I have always been a big proponent of the idea that we make ourselves who we are. Although I believe that environment, genetics and all that jazz has a part in this play, I was raised with the point of view that if you want something to happen in your life, you have to make it happen for yourself. This outlook has helped me to push forward throughout the entirety of my career. Imagine my surprise when I found myself going against my own beliefs, not so long ago!
The issue I was having is one that I imagine (or hope?) many of us go through throughout our lives. For the past few months I have been working on many different projects. Each of which has been rewarding in its own way, but few of which are glamorous UX ventures. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved and continue to love working with each and every one of my clients, and I would never take a project that I didn’t think was worth doing, but these projects which I speak of are not the ultimate places for UX knowledge and growth. After thinking about this for some time, it sent me into a panic. “Why”, I said to myself, “am I not getting the super, awesome, coolest projects of all time? Am I bad at this UX stuff? Should I throw in the towel!? Is this no longer for me?”… and the list of self doubting questions continued. The main issue that was happening was that anxious thought upon anxious though began to pile up inside, and it got to the point where I wanted to explode. It was at this point that I stopped and realized that I was going against everything I have been telling myself for all these years. Let me explain further.
I saw that I was putting all of the value of the work and knowledge into the opportunity, and not attributing it to my ability to make each opportunity mine. I had been thinking that I needed to land the perfect gig in order to make myself better, practice what I knew, and learn more, but that is the biggest myth of all. It wasn’t the opportunity’s job to make me better… it was my job! I realized that I am the one that has the ability to use these opportunities to learn more, apply different methods, and think differently. Further, it doesn’t matter where I am working as long as I can change my point of view in order to make the opportunity a knowledge profitable one. That is not to say that you should take the wrong opportunities for the wrong reasons. However, sometimes you’d be surprised how much you can learn from an opportunity that doesn’t seem golden.
Thus, our lesson for today is that it is not just the job that will make you a better UXer. Instead, it is your ability to take a less than ideal job and learn something from it. If you rely on external factors to determine your internal success then you are looking in the wrong place. Remember that time spent looking for the perfect opportunity is, more often than not, time wasted. It is the time spent turning a not so perfect opportunity into a life and work lesson that is the most valuable. That, dear friends, is the most important UX lesson of all.