A friend from long ago’s daughter wrote me a short email the other day asking me “What should I do with my life?” She has just graduated from university and is “looking for something to do that really matters. Mom thought you might have some suggestions.” I knew the girl when she was in her teens, and haven’t seen her for a decade. So I was touched that she contacted me. I did have some suggestions, but I didn’t send them. Instead I sent her these three pieces of sagacity that would definitely have come in helpful, had I had them on the walls of my various offices over the years.
The first – I paraphrased a poster by Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher. I had read about it in an article about Johnny Ives – the designer behind some of Apple’s most elegant products. He has a copy of the original on the wall of his office. The text is profane, and although I am sure my friend would have found it funny (“Typical Susan”), I doubt her husband would have. He found me to be ‘all a little too rock’n’roll.” (Read: Unmarried and running around the world doing whatever I wanted. Which, frankly, says a lot more about him than it does about me.) The content is intended as design advice – but I think it holds for pretty much everything.
“Believe in yourself. Stay up all night. Work outside of your habits. Know when to speak up. Collaborate. Don’t procrastinate. Get over yourself. Keep learning. Form follows function. A computer is a life-brite for bad idea. Find inspiration everywhere. Network. Educate your client. Trust your gut. Ask for help. Make it sustainable. Question everything. Have a concept. Learn to take some criticism. Make me care. Use spell check. Do your research. Sketch more ideas. The problem contains the solution. Think about all the possibilities.”
If you fancy a copy of the original… find it here.
For the second: a bit of balance. This piece was saved for a rainy day in a file of mindfulness articles. I thought it fit the bill perfectly.My final suggestion was: “Go see the world.”
I am not sure if this is what my friend was hoping for when she suggested me. But her daughter thought the advice was cool: “You’re the only person who didn’t tell me to get a job or how to look for one. Thanks. I’ve decided to take a year off and travel.”
I believe my work here is done.