There’s just not enough time in one day. I have too much to do right now. My professor might not give a good grade for that. I’ll do that when I get a real job. They probably think I’m unqualified. What if nobody likes it? Somebody already did that, why should I do it? I don’t know how.

These are just a few of the many phrases that plague me every day as a student. Sometimes they interfere with my creative process, and other times they come up in every day situations. There are things I want to do, or projects I am supposed to create, and I get paralyzed by fear. This is especially prevalent when it comes to doing something outside of my knowledge or skill set. Heck, writing this new blog of mine is beyond my comfort zone and writing capabilities, but I’ve committed to doing it anyways. So what is my point in all of this?

Instead of listening to those things that will hold you back, or those things that you think you could fail at, you just have to do your own thing.

That’s right, do your own thing. I thought of this recently while sitting at my desk in senior studio class. Actually, I thought of this a couple years ago when I was working on a class project that I was finding no enjoyment in. I realized that I wasn’t getting the most out of my education because I had not decided to take real ownership of what I wanted to do. I know I am not the first tell you to do your own thing, but my perspective on this idea is probably different than others. We all have opinions right? Let me share mine with you.

I have come to notice about halfway through college that too many people, especially students, get caught up in doing things for that sake of someone else. Whether it is doing a project a certain way to please your professor for that good grade, being a bit conservative on an idea because it might be too risky, or deciding not to try something because you don’t know how. I have gone down that road many times, and it has always led me to a less satisfying outcome. When I finally decided to do my own thing, rather than trying to please a professor or impress my peers, it opened up a huge door I kept passing by. I realized that learning wasn’t just something you do for twenty-some years of your life, but rather something you do for your whole life. I decided to take advantage of this idea and enjoy learning on my own terms; I decided to do my own thing. There is just something great about learning and accomplishing, or even failing at, something you’ve decided to do that is challenging, difficult and risky.

Learning to design and code for websites has probably been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. I chose to pursue a degree in graphic design, and through that journey I fell in love with web design somewhere along the way. The program I am in doesn’t necessarily teach how to design for the web, let alone how to actually code a website. There are no web based assignments I was given, and no requirements to learn it. I took the initiative to learn web design/development on my own time, and adapt what I learned into the projects I was tasked to do in school. I by no means have it all figured out yet, and I still have a long road ahead of me before I can really call myself a professional. But what matters most is that I have realized that I will be learning things my whole life, and that web design is what I am naturally better at and have the drive to learn more about than anything else. This my own thing that I have chosen to do.

If you want to get the most out of your formal educational experience, and life in general for that matter, learn how to do your own thing within the limitations that are given to you. This even goes for informal education after you graduate. Andy Rutledge, in his book “Design Professionalism,” sums this up pretty well:

“The most important lesson an inspiring design professional can learn is to take responsibility for his or her own education. Your education I up to you. Your teachers and professors can’t “learn” you anything. You have to learn it, internalize it, and make it your won so that you apply your understanding intuitively in practice. What’s more, it is not your teachers’ job to prepare you for life or to give you the entire syllabus for what is required. Their job is to point the way toward the path you should follow. Period.”

If we don’t learn to do our own thing, and only live through the experience of others, we will become illiterate. Your education can get in a rut somewhere along the way, but it is important to realize that you will be learning for your whole life. If you want to be a designer, you have to continue learning or you will fail. You will be left behind in this fast-paced environment we work in. I was watching a talk by August de los Reyes on “The Myth of Design Education”, and the end of his talk he left the audience with a quote to ponder on the topic of educating yourselves. It was helpful for me in putting this idea of doing your own thing into perspective, so I will leave it with you to ponder as well.

“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn” -AlvinToffler

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