Since turning 25, I have been reflecting on the past year of crazy events that occurred. A journey that could only be described as a mentally exhausting battle of discipline and focusing on important lessons. My battle ensued after quitting my full-time job as an engineer, taking a fearful leap from Appleton, WI to Chicago, IL for a design career, and tackling the unknowns head first. This post will go into the nitty gritty details of what has been learned, changed, and on the rise.
I’m going to say a lot of this year was about improving self-awareness. A mentality of being completely honest with yourself and figuring out your strengths and weaknesses. I also took a word of inspiration from a legendary entrepreneur and author -Gary Vaynerchuk.
”Go all-in on your one greatest strength and weakness, and deconstruct the steps of achieving what you want." - Gary Vanerchuk
Self-awareness is the one tool that I used during this battle as a 24-year-old leaving the comfort of Appleton for Chicago. Leaving comfort was not the only issue, I learned a couple great personal lessons that were brought up by coworkers before leaving the engineering job.
My first major lesson learned from a coworker last year was about ownership. It was never apparent that I lacked ownership until this senior engineer - a more wiser person - outright called me out for lack of ownership. You bet it stung inside, and it’s really something I needed to hear it so I can grow personally. I took that to heart, and this past year I’ve been trying to develop a better sense of ownership in all my actions.
The first step of ownership was owning the belief that I am a visual designer and creative problem solver, not an engineer. I dropped everything in Appleton, WI to move to Chicago, IL - in pursuit of building a design career to create fulfillment for myself. I had no job offer or anything else lined up for me; it was going to be me owning my fiery passion, skills and going against all odds to make a living. I wanted to work as a freelancer while figuring out what paths to take for my career and happiness.
Let me tell you, it was a really gutsy move! It hurt. I really didn’t like it because I had to leave behind great people, security and face the upcoming hardships. It was definitely a state of mind where I put a lot of pressure on myself so the only option I had was to takes steps for making it happen. The options were either survive or perish.
This notion of pressuring and setting myself up for almost complete failure or success so I could learn very effectively was a test based on something I’ve read: people learn best through failure. My whole intention was to put myself in a struggling environment, an arduous journey, giving up the comfort of a job with cushy benefits, 401K, and salary, and really jumping all into a bunch of unknowns. That way I had no way out except for finding my own means of living through my design work. (FYI: This life experiment resulted in an unhealthy amount of stress, anxiety, and more grey hair.)
For a while, I did freelance design under AP Creates. I was working on a couple logo and print design projects for friends and other online commissions. My freelancing evolved into working with a roommate on websites, UI design, and branding. Our work grew and a partnership/business formed as Underground Web Lab. This partnership formed because we wanted to bring passionate ideas to life by building compelling experiences with modern web technologies and quality craftsmanship. A small business and a huge lesson of ownership have been the major works of this past year.
The most exciting part: We are slowly growing, and I can’t wait to share more stories!
How I plan on continuing to develop personal ownership. I will be reading more books and listening to great podcasts. My favorites: Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, and Jacko Willink. They have really good content on leadership, how to face fears, and developing a great mindset for your life, and develop the skills and habits to live the lifestyle you want. I will definitely be writing more on those topics, sharing those ideas with you readers, and tying those into my own lifestyle and experiences.
My second lesson of the year was brought up by a different coworker. They mentioned that my perception was a little off. I didn’t know what that meant. At the time, I interpreted that as I needed to work on myself so people are more comfortable around me.
I thought my perception was alright being the quiet and introverted kid; keeping to myself when others spoke and only speaking up when called upon - my norm. That was the culture and mindset I grew up with. In my mind, I didn’t see a problem with always being reserved around others. However, a coworker believed something was a little off and this opinion stung.
Anyways, it’s a great learning lesson. It made me question could it be completely related to self-confidence or even the introverted side of me? I struggled to figure it out. So I developed this curiosity of learning as much as I could about perception, human psychology, and behavior. Some of the knowledge that I have pieced together, is the following: people who talk more than an introvert could perceive a less talkative person as rude or strange when they don’t match their energy level of conversation. I.E: If an introvert doesn’t respond as often to the extrovert would like, they could be perceived as snooty or rude and it could create uncomfortableness in the environment. (Unless the extrovert tries to puts their-self in the perspective of the introvert)
How I plan on continuing to develop a better perception is to learn more about human psychology, perhaps speak out more often, and focus on small acts to help build a better perception. I’ll definitely be reading and listening to more of Tony Robbin’s podcasts about empowerment, mindset, and healthy habits to help with perception.
Let's go back to the concept of self-awareness for a little bit. This past year was full of self-awareness. I was working on some of my weaknesses and strengths. Now, what's next?
The challenge is to keep up the momentum for improving in these areas, as well as focusing on my greatest strength and weakness. (Greatest Strength: Creativity/Visual Design. Greatest Weakness: Self-Confidence.)
To remain committed to my challenge, I have to incorporate this strength and weakness into my singular belief:
"I believe design and creativity serve a greater purpose of helping others. My Northstar (vision) is serving others with empathy and creativity to design compelling visuals and build better experiences. This is done by inspiring creative confidence within others and myself." - AP
In order to fulfill that belief, I really need to narrow in on my actions. All of my actions will be focused around:
- Build Brand Experiences/Stories
- Empathetic Leadership
- Human Behavior & Psychology
I must go all in with writing and developing skills around design, leadership, and growth mindset to successfully build brands/stories. Understanding basic human psychology will help allow me to develop strategies and solve challenges around common human problems and my own personal confidence.
In essence, this past year of life was a huge design problem: understanding myself, design around my self-awareness, find avenues to develop knowledge, and now execute with this knowledge. Ultimately, I want to share every piece of knowledge with you readers throughout this process.
If you are reading this, it really means a lot to me and hopefully, you could learn a few things for yourself.
All thoughts, comments, and feedback are greatly appreciated.