There are times when you look back at something you’ve done in your portfolio and realize that it inspires you to keep on keepin’ on. Do you know what I mean? Enjoy this in-house classic and come back tomorrow for tips on working smarter with your IT department.
I remember the moment my parents recognized my unique abilities. We were snowed in—no work or school for five long days. My big red balloon of eight-year-old excitement deflated to absolute boredom three days into our imprisonment. So I found a piece of paper, a pencil and an old family photo and began drawing. Two hours later I gave the drawing to my parents for approval. As they quietly took in my interpretation of their likenesses, I noticed a strange mix of shock and awe flash across their faces. My mother—with drawing in one hand and phone in the other—called my grandmother excited. “Momma, Edward has a gift!” At the age of eight, hearing my mother’s proclamation got me thinking, “What gift? I opened them all at Christmas and nothing’s better than my Steve Austin Six Million Dollar Man action figure with telescopic infrared eye and bionic grip!”
Fast forward several decades, I’m sitting across from the CFO discussing the development of our latest annual report. I was confidant in my preparation of each question, thoroughly anticipated his answers, and formulated my rebuttals. Everything was going as planned until just after I asked my last question. I was totally caught off guard by his final comment, “You’re on a different wavelength than I [in a good way]. You’re skilled at this and it shows in the work.” After the CFO made this comment I surveyed his face to see any sign of sarcasm. Oddly, what I saw was an expression similar to the one I’d seen on my parents’ faces years earlier, except with an added mix of assured confidence and respect.
I left our meeting wondering if my unique abilities had taken a backseat. Had I forgotten those gifts that were encouraged by my parents, developed in design school, ultimately helping me land my first real job? The short answer was yes. For the last twelve years my focus has been directed at building, motivating, inspiring and providing fuel to all those creative powerhouses operating under my guidance and supervision. I’ve also had to learn how to successfully navigate environments dominated by people who are less interested in creativity and focused more on the bottom line while desperately trying to grasp that old brass ring. I’ve taken pride in being both creative and business minded. This duality has been a source of inspiration and strengthened me professionally.
The CFO reminded me that my natural gifts—although not omnipresent or at the forefront of my mind—are in fact on full display each and every day, influencing all the work produced by my department. In-house design managers have a tough and often thankless job. We are called on to make the impossible possible every single day. If you ever find yourself waist deep in corporate weeds or feeling as though you don’t have enough fuel left to ignite the creative fire in your own belly. Remember this: like Steve Austin, you’ve got superhuman, telescopic infrared, bionic gifts!
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