Question: “We hear a lot from professionals about learning from our mistakes. But how do we go about learning from our successes?” – Amelia, 33
Answer: A studio spends months designing a 120-page magazine. It gets pulled off the press because a corporate logo has been bastardised by the PDF. Client yells and points finger. Designer attempts to explain what signing off means but knows, deep down, the failure is theirs. The magazine eventually gets printed, everyone drinks Kahlua, but the designer only thinks about the mistake they played some part in.
So why are humans obsessed with their downfalls? The answer comes from rogue CEO and author Ben Horowitz on Karl Marx’s idea that life is, in fact, just struggle. “The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company. The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced. The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.”
Professionals talk about their mistakes because they learn more from them. They lose the company money because of a f*ck up. They have to let employers go because of a f*ck up. These are all lessons. The trick is to embrace mistakes for what they are: our best teacher.
Success is not something that educates us, Amelia. Ironically, resting on our laurels doesn’t help our creative instincts. If we repeat things based purely on their success, they become stale. Creatives need to be discontent. They need to ask “What next?”, especially if they’re going to make new things and tackle new problems. This is why the only way success works if it stops being an end goal and becomes a state of mind. Success is the whisper that we’re on the right track to overcoming The Struggle.
Dizzee Askall will be delivering a weekly lowdown on your design-related dilemmas. If you’re in need of advice or answers, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org