Make Friends With Strangers
This week on Overtime, Meg and The Futur’s Matthew Encina discuss a new, self-destructing website, how to uncover the unique POV you have to offer the world, and tips for building more meaningful connections with people, both on and offline.
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Links Mentioned In This Episode
Meg: Hey, it’s me, your host Meg “She’s Got Teeny Tiny Hands and a Big Giant Burrito” Lewis, and welcome back to Overtime, Dribbble’s weekly podcast, where I deliver design news—plus, I give you the tips you need to create your best work. And this week we’ve got a very lovely co-host, you might know his face from a butt-ton of videos around the internet. He’s the Chief Content Officer at The Futur, which is a design education company where he teaches and shares what he knows through video content, articles, workshops, and he even speaks on stage – if we ever have stages again. It’s the one and only Matthew Encina. Hi, Matthew, welcome!
Matthew: Hey, Meg. How’s it going?
Meg: Good. Hop into my warm tub of audio goo, come on in. You know what, let’s just dive right into the news. So, the first thing I want to talk about is something that’s a little bit more lighthearted because we deserve it. It’s a website that just launched called, ThisWebsiteWillSelfDestruct.com. And I think it’s pretty adorable right now. And I think it’s very needed right now, because it’s a harmless website, where it’s just a website that claims that it will self-destruct if you don’t leave a message on it within 24 hours. So, it’s a place for you to just write whatever you want to leave a message. And if it goes, you know, 24 hours without anyone leaving a message, it will allegedly self-destruct.
And so, I’ve kind of looked through it and noticed, and you can view the messages, it’ll kind of randomize and shows you one at a time, and the messages were just kind of a slew of all kinds of things. There were a lot of uplifting messages about you know, like, “Oh, we’re all in this together,” “Thinking about you, hope you’re doing well.” And then there were a lot from people that were scared in different ways which felt, you know, real, and I get that. And then there was one that I saw that was like, “My wife is pregnant, and I’m having an affair. Oops.”
Matthew: Yeah, I mean, it’s such a funny website, it reminds me of the internet 1.0 when the internet used to be weird, right? Where each website was its own island, and it wasn’t interconnected to all the social platforms and everything, right? It’s just, it’s its own little island. And it’s an island of weird and when you go there, it’s a self-contained ecosystem. So, this website is very much like that, where you go there, it looks like internet 1.0. And it’s also the combination of kind of like the radio hotlines, right? So, people would call in late at night and then they’d be completely anonymous, and they would tell you about their love life, for instance. And I saw a lot of those when I was just randomizing the messages. You know, “I don’t love my girlfriend anymore. Like, how do I break up with her?” Like, oh my gosh!
Meg: But there’s no one on the other end to help you, I love that. It’s nice to just peek into what is on people’s minds for just a little bit. And I was kind of wondering like, and I think that’s the lovely part of internet 1.0, is we weren’t so worried about like, “Oh, obviously there are lots of bad things that could happen right now, and people could leave hateful messages.” And so, I immediately was like, “How does this person moderate these messages?”
And so of course, yes, that’s where we’re at in 2020 where that’s the initial concern that I had, but at least I feel like they have a button on the website that just says “Feeling down.” And then they give you information on counseling services and hotlines to call just in case. But wow, yeah, I feel like it’s very innocent and I just love it so much. It also reminds me of one of the Cards Against Humanity Black Friday things that they do every year. It just feels like that fun internet. So, I’m just glad that somebody out there, I looked it up and it’s an artist called Femme Android who created this project. And I’m just happy that things like this are still happening. But I’m hoping that now that we have a lot more free time on our hands that more people will create more websites that are like islands, like you said.
Matthew: Yeah, hopefully we get a lot more Meg on the internet because I feel like your persona and your brand, you’ve preserved that quite a bit and you’ve carried that on into what we know as the internet today. So, I truly appreciate that because I don’t think there’s enough weird on the internet nowadays. And I really enjoy seeing those things because it’s so unusual, it’s so lighthearted, and so fun. And it just breaks up the monotony because everybody’s trying to be like everyone else all the time. All the other websites are all trying to be like each other all the time. So, it’s nice to see these islands and people like you who are just so expressive, and we need that right now.
