Episode 90

Work Hard & Be Nuanced on the Internet

This week on Overtime, we discuss why nuanced thinking is important in design and how to start eliminating binary thoughts from your head! Plus, why telling you to study and emulate what successful people do is probably not the most helpful advice. Then, we talk all about taking creative control amidst the chaos of 2020.

Two opposing truths can exist. I can love the heck out of nachos, but I can also admit that my organs would be better off without nachos.

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Meg: Well hidey ho, my buddy! You know what? My voice is just streaming right into your ear holes right now and I’m, like, going through your canal into your brain and it’s just looking beautiful. The inside of your head and ears is just, I’ve never heard and seen something so perfect in my life (laughs). I don’t know where this is going.

Hi, it’s me, your host Meg “Ear Canal Lover, Apparently” Lewis, and hi, welcome back to Overtime. As you know, this is Dribbble’s weekly podcast where I give you some design things and also more things and other things and some more helpful things that help you make your very best things. So, this week on Overtime, everything is so nuanced and two opposing things can be so true at the same time. Plus, why telling you to study what successful people do and just emulate that is probably not the most helpful advice. And, oh yes, and creative with what you can control in 2020. This is going to be such a good episode, so let’s go!

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Alright, let’s bop right on into the news today. So, somebody that I follow on Instagram, Amalia Nicholson, Amalia is a producer living in LA. Absolutely excellent follow, highly recommend following Amalia. If you want to follow Amalia, it’s @amalianicholson. So, she posted this incredibly wonderful video where she outlined something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, and her video was a lot about thinking critically and critiquing things and how critique isn’t always a bad thing, it’s not usually necessarily a negative, bad thing. We should be critiquing very often, we should be critiquing everything and questioning everything and thinking about things carefully and with care. And I love that because a lot of the video was about [how] thought should be nuanced. It should not be binary; it should not be black and white. This is not how the world works. There are very few things in humanity that are binary, that are black and white, yes or no, good or evil. Everything is a little bit in between because everything that we think about, everything that we do on this planet is so nuanced, and so complex.

And so, Amalia’s video got me thinking a lot about this, and what I want to say in relation to design and in relation to it the way that I think a lot of designers think. So, again, on the internet, a lot of times, you know, a lot of the topics that I discuss on this podcast, things that we’re thinking about critically, I think on the internet, we don’t often get the best opportunity to give nuanced thought. So, especially when it comes to Twitter, and we only have a certain amount of characters even with threads, we don’t get the opportunity very often to think in that nuanced fashion of really exploring topics at a great depth and to be very critical and question everything. We only have a certain amount of characters, with Twitter specifically, but when we get to Instagram and design elements, we often hardly have enough space because, especially when it comes to Instagram, a lot of what happens is we get inspiring quote posts or just inspiring posts that have three or four words, or maybe if you’re lucky, you get a whole sentence to show visually with graphics, and even that’s very rare. Usually we have, like, three, four, or five words that we get to say.

And I think a really good example of this is Anthony Burrill’s “Work Hard and Be Nice to People.” Okay. So, it’s very hard to communicate a nuanced thought with how many words do we have here? Work hard and be nice to people? 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. That’s not enough words to communicate this nuanced topic. So of course, the way that people critically look at this phrase, a phrase like this, this is like, “Work hard. How dare you tell me that I should work hard? What? For capitalism and to be a part of society in that way? How dare you? And be nice to people? Niceness is overrated. Being kind is more important than being nice and being nice is surface level, and that’s just terrible nowadays.” And so, we could ultimately critique every single part of this phrase in the statement that Anthony is making. But let’s not go there for a second. Let’s think about the nuance in this. The nuance is that of course, everyone knows that the blanket phrase of working hard and being nice to people is not enough. That’s not okay 100% because the world is not binary. It’s not a yes, do this and no, don’t do that. That’s not how this works. But if we’re thinking in nuanced thought and thinking critically, we have to think about when it is okay to have this mindset versus when is it not okay to have this mindset. Yes, if you’re somebody who really needs the reminder to work hard and to be nice to people at the same time and you want to have this poster above your desk, by all means, go for it. But that does not mean that there’s not room for the critical argument against this thinking because this thinking is harmful in many ways. But it’s also good in many ways.

