Hybrid Professional Identity: Make Sense of Your Multiple Identities

This blog post is a continuation of previous thoughts and ideas written on generalists and one of the most dreaded questions to be asked as a professional.

When you wander into different fields and obtain new skillset, it gets harder to articulate to others what you do. You present a list of skills to someone 'I am a designer, but I also do facilitation and strategy'... and the list goes on.

If you are like me, you may feel like having one field specialized or one title is incredibly limiting. You feel like one title is not really a good representation of who you are. So you would maybe call yourself a generalist, someone who wears a lot of hats.

But what if in reality, you don't look at yourself as a specialist or a generalist?

What if your identity is a hybrid? A hybrid professional to be more exact.

What is a hybrid professional identity?

The idea of a hybrid professional identity came from Sarabeth Berk, Ph.D., who helps professionals discover and articulate their hybrid professional identity and unique value in the workforce.

She describes professional identity as anything considered to be your work, whether you get paid for it or not. And it's what you call yourself. Professional identity does not include hobbies, extracurriculars, or social identities.

According to her, there are three types of professional identities. The first is the singularity, which refers to people who do one thing (experts and specialists). The next is multiplicity, which refers to people who do many things, but there's no overlap between them. On LinkedIn, you can see many people listing multiple identities on their profile header.

Then there's hybridity, which refers to people who blend and combine multiple professional identities together. They work at the intersection of those identities. The most important part of being a hybrid is having at least two professional identities that overlap.

(Three Types of Professional Identity - Sarabeth Berk, More Than My Title)

The Value of Hybridity

The biggest value of being a hybrid is that you don't have to throw away your multiple professional identities. You can investigate, and see how they integrate instead of being separate things.

There's no problem being a specialist and focusing on one thing only in your entire life. Or jumping from one identity to another. But if you have multiple identities, and you just didn't have the language to describe what you do in your work—now you have the opportunity to do that with hybrid professional identity.

Sarabeth Berk is a hybrid herself and calls herself a Creative Disruptor, a title she came up with that resonates with who she is. She works at the intersection of being an artist, researcher, educator, and designer (her primary professional identities).

When you are hybrid, a regular and generic titles don't fit really well.

Examples of Hybrid people

I am a visual person that likes to see examples to get a better idea of a concept. And naturally, it went the same way when I was learning (still do) about hybrid professional identity. Here are some examples of hybrid people, and all the images shared come from Sarabeth Berk's website:

(From Sarabeth Berk's website, Examples of professional identity transformations)
(http://andreacarpenter.design)

Not all have hybrid titles. The simplest way to express your hybridity is using the phrase "I work at the intersection..."

(murrayfgray.com)
(jamesdiers.com)

Even companies use it to describe their hybridity:

(studiospatialentities.com)
(webershandwick.com)

And many more can be found on her website by clicking here.

Discover your Hybridity

It requires a lot of reflection, self-awareness, and looking back at your own professional career. As mentioned before you have to have at least two professional identities—four is the maximum—more than that then it gets complicated to integrate.

For some of you, it will probably be easy to identify your professional identities, and for others, it will take a longer time.

Luckily Sarabeth Berk shares some free resources on her website and YouTube channel for you to get a better understanding of this concept of hybrid professional identity.

In the process of discovering your hybridity and looking into your primary professional identities—the question you should ask yourself a lot is—who are you at the intersection of your primary professional identities?

Now it's your turn

Did the idea of hybridity resonate with you? And what did you think of the examples shared?

I became fascinated by it. And I am always open to ideas that help us to get better or language to articulate the value we can bring to others.

I consider myself a hybrid professional and call myself a Creative Possibilineer because I work at the intersection of being a designer, concept developer, visual communicator, and strategist.

Lastly, I will share a video of Sarabeth Berk presenting and explaining hybrid professional identity. It's a 1-hour long video, but worth every minute.

One of the Most Dreaded Questions to be Asked: What Do You Do?

As individuals the question "what do you do?" can be a challenging question to answer.

During your professional career, you will meet people in a professional context like networking events or conferences. And when you meet new people, the question "what do you do?" almost always will be asked.

You might freeze up, and sweat a bit (or a lot)—or worst-case scenario, you will start rambling about all the things you do until the other person loses interest.

The easiest way or the usual way you would answer such a question is with the exact thing you are making like "I design logos", "I build e-commerce websites, or "I write books".

But that doesn't paint a clear picture of what value you bring to the table. People value their time. So if you are not clear and confident in how you communicate, you will lose the.

What if there's a more exciting and compelling way to communicate what you do?

Nick Parker, the founder of Framework, a community-based platform to help creatives in their personal development, growth, and creative freedom, shares a framework to help you create a more intriguing answer.

The questions to be answered are:

  1. What do you do?—Describe the functional action. Instead of labeling yourself focus on the value, you provide.
  2. Who do you do it for?—Be specific in the type of person you offer the most value to. This will make it easier for someone else to connect to your dream client.
  3. What do they need?—Describe the problem you help them solve.
  4. What happens as a result?—What's the change or impact they experience as a result of having their problem solved?

An example:

  1. What do you do: I design logos.
  2. Who do you do it for?: I help community-focused brands.
  3. What do they need?: An identity that reflects their values.
  4. What happens as a result?: Clarity and coherence cross platforms and media.

The formula after you have answered these questions is that questions 2 and 4 are put together, followed by questions 1 and 3. Here is an example when put together:

I help community-focused brands have clarity and coherence across platforms and media by designing logos and identities that reflect their values.

Do you feel the difference?

Questions 2 and 4 answer who you do it for and what happens as a result, whereas questions 1 and 3 answer the functional action you take followed by your client's need.

Articulating what you do to others requires practice like any other thing.

If you have a hard time answering one of the most dreaded to be asked, give this little framework a try, and see what happens.

A World of Possibilities

Something happens to us when someone chooses to help us unconditionally–without any strings attached.

We feel seen.

These types of people would spend their valuable time to help us, simply because they genuinely care for us to grow.

And that's powerful.

Or maybe they don't intentionally think about the positive effect they are causing. What they have done will create a ripple effect.

When we start to help people unconditionally, a new world of possibilities begins to emerge for them.

What they couldn't see before becomes visible.

What they saw as impossible becomes possible.

Helping others doesn't make us big or small–it makes us human.

When they feel valued, they begin to feel better about themselves.

They become inspired to be a better version of themselves.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

Is it bad to focus on a specific skill? I don't think so.

Is it bad having an overall knowledge of a broad field of skills? I don't think so.

Yet in today's world, the specialist is favored more than the generalist in creative agencies.

Generalists are typically seen as "jacks-of-all-trades but masters of none."

What's funny is when a company is searching for a person for a specific role but is listing skills that are actually outside the specific role.

Here's an excerpt from an article titled In Defence of Generalism written by Chloe Scheffe:

"Generalism, I now realize, is in my nature. I’m a generalist not because I think I’m good at everything, but because I think I’m very good at nothing. For now, I’m unsatisfied by all that I make (dissatisfaction is inherent to my particular strain of generalism; it is its primary torture). I ask myself, constantly, forever and ever, What is the thing I love to do most? and What am I best at? and What am I? I respond by working in every arena I possibly can. I investigate. How can I know if I do not attempt?"

My favorite part of the article that encapsulates how I feel about being a generalist:

"To be a persistent generalist is actually to be deeply, relentlessly ambitious."

There's also a concept called t-shape people. "A T-shaped person is capable in many things and expert in, at least, one."

Saul Bass was a graphic designer that did corporate logos but also title sequences, and film posters.

Milton Glaser worked on illustrated posters, logos, and album covers.

Don Norman who's considered the father of UX, has a background in electrical engineering and psychology.

So when has it become a bad thing to be a generalist?

Generalists are persistent and motivated to explore different fields that interest them. The hunger to learn more and do more is exactly what makes a generalist so "special". In my perspective, the skills to make the job can be trained and learned—but one's mindset is more important.

If I look at my spectrum of interests it ranges from design, branding, marketing, concept development, UX, storytelling, strategy, and visual communications. But what has helped me is having the context in which all the things I do—my WHY.

I don't feel comfortable putting myself in just one box and calling myself a specialist. It dampers the hunger to know more, and diving deep into another field that interest me.

A broader spectrum of skills can bring great solutions and results from different perspectives.

Introversion: How to Leverage What You Got, and Be Confident About It.

For some reason, we have come to misunderstand what an introvert is. We have come to understand from a young age that an introvert is someone shy or someone that has social anxiety, and can’t interact with other people. 

And because there’s this view on introverts, we feel scared to engage with other people — simply because of the story that has been told in our head. That negative story that we tell ourselves, will have an impact on our growth. 

What can we do as introverts to gain confidence in who we are, and leverage the power of introversion in our everyday life?  

The first step is to understand what an introvert is. Language matters. If we can’t educate ourselves first about what introversion is, we can’t educate others about it. 

It’s about preferences

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking says, “It’s also important to understand that introversion is different from shyness. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation.” 

An introvert is characterized by gaining energy from being alone or among smaller gatherings. Where an extrovert is characterized by gaining energy from larger gatherings. Introverts are usually more thoughtful and value time for reflection and contemplating — and they are also good at work that requires concentration and focus. 

Whether someone is introvert or extrovert it all boils down to preferences. And no preferences are better or worse. We should all feel like we can use our strengths in an environment where we can thrive as ourselves. 

When we shift our mindset into believing that being an introvert is not a hindrance, will we start to see the possibilities that we couldn’t see before. 

You can have a big personality and still be an introvert. You can be sociable with people and still be an introvert. You can become a leader and still be an introvert. The only difference between an introvert and an extrovert is, that an introvert takes more time to open up to other people. Which isn't a bad thing.

What we want more than anything is to create deep, meaningful relationships where we feel safe to be ourselves. 

Harnessing the power within 

Like all people, we have strengths and weaknesses. More time than often we are told to work on our weaknesses to thrive. A better idea is to be aware of our weaknesses, but put more focus and effort on the strengths we do have so that, we can improve and grow. 

Here are some strengths that come more naturally to introverts:

Active listening 

A typical Introvert processes information internally, where a typical extrovert processes information through interactions (thinking out loud) with others. That means that this skill of active listening allows us to hear, understand and provide insights when the other person is done talking. And in a social context — the art of listening is crucial — even for a leader to make the other person feel heard, seen, and understood. 

Observant of surroundings 

Having the skill to actively listen to other people, introverts also have a natural tendency to notice the so-called “little things” like reading the room, people’s body language, and facial expressions. By observing and noticing other people — an introvert is good at giving other people who have thinking and processing information — the space to do it. A great skill to have when you want to connect more deeply with others. 

Thinking before speaking

In a fast-paced environment, it can take a little bit challenging for an introvert to formulate thoughts for others. Because we also want to contribute with ideas and insights. Thinking before speaking is a great strength to have since the words that are coming out are more intentional. What the author of Quiet Susan Cain suggests to introverts to not feel left out in meetings — is to speak up early. How does the thinking-before-speaking apply to speaking early up in meetings? She says, “think in advance of what you might want to say, what point you might want to make, and what questions you want to raise.” If you wait till the end of the meeting — it gets a little harder to get your ideas and insights through since the ideas that are mentioned early on become the anchor of the conversation.

Meaningful connections 

For an introvert, being among a big crowd is energy draining. But we have a natural strength to create meaningful connections. The goal is not to talk to as many people as possible. The goal is to focus on learning about the other person — even if it’s just a few. Creating a lasting impact is more important than quick, meaningless conversations. So how do you do that? Beth Buelow, the author of The Introvert Entrepreneur talks about how she tries to make meaningful connections with some people by following up. She would after an event send links to articles or talks that reminded her of the person she spoke to. This is a way for you to create a valuable relationship based on depth and meaning. We would rather have a small circle of close friends with who we will show intense trust and loyalty. 

Empathy 

Having the natural skill of active listening, reading the room, and the desire to create meaningful relationships results in greater empathy. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of other people is a valuable skill that can be applied to almost any profession. For a leader — it’s a great skill to have — if you care about the people around you. 

Working in solitude

Introverts love going into deep thinking to organize thoughts and ideas. A very noisy environment might hinder the creative process. We become more productive when we have the space and room to think independently. A famous example is Albert Einstein that did his thought experiments in solitude. We all need to feel that we can be productive at the end of the day. This doesn't mean that we always should work in solitude, but it’s important finding the balance between collaboration and independent work. The strength of an introvert will show — when we get the time to think alone, collect our thoughts, and then return back to the team with ideas and solutions.


