I’d been presented with a design opportunity that seemed great on the surface, but, strangely and I don’t know why, I was feeling apprehensive about it.
If you’ve met me, you know that I’m a super passionate, high-energy guy so this reaction gave me pause. The summer had been grueling (and fun) but also grueling. My mind started making rationalizations for a “no” response to the offer. I thought to myself, maybe my initial, emotional reaction was a “no” because I didn’t actually want to do the work. If that were the case, was it not symbolic of a larger issue surrounding my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for my work? Was I just making all of this all up because I’m lazy? I questioned EVERYTHING in an instant. “Sure I’m busy,” I thought, “but I’ve had even crazier schedules in my life. Why do I want to say no??”
Fear had hit me upside the head with a baseball bat, and I entered an anxiety spiral: What if I took this job and didn’t do it well? Hell, what if I actually did a bad job? If I mess this up, there’s a risk that I won’t get called again. Then I’ll never become the designer I want to be. I’ll never get the jobs I’m ultimately striving for. I shouldn’t do it.”
What the heck was going on? Was I burnt out? Or was it something else? Was I worried I was becoming pigeon holed as a designer? In my mind, growth meant taking on different kinds of shows and different kinds of challenges - always seeking and pushing new boundaries - but something was making me ask if I had hit my limit.
I couldn’t make sense of anything I was feeling or thinking.
Inspiration came to me from a longtime friend/client who told me - unequivocally - to TAKE the job. He shot down my confusion and fear of screwing it all up by putting it so simply - “You can do something uniquely YOU with this project,” he told me. “Get out of your head and out of your own way and take the job. Be patient and you’ll make everything work like you always do. Would you rather someone else do it?”
He was right - and our conversation helped change my perspective. My friend saw clearly that I was about to let my own fear make this decision for me, and he helped remind me why I work in the first place: because I LIVE to design. Of course I can do this job well. If I remember that I LOVE to design, regardless of how big or small the project, these opportunities become just that: opportunities. I have been BLESSED with another killer opportunity here. This is what I do, so I should hit it out of the park. I would be CRAZY to turn this down. It’s a matter of perspective. Yes, with each project, there is the palpable reality that I may not do a great job BUT why choose to see it that way?
When life hits us with tough choices, it’s a natural human tendency to respond with fear and uncertainty like I did. AND I think it’s absolutely true that creativity (especially on the kinds of timelines that are demanded in production) requires you to re-fill your “well”, or you’ll start making bad decisions. In order to give my best designs, I have to constantly remind myself to go seek out visual and other kinds of creative inspiration. You also just need to straight up take rest once in a while. Creative burnout is a real thing. It can cause you to doubt yourself, which, in turn, leads to nothing but fear.
Slowly but surely I’m coming to find that fear and doubt don’t serve us in our decision making (unless you’re confronted by a bear in the woods kind of situation in which case fear serves you very well). Most of the time, we honor our best interests and get closer to our goals when we let confidence and clarity guide our choices instead. Fear on its own is a little pest, so it’s WAY more useful to transform that energy into creative motivation to do our best work instead of letting it shoot down opportunities.
So, I took the job and have been hard at work with my team giving it all we’ve got. Like most projects, this one has come with obstacles and frustrations, but it wouldn’t be life if there wasn’t at least some of that. Whenever I start to question my choice, I take a deep breath and remember that I made my decision from a place of patience and clarity, and I refocus my energy on bringing all of myself to my work.