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    stepping into the unknown

    Do you ever stop and look around and realize how shut down by "I can't, I shouldn't, I couldn't, I'm not, they're not, it isn't" you've become?

    It takes courage to step into the life that our lizard brain is screaming is unsafe, out-of-control and filled with dangerous and unloving people, places and things. And yet, as a designer and a human - it's what's required in every single moment.

    My current stepping in is about my work life. I took care of family business this summer. That meant stepping out of my usual continuous practice of "talking to the nice people" in order to line up my next gig. I'm grateful I gave it my full attention and “put my whole self in.”

    Now back, I've been out on quite a few interviews in the past two months. Worked a few small projects. Said "No." to a couple projects that didn’t fit. I've created a new resume and even started some great portfolio case studies to help clarify the broad set of skills I use on most of my projects.

    That alone was a huge step as my brain was yelling that it was gonna be hard (23 years of experience) and take a long time. It didn't. I discovered a great format to start filling in and then I just chose to iterate. I tried all prose, all bullets, short, long, visual, and verbal (video coming soon). I had tons of plane rides to get it done. Perfect. Look at me still breathing and doing just great - even better for having blown out an unconscious block.

    I'm writing and may even have more blog posts arrive here. In other words, I'm firing on all circuits.

    But no new big projects. Seemingly no exciting new cultures to explore. No situations that make sense. Yet.

    It would be easy to lose heart.

    And this time, I've committed myself to really exploring and finding new possibilities. I'm trying and considering all kinds of things I had put into the no fly zone in past years. Full-time job? Maybe. Work for an agency? Probably not a traditional one but perhaps one of the newer "distributed" models might work. Several part-time consulting gigs? Sure. Developing my own products? Sure. Working for folks in other areas of interest? Yup. Finding individual iOS devs and working on projects with them. Yes. Doing DIY projects such as building my own multitouch table and designing software to run on it to see if there is somewhere to go with my whole software/hardware interaction romance. Yes. Speaking at conferences? Maybe. Writing another book? Maybe. Teaching again? Maybe. Acting? Voiceovers? Blogging? Relief cook? Choreographer and dancer? Imagineer? Artist selling my oil paintings?

    As I've tweeted, it really does feel like I'm walking around on top of what I'm supposed to be doing. But I'm not "doing" anything I've traditionally thought of as work? So....???

    The reality is that every single one of our work lives is changing. There are no guarantees in our jobs. The only recourse I can see is all of learning to step into the unknown and trying things.

    Working in product and UX design we rarely "know" what we'll be designing. We talk to stakeholders, users and experts. But we don't know for sure. We're always stepping into the unknown - and chancing failure with each move we make. Or at least this is what our reactive mind is saying.

    Designing into the unknown is particularly true in mobile design. Not only do all of the platforms constantly change features and offerings, they often end up completely changing implementation details between one month and the next. I produced two significantly similar iOS apps with 2 months - and ended up having to do a 2-week crash course in research and deep prototyping to even know how I was going to solve the same issues with the new system - AND retain some level of backward compatibility. Now, I simply dive in and relearn the entire platform for every new project.

    The lovely thing is - by emptying my cup first - I learn so much more each time. By not having anything to defend and going to a beginners mind, everyone who has worked with the system is my teacher. I'm as smart as everyone I'm working with and am able to connect all that information. One big, juicy, exploring amoeba of connection. Gross. Awesome. Just like all the best things in life.

    I find my job as an interaction and experience designer IS, at it's most basic, to continuously and courageously step into the unknown. To ask questions, be willing to fail, and to be deeply committed to continuing to try things - regardless of whether they "work."

    Not for the faint of heart but rather those full of heart - no matter how many times they have to step into the unknown. Patience, persistence and practice.

    It's what I'm taking the time to rediscover in my own life. Stepping out of habit and the stories I've grown attached to being so true that I don't have to change or move. Terrifying at times, it's also a total turn on as I slowly unravel years of suppressing what I really want to try - and simply try it.

    Mudpies again. Love those.

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