Final thoughts 

You as an introvert—give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. You might have been building on these strengths unconsciously without even you know it. And now that you do know it. You have the opportunity to share what we introverts are capable of. Having these natural strengths can make us great leaders, artists, creatives, writers, inventors, scientists, engineers, and philosophers. Let this article be a source of optimism and inspiration — a spark to make you feel comfortable and confident in being an introvert.

If you ever feel like you need a boost, please read this article again. For your own sake. If you know another introvert who needs this, share it. We all need to uplift each other to survive so that we can live in a more inspired, valued, and joyful world. 

A Worthy Rival

Having a worthy rival pushes our boundaries and makes us better.

Your rival—is someone that has certain strengths that reveal to you your weaknesses—which you can improve upon and grow.

This was an idea I came upon when reading Simon Sinek's latest book The Infinite Game.

When you play with an infinite mindset, the only true competitor is yourself. A worthy rival is there to be studied—not to be beaten.

You don't need to like your rival, but you have to respect the things that they are better at than you.

A great example of rivalry is that example of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the sports world. These two amazing football players have for years delivered extraordinary performances. Though the fanbases of these two players are at each other's throats all the time about who's better—they still have big respect for each other.

This way of thinking changes how you can improve upon yourself to be better than you were yesterday.

Solely focusing on beating your competition is finite thinking which blurs out opportunities for improvements—personal or business-wise.

When I looked at my growth it was because I had worthy rivals (which I still do). I don't resent the successes they have. I have nothing but respect for them.

When we start to shift our mindset and view people or businesses as worthy rivals, instead of someone to be beaten, do we start to make things better for ourselves. And also have the generosity to make things better for other people.

Passion Comes From Meaningful Work

When there's meaning and joy in the work that we do—we ooze with passion. And we can recognize that feeling when it happens.

We put in the hours. We will at times sacrifice sleep or time with family and friends in order to pursue that passion. Because it feels worth it.

When there's no meaning and joy in the work that we do—we would experience the opposite which is stress. And it doesn't feel worth it in the end.

We are all passionate about something. But we are not all passionate about the same thing.

When the work becomes deeply personal to us. We feel passionate about our work.

We find that passion when we work with a vision that we believe in, and that we feel we can contribute with our abilities to advance something bigger than ourselves.

Doing Art Is An Act of Generosity

I came across a video the other day by Seth Godin on YouTube where he touched upon art.

He didn't define art as what we normally associate art with—painting for example. He defined art as a human act—a way for us to make change happen.

Art as he sees it—is with anything that's creative, passionate, and personal—that resonates with the viewer and not only with the creator.

When you make art. It's unpredictable. It's risky.

Being an artist means giving gifts. Doing something that someone else couldn't do.

The more the art can touch and change the lives of other people. The better the art will do.

Art is a way to make a connection to another human being.

As Seth Godin calls it: "Art is what we are doing when we do our best work."

It also reminded me of the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon where he says, "The act of sharing is one of generosity—you’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen."

So what art are you going to be making today?

Perseverance Over Talent

Talent does not equal success. I'm talking about long-term success. Without putting effort into your work, talent will only get you so far.

Talent is just a piece of the puzzle. High-performing athletes who have achieved many things in their careers have a thing in common: grit—in other words, they persevere.

Angela Duckworth, the author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, says that grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. It's living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Having a talent for something can make someone lazy. If you are naturally smart you might not take school seriously because of boredom. Does that mean talent is useless? Of course not.

It's important to teach those who are naturally good at something, and those who have to work a bit harder the importance of perseverance—the importance of grit.

In Angela Duckworth's TED video she talks about having a growth mindset—the belief that one's ability to learn and grow is not fixed. It can change with effort and hard work.

Having the right mindset is key.

She also mentioned that kids are more likely to persevere failing when they read and learn about how the brain responds to challenges, changes, and growth.

Thomas A. Edison says, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

Hearing Is Not Listening

We all hear. But not everyone listens.

And when you don't feel you have truly been listened to. You don't feel important at that moment.

The act of listening is active. When you listen to someone, you actively participate in the communication process.

You are sending a signal that you actually care for what the other person has to say.

When the other person speaks. You listen attentively and you don't respond until they are done.

Great listening is about approaching conversations with an open mind and curiosity.

It's a basic human skill that's not taught from a very young age in school. And it's essential that we learn the art of listening.

When we truly learn to listen to the other person, they will feel heard and valued.

"Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by simply hearing themselves speak. You never know what you might learn from simply listening to the people around you."

⁠—Richard Branson

Context Is King

You probably have heard that context is king. It's true, context provides focus. And the context of all the work that you do derives from your WHY. The reason why you started your business in the first place.

When you are clear on why you do what you do. You will be aware of why you start to derail from the path you sat out from the beginning. If not, you will have a hard time understanding why things aren't going the way you intended them to be.

And when you start making products or services that are out of context. People will start to wonder what's going on. Much like when a good friend of yours starts to act out of character. It's like you don't know them anymore.

Master carpenter, joiner, and founder of LEGO Ole Kirk Christiansen was committed to high-quality and children's development through play. Whatever he did and what the organization still does today is in the context of children's development through play. The focus is on the children. Even when you look at Lego's headquarters. It carries the legacy of the founder.

Through the 80s and 90s, the LEGO group expanded and became a giant. The organization introduced products such as computer games, action figures, and television shows. It also opened amusement parks in different parts of the world. But in the years 2003 and 2004, the organization hit a brick with debt in the millions. The focus on what made LEGO who they are, eventually became lost.

It was not until the then CEO of LEGO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp took the approach of going back to the basics: the brick. And also he directed attention toward the organization's core group: the children. They started sending user researchers to observe families around the world. Through the research, they found out the way a toy fits a child's story. The organization had believed that the children wanted a "plug and play experience" where they could have a speedy success.

They asked an 11-year-old german boy what was his favorite possession. And to that, he pointed to his shoes which were worn out on the side and the bottom. He was asked why his shoes were important and special to him because it wasn't about the brand. It was special because his friends could tell that he had mastered a certain style of skateboarding and gained some skills.

The researchers understood that it wasn't about immediate gratification. It was the experience of mastery and learning skills. Designers started to make fewer specialized components. But still with the focus of making it slightly challenging so that the children could develop skills.

Jørgen Vig Knudstrop embodied what LEGO was all about. They were so clear on why they did things that they could get back on course. As an organization, they also embrace technology, but not for the technology's sake. Being clear on their roots, technology is just one of the ways they can live out their legacy.

Making products and services without context will make your business go fuzzy in the long run. You can be intentional in your decisions when you know in what context you're working in.

The Creative In All Of Us

Many of us have suppressed our innate ability to create. Simple because of the belief that creativity is only for those of artistic pursuit.

I live in an apartment that's about 75 square meters with one bedroom and living room together with my wife. It has all the space that's needed for two people.

What has changed is that we are expecting a little girl very soon. And since we were going to buy baby stuff, it's only natural that it would take more space... so we thought finding a bigger apartment would solve our problem.

Bigger space. Problem solved.

But one day we thought to ourselves, do we need to move to a bigger apartment. Because we have the space for a child for at least 2 years.

We were reactionary to the situation and not proactive. So we threw the idea of moving to a bigger apartment for now. And thought to ourselves what can we do now, with our current home.

At the time I was reading Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelley, and I was inspired to take action.

We tried to adopt the principles of design thinking as a tool for solving our problem.

“The first step toward a great answer is to reframe the question.”, says Tom Kelley. And that's exactly what we started with. And I can tell you it's powerful when you frame the problem, you're trying to solve.

Using the HOW MIGHT WE method, our framed question was: how might we create space for our newborn child without complexity.

My wife is a medical laboratory scientist by profession. But having tools that encourage creativity, we would sit down and brainstorm ideas, sketching to make our ideas visual and prototype.

Next time, you are facing a problem try framing the problem, and see what happens.

When you commit to framing the problem, and writing it down, you can use it as a reference when you start to derail from the problem.

Even to this day, when we want to buy something new for our home, we still think if this is going to increase the complexity.

As I said in the beginning, many of us are used to suppressing our creativity. But with encouragement, the right mindset, and tools, you can overcome that barrier. “Like a muscle, your creative abilities will grow and strengthen with practice.”, says Tom Kelley.

Why A Clear Direction Matters In Business

Imagine that you are driving in your car, and there's no sign that tells you where you are, or how long it would take you to get to your destination?

Or even worse, there are no white lane markings. You would completely lose your sense of direction.

You can keep driving, and hoping that you are on the right course. But you won't find it worthwhile, and it will affect you.

When we have signs and white lane markings, we are clear on where we are, and where we are going. It's less frustrating than without them.

You might be tired when you get to your destination, but at least you're happy that you made it. We hate feeling lost.

The same thing applies to a business. The cycle of getting clients, and customers, getting projects, meeting deadlines, reviewing and optimizing processes, brainstorming, and creating products. The list goes on.

But the question is: to what end?

When we keep doing those things day in and day out and we have no idea of what we are actually trying to build. We feel lost in our work. And it loses meaning over time.

What we might be missing is a clear vision.

A clear vision provides that sense of direction that we need in the context of business.

Just like we need signs and markings to provide direction for us while we drive. A vision gives us direction and meaning in our day-to-day work.

"Even when it is not fully attained, we become better by striving for a higher goal", says Viktor Frankl.

Brand Authenticity

Authenticity doesn't come from appealing to the masses. It comes from presenting yourself, like yourself to a group of people who see the world the same way as you do.

How does a brand present itself as authentic? By talking about what they believe in, and what they stand for. It's that simple.

As Simon Sinek put it: "Authenticity is when you say and do the things you actually believe."

Authenticity = your beliefs + values x consistency in everything you do and say. 

"To achieve authenticity with your tribe, you have to begin with PURPOSE.", says author Marty Neumeier in his book THE BRAND FLIP. "A company's purpose simply stated, is the reason it's in business beyond making money."

So it's a failed operation when you appeal to the masses. Because you are not here to serve everyone, but someone. Your tribe. "If you have 1000 people who care deeply about what you do, that's enough.", says Seth Godin.

Today's customers want meaning, more than features and benefits. They are seeking a sense of belonging.

That can only happen if brands commit themselves to communicate who they are, and are consistent with the things they do and say in conjunction with who they are. Otherwise, it will hurt the brand's reputation in the long game.

The Thing We Struggled As A Child

The thing that we struggled with as a child, can become our strengths as adults as we grow. But the challenge is, are we teaching children to be themselves or just like everybody else? 

Not every child is lively and bubbly, and not every child is quiet and reserved. They are all different in their unique way. 

The child who seems to not sit quietly in class and is always looking for trouble will probably be classified with ADHD. And the quiet and more shy child whose kinda invincible, will probably be looked at as someone who’s not understanding what’s going on during the lessons.

In the corporate world, there are discussions on culture and well-being in the workplace. It’s about how businesses can create an environment in which employees with different work styles can come to work and thrive as themselves. 

I believe those things are important. But I believe that it is also important that we give the same thoughts to children in school. 

Is the current educational system built in which each child can thrive at their natural best?

Is the current educational system teaching children skills beyond the subjects we know such as creativity, innovation, empathy, and teamwork? 

Imagine what our world would be like if we focused on each child's curiosity, cultivated their creativity, and instilled a love for learning.

Imagine what our world would be like if we focused on double down on each child’s strengths instead of trying to “fix” their weaknesses? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being aware of one's weaknesses. But it shouldn’t be used to destroy a kid’s confidence. That’s why teams exist.

Each child learns differently, acts differently, and sees things differently. They are delicate beings. We need to be curious about them, and not judgemental. We need to listen to them, and let them speak their mind.

Instead of boxing them in to be the same. We need to start seeing each child, as a unique individual with an amazing capacity to do great things. It’s a difficult task, but it will feel worth it in the long run. 

As Alexander Den Heijer put it: “You don’t inspire people by revealing your super powers; you inspire people by helping them reveal their own super powers.” 

Children are the future leaders of tomorrow. 

Design Seeks to Serve

Design seeks answers to problems in which a change can happen.

Design is also about serving other people's needs, not our own self-interest.

The American social scientist Herbert A. Simon said:

"To design is to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones."

As a designer, we always think about how can we make something better than it was before.

