My iPhone 4 was borked, so I restored it to factory settings. Even though I restored from backup, I lost some apps, podcasts and settings along the way. I hadn’t been listening to podcasts as much because I don’t have a daily commute to work, but I wanted to get them back in my life – some episodes have been so thought-provoking, stunning, interesting… I started taking my headphones and phone on my daily walks with the dog, and got back into podcasts.
When it came to picking an episode to listen to, I was curious about how the shows started out. I’d listened to the first shows of Radiolab and heard how much they’ve changed since then. Next, I went to the beginning of Back to Work and so far, I’ve listened to episodes 1–7. Two things have really stuck with me, bouncing around in my head, from these early episodes.
Firstly, Merlin Mann theorised that one of the core underlying philosophies that he teaches is “Expertise leads to Independence, and Independence leads to Expertise.” This complements my desire to learn a craft and become better at a craft – for my own growth and satisfaction, but also so I can have professional respect, my professional services will be needed, I’ll have financial independence, and I can get more opportunities. At the moment, working for myself is also addressing the second part, “Independence leads to Expertise.” I’m having to learn things on the job that I didn’t have to learn while working as an employee.
Secondly, Mann comments that if you want to do something (or get better at something), the #1 thing you have to do is – do it. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to get better at illustration, illustrate. If you want to work on a personal project, work on it. You can spend all your time reading articles on “tips and tricks on…” or “clever approaches to…” or “famous professionals share their daily schedules…” or whatever it is, but for every minute that you’re reading these articles, you’re not actually doing the thing. I like that he said that. Reading an article is easy; figuring out why your illustration isn’t working the way you want it to is hard. We don’t need more reasons to shy away from the hard work – we have a zillion already.
I loved these two theories, as I do most of Mann’s theories, and agree with them, however by episode 6 I felt like Back to Work was talking to people who basically know what they want – like the person who wants to become a writer, or a person with a dull job in a cube farm who wants to be working on more advanced and exciting projects. In episode 7, I was really pleased that a listener had written in, and said they were in a different boat – they didn’t know what they wanted to do. (Funnily enough, this brought me full circle: Mann suggests, amongst other things, morning pages and artist dates. Been there! Done that!)
It seems like more and more people in my network are confused about what they want and who they want to be. They have varied and professional skill sets, but they don’t particularly like the easy (or boring?) job options in front of them, and they don’t know what to do instead. What a weird position to be in, right? Not knowing what you want to do, as an adult. Not knowing what would really make you come alive.
I’ve been trying to address that confusion for over a year, and still don’t have a clear direction, although I feel like maybe I’ve been slowly finding my way. Early on, while writing down ideas, I did note that I would like to help females have more opportunities and improve their lives, and Girls Club came out of that idea.
I have been working, as a freelancer, with some small businesses and startups, doing standard web user experience work, as well as broader web/brand/product strategy work. This has been really enjoyable, and I’m really behind (almost) all of my clients’ ideas, and I feel happily over-invested in helping them with their businesses, because I think they’re great ideas and will help so many people. So that’s cool, and I want to get more work like that. (I think I had a bad relationship with UX for a while, but we’re starting to kiss and make up. I shared this thought with a friend who owns a graphic design company, and she nodded… she’d been through the same thing with design!)
I also started a business (it has three lines in the business plan that say: “collect underpants” and “???” and “profit!”) called the Milkshake Collective, which is basically for people like ^^ those lost people I mentioned above. People with varied skills, who don’t really know what direction to go in – because I figure, if we get together, we have more of a chance of working it out. So far there’s only me in the collective, but I like hilarious situations like that.