows your problems, perhaps maybe your co-workers in your department, and even then they have different processes and needs than you. What about the software tools? “I use ‘x’ at home because it speeds up my workflow”.

There is always someone to go through, no matter what position you’re in, always an IT guy, always a budget guy, always a HR guy. Akin to pre-school, you will always need permission for everything. You will always be locked out of something, not knowing what’s going on in the larger scale. Things you don’t need to know. Besides, it’s not your role or responsibility to know. Not everyone can act like the business owner, even when you have your own business outside of this ‘big business’.

Be prepared to be locked out of crucial features. To request access to simple things, things that shouldn’t be an issue, but are. You need to build up a level of trust before you’re given the keys. A rapport takes years upon years to build up in a big business. Where are you willing to invest your time and effort? What do you really want to do in life, where do your priorities lie? Not to say that you don’t focus on the work at hand and do a great job when you are in your day job.

Of course there are considerations to think about when working for a big business vs. your own;

  • Commuting
  • Children
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Working hours
  • Boundaries
  • Getting paid
  • Income
  • Taxes
  • Benefits / Pensions
  • Risk / Autonomy
  • Holidays
  • Security

The list can go on, and each is worth a blog post in their own right. So think about where you want to be in 10 years, and how you are going to play the long-game mindset when working in your day job.

Big business isn’t against you. It’s simply set in its own ways.

How to break mediocre

The very best organisations seek to hire better than they are, to raise their ability and performance. It’s a risk in aiming to raise the average because businesses worry that it won’t be challenging for that new recruit or partner. That may cause frustration, then to underperform, lose money, and lead them to be lured away to a better business that challenges them and fosters their needs better that they ever could, because they realise the value in employing exceptionally skilled artists/designers/videographers (and even accountants/bankers/customer service execs).

If you work for a big business, be aware of these potential landfalls and becoming stuck and demotivated to continue pursuing your dream. Putting your passion aside in the evening because you have all this paperwork to fill out. Don’t let ‘big business mindset’ (a mindset that squeezes every last drop out of what it takes hold of) deflate your passion for what you truly want to do in your life. There is always one more pixel to push, one more spreadsheet to file, another account to document.

There is always more work to be done, make sure it’s the work you want to do.

Unfortunately, mediocrity is out of your hands. It’s something you can’t control unless you raise the average, challenge the business to do better for itself, implement new ideas, new strategies to training and growing its workforce’s skills. Besides, you run your own small business outside of your day job where you overlap the 2. A lot of the time ‘big business’ can do with a reality check from the hustle of a small business mindset. It’s up to you to challenge these views, challenge your co-workers and the department manager. Maintain a balance, keep and healthy mindset, be optimistic about change and helping others to change, but crucially, understand when your efforts fall on frugal ideals.

Find a day job that stops at the door in the evening, physically and mentally.

Realise when it’s time to ‘cut the cord’ on your efforts, and focus on your own passion and dream.