When is my break

Yesterday while waiting in line at Subway to order lunch I was struck by the similar looks on each employees face working there. Each look said the same thing, "When is my break." Not only did their expressions speak loudly to this truth, but the way they performed their job and interacted with each customer. No joy, no enthusiasm, just doing it because they have to. And that's a damn shame.

But this isn't me pointing my finger and laughing at the people who work for minimum wage. That shit's hard, and sometimes it's all people can do. But no, I was struck by the thought that what is it these people "should" be doing instead. I mean, what are their dreams, passions, the things that keep them up at night? What could I bring up in conversation that would allow them to talk my ear off for a good hour or two? Those are the things they need to be doing. (And I hope they're pursuing them, or at least I hope they have someone in their lives that encourages them.)

Life is hard and we all know it. Some of us will work our whole lives at jobs we hate. I know this, I've seen my Dad do it. But now, more than ever, we have opportunities growing like wild fire to get out there and crush the norm under our feet. I think Gary Vee said this at his talk this year at SXSW, but it's like the California gold rush right now. We just need to be completely honest with ourselves and figure out what we're passionate about. I know I'm still searching my heart and figuring it out one day at a time.

It takes time. Slow down. Don't rush it. Make sure you take time to build a solid foundation. I came across this video this week and it inspired the crap out of me. If you have any creative bone in your body then it will speak to you as well.

The video is shot and narrated by photographer Zack Arias.

What Inspires You?

inspire Where did the greats like Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Rembrandt draw their inspiration from? It's hard for me to imagine being that we live in the age of computers, where there are no limits to what we can find. Especially inside the design community where there is a huge playing field of resources available for all our inspirational needs.

But how much is too much?

Personally, I think we've already crossed that line and are now left to wade through all the muck. All of these inspirational blogs are only hindering us from creating something truly original.

Take a look at Shephard Fairey for example. He started out making "Andre the Giant Has A Posse" flyers and stickers. From there he took the stencil art world by storm. And we all remember his Obama campaign poster that gained him national (even global) attention. But how many rip-offs have we seen of his Obama poster? I'm not saying that it is wrong to be inspired by another artist. But I am saying that we shouldn't set the bar so low as to copy someone else's work and be proud of it.

Dare To Imagine

So is it so hard to imagine that maybe the classic artists, the greats, were able to paint, design and craft magnificent pieces of artwork without having to look at hundreds of others work? Maybe there's something to be learned from a life without computers. Where people actually interacted with one another and had discussions face-to-face instead of on facebook. That's why I love meeting up for a drink with friends to talk shop or finding local meetup groups that share my interest. Or even taking my dogs to the park for that matter. Just getting outside and communicating with other people is so refreshing.

We need to be more creative in the ways we get inspired. I don't want to compare myself to others whose work is amazing and feel like giving up. I'm sure the people behind those great pieces of art/design didn't make it just to make the rest of us jealous. But instead did it from a place of passion and wanting to push the envelope. And I bet if you talked with any of those designers that inspire you they would tell you to do work that is original and that you can be proud of.

I think true inspiration is a gift that's given to us. Some have called it a Muse, others have called it drugs, but I think it's the One who created us that imparts it to us.

Originally posted on on February, 05 2009

Enjoy Your Work

We all have those days when we're not 100% - that was today for me. But what really counts in this life are the relationships we have and those who can lend an ear and an encouraging word. After an uplifting conversation I had with my friend Daniel (really more like a brother) I opened up the Bible to Ecclesiastes. I ran across an old verse I had underlined that really inspired me:

"So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?" - Ecclesiastes 3:22

Regardless of whether you are unhappy at your job, in between jobs, or out of a job, we should all enjoy the work which we can get/have, no matter how small or big the task.

I'm the worst designer

Who is Kyle Steed With all the huff and puff about "top css galleries" and "top designers to follow on twitter" and "how to be a rockstar designer" floating around the web these days it's hard to feel like your work has any value. Because it's all about who you know and not what you know, right?

So I'm proposing a, well... not so new, perspective for the rest of us "non-rockstar" designers out there. A frame of mind where we stop comparing ourselves among ourselves and instead start building each other up with encouraging comments and constructive criticisms. What would/could happen if we disembarked from our present journey of searching endless hours on so-called "inspirational" sites and started looking inward for our own inspiration?

Someone once told me that the best way to get is to give.

I don't mean to sound all "new-agey" dr. feelgood, living in a world of rainbows and unicorns. I know we all have dark days where nothing inspires us and we can't find any thread of motivation. But again, we can't simply focus on ourselves at times like this, then we're no better than those self-indulgent "rockstars". Someone once told me that the best way to get is to give. And I like to take that literally, meaning that the more I give my time or my skills to help someone else out, I always end up with more inspiration in the end. It's that creative "bump-in-the-road" we all come to, and how we get over it depends on our drive, desire and our knowing we can do better. If you haven't seen the video of Ira Glass talking about the creative process, he explains it much better than I ever could.

But why then do I consider myself the worst designer? Because that's how I feel right now, measuring myself up against giants like Jason Santa Maria or The Perel Trio or Rob Morris. These guys are on top of their game right now, and while it's great to see and admire their work, it leaves me feeling less than adequate to redesign my own site. But honestly, this is just another bump in the road (like I mentioned earlier) that I have to cross. And because I have become comfortable enough with myself to know that more often than not my work is solid, I know this isn't the end of the road.

So while I wade through the thick muck of designers block, I came up with a list of ideas to help get the juices flowing.

Take a walk. Dance a jig. Get some sun. Don't take yourself to serious. Cook something ethnic. Play the 3 chords you know on guitar. Go get coffee. Tell a bad joke, to yourself, and laugh. Look at the way a leaf is made. Overhear someone else's conversation. Write it down. Remember it later. Get some sleep.

Note: I'm putting this out there as a practice to not be perfect. My hope is that it helps you, whoever you are/wherever you are, get through all the distractions in our lives that want to clog us up. We will never get anywhere by standing still, and we will never succeed by being busy.