Confession: I waste a ridiculous amount of time worrying about things I can’t fix and feeling defensive about facts I don’t control. I didn’t get a degree when I was still in my twenties. I’ve felt under-qualified for every job I’ve ever had (even stacking boxes in a factory).1 There are countless creative people with more natural talent than me, and I see their work every day. I could go on listing inadequacies for a good afternoon, and I wouldn’t get any closer to changing them. Most importantly, I’d never give myself the opportunity to actual produce something of real value.
I’m realizing (slowly) that titles, education, and my personal history don’t have to affect today as much as I think. I may not be as talented as Jeffrey Zeldman or Jason Santa Maria, but that’s not completely within my control. I may never be the greatest creative director in the world, and at times I don’t even feel like a particularly good one. The moment I sit down at work, though, it’s too late to worry about any of that. At that moment, we have passed the point of no return, and no amount of self-deprecation will make me better equipped right then. The best thing I can do is to sit down, give my work complete attention, rely on the experience and education I actually do have, and do my best. My best may not be equivalent to Zeldman’s best, but there’s not much I can really do about that when I sit down to work.
At first glance, this may sound like me giving up, but it’s not. I’m not just surrendering to my weak spots. I still work nights and weekends to get better at the craft, and I sweat to make sure I never repeat the same mistakes twice. When I sit down to design, write, code, or work with my team, though, I am not holding myself responsible for not being the next twenty-something wunderkind or not having thirty years of experience in design. I will do the best with everything I have control over, but I have to let the rest go. Then, at least for a few moments after I sit down, I have permission to step out from under the shadow of my weaknesses and feel free for a short time. After that serene moment, I get back to the hard work of creating, tweaking; and, heaven forbid, critiquing or editing myself.2