So, my co-worker randomly asked me at lunch today, “Anh, you seem to have lots of excitement, how do you keep that up?” I didn’t really pay attention and take the time to understand what he was really asking me, so I replied, “Yeah, I’m on drugs all the time…”
Well, 30 minutes later back at my desk, when my lunch had been carefully digested and my brain got back to work again, I thought, “Yeah, how do I keep myself excited at work?” I guess the answer starts with what motivates me to work the most.
As a designer, of course, I have to care about how things look. Aside from that I love to make sense of everything inside and out, not just the look.
In the process of making sense of things you often come across two scenarios: it’s awesome how people get stuff done and it’s awful how lots of things in the world were done without care and attention. The more the later one happens the more you get sensitive to flaws, errors, imperfection, and bad execution. Then you start to hear people say this to you a lot: “You’re such a hater.”
That hater is me. I was never the positive-thinking one among any group of people. If anyone is in a meeting with me they will see me just sit there saying nothing. For a lot of people, they are quiet because they are digesting information. I do that too, but most of the time I’m quiet because I’m busy drilling to find flaws. After my quiet moment, I would spit out problems or issues that I found. It’s uncomfortable and it stresses people out because “things never seem to be right with her.” I get that.
In the beginning, it was hard as I didn’t experience that in school. I often thought that there must have been something wrong with me. Why can’t I just come to terms with things and make my life easier? Why am I easily stressed out even with small issues? Why do things seems to be so simple for other people but not for me?
Haters gonna hate. True. But what do haters do other than hate? When you start to hate on something you either walk away, stop caring so much or you’re itching to fix it. I learned that that itching is a good feeling to have. Being a hater didn’t feel so bad once I started to enjoy the process of finding flaws. It’s fun to play bad cop.
So what motivates me to work the most isn’t anything “big” that I hear people say, like the ability to solve a difficult problem, being with a super smart team, making the world a better place, or making a dent in the universe. For me it’s simple, I get that itchy feeling a lot, or you can say I’m hating on things a lot so I gotta fix them.
However, the difficult part wasn’t developing a “hating habit”. As there is a very thin line between scratching at problems and stressing out over the problems. So the difficult part for me was to develop a new perspective so that I wouldn’t get sucked into problems to a point where I would stress myself and my team out and then having to escape from it. This perspective helps me turn stress into excitement. It wasn’t easy for me to make sense of this until I read this famous Steve Jobs’ quote:
“The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it… I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways.”
So here is my perspective: (1) There is no guarantee that I can solve a problem, big or small, but if I look at it as if it was an object or a toy, I can play with it, it’s no longer an issue and has no possibility to cause stress. Instead, it creates excitement. (2) I shouldn’t be stressing too much about work or life because like Mr. Jobs said life is “kind of messed up, in a lot of ways” anyway. If I can’t change life or make even a light scratch in the universe, at the very least I should have fun poking it.
How do I answer the question, “How do I maintain excitement?” I’m following my mission to keep on hating things, and poking life.