“I’m flying by the seat of my pants here…” my design professor would say before just about every critique. My classmates all joked about his trademark phrase, but I always liked how it gave the impression that he pulled himself out of bed, showed up in class, and creative ideas were just rolling out of him with no preparation. Quirky comments aside, the most important concept that was impressed upon myself and my classmates in design school was to do everything for a reason. This was my biggest take home message from all of college. Don’t approach things by blindly stabbing, hoping for a good result, but consciously build things with a clear purpose. Obviously, this defines good design: there should be no frivolous, decorative elements to design, but it should be elegant and functional, communicating content effectively. The look needs to be decisive and not fussy. This applies whether designing a book, a logo, or a website.
However, I have found this concept extrapolates just as well to the rest of life. Living decisively is equally as important as designing decisively. For me, this usually means putting my full attention and creativity into each new undertaking, whether it is a climb or a new gig. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it thoroughly and well. I put a piece of myself into it.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
As a freelancer, I have heard the adage about keeping work and life separate. To some extent this is important, because otherwise I would run the risk of always working, but at the same time life and work are so entwined that it doesn’t make sense to completely separate them. What drives me as a climber is also what makes me a good designer. My attitude towards new objectives in the mountains is the same as my attitude towards editing a gear review. I’m doing both because I am passionate, and I am actively choosing and working towards my goals in both my work life and play life. After all, I am just one person living one life.
The best analogy I can think of to describe this is my confusion about getting a business bank account when I first began freelancing. That year I went to an accountant to help me with my taxes. I am terrible at math, but I am aware enough to know that finances need to be handled with some degree of regulation and accountability, so I walked into the accountant’s office with a pile of receipts and bank statements that I thrust at him, pleading for him to help me because I had no idea what to do next. Miraculously, I had hired the most patient accountant in California, and he walked me through the steps of what I need to do to properly keep track of my finances. The most important aspect, he said, was to have a separate business account. Perplexed, I asked him to clarify exactly what money would go in the business account and what would go in my personal account, because every paycheck went right to paying my bills. He noted my confusion, “I know it’s all the same money…” What he impressed upon me was that the record keeping needs to be separate, even though to me personally, all the income, and the reward, is the same. Which, as it turns out, is a lot like life and work. I have energy going towards different goals, but it all comes from the same source: my passionate ambition.
Work and hobbies are two aspects to one life, but both aspects are handled by the same creative and hard-working individual. That individual should put forth the the same decisive, creative, and hard-working energy to all things that matter: climbing, work, relationships, health, because, really, it’s all the same money.