Three Years, Three Words
As I come up on my three year review, I find myself reflecting on my professional career and how far I've come since I graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Graphic Design. Recently, I had the chance to reflect on this topic further when Tom, Joseph, and I went to speak at my alma mater. We answered questions, gave advice on how students can prepare for working 40 hours a week.
During the session we fielded a handful of questions, one of which I asked myself at my own graduation.
"How do you find your path?"
All I could respond with was "It's a shot in the dark." Probably not the best advice I ever gave, but it prompted me to think of a better answer.
Today, I find myself addressing the question and while the process is different for everyone, these are the three things I've learned: It's having resilience in any challenging situation; having the frame of mind to make the best of it; and doing what it takes to not only overcome those challenges, but to turn them into learning experiences that define your creative path.
The challenges that present themselves throughout your career are guides. Having the resilience to manage them is important as you choose the battles you're willing to fight. These battles will define what you care about; more importantly, the things you don't care about. Focusing on what's important to you enables you to move away from the inconsequential. It's easy to dwell on the negative parts of a project, but what defines you is how you overcome these obstacles and shift your focus to the parts of the project that you're excited about.
Staying positive in the most challenging situations allows you to learn and grow. Shifting focus onto the things we're most excited about as a team is the driving force of collaboration. Fighting for the ideas you and your team are most excited about builds camaraderie. Positivity allows us to handle challenges better, fosters better relationships, more collaboration and inspires others to work harder not just for themselves, but for you.
Identifying the things you care about in the work you do is half the battle. Often we find ourselves thinking about what direction we should take to best define ourselves. We're looking for a defined path, one that "fits" our goals, and honestly, that's kind of boring. Taking time to act on challenges, and decide what's most interesting to you, allows you to create a path that is unique to you. If the work you're doing turns out to be work you don't want to do, finish what you started and move onto work that is. Be decisive. Never stop thinking about the things you care about and never stop acting on them.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. I do know that for me, the creative journey is still very much a path of discovery. Determining your path based on others' careers and values might confine you to a job that isn't right for you. Being aware of what you truly value in the present while having a healthy awareness of the future will become a part of what defines you. The best part is that if you make an early habit of acting on those things that excite you, you can freely define your own path.