Biggest obstacle in my career

How to develop an above average confidence for anything that I do. This is key for continuous growth. Car...

Wilian Iralzabal

Stop focusing on what you suck at!

Operating in life based on insecurities is one of the worst things you can do as a creative. Why? Because operating off insecurities only makes you vulnerable to making decisions based on fear, which then causes you to always play it safe and the downward spiral continues.

Confidence is built through discipline

My personal desk :)
My personal desk :)

The biggest obstacle for me has been to develop an above average confidence for myself as a designer. When you're just starting out as a designer, it's hard to be confident (we are in the business of - look what I can do, which means being vulnerable at all times). It takes one to two years to work through all of the bad work. One way of getting around this is by working / putting out as much work as possible. Practice like an olympic athlete trains for their big show time. I don't recommend everyone to do this, but if you are hungry enough, you should punt all leisure. This is exactly what I had to do in order to break through from an insecure junior to a confident senior designer. Again, this doesn't work for everyone because others may want more work life balance, have other priorities etc. But really think about it, if you spend all of your time beating on your craft, you may reduce the amount of time that it takes to truly become competent at a skill (It's been said that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to master a skill). While this ideology worked for me, I'm not going to type away here and say that it will work for you too, you must figure out what has worked best for you in the past and figure out if it can work again in the future. For me, preparation has always given me an edge on the competition, while others have put in 10hours, I put in 150. The act of practicing this much was simple for me to adopt as an adult since I had been doing design since I was in high school. I vividly remember spending my weekends glued in front of my beat up computer on Microsoft Paint (One pixel at a time, I would create full murals). Technically that was not design, but rather scribbles on a screen. My point is, the passion for this profession has been there since I was a kid, I just needed to outwork my excuses so that I can get better each day. In my humble opinion, the only way to really feel confident is to be prepared. Otherwise, you will always be at the mercy of life's circumstances. But life happens right? When things do not go your way, what do you do / tell yourself? I've learned to tell myself that things will improve because I'm not going to give up.

Growth vs. fixed mindset as a designer

Developing a growth mindset is a sure way to build confidence for yourself as a designer. In fact, I would argue that it's the only way to continue to develop as a designer. Lets take the concept of an MVP - minimum viable product. The logic is to put out the minimum amount of controls, functionality and aesthetics to validate the proof of concept (This can be a website, iOS app, Android app, web app etc.). A growth mindset will look at an MVP from the standpoint of, "We are testing this to make it better as we learn from our users - this thing can only get better from here". The fixed mindset would think, "I have to make this perfect because there is no version two of this thing". Look, if you are mass producing a car, it makes sense to measure twice and cut once, but for digital product design, it is not necessary since we can literally change a line of code or design and launch tomorrow. The notion that things are fixed as they are is ludicrous to me. A wise man once said, "The only things that are certain in life are death and taxes". Another example of this is a child who does poorly on a math test. A fixed mindset will automatically jump to the conclusion that the child simply isn't cut out to be a math magician (I say magician because growing up I was that kid who sucked at math, until I applied myself and started getting A's).

I have always been deeply moved by outstanding achievement and saddened by wasted potential. -Carol Dweck

How did I cultivate a growth mindset in order to avoid wasting my potential? It starts by winning small battles daily. Did you spend an extra 15minutes on facebook or did you plan your day in the morning. One makes you feel great and the other makes you feel good while you're in the act. However, once you're done, one makes you feel badly about yourself (clearly, it should be wasting time on Facebook). As humans, I believe that we are constantly trying to improve, even when we do nothing about it. I once read this book, "The compound Effect" by Darren Hardy. In his book, he explains how we shape our reality through small meaningful decisions each day. While meaningless at times, they compound over time to become VERY meaningful. The same can be said about building confidence for yourself. The more smalls wins you get under your belt, the more you begin to realize your real potential which eventually should lead to self actualization.

Longterm effects of a growth mindset

The more you do, the more chances you get to improve and become better than you were yesterday. I had this work ethic and ambition from within, the issue for me was that I sucked so badly at design when I was getting started. I had to try really really hard to get to the place that I'm at now. Look, some things you are naturally gifted at and some others you have to grind through the work to get better. I have convinced myself that design is a thing that is worth all of the energy that I'm putting in. I've literally given this profession my all even during the hardest times of my life where all I wanted to do was quit and go back to what I was naturally great at - sales and communication. Fighting through all of the growing pains made me even stronger and has helped me develop an even stronger growth mindset. So the next time you try something and suck at it. Remember to tell yourself, "I'm not very good at this, yet".

Wilian Iralzabal

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