I like to send out little emails to our team from time to time with tips on how I like to approach work/life/learning/tips/tricks… basically anything I find helpful that I think will help others. I’ve debated for a while what should be shared internally and what should be shared externally, ultimately I’ve decided (you will hear more on this later) that sharing is caring and if anything I have to share could help anyone then I should make it public. This is one such post. For me there have been a few specific things that have contributed to our success thus far and after reading Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc I realised that a bunch of them are things that I have always done that have had major benefits for getting the most out of my time, work and most importantly, helping me to constantly improve, I thought I should share these tips.
What is your why?
First up, I’d say the most important thing to do is understand your ‘why?’. I have always needed to know why I should do something, perhaps to-a-fault at times as I just won’t do anything unless I have a good reason for it. There is a great book called Start with why that really sent this home for me. A question I have always asked when it comes to work is “why am I doing this?” and I have three simple questions (but thinking of adding a fourth) that I ask myself to figure that out, “Am I doing something I really enjoy?”, “Am I Learning?”, “Am I earning good money?”. If I can tick one of those boxes then I understand why I am doing what I’m doing and nothing can get in my way, if I can’t, then I need to pivot and do something else or look for a different direction to start working toward. The fourth question I’m thinking of adding is “Am I helping others?”, perhaps this is something I should have always asked but I kind of just figured that was a given, you should always help others and you know when you are, maybe some people need to ask that, I don’t know, so I’m undecided if that needs to go on the list but thought it worth mentioning anyway, a young dude I met the other day brought that up and I hadn’t thought about it before, food for thought…
In Creativity, Inc Ed talks toward the end of the book about Beginners Mind, in Zen Buddhism it’s called Shoshin and refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. I didn’t know this was special as it’s how I approach everything but apparently in lots of asian cultures people study for years to achieve this. A good way to understand this is how the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki puts it: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”. In my approach to everything I do, I assume that I don’t know the best answer, how could I? Technology and workflows are constantly changing and evolving and if I assume from my years of experience that I know the best way of doing anything, I would be wrong. I learn more from looking at how other people do things, without preconceived notions of how best to do it, and I can then take everyones approach and develop my own refined approach to the problem. Aside from that I believe that it would be incredibly arrogant to believe that I know the best way to do anything, I simply don’t think that is even possible, I know the best way to approach something based on what I have learnt so far, but that is by no means the best way to approach something, I need to know more, especially more current information as things could have changed. To cut it short, I know nothing and every time I need to do something I try different approaches and research to see if there are other approaches that I haven’t seen or thought of. I’d say that to many people I work with, I can be very annoying, I’ll often tell Jonny, Calum or Charlotte to figure something out on their own and to research things and come back to me to talk the options over. I don’t do this because I don’t have an opinion about how to do it or because I don’t want to do it, I just believe they will come up with an original approach which we can then talk about and see if theirs are better than my own, or we can perhaps combine a bunch of different approaches into one super approach. In practice – I don’t assume Adobe Media Encoder is the best encoder, it was the best last time I compared them all but every time I get a chance or hear of a new one I try them all again and test features, speeds and output quality. Coming from the angle of the beginners mind is the only way you can insure that what you do is constantly improving.
The working week
The week is a working week, pretty simple right? I allocate five days a week to work, I don’t care which days or what I have on, I just have five working days a week and that’s that. In practice I may have two proper days work with clients etc but then I have three days in that week that are still work days. It may just be that I use them for research, looking at new plugins or workflows, refining pre-existing workflows, catch up on emails, watch tutorials, read manuals, practice different things in different software, etc. As a professional in my field I feel that I have to endeavour to be the best at it, it’s a nice little unattainable goal, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Treating the week as a work week also helps to keep a routine, that way if you have a month of down time when work goes quiet you won’t have a shock to the system when all the jobs come flying in and you have to hit the ground running. On top of that you will have learnt a load and may have come up with a bunch of great new ideas or found some inspiration to push you to challenge yourself and try new things.