And the result of a design is not an accident. You have probably heard the phrase: "Live your life by design, not by default" which is about living your life mindfully and intentionally.

We are not always in control of what happens to us, but we can still choose to design with intent instead of leaving it to chance.

That's the mindset of a designer—whether it's designing an experience, product, service, interior, fashion, logo.

In reality, even if some of you are not a designer by profession, you still design intentional plans in which you aim to change your existing circumstances into a preferred one. And that you could be your home, the life of your children, your own goals for the future, etc.

Design aims at solving problems. It's not only limiting to aesthetics, although we love to see and experience beauty.

Design solves people's problems with purpose and with function and beauty.

Define Your Vision Statement In A More Inspiring Way

Defining a clear and concise vision inspires people. It gives people the opportunity to imagine a desired future state of a world that does not exist. Yet it's so compelling that it inspires them to make that vision a part of their life.

Today's business and organizations' vision statement merely tells what they do or the products that they sell.

Most of these vision statements sound like this:

"We want to be the world's leading company in [insert industry]" or "We want to be the most preferred [insert industry] in [places of location].

The author of The Invincible Leader Zach Mercurio, Ph.D. talks about how most vision statements lack the act of envisioning. "Envisioning is the collective act of vividly imagining and “seeing” the world as it could be because of why you are."

A good vision statement depicts an ideal that you imagine of what the world could look like.

Simon Sinek talks about a vision as a Just Cause in his book The Infinite Game. He proposes 5 criteria as guidelines in order to define a vision statement that inspires people.

  1. For something—the vision should be positive and specific. Standing for something as opposed to standing against something, will likely last longer and inspire.
  2. Inclusive—a good vision is an invitation to all those who want to contribute, despite the skillset. A vision narrowed to specific products or activities may make some people feel like their contributions don't matter. The story of a janitor at NASA is a great example.
  3. Service-oriented—the ones benefitting from the vision should not be the contributors. The product and services you built to advance your vision should benefit others, not your own self-interests.
  4. Resilient—a good vision statement should be able to endure political, technological, and social change. If a vision is focused on a specific technology, and there's a change in the market. The vision won't last.
  5. Idealistic—a good vision should be big, bold, and unattainable. It's about pursuing the infinite. It's about inspiring people to feel that they are being a part of something bigger than themselves.

How to state a vision statement that inspires

1—Imagine what the world would look like if your organization has fulfilled its purpose. From a technological, social, political standpoint, what would the world look and feel like? Write the keywords down as they can help you in the next process of imagining.

2—A helpful way is to state your vision with the beginning phrase "I imagine a world where..." or "I envision a world where...". It really makes the difference as you put your mind in a state of imagining a desired future state.

3—You have probably seen a vision statement that has a lot of bullet points or is written as long paragraphs. A good vision statement should be short and concise. Try to aim at one or two lines to capture the world that you imagine.

4—Use Simon Sinek's criteria of a Just Cause during the process of defining a vision statement that lasts. It's also important that the vision doesn't include what the company or the organization does, that has its place in the mission of a company or organization.

Examples of good vision statements

I love examples as they give us a better understanding of sometimes complex ideas.

A great example is Simon Sinek's own vision which is:

"We imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every day inspired, feel safe wherever they are, and end the day fulfilled by the work they do."

Another one is from a company called Propel My Vision. Their vision is stated as such:

"Envision a world where people go to work every day feeling empowered with a voice and feel safe to contribute to building an environment where everyone will thrive."

Not all vision statements have the beginning words "I imagine" or "Envision". But they are helpful in the beginning. After that, you can be creative with how you state it on your website for example.

A good example is an organization in Denmark called Ichange which organizes Danish Muslims so that they achieve a representative voice in society. Their vision is:

"Educated, committed and happy citizens fill the Danish homes, streets, and workplaces. A society based on tolerance, empathy, and compassion is a role model for the rest of the European nations."

If they had the beginning words, it would sound like this: "We imagine a world where educated, committed and happy citizens fill the Danish homes, streets, and workplaces."

It has to be meaningful

You can't inspire others to join your vision if you in your company or organization are not inspired first by it. If your vision statement is simply used to look nice on a strategy document and is not being used and reminded consistentlythen it's no surprise that your people don't find it inspiring.

It's about attracting people who want to live in that world that you have stated. And that can only happen when you create an inspiring vision that makes people feel that it's worth the sacrifice, and gives meaning to the work that they do on a daily basis.

What You Consume, Determines What You Create

"Your environment, the people you surround yourself with, and the information that you intake, all shape your lens on life and what you make it." — Matthew Encina

What environment are you in?

What friendships do you have?

Who are the people you surround yourself with?

What information do you take in?

All of these elements shape you in how you look at the world—and yourself.

So have do you view yourself?

How do you look at the world?

If you surround yourself with good people who want the best for you and want to see you grow—those are the people you want in your life.

In your childhood, you get influenced by your parents—and it's only natural since you're in their care 24/7.

But as you grow older, you get other inputs which are the environment you're in, the friendships and people you make in your life, and what you learn.

At the end of it all.

You are in CONTROL of what you consume, the environment you surround yourself with, and the information that you take in.

What Is Humanity Without A Good Story?

“Once upon a time, there was a story…”

This is a common story-starting phase that is used in fairy tales to narrate past events. Stories have the power to engage people in a way that makes it easier to remember what has been told and helps to convey complex ideas, data, and statistics.

When you are presented with an engaging story, something interesting is happening inside your brain. You start to visualize the story. You begin to smell, feel a sensation, and a range of emotions — even movements. This is part of your brain responding to impactful stories.

(Doody, 2013)

Storytelling has for centuries been a tool for people to narrate a message to other people. It would take in the form of epic poems, chants, songs, etc. In today’s world, there are more options to tell a story through images, sound, and videos to capture people’s attention.

Why are we so engaged and drawn to stories?

I believe there are three reasons for that:

1 — Through stories, we gain empathy with the narration. Stories give us the opportunity, a gateway to what the narrator thinks and feels. The more empathetic we become, the more oxytocin is being released in our brains.

2 — As I mentioned before, stories help us to share information and educate in a more memorable way. “Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.”, says behavioral scientist Jennifer Aaker.

3 — Stories help us to feel that we are in control. It helps us to find order in chaos and meaning in randomness.

What makes up a great story?

Speaker and storyteller Karen Eber shares in her Ted Talk what a great story contains:

1 — CONTEXT: What is the context? What is the environment? Who is involved?

2 — CONFLICT: What is the conflict? Where is the moment where everything changes?

3 — OUTCOME: What is the result? Where is it different? What can we learn from it?

“People can’t function without a story. Humans are incapable of properly sorting every fact presented to them. Instead, consumers make up a theory about what’s going on and then work hard to refine that theory” — Seth Godin

How do you tell a great story?

1— HAVE THE AUDIENCE IN MIND: When you want to tell a story to an audience, it’s important to sit down and think about what you want them to know, think, feel and do differently. Karen Eber says: “Think of where they are now — and what they need to hear to meet them at that place and expand their thinking.”

2 — HAVE A LOGLINE: When creating a story or a presentation, start defining your logline that comes in the form of a summary or question. It helps you to structure your theme for the story, and you become purposeful in how you want your audience to experience and what they should learn from it.

3 — OUTLINE YOUR POINTS: After you have defined your logline for your story, and the audience you want to engage. It’s time to outline your points by answering the questions: “what’s the context?”, “what’s the conflict?’, and “what’s the outcome.” for your story. Always ask yourself in each question if this helps move the idea forward or causes confusion.

4 — MAKE THE STORY: After having done all the prep work, it’s time to build the story you want people to be engaged and inspired to take action. That can be done through any communication tools — whether that’s through Keynote or PowerPoint.


Conclusion

The field of storytelling is beautiful, yet scary. Storytelling is great to convey something in a different way. It takes practice to master it. I’m still learning about it.

Can anyone become a storyteller? Yes, I would say. It’s a skill that can be learned like any other skill.

Storytelling like strategy needs a structure. Without a structure, we will be all over the place, and it will become much harder to get people to understand what we are doing or saying.


References

Make Everything Earn Its Place (blog)
This is Missing From Your Stories and Presentations (blog)
How your brain responds to stories — and why they’re crucial for leaders (video)
The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling (article)
What Science Says About The Effect of Stories On Our Brains (article)
All Marketers are Liars/Tell Stories (book)

The right "what if?" questions seek possibilities

Cheryl A. Russell wrote in her blog on how to ignite your creative genius that: "Positive 'what if?' questions often lead to 'WOW' answers."

By asking ourselves the question "what if?", we are letting our minds wander and see possibilities without filtering the answer. The good thing about the technique is that it focuses on curiosity.

Not only can you use it on your own, but also when you're with other people—whether that's during brainstorming, concept development, or prototyping.

The question "what if?" can be used as a tool to build on each other's ideas without shooting them down.

You would be surprised how a simple "what if?" can be so effective—but it also has to be phrased in a way that's not judgmental to ourselves and others. As with any other skills, it takes practice to say the right "what if?" at the appropriate time.

On the other hand, what's the deal with a negative "what if?" question?

Nina Amir gives a good picture of what a negative "what if?" would look like in her blog.

If you said to yourself: "What if... I'm not good enough?" or to others: "What if... we don't go with that idea because it sounds stupid?"

"The more often you say “what if” and follow it with words that describe a negative scenario, the more often you focus your attention on a potentially negative future."

If we already picture and articulate a negative possibility in our mind, we create that possibility through our action—we end up creating fear and anxiety for ourselves.

As Nina Amir says: "Where you focus goes, energy flows."

The way to battle this is to imagine a positive future. And it is a battle—battle of the mind. But it's a battle worth fighting.

"Allow your “what-if” questions to help you change your focus and mindset. Let them lead you to the necessary, so you can make your positive potential vision of the future real."

The Mindset of a Forever Student

As Henry L. Doherty said,

"Be as Student as long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life."

It's easy to forget that there's always an opportunity to learn something new.

It's also easy not to take in new knowledge if you have expertise in a field. Because you already know so much, so why learn more, right?

The author Austin Kleon talks about the amateur spirit in his book Show Your Work.

The beginner's mind has the belief system that there's always an opportunity to learn something and grow.

The pursuit of knowledge doesn't stop after graduation. It doesn't have to. You can always find ways to gain knowledge that suits you. That can be through articles, blogs, podcasts, online courses, books, lectures, etc.

Rodney Miller has written an insightful article on LinkedIn about the idea of "forever a student" and what those types of people foster.

The Brand Building Honeycomb

The idea of the honeycomb isn’t something new that has been invented. I first came across Peter Morville’s honeycomb for user experience design which explains the various facets of the user experience design. Furthermore, I also discovered a honeycomb for social media which was created by Jan Kietzmann, Kristopher Hermkens, and Ian McCarthy.

I love brand building— so naturally, I was curious to know if a similar concept was made for brand building. To my surprise, it wasn’t findable, which led me to the opportunity of molding a honeycomb for brand building.

Even though the opportunity to make one was there, I was left with the question: what are the most essential facets when it comes to building a brand?

Since I had to fit the essentials into 7 building blocks, I put the project on pause, until it hit me as I came across an old tweet I wrote. The tweet was about my interpretation of what the essence of a brand contains.

The big WHY is — why make one?

Building a brand can be a tedious process. And where should you even start in order to build a solid foundation? The brand building honeycomb is a culmination of past experiences doing branding work and reading a bunch of books and articles which led me to see this pattern recognition.

The seven building blocks of the brand building honeycomb consists of:

Brand building Honeycomb Diagram

Diving deeper with the seven blocks of the honeycomb for brand building

The purpose of the honeycomb for brand building is not to end the brand building process, but to have a solid foundation you can further build upon. Each of the blocks can give you the opportunity to have a starting point for conversations with your team. In this article, I will dive into some examples of questions that can be applied to ignite conversations:

Purpose

The reason for your existence in the first place. As the author of the book Start With Why Simon Sinek says: WHY do you get out of bed every morning, and WHY should anyone care?

Questions to ignite conversations:

Vision/mission

The vision is about the future state that you aim to build in pursuit of your purpose. It’s an envisioned world that does not yet exist, but you will commit yourself to achieving it. The mission on the other hand is how you go about achieving that future state — your vision.

Questions to ignite conversations:

Values

The values are a set of actionable guiding principles in which you abide by and hold yourself accountable. Values articulated as verbs make it easier to understand and take action.