Meg: Yeah, I agree, obviously. Well, I think that you made a really good point of trying to figure out what we can do as individuals that’s different from what other people can do. And I think that exactly falls in line with the second topic that I wanted to cover today, and that’s, you know, we’re seeing a lot of people live streaming, doing Instagram Live, doing videos and giving tutorials, advice of all kinds. And people ask me this question a lot of like, I think we all want to be useful, valuable right now and provide what we can to make the world a better place. And I think a lot of people just get so confused about what they can offer the world, like what topics they specifically are an expert at, and I truly believe that every individual is good or an expert at a few things. But I think that people really struggle to know what they have to offer, like what are their things? Do you have any advice for people that are looking to figure out what they can give advice about as an expert?
Matthew: Yeah, absolutely, and I struggled with this a long time ago when I first started creating YouTube videos and content back in 2014. My boss, Chris Do, asked me to be on our channel, The Futurs, like, “Okay, I want you to go teach something or share something.” And I was like, “What do I have to teach? Nobody cares what I have to say, I’m not you. I’m not that person.” He was like, “No, no, no, you know what? You’re quite special. You’re just taking it all for granted. You think that the things that you do every day, you take it for granted, but somebody values that and you just don’t know it yet.” All of the time and money that I’ve invested into learning things are the things that have been quite valuable to other people. So, what did I go to school for? Graphic design, motion design, advertising, branding, these are the things that I studied. Where have I invested dozens or hundreds of hours studying, either in books or watching content or other things? That’s also valuable to other people. What do people ask me for all the time? Because I believe everybody is the go-to for something, right? In your friend’s circle, “Oh, you know, Meg is the designer in the group, like I would love her to design my wedding invitations,” for instance, right? You’re the go-to for something. So, what is that? What do people always ask you for?
Meg: Yeah, I think too, I’ve noticed for me, I always kind of assess and make note of whenever I’m having conversations with someone and I say something that seems so obvious to me, but they have that reaction of, “I never thought of it that way before.” And whenever that happens in a conversation with me, I always jot down what I said, because clearly, it’s something that comes naturally to my brain that does not come naturally to somebody else’s brain. So I always, you know, I like to encourage people to kind of keep track of when that happens, so that they can kind of, you know, slowly realize what they have to offer because, like you said, taking it for granted is so easy. You’re inside your own brain all the time, so it’s so hard sometimes to realize what makes you so special. But I also think there’s a difference between hard skills, the things that you either may be naturally good at, or the things you’ve learned, and just having a unique perspective. I think those are two areas that you can assess to see if you have something special to offer the world.
Because when it comes to design work, I don’t find myself to be that, like, I always think I’m not that talented. Like, there are specific things that I’m good at, but it’s hard for me to identify what those are a little bit more than the things in my life that are perspective based, like the notions that I have in my head about being a human and in this world, and so I always find perspective topics a little bit easier for me to offer to the world as an expertise than skill based ones. But I think it’s important for everybody to think about both of those categories when they’re trying to assess what they could offer.
Matthew: Absolutely. And I want to say that everyone has their own unique POV and the more that they can articulate and embrace that voice, as you always encourage on all the things you do, Meg, those are the things that are interesting to hear, because all of us are quite different. None of us are exactly the same. And the more we can offer those perspectives; I think it helps other people see things in different ways. Because when you’re in your situation, and you’re stuck, it’s because you’re looking at one situation from one perspective. But when you get another perspective, and another perspective, and another perspective, it helps you see the full picture a lot better. And then you can step back and say, “Oh, I’ve been approaching it wrong. Here’s another way of doing it.”