Remember, there’s not anything in this world that is 100% good, or 100% evil. Every single person, every person in this world is a little bit bad and a little bit good. Everything we do is both good and bad at the same time, two things can be true at once that are opposing things. So, whenever we’re critiquing things, looking critically at things, remember that the ideal thing here is to not shut something down, judge it right away, put it in its box, and just walk away. That’s lazy. It’s lazy to make a snap judgment and move on about something. It’s lazy to just assign a label to something and put it in a box in your mind and close that box forever. So, what we should be doing, and I think as designers, we’re in this beautiful spot where we get to do this professionally, we get paid to do this, is to be critical about these things. Think about them greatly, you know, question everything, ask yourself, “What’s happening? Why am I thinking this about this thing? What’s happening that’s good about this, what’s happening that’s bad about this?” Because every single thing on this planet is both good and bad. This is a spectrum. Nothing really is binary.

So, I think that’s a beautiful, leveled up approach is to remember that there is nuance with every single topic, everything we talk about, everything we critique, we should always be in our heads questioning everything we’re thinking, every decision that we make, everything that we do, because nothing is ever perfect. Nothing is 100% good. Everything that I say on this podcast is 100% right all the time. It’s not always good. I’m not always good. There’s a little bit of me that’s evil. Sure, there is, no one is perfect, remember that. So, leave room in your brain for that spectrum of truth and don’t shut something down immediately. And that’s the beauty, because remember: two opposing truths can exist. Two things can be true and totally the opposite at the same time. Yes, a big plate of nachos is delicious. But also, it’s bad for me. Those two things are true. And I can love the heck out of nachos, but I can also admit that I’d probably be better off physically, my organs would be better off without nachos. Ah, yes. Two things are true, right? Okay.

So, as you go through today, kind of practice this nuanced thinking, practice questioning things, and practice eliminating binary thought from your head. So, as soon as you start to make a snap judgment about something, realize, “Okay, but wait a minute, let me think further. Let me go beyond that snap judgment and think through this nuanced topic and subject, and think how I can go further and be more critical of how I think about this?” You don’t necessarily need to be public facing about your nuanced thought right away, just kind of assess things in your head. We’re doing a lot this year of that, right? We’re assessing what we’re thinking in our head, the decisions we make, and the thoughts that we have, and that’s good. So, start there, start with your internal thoughts, and then we’ll move on forward and we’ll create interesting discussions on the internet that are public facing, we’ll write those blog posts or those medium posts, articles, ooh, tweets, Instagram captions. Oh, yeah. Ooh, books. Ah, okay. Now I’m just listing things. Alright, let’s move on.

Meg: So, if you tuned into last week’s episode of the podcast, you heard Adé Hogue critiquing the heck out of Bojangles’ new logo design. So, it was hilarious, and we had a great time. But I keep thinking about something that Adé said, and it was when he was critiquing Bojangles and how Bojangles probably redesigned their spaces, redesigned their brand, because of the success and popularity in the recent year of Popeye’s, and how Bojangles was probably just struggling to keep up and stay relevant and they probably had a meeting internally of like, “Oh, no, Popeyes is doing so well. How do we also do this well? How do we do this too?” And because of that thinking and that mindset, that they just became more like Popeyes. And then with the redesign and everything, [they] lost the magic that Bojangles originally had, because now they just look like a muddled version of Popeyes.

And that’s so fascinating to me because I think that happens to us all the freakin’ time. So, we are taught very early when we’re in school, when we’re kids and teens, to study what successful people do and just emulate that. So, make note, if something’s working for somebody else and say, “Wow, that’s working really well for them,” and then do that thing because it’s proven to be successful and it works. And we’re taught that so quickly. And every day we hear advice like that, right? And so that’s really dangerous, because that’s exactly what happened to Bojangles, and look at that? And, honestly, like, do you want to be like Bojangles? Do you want to just study the Popeyes of your industry and just do what they’re doing? And then you end up being just a muddled version of that? No, of course not.

So, the advice that I’d give here, which is what really works very well for me, because thinking back to my whole career, every decision that I’ve made that I wish I hadn’t made that way, was because I studied what someone who was successful was doing and I just emulated that. So, what I’ve learned is to study, study, study, keep studying what successful people do, learn from them, and make sure that you’re studying a broad range of types of successful people that are doing things similarly or differently to what you’re doing. So that way you have a 360-degree view of what all the successful people are doing that are doing kind of a thing that you want to be doing. And rather than just copying what they do, emulating what they do, or getting inspired by what they’re doing, assess what they’re doing, and think internally about, “Does this feel right for you? Does this point of view, is the way that they’re going about it feel like it would work for you?” You have an incredibly beautiful sense of intuition; you have a gut feeling of what you think will work for you and what will not. So, if your gut is telling you that something, even though it works for somebody else, or might work for everybody else, does that work for you? Will it work for you? Does it feel right for you to do it that way? If your gut is telling you no, follow that. You know yourself and what will work for you better than anybody possibly could. So, if somebody is giving you advice, or telling you to do something in a certain way, and you know in your heart and in your little brain that it’s not going to work for you, then do not follow that advice. It is okay to nod along and listen to somebody giving advice to you, like me right now, and know that that advice is not going to work for you and just don’t take it and that’s okay.