Questions to ignite conversations:

Personality

This is about the human characteristics you want your brand to be associated with to relate and resonate with your target audience.

Questions to ignite conversations:

Target audience

The intended audience you want to approach with your product or service to solve their problems. Without an audience, there’s no value in what you have to offer and sell.

Questions to ignite conversations:

Value proposition

Is the value you promise to deliver to your target audience. It tells why your product or service is best suited for them.

Questions to ignite conversations:

Positioning

It’s a strategic decision to occupy a distinctive place in your audience’s mind. It’s about how your audience perceives your product or service relative to the competition.

Questions to ignite conversations:

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, the idea for the brand building honeycomb is to have a focus point for the most important facets of brand building. It’s not a tool that should end the brand building process — but to be used as a checklist during planning, evaluation, and when you and the team is coming up with strategic decisions.

“Here’s what is exciting about sharing ideas with others: If you share a new idea with ten people, they get to hear it once and you get to hear it ten times.” — Jim Rohn

I would love to hear your thoughts on this as the article was about my interpretation of how I see what’s most essential in brand building. Each facet of the brand building honeycomb can be as extensive as it needs to be for each individual brand or company to delve into. Other tools or exercises can be implemented in each facet, which I will talk about in another article.


References:

Start With Why — by Simon Sinek
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind — by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Value Proposition Design— by Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, et al.
This Is Marketing — by Seth Godin
Creative Strategy and the Business of Design — by Douglas Davis
Brand Zag — by Marty Neumeier

Articulate Values as Verbs

Values as nouns are dead. What value do noun-based values have if they can't be acted upon—or even better, held accountable for?

Verbs have action in them, it makes you do something as opposed to nouns that are more static in their nature. How can we expect people to take actions with values that are not actionable?

I love what Simon Sinek said in his book Start With Why: "For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It’s not ‘integrity,’ it’s ‘always do the right thing.’ It’s not ‘innovation,’ it’s ‘look at the problem from a different angle.’ Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea … we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation."

When we start to phrase values as verbs, it will be easier for others to understand them and hold you accountable for them. Our values should be the guiding principles by which we abide to the best of our ability.

Personal Brand = Your Reputation

Rob Brown says in this Ted Talk that a reputation is what people see, think, feel, do and say when they are coming into contact with you or your name. "That's your good name. That's people talking about you when you are not there."

Whether you are liking it or not, you're either building upon your personal brand (reputation) or ruining it.

A personal brand is what builds the brand of a business. That's why I believe it's important that employees become ambassadors for the company that they are working with.

"People buy from people they trust. And they trust people they like.", said Garrison Wynn. No wonder why we look at reviews to see if a product is worth considering or a movie worth watching.

Building our personal brand gives us the opportunity to share our stories with our own voice through different platforms. We also get to display our values, and what matters most to us.

Nurturing your personal brand is important—that applies to in the context of applying for a job, meeting people at a conference, or a new client for your business.

Creative entrepreneur Roberto Blake has a video out on his channel where he talks about how to build a personal brand from scratch—go and check it out!

'Typography Don't Matter'

At least some of them *cough... Comic Sans... *cough ... Papyrus*

On a more serious note now that I have your attention. Typography does matter, if you want to find your way home or if you want to save time. See it for yourself next time when you are out and shopping for new products.

Typography, especially good usage of it, makes it easier for us to scan quickly and get the information that we need in order to move on.

“Type is a dance and the designer is the choreographer, sort of.”, said type designer Richard Lipton. The way a typeface is spaced out and, proportioned—gives a certain rhythm to a block of text.

A typeface isn't all about just aesthetics, but they need to function as said by James Felici: "The beauty of type lies in its utility; prettiness without readability serves neither author nor reader."

So we can't deny the fact that typography does matter. Not only in the context of being a designer, but also as a regular human being.

In essence typography in combination with design acts as a path for people to get them from point A to point B. And the more effortless it becomes, the better the experience is.

Own Your Space

It was not a long time ago that we experienced that the Facebook server went down which rendered Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp useless.

Me personally, I didn't experience any inconvenience. It was actually a breath of fresh air in my opinion.

Let's be real, social media platforms can be a noisy place where people are fighting for your attention. And let's not forget the constant battle with the algorithm changing.

What to do when social media platforms keep favoring content that focuses on quantity instead of quality? Or favors people with a big following?

The answer is simple: invest in your personal website. With your own personal website, you are in control, and you can do whatever you want with it. "It's vital to have your own space so you aren't constantly in each other's pockets.", said the English actor Michael Caine.

Matthias Ott wrote in his article Into the Personal-Website-Verse:

“It’s, of course, safe to assume that a web of personal websites will never be an equivalent substitute for a social network like Twitter. But that’s also not the goal. Personal websites are called personal websites because they are just that: personal. Thus, the primary objective still is to have a place to express ourselves, to explore ourselves, a place that lasts while the daily storms pass by.”

We all have our unique voices, but sometimes it can become a challenge to be "heard" or "seen" in the sea of social media. But by having your own personal website, you can customize it so it fits your taste. You can use WordPress as CMS (Content Management System) to build your personal website with relatively no coding experience.

I wrote an article about page builders for WordPress (though the article is targeted for design portfolio, it's still relevant no matter the industry). A personal website is also a great way to brand yourself with your unique quirks, and let other people into your world.

You also learn along the way. You will for example feel frustrated when things are not aligned correctly or the layout is completely broken. But that's the great feeling when you figure it out—it feels worth it.

A logo Is Not Love At First Sight

"I don’t love it, but maybe it’ll grow on me", said the former CEO and co-founder of Nike Phil Knight, when he was first presented with one of the world's most iconic marks made by Carolyn Davidson.

One of the most challenging things about making a logo is to think you should love it right away. Especially when it comes to presenting it to a client.

They think that they have to love the logo right away. We (designers) think that the client needs to love the logo presented to them right away.

If we looked at the world's most iconic marks like Nike, Apple, Star Bucks, Amazon, etc. How did they become famous and recognizable? Were they loved instantly? Probably not. Besides being great marks, a big part of it was that they were being used—consistently across platform.

We favor instant gratification over the long term. "Consistency of effort over the long run is everything.", said Angela Duckworth. It's true with everything in life, and the same thing can be in logo design.

Sagi Haviv said: "it's never love at first sight. A good logo, a good trademark, gains meaning and power over time."

When we view logos as part of a long-term strategy, and making a conscious decision to use it consistently, will we experience the power of a great logo.

Brand Inspiration: Apple

Apple Inc. was founded by two college dropouts named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak on April 1, 1976, in Job’s garage. It’s no surprise when we think of Apple, we think of Steve Jobs. There’s a lot to say about Apple and a lot of it has already been told. 

What I find most intriguing and inspiring about Apple is Steve Jobs’ life prior to starting Apple. Steve Jobs’ rebellious soul can be dated back to his time in elementary school. He would have difficulty functioning in a traditional classroom, making friends his age, resisted authority, and misbehaved a lot of the time. 

This reminds me of the rebellious nature of the company itself when you see how they not only challenged the computer industry — but also the mobile (iPhone) and the music industry (iTunes). 

Young jobs at the age of 12 showed courage by calling the co-founder of Hewlett Packard, Bill Hewlett, and requested leftovers for electronic parts. Not only did he get them, but even received an opportunity to work at the company as an intern. “I’ve always found something to be very true, which is most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask. I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help.”, said Steve Jobs during an interview in 1994.

In college, Steve Jobs dropped out after 6 months, but still, he took calligraphy classes. To that, he said: “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” 

Back in 1985, Steve Jobs was forced to leave Apple by the board of directors because of the struggle with former CEO John Sculley. He came back to Apple in 1997 after his company NeXT was acquired by Apple. 

Another inspiring moment was the video about Apple’s confidential internal meeting in 1997. In a nutshell, the video is about Apple going back to the basics — the core of what they are about.

“To me, marketing is about value. This is a very complicated world, a very noisy world. And we are not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”, said Steve Jobs. “Even a great brand needs investments and caring if it’s going to retain its relevance and vitality.” 

The focus wasn’t about the features of their product — it was about what Apple stands for at its core. Jobs was more concerned about what customers should know Apple for. To that he said: 

“We believe that people with passion change the world for the better.”

Apple communicated its core value through its Think Different campaign. It was advertised on television, magazines, and billboards to honor the people who have changed the world.

Apple — Think Different Campaign

The market will change, and so will the products, distribution strategies, and manufacturing, but one thing that shouldn’t change is the core values, the soul of a company or an organization.


In short, What We Can Learn From Apple:


You can also read about the brand inspiration that I have done on charity: water, Ahmad Tea and Nike.

The Power of WHY

When we define ourselves with what we do, we are limiting ourselves to the endless possibilities at our disposal.

You have probably seen Simon Sinek's famous Ted Talk video about his Golden Circle, and why some businesses succeed while others don't.

His concept of the Golden Circle has been used as a famous tool in the business and marketing world. Despite its popularity, The concept of the Golden Circle has also dealt with criticism.

But one thing I have noticed for those who have criticized the concept has always been based on his Ted Talk. Meaning not investing enough time and energy in going deeper with it.

The concept of WHY is not something new, it's not something you invent. It's something you discover. It's the thing that fuels you when you need inspiration and direction. You could also say your WHY = your passion.

By discovering your WHY, you're not defining yourself by a specific title or label. Your WHY encompasses everything that you do, not just for businesses.

My WHY is to inspire people in meaningful ways so that, we can be open to a world of possibilities. Through that WHY, many possibilities are open. As a husband, brother, son, friend, or colleague—the setting doesn't matter.

I don't only see myself as a designer (what I normally do), but also as a writer, creative entrepreneur, runner, type geek, bookworm, poet, and amateur photographer.

"Possibilities narrow as we slowly tie our identity to a finite catalog of specialized abilities. When something happens, and our capabilities go, so too goes our sense of self.", said Zach Mercurio in his article about how to ask more meaningful questions.

Ideas Are Like Dreams, Capture Them

Chances for ideas to arrive are endless, almost unpredictable. It could be when you were out on a grocery trip, and while waiting in line, an idea just hit you that you couldn't get when you were at your desk moments ago.

It's actually funny, that most ideas don't come from sitting on the desk, but when you least expect them. Imagine, you have this great idea, but you're not in your office at the moment.

Simon Sinek said: "Ideas are like dreams; they will disappear unless we record them. Write a book, a blog, build a company, anything that makes the ideas real." It's just like when you woke up from a dream, and after a few minutes (maybe even seconds), you have forgotten all about it.

Luckily, there are ways to capture the idea(s) before it's too late. Good fashion old paper and pen. I use Field Notes that fits perfectly in my jacket pocket. You can make a quick sketch or note, it will be easier to recollect later on. Otherwise, digital tools like Trello (I personally use) or Notion works too.

The catch is to get your ideas out of your head—you will thank yourself later instead of struggling to remember them. Ideas are born out of your curiosity for things. Without being curious about what's around you, you can't expect new ideas to come and capture them.

There's a passage from the book Think! that I get reminded about when I lose my sense of curiosity:

Be a sponge. Be open to all the stimulus around—everything can help you. Look at everything. Wonder at its structure. Its material. Its purpose. Its place.

Focus On the Seeds You Plant

We sometimes feel defeated when we are not experiencing immediate results. We want things to happen now, and it couldn't get any slower.

If we only focus on the end product of our labors, when are we going to enjoy the journey? We favor the quick doses of the now over the long-term.

Along the way, we have met great people who have helped us and shaped us into the person we are today. But we have also met horrible people, and they serve as a lesson too in our growth.

The Scottish novelist, essayist, poet, and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson said:

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

It's not about perfection—it's about patience. It will take a while before we see the fruits of our labors. You have probably heard the saying: "Rome wasn't built in a day." The author of Atomic Habits James Clear further built upon the idioms on his Twitter: "...but they were laying bricks every hour. You don't have to build everything you want today, just lay a brick. That's how you build an empire."

Don't Wish for More Hours

From Chris Do's tweet:

Don’t wish for more hours in the day. Do more with the hours you already have.

We all have access to the same amount of hours during the day. Yet, we wish to have more hours. But one question would always come to mind—if you got more hours. Would we still wish for more?

I believe it all boils down to how we spend our time. If we want to accomplish some goals, and want to realize our dreams. If binge-watching YouTube videos or series is what we do all day, every day—it would be pretty hard to get those hours back.

The question is also whether there is something that gives us the feeling of needing more hours.

