Throughout my life, I’ve constantly found myself amazed at how little I know. My ability to learn has always been fuelled by this feeling of inadequacy, and a desire to better myself. It’s the thing that keeps me going at 4.30am, trying to meet a deadline, with absolutely no idea of how I’m going to get there.
And nothing makes me feel more inadequate, than reading articles on the web. There are so many great minds in our industry – stalwarts like Jeffrey Zeldman and Oliver Reichenstein, trendsetters like Frank Chimero and Trent Walton, or up-and-coming youngsters like Devin Halladay and Cole Townsend. The writings of all of the above, and many others, have inspired me in some way or another. I trawl through article after article, I eagerly await updates, all in the hope of some sentence, some phrase or snippet which will teach me something new.
It also pleases me that the recurring theme, amongst all these words I take in, is improvement. Self-improvement, professional improvement. Improving design practices, development methods and performance optimisations. Improving work/life balance. Improving lives with ideas for new products, or charitable contributions. Improving the human race, one well-written article at a time.
Maybe as designers we are a little arrogant to think we have the power to cause this kind of change, but the simple fact is, we do. We work with hive mind, all striving subconsciously toward the same purpose – improving everything we touch. We see problems to be solved where others see frustration.
And there will always be problems to solve; always things to improve; always more knowledge to obtain.
When asked, I used to tell people that I got my motivation from striving to be the best in my field, as though there were some imaginary ladder I could climb in order to reach the top. But now I realise that such a thing simply does not exist. As I learn and develop and improve myself, so too do my peers. As hard as I try to reach a certain level, by the time I get there, the benchmark has moved.
Socrates once said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”, and I take solace in the fact that I’m never going to “know it all” – The world would be an incredibly boring place if I did.