Fresh Starts & Creative Accomplishments: A Case for Confidential Career Goals

A fresh start. That was one promise of the New Year. So how are those New Year’s resolutions coming? If 2017 is fraught with the promises you made to yourself, here’s sound advice: don’t share your goals with anyone.

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Image by Glenn Carstens-Peters, via Unsplash

That may sound counterintuitive. If you tell people your plans, perhaps that will make you stay the course. I’m sure that strategy works for many. You’ll feel obliged to keep your annual goals so you don’t look foolish or, worse yet, weak.

I’m will start personal design projects—reinvent my personal brand—draw one monster every day—plan storyboards for videos—create a series of patterns

I’m going to be more mindful when I design—use a creativity checklist—make sure I’m kerning every letter—seek natural alignments—ensure a clear visual hierarchy that grabs people’s attention…

I will be more assertive with my design director—more unswerving about good ideas with clients—do better at concentrating on several projects at once…

All good.

If you’re an avid sharer like me, not telling people will merit its own hard-to-keep goal. Perhaps for smaller plans, it doesn’t really matter. Folks are thinking about their own plans and likely will forget if you shared your low sodium diet promise with them. But for bigger plans, you may do best to follow Sara Blakely’s example.

When Blakely conceived the idea for Spanx—unique women’s shapewear, an idea that would lead to an estimated $400 million in annual sales, she didn’t tell anyone until a year into the process. (Goodness knows, I would have broadcast it.) Why she didn’t she confide in the people closest to her?

“No one told me to do this, but intuitively, I just felt I should keep my idea to myself and not seek validation from friends and family. By doing that, I didn’t invite ego into the process early on. I didn’t have to spend time defending or explaining my idea—I was just doing it,” she told Caroline Bankoff of New York Magazine. “I think that ideas are really vulnerable in their infancy.”

“Defending or explaining” her idea implies that people might have been trying to talk her out of it. On NPR, Blakely explained to host Gus Raz what she did not want to hear from friends and family:

“Sweetie, if it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t somebody else done it?”

“And, well, if it is a good idea, Sara, you know, you’re going to spend your savings on this, and then in six months the big guys will just knock you out of the water.”

You see my point. Blakely was a door-to-door salesperson and now is a billionaire.

Did I make New Year’s resolutions? Indeed. One of them was to learn to keep the others to myself.


Looking to refine your creative goals? Check out the suggestions below.

25 Potential Goals for Nimble Designers

Excerpted from Robin Landa’s Nimble: Thinking Creatively in the Digital AgeDownload it as a PDF checklist + assessment guide here.

Prepare Your Imagination

  1. Be interested in lots of things. Be curious. Become a T-shaped thinker.
  2. Problem find: Do things (make, draw, paint, write) for their own sake—as opposed to things that are merely a means to achieve a design solution.
  3. Consider everything you see, hear and learn as content. Listen. Observe. Connect.
  4. Collaborate with experts in other fields. Think cross-disciplinary.
  5. Attempt a visual art process you never tried. Learn how by doing. Jump in. Enjoy the liberation of doing something that you don’t have to have technique for or master.
  6. Go old school. Pick up a pencil and draw.
  7. Go pre-school. Play.

Thinking Critically

  1. Fully understand and process the problem.
  2. Investigate: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
  3. What are you trying to make happen? What results do you want?
  4. What are possible alternatives and their respective advantages or disadvantages?
  5. What are the parameters? Would it be advantageous to reinvent the boundaries?
  6. Look at the problem from the audience’s point of view. Seek an insight.
  7. Can you support your conclusions?
  8. Consider the possible results and consequences of your solution.
  9. Ask yourself if you’d share or talk about your solution.

Thinking Creatively

  1. How does the context affect the design experience or meaning?
  2. Would changing the context or reframing it change the outcome?
  3. Predict an opposite solution or scenario.
  4. Employ a deletion scenario: What if there were no…?
  5. Pose any or all of the following:
    • What if…?
    • If only…
    • Suppose you could…
    • If you combine x and y, then you might get…
  6. Connect seeming unconnected objects, ideas or topics.
  7. Work backwards: Make stuff and then deconstruct the content for meaning.
  8. Think extra-large. Think big. Think medium. Think small. Think microscopic.
  9. Can the content you create entertain, inform, be useful or do good?

Download this list as a PDF checklist + assessment guide here.


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