Viggo Mortensen puts it nicely:

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren't enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress

We don't have control over what has already happened, but we do have control over the time that's available to us now. "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one", said by Mark Twain.

Brand Inspiration: Nike

Nike was founded by Phil Knight, a track runner athlete at the University of Oregon alongside his former coach Bill Bowerman. In the beginning, the company was called Blue Ribbon Sports before it became Nike in 1971.

Nike has been a part of my life as far as I can remember — that was before I had background knowledge about the company. The funny thing is when I wanted to buy shoes, especially for sport, my choice would land on Nike for the majority of the time. 

“The greatest job of marketing the universe has ever seen is Nike”, said Steve Jobs in his internal staff meeting at Apple back in 1997. “Remember that Nike sells a commodity, they sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company.” 

Phil Knight said something profound about his beliefs with Nike: 

“Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible. Sometimes”

Nike is great at telling what they care about in a compelling and engaging way. When they advertise, the product’s features and benefits are not the focus — it’s how Nike honors athletes. As Nike says on their website about their purpose, “We bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world — if you have a body, you are an athlete.” 

What I found the most inspiring about Nike is its courage to stand for something. And what greater example is there when they used Colin Kaepernick in their “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” campaign. Followed by the Dream Crazy ad video. 

Nike — Dream Crazy video

During an interview, the founder of Nike Phil Knight said about the ad: “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can’t be afraid of offending people .” 

Further on he says: “You can’t try and go down the middle of the road. You have to take a stand on something, which is ultimately I think why the Kaepernick ad worked.” 

It’s in Nike’s DNA. Phil Knight refers to his former coach and co-founder Bowerman as his hero and is thankful for instilling in him the never-give-up attitude.


In short, What We Can Learn From Nike:


You can also read about the brand inspiration that I have done on charity: water and Ahmad Tea.

Brand Inspiration: Ahmad Tea

Ahmad Tea is a family-owned company, founded by Mr. Rahim Afshar and his brothers. It was founded on a passion for making the finest of tea, and they are dedicated to inspiring the love of tea in people. 

I drink both coffee and tea, but my choice always lands on Ahmad Tea when it comes to tea. And if I drink another type of tea. My brain would remind me of the sweet flavor from Ahmad Tea, and then I would start craving it. 

It’s my favorite tea, and it’s something that would always be at my family house. Once I got married, I would spend the evenings with my wife drinking tea, but then I was reminded of how much I miss Ahmad Tea, the sweet aroma. The next time we went out to buy groceries at the local shop, I made sure to buy one — and I did. 

Though I have always drunk the tea, I have never visited their website or checked out their online presence. I’m no expert when it comes to tea, but I was inspired by the founder's love for his craft. 

“The very characteristic of the tea is that it gets people together”, said Mr. Rahim Afshar about the story of Ahmad Tea. “I would not sell anything that I would not drink at home.” That shows the persistence and hardworking attitude in innovating the best possible product. 

“Teaching doesn’t mean instant competition.”, said Austin Kleon, the author of Show Your Work. The Ahmad Tea team does not hide its ingredients, it’s all available on their website — if you want to inspire people, you don’t do it by hiding your secrets. 

They see themselves as artists — as the artist puts their blood, sweat, and tears into mastering their art. They are continually pushing the boundaries to innovate and expand their product blends. They know what it takes, and you can experience who Ahmad Tea truly is in the video below: 

Ahmed Tea Campaign — We Know What It Takes to Be An Artist

“Plants have given us so much without taking from us, and this is why we give away part of our profit to charities around the world”, said Mr. Rahim Afshar about how blessed we human beings are, and the responsibility of the company to give back to communities around the world. 


In short, What We Can Learn From Ahmad Tea:


You can also read about a brand inspiration that I have written about charity: water.

Brand Inspiration: charity: water

Introduction

Nowadays, brands are more powerful than ever. They have the power to influence us emotionally and make us purchase products — even if it’s inconvenient. 

Certain brands that we buy from or join becomes an identification for us. If you buy a product from this brand, you’re making a decision (subconsciously at least) that says I want to be a part of this tribe or this movement. 

Marty Neumeier, the author of various books such as THE BRAND GAP, ZAG, and FLIP, says: “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about the product, service, or organization — it exists in the hearts and minds of individuals.” And he also says: “A brand is not about what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.” 

We got that definition out of the way. A brand is not a company’s product or service — or even its logo. We all carry certain assumptions and feelings of a company’s brand, their reputation — whether it’s good or bad. 

Great brands have the capacity to inspire us — and in some cases get us to take action. I’m going to share some brands that inspire me, and that I believe have done wonderful things — not for themselves, but other people. 

charity: water

charity: water, founded by Scott Harrison, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to end the water crisis. What I found the most inspiring about the organization is that the vision is to reinvent charity — to make people trust charities again, and that’s not an easy task. 

Because if they can’t gain the trust of the people who are going to donate, then they can’t work on their mission. 

When you see non-profit organizations posting images of little children living a difficult life, it’s hard to turn the other cheek around. You feel guilty — since you have the money to give to a good cause, but end up not doing it (I’m guilty of that too). 

There was a time that I met a fundraiser in my city. And I remember vividly how persistent she was for me to sign-up for the organization she was part of. I kindly told her, that I’m already donating to another organization. But she persisted. 

The reason being I’m Somali, and an African person so, therefore I must join, she said. She was also an African person. But the point is, what I felt at that time, and I’m sure that many have too, guilty for not donating. And that’s not inspiring. 

What Scott Harrison does with charity: water is to communicate that giving is a blessing, not something you are forced to do. You can see it in their messaging and visuals. It’s about opportunities and hope, not guilt and shame. That’s inspiring. 

They utilize technology such as the GPS to share with the donor where the money exactly went. Scott Harrison talks about the organization as visual communicators.

They use the power of storytelling (images, videos, and sounds) to drive action. The data he provides is a supplement to his engaging stories of various individuals he has encountered. 

Scott Harrison of charity: water — The Power of Storytelling

Scott Harrison mentioned how his trip to Africa changed the course of his life — forever. And how before that — he was spiritually, morally, and emotionally bankrupt. His talk about his journey really gives you a good glimpse of what kind of person the founder Scott Harrison is and how uses charity: water to do incredible work.


In short, What We Can Learn From charity: water:

The Myth Of Being A Graphic Designer

Myths exist in every industry — it’s unavoidable. And the design industry does also suffers from them. It’s hard to eliminate myths, but we can reduce them through education. And it’s through education that we can come to a common understanding. 


“Design Is the Same as Art”

Design is the same as art, would someone argue. Sure there is an element of truth in that statement. And it’s also completely understandable since, in graphic design, you will play around with colors, forms, and shapes — layout and composition are even applied. 

The thing is, design and art are fundamentally different. If we want to understand the differences, we have to look at what function they play — their purpose. 

“The purpose of Design is to accomplish an objective task. The purpose of Art is to help the mind understand what is real”, said the renowned graphic designer Milton Glaser.

Design fundamentally is about solving a problem for an audience. You have the audience’s interest in mind. Design is being intentional with what is being made, and how it’s going to communicate. Design is not only about aesthetics as Steve Jobs said: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”.

Art on the other hand is an extension of the artist. Art is a form of personal expression. An expression can come in the form of emotion that’s being conveyed. We appreciate art because of the unique experience that it provides. I don’t only see painting as the only form of art. Poetry is art. Singing is art. Writing is art. Art gives birth to beauty. 

Though design and art are two distinct practices, I believe they can work in relation to each other. Design applied with artistic sensibility is functionality with beauty. 

Let’s Dispel Some Other Myths

Now that we have an understanding of the differences between art and design, I will share some other myths I have encountered in my life as a designer (you have probably too, and if not, you’re in for a ride).

Expert in Sketching and Drawing

“If you can design, then you must be able to draw well.” It’s true, there are designers out there who can draw and sketch really well, but it’s not mandatory in order to become a great designer. I made the mistake of having that mindset of “If I can’t make great sketches, I’m not able to make great logos.”

I mean can you blame me? When you start out in graphic design, and you see “perfect” logo sketches on Instagram — you would as we all fall into sometimes — comparison. Which in the end can be destructive.

It’s better to see sketching as a means to get an idea out quickly before it dies. The more ideas you get out, the better clarity you will get. 

My awesome sketches

“Can You Make It Fast?”

There is no such thing as doing great work in a matter of hours or the next day — or something as vague as “as soon as possible”. Great work takes time. 

If there was a shortcut inside my brain to unlock my creativity at the moment I need it, I would have done it a long time ago. But the problem is, that it doesn’t exist. 

Creativity is not a quick fix or a shortcut, but a process that contains research, distilling, observing, and creating. 

So don’t stress about it. You should focus on setting the environment in which you can unlock your creativity. Yes, I’m well aware that there are deadlines that should be met, but that doesn’t mean that great design work should suffer. 


“Be Creative, You Will Figure It Out”

If the project and the scope are unclear and vague — designers don’t have a magic pill that can solve something that is opaque. 

Design concepts don’t come out of thin air. Sure, sometimes that can happen, but it doesn’t always work like that. Business goals and user needs need to be met at the beginning of a design project. 

Designers are not magicians, but problem solvers. To my surprise, my best design work is produced when the project has constraints and is not a free jungle where I can do whatever I want.


“Just Make It Look Pretty”

Oh, how I hate the sound of it. But for an outsider who’s always looking at the final product — whether it’s a billboard, menu card, or poster — they will never know what was the process behind the design. 

Designers are not just here to make pretty designs, otherwise, no problem would be solved.

Let’s take a logo for example — behind that “pretty face” lies strategic considerations. There’s an identity system that contains the colors, typefaces, imagery, iconography, etc. All with the intent of being consistent across places and media. 

The intention is key in design — so going headless and just focusing on pure aesthetics is not the role of a designer. 


Why did I write this? I wanted to share with other designers (who are at the beginning of their career) some of my encounters (myths) in my profession with non-designers, and also to show the clear distinction between design and art.

Why We Need Inspiration More Than Ever Before

Inspiration plays a big role in our lives. Scott Barry Kaufmann mentions in his article that inspiration awakens new possibilities, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities. 

For a period of time, the world has been on standby due to covid-19. For many of us, it has been a difficult time to find the motivation to push through and find meaning in the chaos. 

You see more countries are starting to open up again. And the restrictions are being lowered due to people getting the vaccine — which is a good thing — for now, you can experience a normal life again, right? 

But I believe you should ask yourself— what has the effect of the pandemic left you with? And if something similar would happen again, what would you do?

To withstand times of confusion and uncertainty, inspiration is needed.

Motivation isn’t the same as inspiration 

Words that sound the same can somehow end up being used interchangeably, and that’s the case with inspiration and motivation. 

Motivation has a shorter life span. It’s an external factor and is temporary — hence why it doesn’t last long. Once it’s gone, you will have to refill it again. Inspiration, on the other hand, happens internally. It’s this natural calling that comes from deep within us. If you are inspired — it will last forever. 

I’m not trying to dismiss motivation — far from it. Motivation has its function when you want to perform certain tasks in the now. But you will be better off knowing the differences between the terms.

Patrick Bet-David talks about in his video the differences between motivation and inspiration by saying motivation is about making statements like “you can make it” or “I believe in you” — while inspiration is about asking questions like “what’s your purpose in life” or “what do you want?”

Further in his video, he talks about the length in which you can recognize whether you’re inspired or motivated — by how long you stay excited or passionate about what you do.

Let’s say if you were to go to the gym because you wanted to be more fit, but you only manage to stay there for a month — and in that month you were inconsistent, meaning you had a hard time showing up. You were simply motivated to go to the gym, not inspired.

An Unstoppable Force

The person who has a calling and is inspired to do what they do despite the odds — is hard to take down. No matter the ridicule and hate, inspired people will continue their mission, their calling. The inspiration is the underlying WHY that pulls them in.

According to Thrash and Elliot, inspired people, are more open to new experiences. They also have a higher level of psychological resources such as belief in their own abilities and optimism.

A top professional athlete that comes to mind, who I believe is inspired, is Cristiano Ronaldo. You can say much about the guy, but the one thing you can agree on is: he’s inspired. Despite his age (36 years old), he keeps scoring goals and plays at the highest level.

Is There a Perfect Moment to be Inspired? 

The answer is: no. There’s no perfect moment to be inspired. 

Inspiration is not something that happens at will but is not out of your control, totally. What you can control is to set up an environment in which inspiration becomes accessible to you.  

