On Commitment

April 3, 2017 •  design

The biggest lessons I’ve ever learned were from periods of extended commitment. Our available choices now send us into paralysis and it’s hard to choose which direction to go in. I’d argue that it doesn’t really matter which direction-as long as you fully commit to it.

I’ve been given a lot of bad advice in my life and one of them is, “be sure this is what you want.” While it sounds smart, I have found I have changed for the better after committing to “unsure” situations. While I don’t take uncalculated risk, I do accept that I have to accept a certain degree of uncertainty.

My first job in the industry was not for a Design agency or product. I started working for a documentary filmmaker. Some people may consider that unrelated to what I studied and not valuable. I committed anyway.

From that experience, I learned the importance of time and place. I learned how to work with clients and people who had different working styles. I learned the basics of entrepreneurship. These lessons formed the foundations of my business a year later.

When I started working for a freelancer who specialized in branding, I could have quit and went to a larger studio with bigger client names. I didn’t-I committed instead.

Again, I was schooled on how to work with clients. I learned how to write a contract and build pricing structures. I learned how to sell a type of website the market was unfamiliar with. These lessons were applied to my business and it was profitable within the year.

Years later, when Shopify was still in the throes of figuring out what a technical lead was and a people lead was (we still are), my lead pushed me to take on reports despite my hesitation.

I pushed myself to understand what management meant as a discipline. I learned how to scale a team from 5 to 21. I learned how to structure design processes. I learned how to listen better and more compassionately. I learned the importance of culture. I will likely see the results of these lessons for years to come.

The point is-I never really knew where I was going. You are never really sure.… but if you commit yourself fully to whatever situation you’re in you will learn something that you can use. Sometimes the grass is green exactly where you are.

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