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Chapter Six

Get Better by Being Less Responsible

Over the past two years I’ve noticed myself growing fatigued trying to keep up with the new tools bombarding our industry at a relentless pace. There are days when I feel like I’m falling behind with new solutions and practices which in turn result in a humorous, but looming fear that I will soon be irrelevant in this industry if I don’t adapt. And even worse, I’d be responsible.

It’s only natural I suppose. Our industry changes daily and staying sharp is a big responsibility on all of us who want to stay in it. What was once a more objective-focused industry has now exploded into an array of vibrant new job types for designers, illustrators, devs and programmers alike to explore and employ. Along with those shiny new jobs comes shiny new groundbreaking tools. My God. The Tools.

Hundreds of new design and development prototyping softwares, frameworks, and applications are being pushed on us daily with a guarantee that each will make our jobs easier and you, the hungry creator, all the better because of it. We are reaching an era of Choice Anxiety and if we aren’t careful with the new tools we choose to adopt the responsibilities they bring can quickly become a double-edged sword.

The Story

When I turned 21 years old I became a bartender at a local restaurant. Before that I washed dishes in the kitchen portion and was eagerly waiting for that glorious 21st birthday to come and get myself behind the bar and out of the sanitation business for good.

Ok I’ll admit it right now. I was not the best bartender by any stretch but there were so many things I loved about that job. You wouldn’t believe what people tell bartenders about their personal lives. I’m not kidding. I’m talking things you wouldn’t tell a Priest. The best part of the job was when people would offer up booze-soaked advice. Most of the advice was laughable and awful but sometimes you’d get lucky and an elder would say something absolutely incredible.

One of the most memorable was a day an older man came in for a drink and started up a convo with me. As we were chatting he noticed a very large set of keys that were sitting at the end of the bar that someone had left. I walked over to the keys and as I was about to put them away for safe keeping the man exclaimed “WHOA! Wait a second, show me those keys!”. As I lifted the heavy, overly crowded keyring up he shook his head and said “That person would be better off never coming back for those.” I squinted and stared bewildered back at the man and asked “Why?!”. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “Because, look at all of the responsibilities they have. No wonder they forgot them.”

Messy House. Messy Mind.

While I’ve always been lead web designer at Forefathers I also used to do the a lot of the front-end coding for our team as well. When it came to Web Design and Responsive Front-End I was our guy and holy hell did I love doing both. It was empowering being able to create web layouts and turn around to breathe life into them with HTML and CSS.

As time progressed responsive design and development were expanding and splitting apart by the day and I found myself filled with anxiety trying to keep up creating quality work in both worlds. I downloaded new tools and started using new applications that I thought could make the transitions easier on me. But that just made matters worse and the mental clutter just kept building. Can you guess what happened? Words can’t really do it justice so here – This is what happened to me.

I was fulfilling two roles in our company and the responsibility of being great at both for our clients was draining me. So I decided to rid of some responsibility. I stopped coding all together.

Superhero Syndrome

Whether or not we like to admit it a lot of us have a superhero syndrome when it comes to our work. We all want to be amazing or at the very least-really good in many areas of creating. Web Design, Illustration, Animation, Development, Soft-Good-Thingie-Mabobs. We want to be sought after and reign victorious over the exciting challenges that come our way. It’s just our nature.

I know a lot of creatives out there still haven’t defined their specific roles for themselves yet and are currently suffocating in the responsibility of trying to juggle multiple skills for their clients. I feel your pain. I’ve been there. And let me be the one to say it: You don’t have to be a Superhero.

The day I stopped coding and shed that responsibility was like a having a massive weight lifted off of my shoulders. My mind cleared and I was able to pour every ounce of myself in purely designing for our clients. My work quality and output changed from that moment and I became a better designer instantly.

Keep that Ring Light

“All Designers should be using Sketch”
“Your Web projects will be a better if you stop using Photoshop”
“If you haven’t adapted this by now tool you won’t be a Designer much longer”.

I’ve read every single one of these above statements and I want to say point blank that when I see other designers saying things like this I don’t buy any of it and you shouldn’t either. It’s this type of Keeping up with the Joneses that gets us all buying into the myth that if it’s new we need it and piles right on top of our ever growing Choice Anxiety.

We don’t have to adhere to every new software or app that comes out. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be trying out new tools that are so generously given to us or practicing new skills we’re interested in. Try as many as you can! Go nuts! But be content that what works for some just might not work for you and doesn’t make you any less for it.

In this new era of seemingly endless tools let’s remember to be selective about the ones we adopt into our daily projects as they all bring their own set of responsibilities.

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