Meg: The system for creative people is broken. It puts algorithms over ideas, quantity over quality, what’s easiest to sell over what’s good. You know, money, brands, and just about everything else over the people who actually make the things, and people just say that’s the way it is. Well, Patreon says screw that, and here’s a wild idea: let’s put creativity over everything. Because they’re your ideas. It’s your work that captivates audiences, inspires conversation, and builds community. So, it’s time to ditch the old ways and let your fans give you the freedom and stability you need to do your best creative work. It’s not rocket science, it’s just way better. Visit CreativityOverEverything.com and see how Patreon can help you do your best creative work with the direct support of your fans.
Meg: So, I was very excited, specifically to talk to you about this because I know that you’ve worked with probably hundreds of people face to face at this point, from your experience being a creative director to being a front facing personality that has to give advice all the time. So, you are naturally, definitely an expert on building wonderful connections, whether it’s client connections or communication with clients or whether it’s just networking, if I could use that word. So, I want to talk a little bit about what you and I have both done wrong in the past, because I think that that’s a wonderful place to start, and what we’ve learned and where we’re at now.
So, I’ve been a freelancer my whole career and have always worked with clients. And at the beginning, since I never had a job or an example to go on, I just kind of made up everything as I went. And at the beginning, for the first few years I was freelancing, I was making some mistakes with client communication. And most of the mistakes were just about not being transparent enough about the design process or what working with me was like, because I was scared for so many reasons. I was, you know, scared that they could tell that I didn’t know what I was doing. Or I was scared that I would scare them away with my personality, whatever, all these things that I’m not afraid to do now. But at the time, it was so scary for me, so I just wasn’t transparent and then they get confused or they’d asked me for stuff that wasn’t in the scope. But it wasn’t their fault. It was my fault for not communicating what was going to happen to them.
But I was also just not being honest enough about why working with me was unique and amazing and different from working with other designers. I was doing that thing where I was just studying the way other designers might do something and I was just emulating that because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. But then it kind of left me with a client relationship where I wasn’t getting respect that much because I was, you know, not doing something very authentically. And so that was just a bummer. And then when it came to meeting other designers or making connections in the design industry, I just wasn’t sure how to approach it because I was really intimidated or jealous or scared of talking to people. And I knew I was supposed to be networking, but I didn’t know how because the word networking sounded so scary to me. So, there was a lot I was doing wrong. What kinds of stuff have you done wrong before?
Matthew: Oh, a lot on both fronts. And I kind of see those as two different things. At the bottom, or at the baseline, it’s all about human connections, right? But working specifically with clients, I always thought that the best idea wins, and I put all of my energy into that. So, in the early days when I was a young creative director, I would spend all my time invested on the idea, meaning like, “What does it look like visually? Like, how are we going to animate or create this thing?” And I was so focused on that, and I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture, which is, “How does this solve a real business need for the company, the client that I’m working for?” So that was one thing that I was I was not really focused on.
The other thing, too, is my storytelling. Storytelling, I think, has so much to do with how you present your ideas. So, in the past, when I would be on client calls, my vocabulary was so limited. I don’t know why. I think the perception in my head is, “Oh, I have to be the guy that has all the smart ideas in the room. I have to have all the answers, and whenever it’s my turn to speak, I better say something brilliant.” But that pressure on me made me just stuck in my head and not really listening to the conversation. And what came out of my mouth was like, “Oh, cool, rad. Oh, yeah, that’s cool.” And then that’s it. You know, it’s like I would freeze up, deer in the headlights when it’s my turn to speak. Over time, I changed that. You know, nobody expects you to have the answer. And if you could forgive yourself and say, “Look, I’m here to do my best to listen, understand what your challenges are, and offer my recommendations if I have any or kick it until later, if I don’t have the answer right now.” Just be present. And allow yourself to take the time to digest the information before you speak.
Meg: That’s a really good thought and I totally agree with slowing down and listening and being honest if you don’t have an answer. That is something I’ve learned over the years and I am totally happy now to just say I will find out and get back to you.
Matthew: Absolutely, it’s okay. And we might have the answer later and you could follow up with that, and that’s totally okay. Nobody expects you to be 100% all the time.