The Time Is Now

There’s no better time to seek out your calling, the things you’re most passionate about.

Kristi Hedges in her article shares some tips on how you can rediscover your inspiration. 

Embrace curiosity. If you have the belief, that there is more to learn, and you know that there is more out in the world to learn. You are off to a good start. When you experience something new and fresh — new insights can be triggered. According to Kristi Hedges, those new experiences can be discovered through reading a book, taking a class, attending professional gatherings, or traveling. 

Keep going. You might feel stuck, but waiting for inspiration to strike you isn’t going to help. Every step you take, every move you make (no pun intended) will reveal new possibilities and experiences — which otherwise wouldn’t happen if you were glued to your computer screen. 

Connect with people. Finding and talking with people who are doing different things from what you are doing, can spark inspiration. That’s why you get inspired by role models because they share their stories, which give birth to new ideas — and perhaps change the way we see the world for the better. 

Focus on what’s important. One of the characteristics of an inspired person is openness to new things. Openness can sometimes result in an overload of choices. When you feel overwhelmed, you end up doing nothing. And by narrowing it down to what’s most important (three, preferably), you are making it easier for yourself to act. 

The World Is Fast-Paced

The world is moving fast, and you don’t get the time to think or ponder because you have to continue with your lives— or else it would feel like you are wasting your time. 

The good thing that has come out of the global pandemic is — that for the first time in a long time, you were forced to take it slow. The world became upside down, and for some of us, we had to look back at our lives and ask ourselves important questions which had been laid off for months and years. 

Questions like “What I’m I doing with my life?” or “The things that I’m doing does it bring me fulfillment?”

These are important questions that force you to look deep into yourself and become familiar with who you are as a human again. 

This is also where inspiration kicks in.

I HATE Looking Back, But It's Necessary For My Growth

Why would I need to look back at my life—my past? Surely, there's nothing to gain from it. The past is in the past, as they say.

I have dreams. I have aspirations in life. I need to move forward. I don't have the luxury of time to ponder over past events.

That's how I would convince myself to stay focused—rather I told myself a lie. But in reality, it still happens. My mind wants to wander off and go down memory lane—to recollect the past.

When I would visit my father, he would from time to time mention his childhood memories. The memories he held from his time living in Kismaayo, Somalia. You could see the joy on his face when he talked about it.

The good old, sweet memories. But that’s exactly what they are—memories—nothing more than that.

What's the point in bringing it up you might think?

When hard times approach, and you struggle in life. Do you think back in time when things were good? Perhaps you think back to your childhood or adolescence for comfort.

I declare guilty of that. "Oh, I wish I was a child again so that, I don't have to deal with problems.", I would think to myself. But immediately after, it dawned upon me that I don’t want to relive my childhood or adolescence.

Insecurities, doubts, identity crises, depression, guilt, anxiety. These are feelings I had experienced during my childhood and adolescents. You might recognize some of these feelings as well. If you do, you are not alone.

At times it pains me to think back. I will always remember the year 2007-2013 as the 'darkest' times of my life. Dealing with bullying, divorced parents, not fitting well in school, expectations, and no sense of direction or purpose.

Then why do I keep remembering them? Why can't I erase them from memory? They can't be all bad, right?

To be completely transparent. They are too precious for me to be forgotten. Strange, right? After all, I talked about how it pained me, and now I'm telling you how precious they are to me.

It's simple. The reason that some of the painful events are precious to me, and that I from time to time look back—is because they act as a reminder.

Back then, I could only see darkness. It was to see the light at the end of the tune. Now that I'm writing this at the age of 26, the tunnel vision has been much clearer.

To see the 'dark' experiences from a holistic perspective. The patterns became apparent to me. The mistakes and defeats I'd experienced, turned out to be blessings in disguise.

It can all be summed up into one word: Growth.

We become so focused on the future that we don't take the time to take it slow, and look back at the journey, we have been through. There's nothing wrong with focusing on what's ahead. But I believe that there's a healthy balance between the past, present, and future.

We take lessons from the past to take on the present and seize the future ahead of us.

By looking at the past and reflecting upon the steps that we have taken. The more grateful, appreciative, determined, and motivated we become in our current state.

It's a matter of perception.

The past is our origin story. And we are the protagonist of that story.

And at that, I will leave you with a quote.

“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.” - Paulo Freire

Why Remembering Names Is Important to Make People Feel Mattered

What belongs to you, but other people use it more than you?

Many of you have probably heard about the above-mentioned riddle. Or perhaps, it’s your first time hearing it. The simple answer to the riddle is: your name. Our name is part of our identity. During the lifespan of a human being, we only mention our own name when people ask us about it. But most of the time, it’s the other way around.

What’s the significance of remembering someone’s name? What effect does it have? How did it make you feel when someone remembered your name?

Perhaps it was your teacher when you were called upon, you were addressed with your name instead of a “yes, you” when you raised your hand in class.

It seems trivial, but it’s a big deal. When you have a teacher that doesn’t mention your name. You carry this feeling that you’re not important to them for you to be remembered.

A glance at the past

Back in 2016, I took business economics classes as I needed them to get into an AP program. And I remembered it vividly, I had a teacher when I raised my hand in class to answer a question—he would address me with “yes, you”.

As a result, I became disengaged in the classroom. Because why bother putting in the effort when you don’t feel like you matter?

Every single time. For the whole half-year.

I believe that it’s a human tendency. We know the feeling when someone remembers our name as opposed to not remembering it all. When our name is remembered we feel valued. When not, unnoticed, and unimportant.

Where it stems from

According to an article written by psychiatrist Dr. Gary Small in Psychology Today, the common reason for people to get someone’s name is that we don’t pay attention to it when first introduced.

When we pay attention to a person’s name. It communicates to them that we care, that we are genuinely interested in them, and that they matter. Or as the American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie puts it:

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Imagine these two scenarios at a workplace between a manager and his subordinate.

“Hey, you… Uhm, can you quickly fix this today. We have a deadline, and I have a lot on my plate already. Are you up for it?” 

Here is the other scenario.

“Hello, Sharmarke. How are you doing? Can you help me with some work today? There’s a deadline coming, and I have a lot on my plate already. Are you up for it?

Do you sense the difference? It feels different when your name is mentioned. You feel you’re important when your name is remembered. We don’t feel like a vestige where we disappear to oblivion. It’s not to say that people are evil for not remembering names, but I believe we can do better.

If you’re one of those people who has a hard time remembering names, I will share tricks and techniques you can use and implement starting from today.

Repetition makes the master

At the beginning of a conversation, it is helpful to mention the person’s name when first introduced. When they say their name after you have asked them about it, you reply with “it’s nice to meet you, Chris.”

Also, at the end of the conversation when parting ways, you can also mention the person’s name with “it was nice talking to you, Chris. Have a nice evening.”

Repetitions make it easier to remember and get stored in our memory.

Make association

Psychiatrist Dr. Gary Small suggests using three basic memory skills that he calls for L.S.C—LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT for effectively remembering names.

LOOK—Take the time to focus on the name of the person. 
SNAP—Create mental images of the name and the face of the person. 
CONNECT—Make a connection with the name and the face with additional images, so that information can be retrieved later.

The more exaggerated the mental images stand out in the mind; it becomes much easier to remember the name. Dr. Gary Small gives an example of how a mental image can help in remembering names.

“When I meet Mr. Siegel, I think of a seagull, and I see a couple of cats playing together to help me remember Mrs. Katz. When I meet a Bill for the first time, I might see a dollar bill.”

Spell it out

At times, we will meet names that are long and difficult to pronounce in the beginning. I know that for a fact since I carry a long name that’s unusual.

The best thing to do is to politely tell the person to spell it out for them. No harm is done, it shows that they care. I’m always happy when people ask me to spell out my name. It shows that they care and don’t want to be rude.

A conscious decision

In the end, it boils down to one thing—do we care enough about the people we meet?

The notion of not remembering names leads us to if it’s even worth remembering in the first place. If we meet new people, and we treat them as just a random John Doe—then the likelihood of us forgetting names is bigger.

Author Keith Ferrazzi puts it beautifully when he advises on remembering names.

"If you make a conscious decision that you are going to remember names,” he explains, “because you care about the people you meet, you will immediately become much better at doing it!”

We can always do better.

An Optimistic View on The Pandemic

Everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe that.

Since the beginning of the global pandemic. We have been locked inside our homes—it feels like our freedom has been taken away from us.

We are being bombarded with new updates about how many have been infected with the virus. Gotten sick because of it. Some even died. And it hurts. Even more so when it's close family members or friends.

It has not been easy. The pandemic has forced us to think and act differently. To ultimately change the way we have operated almost everything in our lives.

During the first lockdown. We hoped that it would soon be over. But that wasn’t the case—and for most of us, we are in our second or third lockdown.

As mentioned above, our freedom has been taken away because of the global pandemic. And it doesn't settle well with us.

But we can always choose to see things from an optimistic point of view without closing our eyes to reality.

Being optimistic inspires hope for a brighter future.

Expressing Gratitude

I believe being grateful equals optimism. And it’s more than ever important to be grateful during these crazy times that we are living.

You know the saying “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. Though we feel our freedom has been taken away—it’s through being grateful that keeps us sane.

We have experienced more time with our family. Doing more passion projects. Fixing things that have been postponed for weeks if not years. Making time and space for reflection and contemplation. And the list goes on.

You can always find things to be grateful for. Your good health, wake up with a roof over your head, drink clean water every day, etc.

It's a matter of perspective—seeing the whole picture, not the pixel only.

I’m grateful for having my wife and family around. Even though there have been ups and downs. I couldn’t picture my life without them. I’m also grateful for my closest friends who are always there for me if I need something.

Being there for each other

The pandemic has taught me the importance of reaching out to friends and families.

With restriction comes limited social interactions. We can’t go out and visit the way we used to do before the pandemic.

My father is taking care of my grandmother who is old and sick. And It’s been weird not to visit my father as often as I would like to. Especially during the first wave at the beginning of 2020.

But something as simple as face-timing or calling through the phone will make a huge impact. I’m bad when it comes to calling. But it does wonder when we are able to strike a conversation despite not being there physically.

It doesn’t feel the same. But it would make the world for those who are not allowed to get out of the house because of the rules for isolation. Which was the case for my father.

With the pandemic, the world looks dark. But each of us has the power to bring light to someone’s world.

It’s okay to not feel okay

You probably have heard it before. But it couldn’t be more true. It’s okay to be sad about what’s going on in the world—also in our own lives. Experiencing conflict of emotions such as hope and sadness simultaneously can happen to any of us.

Getting married during a global pandemic was not easy in my case. It was stressful, and at times hopeless. It’s not easy to adjust a wedding to a global pandemic that’s unpredictable all the time. And with rules and regulations that keep changing.

I remember feeling sad about it. To the point where I felt I wanted to quit. Because of how overwhelming the experience was. It was a talk with my uncle whom I talked to about how I was feeling that helped me to have hope again.

Though it still was hard. I kept going. I ended up having one of the best times of my life despite the circumstances.

Through every struggle, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. If we truly believe that. We can always find hope in a messy world.

Our feelings are what make us human—even if they are contradicting each other. Let them flow. They are all a part of you.

Simple Ways to Win Over Procrastination

You know the feeling of sitting behind the screen and thinking to yourself—I will start the work, right after a video from YouTube?

Or the feeling of being on Facebook—constantly scrolling through our news feed—consuming content after content.

And all that, now you are ready to go. But there is just a problem. Now it feels daunting to start the tasks you were set out to do.

You would rather continue with whatever you were doing. It’s more comforting and less intimidating.

That’s how I feel at least.

By default, our brain wants what is comfortable and easy. It wants to do things that we are already used to doing.

It becomes harder to find the motivation to start the work. Just like writing this blog that I have procrastinated for some time.

But why is it hard to stay focused on doing the actual work that requires us to think, than to binge-watch a Netflix series for hours?

And when we procrastinate we feel unmotivated.
When we feel unmotivated, we lose time.
And when we lose time, we feel defeated.

You know the expression “Time is money”. One thing that we cannot get back. And it feels good when our time hasn’t been wasted.

So how can we stay focused to minimize procrastination and do the work?

The traditional to-do list 

Yes, as crazy as it sounds. A simple to-do list does wonder without you realizing it. From my personal experience if I don’t make a to-do list I will be all over the place, and do what’s easiest for me—watch a YouTube video.

