Nobody Said It Was Easy

Mountain with flag

I was listening to the 5By5 Podcast (great resource) the other day and heard an analogy that I really identified with.  Jen Robbins, author of Learning Web Design  said this:

Learning to do web design is like trying to climb a mountain that is always getting bigger.

When you look up you feel like you will never reach the top.  That’s especially true if you are at the bottom of the mountain.  Like me.

The nuts and bolts that go into creating and maintaining a web site are always improving and adapting.  There are so many different programming languages, so many different viewing devices, so many different developer platforms…. yada, yada, yada.  Fifteen years ago websites were a lot simpler.  Cro-Magnon man kind of simpler.  Now things like mobile devices have opened up entire fields of careers.  And in 10 years from now the field will have evolved even further with another layer of complex subtleties (and some not so subtle) so that the landscape may look drastically different. Technology keeps on developing, making that mountain higher and higher.

This evolutionary growth has also increased the sophistication of web design as a philosophy.  The first websites that came up on the internet would have been comparable to watching Disney’s first animation with Steamboat Willie (aka Mickey Mouse).  It is shocking how far things have come.  Textures, scale, hierarchy – the internet is blossoming with design goodness.  New strides in coding capability has opened doors to designing options that weren’t even possible before (or at least not possible without a crazy amount of creative hacking).   The principles of design have become more robust… more thoughtful… just plain more.  The mountain is a growin’ and it’s a growin’ fast.

I was thinking of that growing mountain and getting overwhelmed by the prospective hike when I heard Chris Martin’s voice remind me of some sage wisdom (God bless Coldplay): Nobody said it was easy.

True dat Chris.  True dat.

I was reminded that I didn’t start this whole journey because I wanted something easy.  I started pursuing design because I felt called to it.  I believe that I can be a part of bettering the world in a more profound way way than I could in any other career.

There is also an upside to an evolving field.  The lower, more introductory levels have been figured out and the way has been paved.  Guard rails have been installed.  Short cuts have been figured out to speed up the journey. Resources exist like Treehouse, where you can learn design faster than watching YouTube or attending a college course.  Want to know how to make a website that is responsive?  How about a whole list of responsive resources?  Truly there is a treasure trove of aids available to the web design mountain hiker at the touch of the keyboard.  You just have to know what to type.

So, the hike is going to be long and uphill all. the. way.  And I’m feelin’ the burn.  And the burn is good.

Zombies, Cancer, & Other Obsessions

I found a spot on my shoulder that wasn’t there before.  It was irregularly shaped and had a strange coloring to it.  Being a child of the internet, I of course did the first thing that every doctor tells you not to do: I googled it.  The results showed that there was a high likelihood I had skin cancer.  That was a few years ago.

Just about everybody has a story of when cancer made a deep impact on their life.  I have two.  The first was when a good friend of mine received the news that she had several forms of cancer that had progressed at an insane rate.  My wife & I had known this person for years so the news was very shocking to say the least.  Time stopped. It was a punch to the gut.

Through a long road of treatment I am glad to say that our friend is now thriving.  The second brush with cancer was when I thought I had it myself.  When I found that spot on my skin life was reoriented for me.  I wasn’t convinced it was cancer so I didn’t tell anyone but my wife. But even the possibility of having cancer had a prioritizing effect on me.  I became more patient with my kids, more thoughtful of how I spent my day… the usual stuff that being reminded of your mortality can bring.

Obviously, having cancer and thinking you have cancer are two very different things.  I am glad to say that my spot turned out to be nothing serious.  Both of my major experiences with cancer turned out to have happy endings for which I’m very grateful but that’s not how a lot of stories end.  That’s why cancer reminds us of our mortality, which forces us to choose what is most important.  We realize that we can’t do it all so we do what matters.  That’s why I’m raising funds to fight cancer… because at the end of the day cancer sucks and finding a cure matters.

I am fascinated by the factors that move people to change in real ways.  I think that’s why I’m attracted to zombie movies.  I’m not so into all the gore that comes with the genre, but I love how these undead creatures have a way of stripping down humanity to it’s core (pun not intended).  In part, I think that’s why The Walking Dead became so popular… in essence it is a story of people trying to survive and who they become in that process.  How do they choose what is most important to them and what do they do to attain or protect it.

Don’t get me wrong… while zombies are interesting to me I am still terrified of them.  When my family is out of town and I’m left all alone I can guarantee that when my head hits the pillow that night I will be trying with all my might to NOT think about zombies.  And I will fail.  However, I often wonder what kind of person would I become in such a flight or fight kind of situation.  How would I defend my children?  What abandoned mansion would I break into and claim as my fortress?  How would I secure food since Chick-Fil-A won’t be open?

All that brings me to this conclusion: there is a certain type of survival that can an foster creativity.  I guess by creativity I am thinking more along the lines of problem solving but there is still a ton of creative thinking involved.  When you are pressed into a corner your brain goes into hyperdrive and searches for a solution unlike when you are sipping a latte at Starbucks.  Not to say that creativity doesn’t happen in moments of luxury, but I want to say that even in moments of survival creativity is present (and we need it to be present).  Creativity is not just about drawing pretty pictures.  It’s about meeting a goal that seems impossible and finding a way to do it that is both surprising and yet completely makes sense.

I recently had an interview for a summer internship.  The deadline for accepting applications had already passed by the time I found the posting, but I called anyway.  I sent e-mails.  I stopped by.  Basically, I became a very enthusiastic but polite stalker.  The result?  I got an interview.  Boom.  Creative problem solving at work.  But wait… that’s not all.  On my way to the interview I looked down at the visual aid I had to illustrate some of my skills and to my horror the first page was totally messed up.  The printing colors had run and digitized so that it looked like I had a zombie on the cover (and not in a good way).  I was minutes from the interview, no time for reprinting… no way out.  My thoughts began racing.  Eventually I decided to ditch the first page which was mostly an introduction about myself and I came up with a more developed introduction that I could pitch to them.  It ended up working out well.  ***Other than the fact that I said I love to look at other web designer’s twits… er, I mean TWEETS!*** 

At the end of the interview I was asked one of those core questions that are supposed to reveal your inner motivations: If money wasn’t a concern, what would you be doing today?  Setting aside the zombies and cancer scares, I looked at my interviewees sitting across the table from me and gave them my honest answer: exactly what I’m doing right now.  I would be pursuing a web design career.  I believe that in becoming a web designer I can be a part of something bigger… something that can improve the world.  And until the zombies come for me I will keep pursuing it.