Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Random observations – Part 1

Random observations – Part 1
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I’ve now been involved in some kind of creative activity for the bulk of my life. From design to running a business, I’ve found that certain patterns have emerged. Clearly there are parallels, and I’m slowly learning a few lessons. About a year ago I started to document these thoughts, with little notion as to what to do with them.

Following are some of my random observations; I hesitate in posting them. They are at best half-complete, and vary widely in format, length and focus. They are certainly not advice I’m intending to impart; rather, I see them as suggestions and reminders for myself. Perhaps you’ll find some interest in reading them as well.

1. Simple rules

There are a lot of choices to make over the course of a lifetime. That’s why it’s important to have some simple rules in place to guide one’s actions. As odd as it may seem, something as basic as “be nice to everyone” saves a lot of time and thought.

2. Surround yourself with people who are better than you

This morning I spent twenty minutes on the treadmill. Whenever the fellow beside me sped-up, I found myself instinctively wanting to do the same.

People who are better than you help you forget your own perceived limitations.

3. Choice and outcome

For everything new I do, I learn something; therefore, it can’t be a waste of time. Repeat efforts, however, have to be measured carefully to ensure they are not just time-consuming bad habits.

4. Talk to your clients like they are your spouse

When I start to think of others as “them”, something is lost. When I can find a way to cut through the formalities, however, something real happens.

5. Perception is sometimes more relevant than actuality

Garrett has silver hair, a charming smile and wears a pair of smart, dark-rimmed glasses. He is intelligent and speaks with confidence. In a room of executives, everyone takes notice and listens intently to what he has to say.

One day I bumped into him on the street. He was as articulate as ever, but his hair had grown somewhat long, and he wore a less flattering pair of glasses. I found myself somehow less “taken” by the discussion.

Other than two small aspects of his appearance, nothing had changed; yet, this was enough to detract from his message. What you say is often less important than what people hear (or see).

6. Set the bar high

If you want to run a 5k, become a marathoner. As a result, you’ll find that 5k runs become a piece of cake.

By setting goals higher than you feel achievable, even your failures can be spectacular.

7. Busy-ness as a path to nowhere

There’s a fellow down the street that picks up bottles all day. He works much harder than the executive in the office tower but earns far less. It’s not by any means fair.

Most of us get caught up in being busy, instead of concentrating on what are accomplishing. This feels satisfying, as all of our peers are doing the same. (Logic suggests this is simply a bad habit.)

Get “un-busy”; determine where your wealth and happiness come from, and put your resources into that.

8. Take a moment

The urgency to respond to a situation can be perilous.

When confronted by unwelcome news try this: breathe, acknowledge, and continue about your business.

In five minutes you’ll see the situation more clearly. You might appreciate not having leapt to a response.

9. Today’s problems

It’s easy to look ahead and start thinking about potential problems and how you might solve them.

Some of these problems will never occur, so this is time wasted.

There are always plenty of problems needing to be solved. Just concentrate on today’s.

10. They won’t shoot you

When you are really stressed out at the office, rushing about in a frantic mess, try to remember that there are very few mistakes that will result in you getting shot. Take a breath and put the situation into perspective. It is probably a smaller issue than you think (at least in the long-term).

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Comments & Trackbacks

  1. Jamie says:

    2. Surround yourself with people who are better than you

    - This is very true and unfortunately where I live i'm limited as to who those people are. I decided to start a monthly web standards and design group where I hope to start dialog between local techies with the idea of staying inspired.

    My main rule to live by is I do my best to be a good person, one who is open to discussion and new ideas. I find this goes along way even if I don't where a business suit everyday.

    Thanks for the list! It makes me feel not so alone in this world of business.

  2. Arthur says:

    6. Set the bar high

    I am tired of being mediocre.

    Thanks for these Eric. I can't wait for part two.

  3. Great advice on surrounding yourself with people "better" than you (I would change "better" to "more talented than you at certain things"... but the point is the same, and solid advice). :)

    It may be one of only two pieces of advice I keep top-of-mind for running my music production business, as well as two of the Big Lessons I hope to teach my kids about success and happiness (the other being "keep your word, always").

  4. Mig Reyes says:

    #2 definitely resonates with me. As a young-gun designer and recent graduate, this idea is one I've learned to value greatly.

    Working with—and even grabbing beers with—design (or any other professional) peers has really pushed me from being a "design student" to a "designer." It's something I always push onto my classmates/friends.

    Awesome.

  5. Able Parris says:

    I wish #5 were not true, but I suppose it is. I think we should always be prepared to be judged by our presentation, yet always avoid being a judge of such things.

