For most high-achieving creatives – be they startup founders, developers, artists or otherwise, the mixture of both life and professional experience is what helps them to manage the incredible variety of tasks and challenges faced in growing their businesses or careers.
Despite stories presented to us such as world-famous golfer Tiger Woods who started playing the sport aged just three years old, new research is emerging that suggests that generalising rather than specialising in your career can have just as much a positive effect on your success as focussing in on one area.
David Epstein even wrote a landmark book on the subject – Range – based on his studies of the world’s most successful athletes, artists and inventors.
For Simpleweb product manager Dave, generalising across businesses in technology and the creative arts for over two decades – along with a quirky sense of curiosity – has given him some unique insights into how to truly succeed and thrive in a professional startup environment.
In his own words, these are Dave’s biggest learnings on how to embrace creativity, learn and grow.
You live and die by your team[s]
I really like the ‘There’s no I in team’ catchphrase.
When managing people and projects (both in and out of work), if you’ve got a good, engaged team you can conquer almost anything.
We’re all humans and sometimes make mistakes, sometimes just do an ‘ok’ job and other times are really successful. Whatever the situation, getting the best out of people means embracing empathy and managing with compassion.
Having compassion for your team means you can be there to help and guide. Empathising with your team makes you truly understand the impact of your actions.
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Opinions are not always the answer
Everyone has an opinion because it’s easy to talk about things based on your life and experiences – but this often means views are full of bias.
When looking to understand something better from clients or teammates, say to them ‘don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you know.’
Good enough is good enough
Good enough is good enough (as a phrase) can get you into trouble – and this should never be used as an excuse for shoddy work.
However, it’s easy to be your own worst critic when it comes to completing a project or piece of creative work.
I’ve learned that it’s ok to do the necessary amount of work to achieve the goals you are set, not more, not less. There is simply no such thing as ‘perfect’ but you must take pride in your work. As long as you have clear aims then you can fit the quality to your budget and goals.
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Find your limits, break them precisely once
I’ve pushed myself over the limit when running my own business and it wasn’t pretty – but now I know my boundaries better.
Learn what burnout means to you and when to stop and give yourself a break. Make time to recognise the signs of stress in yourself. There’s nothing more important than your health.
The word design confuses everybody
Whenever ‘design’ is mentioned, people think of graphic design by default. You can design an experience, a service, some software, a window frame, a car. All design really is, is the process of planning something out.
This can be deciding what colour or shape something is, as in graphic design, or it can mean planning how you’re going to make something or planning how something is going to work.
More of us practice the skills of a designer at work and in our day-to-day lives than you might think.
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Learning never ends
You’ve only got so much space in your brain and it fills up really fast. Particularly as you age and the new stuff comes in, the old stuff tends to pour out of your ear.
So not only do you have to keep learning to keep up with a changing world, but you sometimes have to go back and re-learn the things you used to know as they’ve fallen out of your head to make room for the new stuff.
Accept that you’re never going to know everything but celebrating learning as a process will enhance the enjoyment and progression of your life and career.
Forget comfort zones
Creatives in tech: Dave’s drawing of one of Simpleweb’s hacknight
If you’re not pushing the boundaries then what’s the point of being alive?!
When I transitioned from being an animator to a business and product manager, it was tough. But if you only ever do what you’re comfortable with, you’re not learning, you’re stagnating.
If you’re flexible in your approach then you can do anything. It might not be easy or painless, or even fun, but you can achieve anything.
Failure should be celebrated
I’m a big believer in what’s called ‘happy fails’. Being out of your comfort zone puts you at risk, but a fear of failure can stop you from growing. Fear of failure shouldn’t hold you back.
Failing is good and should be celebrated because one of the best ways to learn is by trial(s) and error(s).
- You might like: Lessons learned designing for Minecraft, Spotify and Github: Interview with Tobias Ahlin
You have to break it to make it
If you’re struggling to figure out why something isn’t working, curiosity is key. The act of ‘breaking it’ allows you to understand how it works and then you can start making it better.
This goes for everything from processes to software development. If something works, why did it work? How did it work? If you change something will it sill work?
If you keep plonking new things on top of old things you’ll never develop a true understanding of your process or product.
It’s all about balance
If I was to summarise this all in one go, I would say you have to take the rough with the smooth, the good with the bad. If you only celebrate the successes it makes the failures intolerable.
If everything seems to be going wrong in your project, startup or life, don’t worry, because eventually, it must get better.
If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.