So, the other part that you were talking about, in terms of networking, networking is its own different beast. And I think it’s got a bad rap. That’s just a term for it. And our judgement of it is just what we place on there, right? Networking is not a bad thing, but I think the issue that I had, and I think which many people struggle with when they go to a networking event, or they’re around other people they should be making connections with, they’re so focused on making a sale. Meaning, “Oh, who am I going to meet and how can I offer my services to them,” and that’s how they approach it. That’s their lens when they look at it.
But the thing that I found is, let’s just make a human connection here. Let’s be genuinely curious about the other people in the room. Let’s have nice conversations on a human level. And my only goal is to connect with just one or two people at an event. I’m not trying to, “Okay, I’m spending two minutes with each person.” Like, that’s so silly to me. It’s like, I’m just like, whoever’s next to me, I’m just going talk to them because every person is interesting. Every person has something of value to give, whether that’s monetary or not, for your career or not. I think most people are approaching it the wrong way and they’re trying to make a sale. So, I think that for any kind of networking, just stop being transactional. And just start looking to make a genuine human connection because you never know who you’re going to meet.
Meg: I think as creatives, a lot of us don’t want to be the suit wearing-person. That’s why we got into this industry: because we’re like, cool, casual all the time. “At our conferences, we have beer, we’re cool.” And so, of course the word “networking,” and the stigma and all that it brings with, you know, in our imaginations of what networking means, doesn’t fit with our vision of what a designer or creative is. So, for me that word is so gross, but it means, you know, we’ve just, as an industry, have sort of redefined what that word means. And I love that.
And I think truly that most of the more successful creatives that I know treat networking the way that you and I do, where they’re just, they’re in it. They’re in this industry to make friends. And we have wonderful jobs, and we’re so privileged and lucky to be in this industry. And it’s a wonderful thing to be able to go out and make friends with people you have something in common with. What I like to do is ask people what their dream projects are, or what they really want to be doing, what they love doing when I’m hanging out with them. And that way, in the back of my head, it’s always there. So that way, if a client approaches me for a project I don’t want to work on, but I met that person like three years ago at that one conference that one time that would have loved this, I reach out to them and I say, “Here’s this awesome project, do you want it?”
Matthew: And I think there are ways to contextualize things, too. I mean, you don’t have to have a big conversation about everything and anything, right? Like, some people are good at that, they have the gift of gab and they can just do the small talk. And they make things so interesting. I’m not great at that, so for me, I like to contextualize based off of the context. So, if I met someone at an event, then I might ask about the event, something that they really enjoyed. If they are a potential client that maybe I might want to work with, like, let’s say if Dropbox has a booth at Adobe MAX, I might approach them and talk about, you know, “How has the convention been going? Has this booth actually lined up with your goals and the things you were seeking to accomplish? What do you see as a gap in your potential users’ lives?” Just having a conversation about their business too, where I’m not trying to make a sale about anything, but I’m genuinely curious. “Did this effort line up with your expectation and goal?”
In that conversation, like you mentioned earlier, Meg, they might say, “Huh, I never thought about it that way. Hmm. Thanks for pointing that out. Thanks for sharing that insight. Nobody’s asked about it that way. We’ve been in a whirlwind just trying to get this thing going here.” So, contextualizing the conversation might help steer it in an interesting way and just being present and listening and asking good questions might unravel some great talking points that you didn’t have before you met them.
Meg: That’s true. And I love your concept of, you are essentially approaching them and giving them a peek inside of your brain. And so hopefully, whenever you leave, they’re like, “Who was that guy? And then they look you up and then they follow you, and then they remember you.”
Matthew: And you know, I’m not saying that I’m really good at networking, I’m still much of a wallflower. I’m very introverted and giving my energy to other people does take a lot out of me. And you know, I still get quite shy in certain situations where I feel like the odd duck in the room. So, for me, what’s been very helpful, and I just want to offer this to other people who might be listening and struggling with just opening up those conversations is, in every engagement that I run into now, whether it’s the delivery person who’s coming to my door to drop off food, or the person at the cash register when I’m paying for my coffee, I always look for one genuine compliment to that person. That could just be the end of it and you could walk away, and you know that you made somebody’s day a little bit brighter. And the more you practice that, the more you realize, “Oh, people aren’t that mean, people are actually pretty nice if you approach them the right way.” And that starts to build confidence. For me, after doing that all the time, now I feel a bit more comfortable approaching strangers and sparking up a conversation based off of something that I observe, or something that I can complement them on. Especially if it’s something that stands out, like their wardrobe. People dress up a certain way to express themselves, right? If they have really cool sneakers on, it’s like, “Whoa, what are those sneakers? Please tell me. Where did you get those?” And then the story behind it because they care, and they put effort there.