So, I think that’s very important here because if we keep it up with this mindset, if we keep going with this notion of studying what successful people do and just doing that, then we’re going to keep repeating the same problematic pattern of just conforming and everybody doing the same thing and being the same person, and ahhh, that’s exhausting. We don’t want that, that’s not the world we want to live in. We want to live in a world, I hope, maybe you disagree with me, that’s okay, I want to live in a world where we are all thriving, doing our own thing, having our own perspectives on the world and shouting that 100%. So that way, everyone is sort of ingesting a 360-degree view of perspectives and interesting outlooks on the world that will expand our worldviews together, rather than getting the same perspective over and over again. And then that way, we just kind of get brainwashed into having this same homogenous view of the world.

So, that little tangent is to say that rather than studying what the Popeyes’ of the world are doing and emulating that and being your own version of Popeyes, this like second rate version, why don’t you try and figure out what your unique perspectives are in the world? What can you offer the world that nobody else can? What is your own beautiful, original Bojangles niche that you can create for yourself, so that way, whenever you project yourself out into the world, people find it to be refreshing? Because you’re doing something that’s unlike anybody else. And you have something that you can offer the world that nobody else can. How can you figure out what that is? And whenever you’re studying what other successful people are doing, how can you maybe learn from them and apply it to your own practice in a way that’s unique to you that’s not copying or emulating what they’re doing in any sort of way? Okay?

So, I think about this all the time, myself, whenever I’m studying what people in these weird areas that I get into are doing and, you know, like, for me, I have this mindfulness podcast and studying what a lot of other mindfulness people do is really interesting because I definitely don’t want to do what they’re doing because my mindfulness content is comedic. So, I can’t possibly do what they’re doing. But there are a lot of mindfulness tricks and patterns and things that I know are successful, they work. So, I try to bring in those things every so often because I want my mindfulness content to be useful still, even though it’s funny, I still want it to make people feel like they’re in a better place than before they started listening. So, I’ll study what successful people do in that regard and try to learn what the traditional mindfulness steps are that seem to resonate with people, the patterns that definitely are proven to work, and how can I maybe inject some of those patterns into what I do. But whenever I inject it into what I do, the ultimate outward product is so unique to me and to what I can offer the world that it certainly 100% does not feel like I’m copying anybody else, or emulating what anybody else is doing because I’m doing it in a way that is original and unique to me. So, there is, again, a nuanced balance here of figuring out what works for you and doing it in a way that is ultimately right and feels right for you. And you can find a way to do something in a way that’s totally unlike anybody else, which I think is really neat. So, as you go on through the rest of this week, try and figure that out. Like, whenever people shout advice at you, like I’m doing right now, listen to your intuition as you hear that advice. And know that just because somebody with a loud voice that seems very confident about what they’re saying is saying it to you as though you should take their advice, you don’t have to. You don’t have to; you can do whatever you want. This is your life. And listen to your gut reaction, listen to your intuition, because you know yourself better than anybody else does.

Meg: Okay, hey you, is 2020 not going as you planned? Do you remember in 2019 where we were like, “Oh, god, this year is terrible! I can’t wait for a refreshing start of 2020.” And then January and February happened, and we were like, “Yeah, this feels refreshing, just as I had hoped, and everything’s going okay!” And then everything went to hell. Yeah. And okay, it’s been about five, a little over five months now, since we’ve all been sort of inside and following rules, I hope, and wearing our masks and all of that and not touching strangers, and I just want to touch strangers and I can’t.

Okay, so I think the nice thing is that we’ve we’re getting more comfortable following these rules, it’s becoming more normalized. And I think towards the beginning, you know, we all know this is temporary, but I think over time, we’ve realized that it’s a longer temporary than we had originally hoped it would be. So, at the beginning, I think we were like, “This will pass, I’ll just wait.” And now we’re luckily, I think this is a good thing, we’re realizing that this is going to take a while to pass. So, now we’re getting more comfortable with the new normal, which is great. So, I think it feels more comfortable for me because the biggest thing is that I’m gathering control again. And I think at the beginning, it was really scary and rough because we were all feeling so much out of control, and I know we still are greatly, right?

