The first title of this post was “There Is No New Year”. Of course that is not true, according to the Gregorian calendar we have been following since 1582. It has been adopted by the entire world and is today the unofficial Civil calendar, even in countries without Christian roots.
For me it is another year of change. I have always embraced continuous change as a driving element of my life. It wasn’t just acceptance. I wanted changes.
I believe in progress and innovation, in thinking outside the box (even if this idiom has been abused for ideas that weren’t really outside the box). I was hired by clients to improve their products and services. I talked to a number of fellow consultants, UX designers, developers, UX companies and agencies. I learned and continuously adjusted my strategy. It’s no accident that last year, I renamed this website, my services and everything associated to Core UX.
Aiming for improvement is a substantial part of myself.
It has always been about new starting points for me, almost every day. “Everything is always just a beginning.”, I wrote some day early in 2013. To acknowledge 2014 as a new start is a bit strange. But I understand how this works for most people. It’s like a higher power, something you can adopt to motivate your actions, which is great, if it works for you.
There are a lot of things I want to do in 2014: focus more on UX. Make more music. Complete my two font projects. More photography. Read and write more. Run more, enjoy nature more, get more balance. The bottom line is, these “more” changes will replace something else, maybe a lack of focus, but they are not about being more productive. This “be more productive” is a myth that keeps coming back, and geeks like me end up piling up productivity software, when all we need to do is actually change our outlook and behavior patterns.
My prognosis for 2014 is that it will be better. Not better than 2013, but better, because every day we can improve and move forward. Every day we have the power to make decisions that change the quality of our output, that refine our ideas, alter our thinking and ultimately improve our lives. I hope this will happen to all of you, because it is the way forward.
I wish you all a Happy New Year.
As much I’m in awe of the cinematic scenery and close to realistic looks, I noted another thing. The word “criminals” was not mentioned a single time. Instead the narrator carefully uses “characters” and “heroes” accomplishing missions. I don’t want to swing the moral flag and make this a bigger deal than it is. But glorifying the removal of social norms and neglecting empathy is defining our experience of social culture. (Link: thanks to Gregor Rothfuss on Google+.)
Ask anthropologists how humans came to be, why they evolved and became such a successful species. They will tell you that to a great part, it had to do with the capabilities and skills we picked up along the way. As a human race, we have an extraordinary ability to adapt and learn. We pick things up quickly and make them work creatively. We are reinventors. This is not just true for an exclusive elite, it is true for every human being. We are built this way.
Dealing with trouble
I think it is fair to say that all beings have to deal with trouble at some point in their lives. As humans we have a certain sense of survival and improvement of our situation, which is probably not just a human treat. However, we are quite innovative when it comes to make the best out of a situation. There is a comforting thought to this: every one of us is an inventor.
Yesterday I followed a fascinating story on BBC World Wide radio. It was about Richard Turere, a 13 year old boy in Nairobi, Kenya, son of a farmer, who had found a way to scare away lions which were devouring the cows of his father. Farmers and wild life are living on a decreasingly small space on the edge of Nairobi National Park.
Richard combined knowledge he had gained while growing up with new ideas and the resources he had access to. He did not have a special education, training or degree to achieve his invention. He just did what humans do best: he observed, learned, understood and combined the ideas and resources he had access to.
He experimented and tested different ideas until he found something that worked: a combination of car batteries with a motorcycle indicator box, triggering LED flash lights, which scares the lions away from the cattle. Richard was 11 at the time of his ingenious invention.
The BBC writes about Richard’s invention Lion Lights: “Richard’s device costs less then ten dollars, is made from nothing more than basically spare parts, and works because of one simple yet astute observation: he noticed that lions would stay away when he walked around with a flashlight.”
Don’t get me wrong when I say anyone can be an inventor. Richard’s invention is a brilliant idea that revolutionizes the way how farmers will deal with threats of the wild, not just in Nairobi, but throughout the whole of Africa.
Richard got a scholarship at Brookhouse International School when he was 11, and in February 2013, he was invited by TED to speak about his idea that improves so many lives.
Whatever it takes
It is one of those stories that is truly inspiring. It gives me hope, a small light in the darkness and all that turmoil and misery humans create.
But aside of the inspirational effect, this story also proves that invention is not about creating something completely new out of nowhere. It is mostly about making the best out of what we already have. It is something I have learned in my career and life, over and over.
A degree, special training, a great work place and environment are a great foundation, but they don’t replace your job to reinvent yourself. Every day.
Reinventing yourself means you are looking at where you are in life and where you want to be. It means not removing your past, but taking the best out of it, optimizing it and applying it for your current and future life situations. Reinventing yourself is probably the biggest invention humans have ever made. It isn’t pure willpower that gets us anywhere we want, it is reinvention.
Don’t be afraid
In my current point in life I am forced to reinvent myself. Part of this ongoing process is the complete overhaul of my website, a new strategy on how to approach businesses and companies and more clearly defined goals of what I want to achieve in the next couple of years. I did not write a business plan for this and no class taught me about these steps. I simply looked at the resources I have and combined them in a new way.
So next time you go over your résumé, or think about an education you’d like to add to your profile, or consider a new career in a different field, or even when you think about starting your own business: don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. It is the best gift you have.
(Photo: Dr. Paula Kahumbu)