Meg: I’m so bad at complimenting people, I get so embarrassed. And then I’m just like, “Oh, this is too… I can’t. Oh gosh,” which is just so silly. How do we move forward with networking, complimenting people, becoming friends with other creatives or other people in our industry now that we can’t be in person? How do we use the internet to do this?
Matthew: Yeah, you know, I think I approach online relationships the same way I do in-person relationships, which is look for something to be genuinely curious or complimentary about. If somebody is posting something or if they’re posting a story where they’re showing a slice of their life or they’re posting work, what is one genuine thing that you get excited about when you see that and can complement them on?
And usually, I do that if there’s somebody that I see their work, I might DM them. And most of the time, they respond to it, especially if it’s something genuine. The problem is, again, people try to be transactional. So, maybe half of my DMS are this way: “Hey, I like your work. Can you review my portfolio?” And it’s like, “Well, cool, thanks. But you realize you’re taking the most valuable thing away from me right now? You’re requesting the most valuable thing away from me right now, which is my time.” If you’re asking me to spend, you know, 15, 20, 30 minutes chatting with you about your portfolio, which I’m happy to do with people I actually like and know, right? But the more successful people that have approached me, because I respond to everything on my DMS, I’m very approachable, usually when people just genuinely compliment something that I’ve posted or a story then all of a sudden, we start a conversation. And then guess what, three years later, we’re still talking. And I’ve never met some of these people in real life. It’s just looking for those moments where you’re starting a conversation. It’s like, what can you add to that conversation? What genuine curiosity do you have about that person? And if you can appeal to that, most people tend to open up, especially if they’re social on social media.
Meg: Totally, exactly. That’s such a great approach because I think that we all get in our own heads in so many ways, and we prevent ourselves from doing and taking action. And I know for me, I don’t DM people with a lot of followers because I’m like, I get in my own head. And I’m like, “Oh, they don’t have time for me,” you know, like you second guess everything. And I get a lot of DM’s from people that are like, they apologize immediately. They’re just like, “I’m so sorry to bother you, you probably won’t even see this or even respond. So, don’t even worry about it in case you’re busy.” And then they get into the thing, and then that just makes me feel so bad. Like, they think I’m a diva. And then of course I’ll respond. So yeah, it’s really interesting, but I think like, my advice is always to, for everybody to just stop getting in their own way. So, in those areas, just kind of assess your thoughts as you’re thinking about having conversations with people, you might be a little intimidated to have conversations with. And think about what you’re doing that’s stopping you from doing it and how silly that is. Like, the negative outcome that you have in your head is probably not going to happen. And if it does, it’s not really that big of a deal.
Matthew: Yeah, and I think taking it slow. So again, real life situations, conversations, you don’t try to have the whole conversation by yourself and then a talk for 30 minutes straight and be like, “Okay, now it’s your turn to talk,” right? And I think a lot of people approach DM’s the same way too, where they’ll write pages and pages and tell you their whole life story where it’s like, “Shoot, this is intimidating for me.” This DM, it’s short, it’s a conversation, like, “Hey, what’s up? I like this post. Oh, I love that poster, where’d you get it?” Pause, hold. Don’t try to have the rest of the conversation there. I think that’s a mistake that a lot of people do where it’s like they just try to tell you everything all at once, and they’re not giving the other person a chance to respond, and then start to build up the rapport and the flow of actual conversation. People treat it differently, like it’s an email. It’s like, no, it’s not an email. It’s a conversation.