We are not very much in control compared to how we usually are, right? So, we definitely all deserve to feel in control of our own lives, and because of things that are happening, this is just part of life in general, sometimes we’re not in control as much as we’d like to be. So, what I’m focusing on now in determining this new normal and finding this new normal, is finding areas that I can control and really focusing on that. And for me, and for you, I think a lot of us are in control of what we can create from our home environment. So, we can’t travel anymore, we can’t get out anymore, the same way that we could before of course, and so we have to figure out what some creative ways we can utilize what we have, what we can control, what we can utilize are, and for me, and for you too maybe, savings isn’t there. So if you’re trying to utilize, “Okay, I’m at home, what can I do at home? Oh, I can take photos or you know, create a new video series, or start a new podcast,” and then you realize, okay, but that’s going to require a lot of tools and equipment and I don’t have the money to pay for that.

So, then you have to go even further, what can you control utilizing what you already have? And that’s where I’m really focusing now, because I don’t have the savings to buy all this new equipment to create all this new stuff and create all these new businesses that require a bunch of overhead. So, I’m trying to think, looking around my room, what can I control? What can I do and create? Like, how can I actually make money with what I currently have with the tools and the software I have already at my disposal? And there’s a lot, there’s a lot that I can do, there’s a lot that you can do as well. So, for me, it’s just getting really creative with my skill set, what I can offer the world, my personality, and the tools at my disposal. So, a lot of that means just thinking very much outside of the box that I’ve put myself into, thinking beyond the realm of possibility for myself and getting really creative. So, some things, and I’m sure if you follow me or you listen to this podcast regularly, you’re noticing me play with a lot of things and have fun and get creative with how I make money and how I define my career and what I’m doing with my time. Because remember, there’s this fine balance you have to find, especially if you’re self-employed like me, and you don’t have an employer that’s paying you a salary, you have to get really creative with how you make money, and you have to find that balance of stability and strategic play.

So for me, that balance is crucial because I have a lot of bills, I got a lot of student debt, we’ve got to make money, we’ve just got to keep churning that cash so that I can be an active part of society, and you know, feel fulfilled as a human because, unfortunately, money is important in our society, of course, you know this, I know this. So, for me, I had to get really creative with that balance of finding the stability, findi ng those clients, they are hard to find right now, but working hard, asking for help, reaching out to people, saying, “Hello, I need work. Do you have any work?” I’m not afraid to do that. So, finding the balance of stability, finding those paying clients, those paying opportunities. For me, the clients are very hard to find right now. I’m still really struggling with that.

So, for me, whenever I can’t find clients, it’s really scary when you have to rely on clients bringing you work in order to survive. So, now I’ve tried to find other areas utilizing the tools I have available to just teach classes really quickly, to offer these find your personal style classes that I’m doing, because I know that people will pay me immediately for those services and for that class. So, for me, I have done livestream classes where I’m streaming the lectures live or I’m recording them ahead of time with my computer camera, all of that. I don’t have a nice camera, so I can’t make my own video series right now. I can’t do a video online course because I don’t have a nice camera. I don’t have the equipment for that. So, I’m doing it in a way that I can control. And it gives me money and stability immediately, okay?

I’m also getting creative with everything else that I do in order to make money, in order to make passive income, in order to have streams of cash coming into me in ways that I can control. So, for me, as you probably can tell, I have a nice microphone that I use to record my podcasts with that is a piece of equipment that I already own. So, I had to think, “Okay, how else can I make actual money utilizing this device that I have already?” So, rather than putting money into something to get money eventually, I can’t do that, I can’t afford that, I have to make money immediately utilizing something I already have. And that for me is this microphone.

So, then I found an audio course learning platform. So, we know that I have this content that I could teach to people and get money from, so how can I take the content and take the fact that I have a microphone and make money from that, and that way I found a platform called Knowable, which is an audio only learning platform. So, if you like podcasts, you’re going to love learning from Knowable because you know you love things popping into your ear holes. So, Knowable was perfect for me because I already had the microphone, I already have the course content, so I just popped up my course for finding your personal style on Knowable because it was utilizing everything I already have. And now, people can pay to take that course and it’s absolutely amazing. And it was a quick way for me to make some money and also make the world a better place and help people at the same time.

