Watching Tim’s progress over the last 12 weeks has been a super interesting experience for me. In just 12 weeks and from pure discipline and self-initiated learning, Tim has gone from knowing very little about designing for the web to being a completely suitable candidate for a junior design positon; the sort of position that would usually be filled by graduates after three-years of full time study.
Having a self-taught background myself, I remember those early stages of learning. Every new thing you did was always better than the last and it always felt as if you were constantly levelling up. There was so much to learn and so much to explore that each time you worked on something you were making use of new, exciting and more advanced techniques.
However, now, five to ten years later, you find yourself using tried and tested methods over and over again, not always doing better than the ‘one-before’ because, in actual fact, you did worse. Then there are those times when you have done neither better nor worse because you just… coasted.
Some may call this a plateau. I did too. That was, up until this week when, after a conversation with a colleague, I realised that sometimes ‘coasting’ is not necessarily always a ‘plateau’. The further we move through our career, the more advanced things become and therefore the rate at which we ‘level-up’ simultaneously slows down as things take more time and more effort to learn. Instead of plateauing, we might actually just be moving forward, along a linear plane, collecting all the necessary knowledge to eventually level up instead of levelling up immediately.
For someone who somewhat struggles to make confident design decisions when working, this is a handy epiphany to have had. Sometimes, I find myself not doing something soley for the reason that I think I can do better without having a proper plan of what this ‘better’ thing is. What is the end result of this? Often I run out of time and end up delivering something I’m not 100% proud of.
All of this is not to say that you or I should stop striving to improve. Not at all. Everyone should always be looking for ways to progress. It’s just that perhaps, at this stage of my career, I should stop getting so hung up on competing with myself and check my priorities. I should focus on doing good work and let the ‘better’ follow instead of trying to be better and letting the ‘good’ follow.
Focus on doing delivering quality work. Be better from that rather than trying to be better and hoping that the quality will follow.