  6. Sean Hodge says:

    Yes, I avoided getting shot again yesturday. It wasn't to difficult working alone in my office.

    Great post. I like your writing. It's more thoughtful than alot of blogs about graphic design. Some good advice. I like the ones on setting the bar high and surrounding yourself with people that are better than you.

    Thanks.

  7. Luke Magee says:

    Well said, Eric!=)

  8. mel says:

    I love this:
    Get “un-busy”; determine where your wealth and happiness come from, and put your resources into that.

  9. Val Kildea says:

    Eric,

    Great thought-provoking post as always, thank you.

    Looking forward to the subsequent installments.

  10. Ben Leivian says:

    That's funny for #10. My dad always says "They can't eat you".

  11. Flo says:

    Hi Eric,

    I'm glad you went against your hesitation to post and posted anyway. Thank you for sharing.

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  13. Love this post!
    Some random thought on your random thoughts:
    On #1. I’m big on smiling and especially love to smile at grumpy retail associates or airport staff, etc., to see if I can get them to smile, and hopefully make their day a tiny bit better.
    On #2. Far too many managers don’t do this because they feel threatened. I say, Get over it! You look better, smarter, more effective, when you have an amazing staff. (I know this firsthand, because my team is awesome.)
    On #4. I’ve been covering sales, marketing, and service for dogs years, and I 100 percent concur. Treat your customers well and watch your profits grow. Enough said.
    On #6. OK, I don’t know about running a marathon (I’m much faster running to the fridge and back), but saying yes to things that scare the hell out of you—like giving a speech to 800 executives in a vast ballroom—are a great way to grow as a person and as a businessperson.
    Thanks Eric, for getting us all to pause for a moment and think about some of the little things that can make a big difference.

  14. Mary H. Ruth says:

    Thank you for a remarkable read! Indeed the more risks undertaken, the more progress is made, and I would say you've greatly benefitted us in sharing these ideas.

    #2 and #4 are particularly salient.
    Maybe in the end, everyone is better than you and everyone is your spouse, and if you delight in those two realities (i.e., cultivate them) you'll be a lot better off than if you ignore or decide to fight them.

  15. Mark Karjaluoto says:

    I think the points about taking a breath as well as not being shot over problems are the best ones here, or rather the ones that stick out the most for me. In a past work life, a calmer approach would have worked better at times... hopefully it's something I can try in my new life.

  16. You may not think these are well organized, Eric, but there is a lot of wisdom in them. I've found many of your observations true in my own life, too. 8 & 10 are important, but hard to remember when in the situations!

  17. I am the crash test dummy for # 7 - Busy-ness being the path to nowhere. I think I occasionally use it as a place to hide.

  18. Jeff says:

    Eric,

    in response to #10, there's always the usual comment; "it's just ink on paper". Or in your world's space, it's about bits and bytes.

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  20. Gong Szeto says:

    all terrific insights. you should write a book.
    g

  21. I'm working on it Gong. (But it is turning out to be rather time consuming!) Cheers!

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  23. pat Taylor says:

    How about adding...

    ALWAYS be early. Never late for appointments!

  24. Andrew H says:

    My Dad always used to tell me:

    " I'm lazy. I like to do things properly first time. "

  25. Derek Davis says:

    Some great food for thought. It was great talking with you today!

  26. Thanks Derek! :-)

  27. Denise says:

    Hi Eric, its my first time coming to this website. I find your articles very inspiring; I will come back for more.

  28. Pingback: ideasonideas - Eric Karjaluoto discusses design, brands and experience » Blog Archive » Random observations - Part 4

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  30. Hesitation to post! Surround yourself with people who are better than you? Who is going to have any respect for someone with so much doubt?
    C'mon Eric, lets have a bit of the finnish sisuu!
    Be bold and daring. Don't be scared of making mistakes. Be convincing. Let people believe that it's their fault when you are boring them.
    Nice article otherwise. Just get as much joy as you can everyday.

  31. What I also wanted to say was; be the one that others look to for inspiration. The guy on the treadmill should have been looking at you. True?

  32. Annie says:

    Love this post!

    Great advice on surrounding yourself with people "better" than you (I would change "better" to "more talented than you at certain things"... but the point is the same, and solid advice). :)

    It may be one of only two pieces of advice I keep top-of-mind for running my music production business, as well as two of the Big Lessons I hope to teach my kids about success and happiness (the other being "keep your word, always").

  33. Elva says:

    Thank you for a remarkable read

  34. Charm says:

    Point 2 is the most salient for any small business. If you are taking on an employee for the first time, make sure that they have skills that you don't. No ude employing a mirror image of yourself, employ someone who can add new skills to your business. I've always worked on this principal and it is incredibly important!

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