A couple of years ago my son was working on a school report that he had to deliver in front of his class. He asked for help. He told me he was afraid to get up in front of the other kids. I told him it’s not a big deal, you just go up and do it. Be prepared and be yourself and everything goes well. And then I told him a line I heard in a movie that went something like “courage is what you get after doing the thing you’re afraid of.”
And he asked me. “Have you ever spoken in front of a group?”
I hadn’t. My whole career I’d been afraid to speak in public. And I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t that kind of person. I was the quiet type. Working in the corner. The kind of designer the world also needed. Not everyone is a talker, right? And for the majority of my career I’d convinced myself that this was a noble choice. And being that I’m actually very good at convincing people of things, I’d managed to convince myself of my own bullshit.
But now, with my 13 year old boy in front of me, I had to admit that I was afraid. Afraid of failing. Of walking up there with my fly down. Of being discovered as a fraud. But, in that moment, with that 13 year old in front of me, I became more afraid of something else. Of failing him. Of passing my fear along to the person who needed me to be someone better.
So I told him “I’ll do it if you do it.”
And then Jeffrey Zeldman told me if I wanted to speak I had to write. People needed to know who I was.
And I started writing. And I ended up writing about the very things I was most afraid of. The things that never came natural to me. And the more I wrote the more I realized that in all the years of screwing up at those things, I’d actually learned how to screw up less.
And I kept writing until I had a book. Which the good people at A Book Apart were kind enough to publish. And I think it’s a pretty good book, but I’ll let you be the final judge of that.
And I hope that while you’re reading it you’re thinking of all the things you’re afraid of doing. And I want you to stay afraid. And then I want you to do those things anyway. Because the thing it took me my whole career, and fatherhood, to learn is that you don’t get over the fear. You get over the fear of being afraid.
My kid got up in front of his class that day and he read his report. And he told me he was terrified. “But you did it anyway.”
“I did, didn’t I?”
My book, Design Is a Job, goes on sale today.
My son’s music blog is even better.
Mule creates delightful interfaces, strong identities, and clear voices for useful systems and nice people.
Also, We are funnier than all other designers.