Year of Exploration.
I like to write about my year as an exercise in self review. If you can get past the humble braggy content of a post which reviews accomplishments, you may make it to the part where you can find what I've discovered.
I wanted this year to really be about exploration. I went to New York 3 times this year. Print Source, Surtex, and New York Comicon. I went to Vegas for a licensing show, was a panelist for an art fund in SF, and did Designer Con in Pasadena. New York(x3), Vegas, SF, Pasadena, San Diego, and Portland. Not all work related, Family vacations were in Vancouver BC (x2) and Hawaii. Not only did I fly around to varying physical destinations, I crossed many industries, walking into spaces I didn't feel like I belonged in. Surface Design, Licensing, Collectors, & Public Art Funding.
I took on a range of new gigs:
Released new sets of iMessage stickers
Developed and brought to production a line of stickers.
Designed my first Prom / Graduation.
Designing a restaurant.
Taking on a design of a mural.
Designed a few Apps.
Started to Twitch Stream
I bought a cargo van to help with cons.
Signed a lease to finally create an office space dedicated to work.
I upgraded my site to be cleaner and streamlined.
Lessons: thoughts gained from exploring:
Be prepared to feel like an outsider:
The full nature of exploring means you're in a place you've not been. So wrestling with being lonely and / or feeling like you don't belong can be difficult. The full swing of emotions that come with school playground social dynamics still apply to adults. When you see groups forming, and you feel sad you're not a part of those groups. At Print Source I felt like it was very female dominated industry. Coming from the sausage factory that is the Video Game Industry that was a good paradigm shift.
Joy of discovering what I should've been doing all this time.
In the same week I felt dejected, I felt a real high and validation when a representative of a company outright said they should hire me. I felt like they 'got me'. I hadn't gleamed much validation from my peers, because not many were trying to do what I was doing. I found well intended advice not resonating as much to me. What exploration meant was to look beyond the village of my peers and seek outside advice. It doesn't mean not listening to your friends. It just means..get a second opinion...find a third opinion...dig for a fourth.
Patience in the long play.
This year I've helped kickstart a handful of collaborations that are still panning out and are in various stages of development. The more ambitious the project, the more partners there are, and the longer it takes. It can be frustrating when you feel like your passion isn't being matched. But I also realize its unreasonable to expect matches in priorities.
Joy in the long play.
I'm still waiting on business deals from Comicon 2015 to come to light, and I'm just now working on some deals pitched at Emerald City Comicon 2016. I'm seeing many different returns on seeds I've planted years and months ago. People bought work months after a show ends, an email out of the blue from chance conversations on show floors, etc. When you finally start seeing the fruits of the long plays, they are very rewarding.
Invest and Divest.
This year I've met with friends to ask what they've learned. I'm specifically asking people what they're learning on their quests. Most are more than willing to share information, knowledge, contacts, and leads. Some though, are very tight lipped and guarded. Invest time into those that share, are team players, and are encouraging. Divest time from those who feel threatened enough to protect. Invest in team mates, divest from lone wolves.
This year was a great exercise in being supportive. As a father, that's one of my favorite roles. To pick up my daughter after a fall and hugging her. As a friend, I've had the opportunity to help those that were struggling on their quests. I found I really get a lot out of supporting people. I turn off the quick to judge why so serious version of me and switch to the listen and nod version of me. I would like to do better in keeping the words that leave my mouth be words of encouragement and filter out my words of criticism. This year was a good reminder for me to continue to try to improve on this.
Create in turmoil.
All this time up until now I've never had a dedicated office. Those who have visited my home know that I stand in the corner of my living room to draw. Also I continue to create when morale at work is at an all time low, or when I'm crunching at work and am running on fumes, when I don't feel like it, or am just in a crappy mood. If you find you can only produce when you're in ideal situations, I wish for you an effortless life path devoid of conflict, struggle, and challenges. Then you'll be able to produce to your liking. Otherwise learn to produce in less than ideal environments.
After you're done watching the Pros, watch the Amateurs.
The pros have made it, or at least they think they've made it. They are more sure of things and the way things are, in their field. Learn from the pros. They've come to great conclusions. THEN... also take some time to look at where the Amateurs are looking. Cause they're what's next. They're hungry. They're the ones generally trying newer things, or starting at the bottom rung of yet another genre or industry. They're the ones that haven't been told you can't do x and y, yet. And they're the ones still asking questions.
Have you found yourself just dismissing my assertion? Let me re frame it then.
Do you have kids? Have you listened to your child say something to you so true and simple? It's similar to the advice of learning from children, or learning from watching someone use your App for the first time. Watch a noob do something, and not the heavy user. This sort of advice is paralleled in other industries, just worded differently. It's great to have many heroes and people to aspire to. Keep having them. But glance once in a while to those looking up too.
I explored, and found myself feeling a bit like an outsider. In return I found conviction to pursue my new goals with more intention. I've torn down old heroes and constructed new ones. It feels great. I'm ready for 2017.