You know the feeling when you can cross over the task. That's great and even motivates you to do more.

How many tasks to have on a list? Personally, I would start with three. In that way, I won’t feel overwhelmed by too many tasks at once.

And they don’t necessarily have to be big tasks. A simple one such as replying to a mail or reading 15 minutes of a book.

A simple to-do helps you to remember what you are going to do. We are humans after all, and we can forget.'

Time constraint your work 

If you feel like you are wasting too much time, and not really focusing on the work at hand.

A good way is to “force” yourself into doing the task is to use a time constraint.

Imagine, you are a fireman. You are called out to duty. You arrived at a house on fire. You don’t have as much time in your hand to save the people inside the house. What are you going to do?

Of course, you are prioritizing the lives of the people inside the house. You have no other option. Your focus is entirely there. There is no time to check the latest tweet on Twitter.

I know it’s a bit of an exaggerated analogy. But you could almost apply that sense of “danger” by time boxing everything if necessary.

For how long you ask per task?

Is up to you for how many minutes or hours. When it comes to small tasks such as reading or replying to emails I set between 15-30 minutes.

For bigger tasks, I use focus sprints which are 1 hour 30 minutes which usually is followed by a 20 minutes break.

The 5 second rule

You remember at the beginning of the blog when I talked about how daunting it is to start a task right after watching multiple videos or scrolling through social media? I won’t blame you if you don’t.

Perhaps you received a notification from a friend that you had to check and came back to continue the reading.  

But it is difficult. It’s a slow process. We would rather continue watching videos - for hours if possible.

There is one little, simple trick that I have learned that works every time. I do it when I want to start something immediately.

it’s called the 5-second rule. You start the countdown from 5 to 1. But there’s more to it.

You have to have a goal in mind—could be a task from your to-do list. And you get to 1 and say go, you have to physically do the activity within the 5 second to trick your brain.

Try it out in your process, and see how it feels and works.

If you are interested in learning more about the 5 second rule. You can read the article Why The 5 Second Rule Works: The Science Explained

Closing thoughts 

The three things that I have shared with you are techniques I have personally tried out. What I love about them is that they are simple. When I start to procrastinate I go back to these three things.

What I have shared may not be new to some of you. But we could always use a friendly reminder, right?

I would also love to hear what you have to say about it, and do you combat procrastinating differently?

Let’s learn from each other.

I Don't Only Solve Graphic Problems

We are designers. We are passionate about the things we do. 

We love to build and craft. We love to see our work have an impact on the world. 

We are the ones that bring a vision to life, visually. We want it to look and feel good. But we also hope that what we make is liked by the one we are making it for—the client. 

At times, we feel defeated when our work is not appreciated. We get told that what we make is simple—a child could do what we do. 

So, do we only exist to design graphics and visuals? 

Let’s reimagine what it means to be a designer. 

At our core—we are problem solvers. We don’t only solve problems on an aesthetic level, but also on a strategic level, on a business level. 

We are here to discover more than just your logo, identity system, or website. 

We are here to discover and uncover your true purpose—your reason for doing what you do—beyond profit-making. Your vision for the future, what your hold dear (values), and the business goals you want to accomplish. 

We care about the story you want to share with the world—to the type of customer you seek to serve and the change you want to make. 

We are here to design your strategies and plans for the change you want to make—with purpose and meaning.  

We love to explore possibilities. We have the ability to evoke emotions through the work that we do. 

The art is not to only solve your problem on an aesthetic level, but to look at it from a holistic point of view.

As a designer, I’m more interested to know what motivates you to do business—beyond selfish or shallow reasons. 

What’s the underlying reason for starting the business? What change do you seek to make and for who?

Design is about people. Design is human-centered, not ego-centered. It’s about the people you want to create a change for. 

The values you hold dear. The beliefs that you have. The story you want to tell—is for the people that it resonates with. 

We use design as a means to connect people. But we can’t do that unless we also know the purpose of your business, the people you want to serve, and the story you want to tell. 

What I Have Learned from Writing Blogs In 2020

Before the start of 2020, I wanted to make a challenge. The challenge was about producing a piece of blog content—one per month at least.

It was a mental exercise. For the longest time, I wanted to write and share. But the biggest fear that held me back was—what should I write about?

What could a person like me share with the world? Do I even have anything interesting to add? This kind of mindset kept me from sharing whatever I had in mind.

The fear of thinking what if people don't like what I write—I guess it's part of human nature. What we share, we hope someone else will appreciate it.

I am an introvert. So mostly, I have been the type of person that thinks a lot inside of his head and doesn't say much at first. But when I'm really passionate about something, there's something inside me that's burning. Something I'm eager to share.

I used to write a lot of poems. Back then, poetry was a gateway for me to express my thoughts and feelings in written words. At first, I kept it to myself. But later on, chose to share it openly with others on social media.

A small group of people cared about what I wrote. The feeling was great. I loved writing poems day-in and day-out. But at times I let the fear get the best of me. It made me narrow-minded as I became worried about what people might think of me. When you let fear dictate you and your thoughts. It will hold you back from producing what you are passionate about.

It was an experiment 

The challenge I embarked on was a way for me to experiment with what I could write about. To see what pieces of content came more naturally to me or not. 

For example, writing about stuff that's personal to me, and how I did things were a lot easier. I didn't have to sit and wait for days to start writing—I would write whatever came to mind—what was dear to me.

My intention behind the content was also to share pieces or glimpses of who I am—what's behind the scene. Not all the content shared was personally about me. But some of them were such as "Introversion Became My Strength" and "What Being A Designer Gave Me". 

As Brené Brown: " In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen - really seen".

It's not easy to be vulnerable. It's not easy to share some part of yourself with the world. We strive to be perfect in every way to be liked by people. So we only share the best part of us, and never the ugly. If our sole purpose is to impress people, we start to lose sight of who we really are.

That's the reason why I admire people who are vulnerable and don't shy away from who they are. Even if they are introverts. They know how to leverage that. Those kinds of people inspire me to be a little bit more vulnerable than I was yesterday. 

Writing some of these blog content has been therapeutic in some way. It makes me reflective as I write them—even this one. 

I never had the intention to gain likes on Twitter, LinkedIn, or claps on Medium. If it was my intention, I would have stopped after the first or second blog content. 

For some of the blog content, I wrote I received something while others nothing. But it didn't stop me at all. The purpose went beyond likes and claps. 

I was trying to find my voice in a noisy world. I might not be there yet completely, but this challenge was a push for me to find it.

What I have learned in short 

See you next year 

To be honest, I didn’t always have the motivation to complete the challenge. Sometimes I thought it would be easier to just quit. One time I was overthinking about a subject to write about. That meant I totally missed September. But overall, I'm very pleased to have at least put the effort into doing this. It inspired me to continue putting in the same amount of effort, if not more next year. 

Why Is It So Hard to Make a Decision?

Why is it so difficult for us human beings to make a decision when we are faced with so many options at our disposal?

An example would be if we were to choose between 10 different recipes or pick 15 different pieces of clothes. It gets more difficult. And it is also time-consuming. You’re feeling like you’re wasting your time.

How does this tie into design? Let’s say you’re showing the client 10 concepts for a design. It could be for a logo, a website, or something third. And you tell them to pick one of them as their favorite. Worst case scenario the client might not want any of them.

You get frustrated. They had all the options, but yet still chose not to go through with it — the problem was that there were too many options to pick from.

Many options can for the most part lead to more confusion — where should the focus be at?

It’s deeply rooted in our psychology.

Too many options can paralyze the way we make a decision. The more options we have. The more time and effort it requires from us to pull it through.

We hear terms like “Keep It Simple, Stupid” and “Less Is More” in the design community. We don’t want the client to feel overwhelmed and only present that which creates value.

We as humans also want to make the right decision when choosing something. But how can we if we are overwhelmed with information and options to choose from?

The jam experiment

Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted a jam experiment in 2000.

A stall was selling 24 different kinds of jam one day. While another was selling only 6 different jam the next day. The large display of jam attracted more viewers who were interested. But when it came to the actual sale. For every 10 people — only one would buy.

It shows us that more isn’t always better. Not only does this produce decision paralysis. But it can also reduce people’s satisfaction with the choice that they have made.

The same is in the design field. I have tried in my career as a designer — the more options I show the client in the initial concept phase. The more insecure they become with their decision. You end doing more revisions to present more ideas — even though you presented 7 concepts. And you’re just hoping that the client will like just one of them.

I thought to myself if I present many concepts. The more likely I am to land on a concept that they will like. It’s true that the chances are there. But it’s also a gamble.

So like the jam experiment — what we should learn from it is — that more isn’t always better. There’s a connection between the choices we make and the satisfaction we get from them.

You can read more about the study by clicking here.

Conclusion

Showing a client 7–10 different concepts doesn’t mean better results. The feedback will be difficult and hard. Because where should the focus be at?


Instead, try to narrow down to two or three concepts that you’re confident about. And that you think will create value for their audience and business.

4 WordPress Page Builder to Use for Your Design Portfolio

The intention of this article is to help people make a choice on which WordPress page builder to use. For their design portfolio.

It could be someone who wants to build up a fast portfolio site. Because you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. And want to show off your projects to a potential client or an employer that you’re applying for a job.

If you have chosen WordPress as your platform. That’s great. Maybe you’re already searching for a page builder. Or considering replacing your existing one.

What page builder should you use? And which one is easy to learn and use? These might be questions you are thinking while searching.
A good thing would also be to figure out what you’re looking for in a page builder.

Do you want a page builder where you can drag and drop as you like with little to no coding involved? Or do you want to use advanced code to kick some uniqueness into your website?

Everything comes down to what your needs are.

Why do we need page builders?

If you get used to how a good page builder works. They can save a lot of time. And you can focus on putting your work out. They are also super useful when building your website responsive. So your website portfolio fits on different devices.

Also If you don’t have a lot of money to hire a developer — using a page builder is a way to go about it. You can create pretty good websites by using a page builder. Especially if you have some knowledge of basic coding. Then you can really do some cool stuff.

A quick overview of WordPress page builders in 2020

I’m going to share with you 4-page builders that I have come across while using WordPress. You might recognize some of them.


I will go more in-depth about the 4-page builders. You’re more than welcome to click through the list to go quickly down.

  1. Divi
  2. Elementor
  3. Brizy
  4. Oxygen

1. Divi

Divi Builder

With a subscription base that’s on 89 USD a year with Divi. You will unlock all the plugins, themes, and cool features that Elegant Themes have to offer. The Divi Builder is flexible and allows a lot of columns and layout opportunities. You can use any theme that you wish by taking advantage of their content modules. Here’s examples of some of the modules:

Though you don’t need to know coding to be able to use Divi Builder. You can add your own custom CSS if you’re not satisfied with the existing stylings. You have the function to duplicate and copy any element with one simple click. As well as the option to hide or lock a certain module on the backend if you don’t want other people to have the ability to edit.

Here is why you might consider this page builder:

2. Elementor

Elementor Page Builder

Elementor already offers a free plugin version of their page builder. But you also have the opportunity to pay for the pro-version. It starts at 49 USD for one website to 199 USD for 1000 sites.

The free version of Elementor offers a simple, but yet powerful page builder. It has one of the fastest interfaces you can find from live-editing to instant page loading. The standard features of the page builder include animations, shape dividers, gradient backgrounds.

It has a good amount of WordPress templates which you can pick and choose from. Elementor is also mobile friendly with handy maintenance mode tools, under construction pages, and more.

The pro-version includes over 26 widgets to help you build your portfolio. You can for example insert social media buttons, comments on your website, categorize your work. You can save your widgets to insert on other pages.

Here is why you might consider this page builder:

3. Brizy

Brizy Builder

Brizy is relatively a new page builder. Built in 2018 by ThemeFuse who has created many WordPress themes over the years. There exists a free and pro-version of Brizy. It starts at 49 USD yearly for three sites to 99 USD for unlimited sites.

At the moment they run a special lifetime offer around 299 USD for lifetime updates and support. It’s a lot of money to give, but you will never have to pay again. You will also have the newest features, and create unlimited pages.

It has all the things you need in order to design your portfolio without having to know any code.

Here is why you might consider this page builder:

4. Oxygen

Oxygen Builder Interface

The Oxygen page builder is a bit different than the average WordPress page builder. Oxygen works as a separate module that’s still connected to WordPress. They offer a fixed price of 99 USD that includes a 60-day money-back guarantee and lifetime updates to an unlimited number of websites.