So, you’ve got to get creative with what you already have and what you can do for the world and how you can make money. And it’s not exactly what I was assuming would happen for myself this year, but it’s been great, and maybe I wouldn’t have found this thing otherwise. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do this for myself and get in this headspace of thinking creatively in this regard.

So, quick pitch, if you want to find the class on Knowable, I should probably mention this. I’m so bad at selling myself. The class is “Find Your Personal Style” on Knowable, which the URL is, they have an app and I have an interactive workbook that you work through while you’re taking the audio course. It is really fun. And I have a 25% off promo code that they gave me which is pretty great. So, you can enter in the promo code Meg-Lewis, Meg hyphen Lewis, whenever you’re checking out and you could have 25% off my class and also any other course on Knowable, which is pretty cool.

Okay, moving on past the sales pitch. We’re trying to find the balance here of stability with strategic play. So, the strategic play portion is how you can explore who you are and have fun trying to figure out where you want to go in your career and in your life. So that way, you can explore that and be curious about that, but also try to work towards getting paid for those things later on eventually. So, for me, a lot of the strategic play I’ve been doing this year is I’m trying to get my voice known a little bit more in this sort of performance and comedy space. So, in order to do that, I strategically had fun making my comedy mindfulness podcast. But I also just launched last week a new additional thing that helps me get known for this content called “Sit There and Eat Something,” which is my new live stream where I eat carryout from a different American casual dining chain live on air. It’s so niche, so specific, I had my first one last Thursday, I’m going to do it every other Thursday. I started with Olive Garden and I think I have Chili’s next and then Outback Steakhouse, I’m going to start having guests, that’s going to be really fun. And that is so niche and so specific to me. Something that just feels so fun and fulfilling and playful, and it’s just so exciting for me to do, and yet it helps to solidify my voice in this weird niche area.

And so, the goal here is to have fun and be playful and curious and get my career moving in an area that I’m really excited about. But it’s also strategic because I’m doing that because I’m hoping that eventually it’ll make me money. Like, maybe there’s brand sponsorship capabilities, you know, maybe you know, like all these chain restaurants, maybe Papa John’s, or somebody, I don’t know, Papa John’s? I don’t know. Maybe Ruby Tuesday’s will pay me eventually to eat their food. Probably not. It’s a stretch, but we’ll see, maybe. But then it also just helps to solidify my voice in this comedy and weirdness space that will ultimately lead to people paying me to do something similar down the road. And this, I do this and I know this is true, because it’s been proven to me over and over and over again throughout my career, the more opportunities that I can create for myself, the areas I have control over, which is creating things for myself, the more stuff I can do that’s just fun and fulfilling and playful for me to do on my own, doing it and pushing it forward out loud, all for myself, helps to attract paying opportunities later, because it gives me an example. It says, “Hey world, I can do this thing. Here it is, I love doing it,” and then people start to notice. And then eventually, naturally and organically, somebody will pay me to do something similar later down the road.

So, the balance of strategy and playfulness with the stability portion is key. We can’t just, unfortunately, we can’t just have careers where we make money out of play and strategic play, because it’s just, unfortunately, nobody will pay us to just believe in us and assume we can do something that we’ve never shown the world that we can do before. We have to be strategic and playful about how we’re showing that and creating those opportunities for ourselves first, and then allowing people to see that and then pay us to do something similar for them, or for the world later on.

But we can’t make a living out of that, we can’t pay our bills with that work right away. So, the stability portion is so important of figuring out how you can control your finances you have right now, utilize the tools you have already, utilize your unique perspectives on the world, or the skills that you have to create content for other people, or to make things for other people that will allow you to make money right now. Okay, so just get creative with what you can control this year in 2020. And if anything, use this chaotic mess of a year as an excuse to get curious, get playful, be strategic, and explore new options for yourself this year. And to get this beautiful foundation laid, so that way, if and when, remember, this is temporary, when this is all over eventually, you will be able to go so far so fast because you’ve set this beautiful foundation for yourself this year.

Well, well, well, that’s it for this episode of Overtime. Ah, you did it. That was fun! You listened to whole thing, you completed something today, put this on your to do list and then cross it off so that you feel a little bit better. So, if you’d like to take this conversation onto the internet, use #DribbbleOvertime or tag me or tweet me or call me or beep me or anytime you want to reach me, my handle is @yourbuddymeg, or you know what, just be kind to yourself this week. Do some good work, help others, lift them up, challenge them when they need it. You’re going to be a good person, and I believe in you, and I love you, and you’re perfect. Okay, bye, hear me next week!