Monday Series: A Story about my 2021 Mantra and Some Updates

Monday Series: A Story about my 2021 Mantra and Some Updates


I finished The Art of Asking. See last week's post for my thoughts on this excellent book. I've since started listening to her podcast "The Art of Asking Everything" and am SO GLAD that she has even more content to listen to.

Through that podcast, I also began listening to Design Matters. Frankly, I'm a little confused about why it's taken me this long to begin listening to this podcast... but here we are. I started with an episode on Lisa Congdon. Ha, lots of deja vu from last week in today's post. The most hilarious thing about this episode is that, in the first few minutes of the show, Lisa gives a rundown on how she got to be where she is today and, guess what???? She definitely worked with an agent early in her illustration career lolololol. For those who didn't read last week's post, I put Lisa in a category of people (who I am now questioning in totality) that I saw as complete independents, untethered by the restraints of the agency world! I mean, she is now. But she didn't start that way. Don't assume, folks. Don't assume. I'm sorry, Lisa. I'll learn more about you before I continue idealizing decisions you didn't actually make. Maybe I should stop thinking about agencies altogether for a minute haha.

Lastly, in this arena, I'm rereading Liz Gilbert's Big Magic for the third time. I love it. There are a thousand excellent excerpts in this book, but my favorite is when she suggests that creative minds are like dogs. They need a job to do or else they'll create their own job like eating the couch or digging holes. Here is a direct quote:

It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).

I firmly believe that we all need to find something to do in our lives that stops us from eating the couch.

This is the truest shit I've ever read. If I am not actively creating something, I am actively destroying something. This. All day this.

She also has some great thoughts on perfectionism...

Business Updates

Chugging along in the business department. These days, I'm trying to finish as many commissions as possible before Christmas without over-exerting myself. This is an exceptionally difficult balance to strike. Part mental, part tactical.

In the mental realm, I'm trying to let go of perfectionism. So many of these commissions involve drawing a person's likeness, which I tend to obsess over. This has got to stop. Likeness is hard. Sometimes I nail it. Sometimes not so much. Spending HOURS redrawing a face that isn't working is not helping anyone. So I'm trying to time-box according to how long I should actually be spending based on the price of the job. Basically, I'll let myself draw and redraw a face for the first 60% of the hours allotted for that project and then I'll move on to the finish. This appears to be working actually... I'll keep going. 

In the tactical realm, I've rearranged my desk again. Since I can't really get out and work at a coffee shop due to covid, optimizing my home office (or just moving things around for the hell of it) tends to provide a little bit of freshness. I did that yesterday. This morning, I'm now looking at the world from a 90* rotation lol. HOW NEW!

Lastly, I think I might look into Redbubble as an alternative to Society6. I want to maintain a purely passive income stream that I can continually add designs to but Society6 has been bothering me. Their website crashes all the time, the UX is shit, and now I've come to learn that the quality of some of their products is pretty bad too. I don't really want to be associated with crap-quality products and if they're going to do all the fulfillment for me without my seeing it first, I need to trust that the result is going to be positive. I'll do some more research on this and let you know.

2021 Mantra

This weekend, I did some year-end planning with my business mastermind group. Part of this planning was to come up with a word or phrase that will act as a guiding principle for the new year. Last year was "Joy." This year, I'm choosing "Extra-Medium."

100% of my stress stems from perfectionism and/or overreaction. I obsess over certain things and then get really annoyed when they don't work out. Extra-Medium is the opposite of this. Let me explain.

  • Commission faces: "This face isn't working. AAAHHH. THIS IS TERRIBLE." Ok, what if it actually wasn't a big deal at all? What if it was just...medium... for this face to not be as good as some of the others?
  • "I'm going to need a new job in the summer if I can't figure out how to improve my income. AHHH" Ok... Lots of people have day jobs. What if that were fine?
  • "But if I get another design job, it might be just as stressful as my last one. What am I going to do?? Work at Starbucks?!?!" (1) If the job is as stressful as the last one, quit. Nothing is permanent. (2) What's wrong with working at Starbucks if it gives you the mental space to keep creating?  
  • Etc. etc.

Basically, extra-medium is a two-part deal.

On the one hand, I will strive to be more medium in the execution of my tasks so that they don't result in analysis paralysis. The only way I finish things is by allowing myself to release something imperfect; or... extra-medium.

On the other hand, it's also a reaction strategy. I have to accept that, regardless of the quality of work I produce, I will get an array of results. There will be rejections no matter how perfect my product is. And maybe that's not actually a big deal at all. Maybe that is completely fucking normal. Extra-medium, if you will.

It has come to my attention that people who self-describe as average are so much happier than those who self-describe as high-achieving. This is not to say I think we should all stop trying to improve ourselves. I'm saying the complete opposite actually. It appears to me that the people who willingly accept small progress as victory are the people who actually end up being happier (and occasionally, ironically, more successful) than those who stay up until 2am grinding away at stuff in an effort to look impressive. I've lived the 2am life since I was a kid; and I did look impressive! But it's not worth it anymore, dude. If not staying up until 2am working on something means that, for a time, I'm a little more like everyone else and a lot less anxious, I'll take it.

It's just not worth it. And frankly, slowing the fuck down is almost certainly going to give me more energy for a more sustained and consistent effort—which is going to make me more successful in the long run. This is almost 100% guaranteed. But I can't look at it like that. Because trying to be "extra-medium" out loud with the intention of being quietly high-achieving is cannibalizing the point. I have to truly, truly strive for extra-medium progress in order to internalize this. If I don't end up super successful, that has to be ok; it's an extra-medium result. 

The goal has to be happiness, not success, in order to actually be happy.

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