12 April 2008
I had a conversation recently with a good friend where I was talking about some things that had been frustrating me, things I wanted to change about my current situation. My friend was too polite to say it, but as I listened to what I was saying, it sounded a lot like whining.
The thing is, I’m perfectly happy, probably as happy as I’ve ever been. I have more support and more freedom to do my best work now than I ever have before. Since I started working from home, I have more time and more energy to focus on the things I get the most satisfaction from, both work and personal.
As cheesy as it sounds, my life has never been better. But still I’m thinking obsessively — and talking anybody’s ear off who will listen — about how I could make the situation better.
I go through a pretty consistent cycle with projects. I always start with ambitious plans and a lot of optimism, but progress is slow. Then something clicks and there’s a rush of momentum to get the ideas down as they come. Then there’s a practical push to make things work, and usually some of the more ambitious ideas get brought down to earth or thrown out altogether. Once it’s out there, there’s usually a very short amount of time where I’m actually happy with what I’ve accomplished.
After that brief moment of satisfaction, I immediately start to see everything that’s wrong or missing and start obsessing over what should be different or better. From that point on I’m incapable of being satisfied with the finished product.
That’s one reason I feel like I’m best at redesigns—taking something that works and making it better. It’s just the way my brain is wired. The first thing I think about when I use something I really like is how I could make it better. It’s not an ego thing, like I think I could have done it better in the first place. It’s just that I think it’s fun, and my brain just runs away with it. I read books and think about the movie. I use websites and play games and think about the redesign.
I think there’s a kernel of that attitude — or something like it — that’s just part of being a designer. Some people are idea people, some people are artists, some people think in systems, some people have a more organic approach. Everybody is wired up to naturally tune in on one or another of those aspects, or some combination that gives you your focus. It’s what makes you do what you do, because you can’t help thinking about the world that way anyway.
I’m an optimizer. What’s your excuse?