The Soft Sciences of Professional Practice: Thing 2

This blog series based on a talk I did originally for a class of LCAD students in November of 2016

In college (or whatever way you learned your thing) you learn how to DO your craft: Visual hierarchy, rules of layout, color theory, how to use design programs - the mechanics of it. And if you're lucky, somewhere along the way you also get taught about doing the WORK of your craft: How to hustle new work, manage clients, invoicing, project management, etc.

Here in Soft Sciences, I'm going to talk about some of the touchy-feely, soft and squishy places in-between those two things.

Thing 2: Don't Be the Most Talented Person in the Room

There's this wonderful quote by the late, great Harold Ramis (you know, he played Spengler in Ghostbusters... or the male Holtzmann, as I refer to him) - He says "Find the most talented person in the room... stand next to them, be helpful."

And if you're the most talented person in the room, you need to find a different room.

I find this really, really challenging for myself personally. The challenge isn't finding people more talented than I am (believe me, not the problem at all). The challenge is that it's incredibly humbling to admit you're lacking in any kind of knowledge or skill. I feel like, in this self-employed / freelance / small agency world especially, we do a lot of posturing to make ourselves seem bigger and more "legitimate" than we actually feel. Just me? Ah, didn't think so.

It's incredibly humbling to show your lacking, to show your soft underbelly and admit you're not the most badass person here right now. But! When you're willing to not be the boss in charge all the time, but rather come alongside other people and offer support... you'll be amazed at the relationships you can build with people more talented than you.

I especially like to connect with rad women who are total bosses in completely different realms than I am. Seeing how they work their magic in a world totally unfamiliar to me helps my brain fire up all sorts of new synapses. Recently I took a Saturday to assist one such rad woman, Janelle Wylie of Lavender's Flowers renown. From 8am til midnight, I worked as a lowly grunt, assisting her incredible styling and decorating of this huge wedding in Palm Springs. I was not in charge. I was, in fact, the absolute least qualified of the assistants that day, with zero experience in the world of florals or decor or weddings in general. But I went and tried to make myself as useful as possible, and I tell you, it's amazing how much you can glean from someone when you're not trying to impress anyone. GO FIGURE.

Get uncomfortable. Reach out to people you admire or want to learn from. 

Sure, talented people with lots to offer are usually really busy. So be respectful of their time and energy. Shoot a quick, succinct email. A thoughtful tweet. A quick and courteous handshake intro at a meetup. They might not respond the way you want right away, but be consistent. Also, get rid of your expectations of how you want them to respond. Be open to whatever they have to offer, no matter how they offer it. Hell, you can even learn from the way they turn you down.

This is a humbling and difficult process, but be open to the journey of it. It may yield completely unexpected results in the form of any number of detours. But I promise you that no matter what, you will end up in the company of good people and good things to do.