Meg: Yeah, okay. This is so inspiring to me because I asked you and you answer my question so well, of how we can continue to network in this time where we can’t be with anybody in person. And it’s like, taking the wonderful in-person aspects of what makes successful networking and creating connections great, and moving them into social media. And that’s all about having an actual back and forth human conversation.
So, I think we’re out of time. Thank you so much for being here, Matthew. How can our listeners find you on the internet?
Matthew: You can find me on all the socials at @MatthewEncina, one word, MatthewEncinca.com, and then if you want to look up our content, you can look us up on The Futur Is Here on YouTube and all of the other platforms as well.
Meg: Awesome, thank you.
Matthew: Alright, thank you.
Meg: And that’s it for this episode, technically, of Overtime. But I have so much more I want to tell you and it’s all about me. Ah, let me talk about myself for a little bit. I changed so much about myself the past week: I changed my social media handles, I changed my website URL, I launched an online class… Oh my gosh, so much is happening. But now if you want to find me on the internet, I’m at @YourBuddyMeg and my URL is MegLewis.com. Yes! I finally got MegLewis.com. It is a very big deal for me. It was just available, it’s magic. You should check yourname.com and see if it’s available now too. Who knows, maybe it is. And if you want to keep the conversation flowing on the internet about this podcast, the hashtag is #DribbbleOvertime or head to Dribbble.com/Overtime to check out all the episodes. And of course, like and subscribe to the podcast anywhere you listen to a podcast. I guess you can’t really like podcasts, can you? That’s more of a YouTube thing. Yeah, subscribe, listen, you know, try to go outside for a walk, or don’t stay inside forever. Your choice, whatever makes you feel fulfilled, as long as you’re not touching other people.
But we’re going to leave you on a message from a hotline caller. And you know what? Last episode, I begged you to call the hotline, and it worked. We got a handful of calls, and they’re all amazing. And I love each and every one of them. So, I’m going to leave you on a hotline call. But if you want to know what the number is, it’s 1-833-DEZIGNZ. And I’m getting a lot of questions for people who don’t know how to dial numbers. Great question. So, there’s a thing called a phone. You know how your phone is called a smartphone? There’s a phone app on there where you dial numbers, and if you look on the keypad, there are letters under each number. Yeah, call the number 1-833-DEZIGNZ. 1-833-DEZIGNZ, spelled weird with some “z’s,” and leave us a voicemail giving me some feedback, some helpful information. Let me know what’s on your mind. Are you worried? Are you scared? Are you happy? Do you feel weird? Is there just something swirling around in your head? Do you have an embarrassing story, embarrassing design question? It can be anonymous, and no one will answer when you call the phone number. So, take it away caller who has some helpful things to offer on what I was saying in the last episode about videos on Instagram versus YouTube versus TikTok. Take it away!
Caller: For my content, my creativity is more on the video side, so I do have a little bit more experience with content creating with graphics and video and stuff like that. And you hit the nail on the head pretty much. Instagram, you want to keep it clean, simple, direct, authentic, real, because usually Instagram people go on there to try to find that connection. So, if you have super high dollar production, crazy edits, like yeah, you might get some people that are into that stuff like that. Like, they’re into higher quality film, but most people are not. They don’t really care for that.
YouTube, on the other hand, is exactly pretty much what you said, the opposite. So, you want to have more professional quality because people are going on there to learn something, to gain knowledge, take away something from what you’re putting out there. So yeah, they’re going to want to see higher production value out of that.
And then other things like TikTok; I’m scared of TikTok, but I know I need to get on there and suck it up and just learn how to do it because that’s the younger generation thing. Like that’s just cutting yourself off to one more audience. So, being as versatile as you can, not putting all your eggs in one basket – yeah, if you have a general like skill, maybe focus on that for the time being to work on that, but then once you’ve got that, expand yourself. And you’re exactly right: this is the time where we need to be doing that because it’s the only time we’re going to have to do it.
Meg: Ah, yes. Thanks, caller! That was amazing and so insightful and helpful. And thank you all for listening. Bye! hear me next week.