Signed, Anonymous

Yesterday, I mentioned that I am okay with being anonymous.

I see myself as anonymous in the creative world. That may not necessarily be the reality. But, for myself at this time, it is the right place to be.

Perhaps that is an odd statement to make in this age of social media. But I have often thought popularity to be highly overrated. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson begin the Promotion chapter of their book, Rework, with the words, “Welcome obscurity.”

No one knows who you are right now. And that’s just fine. Being obscure is a great position to be in. Be happy you’re in the shadows. Use this time to make mistakes without the whole world hearing about them. Keep tweaking. Work out the kinks. Test random ideas. Try new things. No one knows you, so it’s no big deal if you mess up. Obscurity helps protect your ego and preserve your confidence.

Alicia Britt Chole dedicates an entire book to the theme: Anonymous. She uses the metaphor of an iceberg to illustrate the idea of a life hidden in the shadows. As much as 90% of an iceberg (see the new logo for The New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute) is not visible above the surface of the water. The book is about a strange man named Joshua who lived in complete obscurity for the first 30 years of his life, then had a very public life for about three years, but somehow left an indelible mark on history. We know him by his Greek name, Jesus. Some call him Christ.

I’d say popularity, in his case, was highly overrated. Of course, that depends on which version of the ending you believe. Setting aside that contentious debate, it does make one wonder what one does for thirty years to prepare oneself before stepping into the limelight.

Chole believes that these were formative years, building habits, character and a sense of identity that was able to withstand the onslaught of public scrutiny.

Celebrity is a much sought after commodity these days, but it seems a rare occurrence for a young person to be able to quickly reach star status and sustain a healthy sense of balance and a strong grip on reality.

There is something to be said for taking the time to build good character, good habits and a strong identity. Deciding what to do with the time is easier when one learns how to say, “No.” Self-control is formed by learning to choose what is best over what is poor or merely good enough. These decisions become easier to make when they become habits (see Hacking Habits: How To Make New Behaviors Last For Good).

I know what you’re thinking: “What hipocrisy to be talking about the value of obscurity in the most narcissistic of media formats: a blog.” (Okay, no I don’t know what you’re thinking, but it was good try, right?) It’s a bit of a catch-22. I really like obscurity. I became a designer because I like to observe. I have tended to take a fly-on-the-wall approach to life, fascinated by the world and the people around me, but not terribly fascinated by myself. This has made me who I am. (Have you ever wished you could be someone else?)

But here’s the catch: I think certain ideas are worth spreading. What if my idea is that someone should have the courage to be transparent about the whole process of creative failure or success? That would mean that the process needs to be publicly documented, and the experiment must have the potential to end in either failure or success. Of course, I don’t necessarily want to fail, but it is a well-documented part of the creative process that there will be failure. It is said that if you fail to plan, plan to fail. Let’s just say, I may be well on my way to failure.

Habit Forming

When I woke up this morning, I was wondering how exactly I was going to decide what to do with my time. Apple gave me a nudge in the App Store.

New Year, New You

How appropriate. Apple gave me four lists to choose from:

  • Your Body
  • Your Mind
  • Your Money
  • Your Time

Nice marketing. So, the question I had was about time, so what was the first app in the list for Your Time? A free app called 30/30.

I downloaded the app and created some lists, with the 99u.com article in mind, The Jeff Bezos School of Long-Term Thinking. Point six stood out in my mind: “Work backwards.” Rather than a “skills-forward” approach where people—and companies—let what they are good at determine next steps, I would like to look ahead to where I would like to be as a way to determine what I should do now.

I started in very broad strokes, with general, universal goals that focus on the following lists:

  • Mind
  • Body
  • Work
  • Play

Within each list, you can create tasks with a specific amount of time set aside for each task.

Mind

  • Read 30:00
  • Think 30:00
  • Write 30:00

Body

  • Work Out 30:00
  • Eat 30:00
  • Get Ready 30:00

Work

  • Read 30:00
  • Connect 30:00
  • Think 30:00
  • Write 30:00
  • Create 30:00
  • Build 30:00
  • Break 30:00
  • Innovate 3:00:00
  • Meet 30:00
  • Learn 30:00
  • Discover 30:00

Ambitious. And unrealistic.

Let’s just say that my day turned out very different from my plan. Without any clear criteria for determining whether today was a success of a failure, I’m just going to call it a day. Or I’ll just make up my own criteria. Attitude and outlook are major factors in one’s approach to success and failure, right?

Blog post written. Check.

Success!