The older I get, the more I find my focus changing—from design to photography to writing, from graphic designer and maker to creative director—and not only that, the more I find myself in a position to teach.
What have I learned over the past 13 years that's worth passing on to younger creatives? I'll list a bunch of things and then let everyone else be the judge...
1. Never give up—never. People will say you can't. They'll say you're too young, or too old, or not exactly right in some way or another. But if you've got talent and you know it, and if you are right and you know it, don't ever give up!
2. Make some frenemies. Why? Because no one feels motivated to push themselves further when they're surrounded by admirers. Nothing beats the cold shove into being better than you were before that only a naysayer can give.
3. Don't pay attention to anyone's expectations but your own. It's your life and your career. What do you want? Figure it out and set your own list of expectations for yourself—then follow those. It doesn't matter where anyone else expects you to go in your career. Where do you expect you to go?
4. Listen and learn. We're never to old to learn, and even the youngest of us may have something to teach. Respect those above you—they have the most experience and expertise—but realize that none of us has learned everything there is to know, and young and old can share great value with each other in different ways.
5. Speak up. When someone tells you you can't, tell them all the ways you know you can. And then show them that you can. Meek and mild won't propel you forward, it will only leave you unnoticed and get you left behind.
6. Become more literate. Read! Write! Write terribly and get better and better. Sketch! Draw! Paint! Become a photographer! Practice more than just design, because there is so much more to creativity. Becoming good at all of these things will make you well-rounded. You'll be your own one-(wo)man creative powerhouse!
7. Don't be afraid to do anything bad or wrong. Just do. And the more you do, the better you'll get. Also, the more you do, the less you'll regret not doing later. Unless, of course, the thing you're about to do is just plain stupid. Use common, educated sense. And then, just do!
8. Push yourself each day to be better than you were the day before. If you can do that, and nail all of the above, you'll find yourself ready to lead—and you'll suddenly find that there are plenty of people who are willing to follow you.
9. Discover another perspective. Learn about other cultures. Travel. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Practice empathy and don't forget that just because you see something one way doesn't mean everyone else sees it that way, or even that your way of seeing it is correct. There are many ways of seeing the same thing, and all of them hold value. Learn to celebrate individuality and differences of opinion.
10. Don't listen to me. Figure it all out for yourself. That's what I would do, anyway!