The idea with Oxygen is to build fast websites within minutes, and the pre-built components allow you to generate your own designs quickly. And faster if you already have made your designs beforehand using Adobe XD for example.

HTML elements are also included if you have a background or knowledge about coding. Oxygen also has an import/export function to quickly move your designs from one place to another.

I would go so long to say that Oxygen is like Webflow for WordPress. The interface and the features that’s available looks familiar. There’s a lot of tools to use if you learn them. But Oxygen can be quite intimidating for beginners. Experienced developers would find this page builder to be useful, especially with the support of HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP.

Here is why you might consider this page builder:

Your turn to pick your page builder for your portfolio

I hope by reading this short article you will be more informed about the different page builders. It’s your decision in the end. Always go with what fits your needs by looking at your budget, preferences, and what features you want.

If you have any questions regarding page builders. Please let me know down in the comments. It would also be nice if you would share your experiences with using page builders on WordPress.

You're Good Enough—Combating Perfectionism

As creatives, we all have a perfectionist within us. For some of us, we suffer from it. Me included. We want to create the best of the best. We want to impress our boss, our colleagues, our community — even family members, maybe.

We become obsessed with it. Everything needs to sit clean and tight. No room for mistakes. Because if that happens — our world collapses.

You feel the frustration as you look back, and see that you didn’t make much progress even though you focus so much on the details.

But what are we doing wrong and what could we do to feel that we are moving in the right direction?

You’re not alone. I suffered big time to almost where it felt like a disease you couldn’t get rid of.

I paid too much unnecessary attention to details that didn’t matter. I did it anyway. Because I was afraid. Afraid to make mistakes. Afraid of feeling rejected or told you’re not good enough.

That constant fear held me back from trying new things. Held me back on coming out of my comfort zone.

Not going to lie. Even to this day, I have some trace of it left. But it doesn’t hold me back as it used to.

My perfectionist self wouldn’t have the confidence to write this post and publish it. I would feel people are already pre-judging. Looking at my spelling mistakes, sentence structure, or that the post is not interesting at all.

But what has changed? Simple. My mindset. But the act of transitioning one’s mindset is not easy. At least for me.

I still try to produce the best work I can manage. But not at the cost of my time and sanity. Over the years I have tried to find ways of combating this creative “disease”. I have never found the answer, but answers that would help me slowly overcome it.

Listen to the voice inside your head

We need to become self-aware of the voices inside our heads. What voices do you hear?

Are they compassionate and inspiring you to do good? Or are you mean to yourself?

The more you diminish yourself. The more afraid you become of trying new things. What you shape inside your mind becomes reality. We need to start believing in ourselves and our abilities from within. We need to internalize it first.

“If your voice in your head is mean to you. Remember that someone manipulated that voice and instilled it in you. Kill that fake voice and find yours. I love you. Now love yourself.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

Pay attention to what you consume 

Self-doubt starts to grow when what you consume makes you feel bad about yourself. The content we consume shapes our minds and world-view.

We aspire to be perfectionists but feel defeated when we see other creatives doing great. People who never show the “ugly” side can create a negative impact.

That’s why I love to follow people who dare to share and show that not everything is pretty. That there’s room for mistakes. That it takes time, hard work, and wit to get where they are. We as consumers only see the top of the iceberg.

I lacked perspective. I didn’t pay attention to what was under the iceberg. Instead, I tried to feed the perfectionist within. But would give up.

Trying to get on someone’s level 5 instead of building on your level 1 slowly, will hurt. We should not only focus on the end result, but also the process along.

My final thoughts

I believe that perfectionism kills productivity and increases procrastination. That’s why I don’t like it when companies use that word to recruit people.

It gets dangerous when it hinders our growth. What you believe and have installed in yourself dictates your external behavior.

We need to tell ourselves that we are good enough and believe it. Take things at our own pace. Listen to people that make us feel good about ourselves.
It takes work and time to change. I’m still in recovering mode. But it’s worth it.

Share a Common Visual Language With Stylescapes

Often there’s a challenge as a designer to have the same visual vision as the client. We have especially trained our eyes to see colors, shapes, forms, types, patterns, etc.

That’s not always the case with the client. The client comes to you to help them. That could be a design for a logo or a website or both.

In your early career as a designer, you would take what comes your way. You ask the client a few questions like what’s the name of your company. What colors do you like and don’t like? What types of logo do you want and how will you describe your brand.

You ask that in a form of a questionnaire or through a message. You go back to create design concepts that you hope your client would love. You send them the concepts and expect great feedback.

The client replies back and tells you that they don’t like the logo for example. The colors are off, the mark looks funny, the typeface is not right. You will find a place where the client becomes the creative director.

What went wrong? You and the client never had the same vision, to begin with. Words can mean different things in terms of images.

You left them in the dark and worked on the concepts alone. They never felt like they were a part of the process. They didn’t feel a sense of ownership.

With vague information about the client’s business and brand. The present work becomes vague as well.

The client’s feedback then becomes vague. And the focus is only about aesthetics and not functionality. You will find yourself doing countless revisions for free.

Why We Need to Have a Shared Visual Language 

A shared visual language helps build excitement and trust.

You and the client can see what the brand could look like. It saves you time when you're in the design phase. That's where Stylescapes come into play.

A stylescape is a design prototype tool. You curate found images from the internet that provides an overview of the visual direction for the business.

The curated images are found through keywords that you extracted from the client through a discovery/strategy phase.

We also attach the client's ideal customer on the stylescape - we design for the audience, not the client.

A stylescape made for Brshh

The stylescapes take place right after a discovery phase that you have done with the client in person or through a conference call.

The purpose of a stylescape is to make the client feel like they are part of the process. That’s why it’s crucial to present them while you can see their reactions.

Not all clients are willing to go through all that. And want to get quickly over with it. Those types of clients can be tedious to work with and would waste your time. Explaining your process to the client early is really important.

The Pros and Cons of Stylescapes

If done correctly it helps the client vision their brand better, visually. Since you’re only curating the images and not creating anything from scratch. It minimized the round of revisions. It will be a lot easier to make adjustments at this stage.

Not only clients, but stylescapes is also great for initiatives

The only cons that I can think of is the learning curve. Not only the curation part but also the way to present a stylescape. Not going to lie. It took me some time to understand it.

But once it’s in your blood. Stylescapes is a game-changing tool to bridge the gap between discovery and design.

To sum it all up

In the beginning, I binge-watched every free video about stylescapes. But if you want to go deep into the topic. I can’t recommend The Futur’s course about stylescapes enough. All the credits go to them.

If you are looking to reduce the countless revisions. And have a more collaborative partnership with your client. Stylescapes must find their way into your design process.

It gives the client excitement and helps you be more clear about what the client wants. Above all — it saves you and the client time and money.

4 Typefaces to Use in Graphic Design

Finding the right typeface for the right project can become a tedious task to do. Where do you even begin? Is it a sans-serif or serif or a script typeface? Should you choose free ones or invest in a premium one?

Especially when you are starting out as a graphic designer it will take a lot of your hours trying to find one. You’re going to end up downloading a bunch of them and can’t decide to stick to one or two.

One thing for sure I can say in my experience as a designer — finding good typefaces and using them in the best way is an art.

I'm going to share my top 4 typefaces (not in a particular order) to use in graphic design. Additionally showing projects where I have used them.

1) Futura

Designed by Paul Renner in 1927, Futura is a perfect typeface for logo design and for big headlines where a limited amount of text is needed. Its geometric shapes have been influenced by the Bauhaus in Germany. A timeless typeface if you ask me.

Logos where I have applied Futura in different ways

Download Futura

2) DIN

My favorite typeface. DIN’s large x-height makes it fit very well on digital platforms such as a website—both on headlines and body text. The width of the stroke on bold weight with uppercase works well on graphics for SoMe and logo design as well.

Usage of DIN on different applications

Download DIN

3) Clarendon

With Its bold and solid structure, Clarendon is there to make your design stand out. It’s robust and detailed and has a classic feel yet it also feels contemporary. In my experience only on limited use does it work well, and it’s a no-go on body text.

Works really well on headings

Download Clarendon

4) Baskerville

Baskerville designed by John Baskerville in the 1750s is known for its unique thick and thin strokes. Its legibility makes it applicable both on print and digital - even on logos.

I have found it very useful on cosmetic brands

Download Baskerville

My final thoughts

In the beginning, you will probably want to experiment with different typefaces. And that’s fair too. But sticking to a few can be a good thing.

All the 4 typefaces I have mentioned are premium ones. Investing in good typefaces will get you in the right direction. Next is to learn the fundamentals of typography where I recommend The Futur’s courses.

Also, be on the lookout for some great bundles of typefaces on DesignCuts website. It’s freaking awesome. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to buy them. Let alone one of them. So don’t miss the chance.

How to Get Creatively Inspired—Insight in How I Work

Being inspired can sometimes be very tough, and at other times more natural. You are probably familiar with the feeling of wanting to squeeze that perfect idea out while you are sitting at your desk.

But it just won’t come out. Then you become very frustrated and annoyed. You might give up the project altogether.

The truth is that waiting for inspiration to come while sitting at your desk in front of the computer can be one of the most unproductive things you can do.

Our brain needs a break from the screen, but it’s like we are telling ourselves — if I’m not inspired now, when will I ever be?

We all have our own processes to go through in our creative pursuits. What works or doesn’t work is up to the individual. I have changed my process a lot of times — including the creative phase where you have to generate ideas or concepts for a particular task.

You might go through the same thing and are now looking for ways to optimize how you can come up with ideas.

1) Work within sprints and take breaks in between

When coming up with ideas for projects I love to work proactively and not passively. Meaning I would timebox myself for around 90 minutes. I have found it to be super helpful. It forces you to focus on the task at hand.

Don’t focus on perfection here. Whatever comes to mind, get it out. To make it even more effective is to put your phone far away from you to avoid any distractions. When the time is over — take a break from your screen.

You can repeat this process as many times as needed. The catch here is to proactively work towards a solution, and not waiting for the inspiration to come down at your fingertips. Most of the time that won’t work. And taking breaks is vital for your brain to process.

This is not something new I have invented — it actually something that I found on Instagram on The Futur’s page.

2) Leave your desk and be inspired

You have probably heard it before. Leave your desk and go outside. And you’re probably thinking to yourself why would I do that? The problem is when you sit too close to the screen, and the things you are trying to solve — you can become too narrow-sighted.

As mentioned before. Taking breaks is vital for your brain to process information. Let it wander. Do something else to stimulate your brain.

That could be playing video games, going somewhere scenic, exercising, reading comics or books, etc.

All these stimuli will help you see the problem from a different angle. It’s like seeing things for the first time with fresh eyes. While doing the other activities — try to see if you can connect it to the problem you’re working on. It’s a fun thing to do.

There’s a book called Think! authored by Tina Catling and Mark Davies. It has helped me immensely when it comes to finding ways of stimulating our brain to creatively come with ideas.

I also have written a review about it that you can read here to get a feeling about it.

3) Let your subconscious take over

One of the most powerful things I have tried is to use my subconscious mind to come out with ideas.

Ideas come and go, and they appear at peculiars moments and places. Have you ever experienced when closing your eyes, and your mind starts to come up with lots of ideas that you couldn’t come up with at your desk?

For some others it might be while they are taking a shower — or when exercising.

When ideas start to appear. Don’t ignore them. Either write them down or doodle them. You will thank yourself later. Sometimes we are not even aware that our subconscious is taking action. And we will lose that opportunity to dig some gold up.

It can take some practice to unlock the subconscious mind, but when it really starts to kick in. You will be amazed by the ideas you can come up with.

I have worked on a project where I would do two focus sprints and call it a day. In the meantime, I would stimulate my brain by either reading books or taking a run outside. Sometimes when I run the ideas start to appear in my mind.

You can watch this video with Chris Do talking about unlocking your subconscious. I’m not going to lie. I was super excited after watching that video. So I hope that it also will bring you much value in your process — you can see it for yourself.

Find what works for you

At the end of the day. All of what I just told you might not even work for you, and that’s just totally fine. I just wanted to share the process of how I get creatively inspired.

The common factor for how I work is not to passively wait for the ideas to come down — rather proactively work towards ideas to solve a particular problem, but also taking breaks from work.

Let other activities stimulate your brain so you can tackle the problem from a different and more exciting angle.