If you’ve ever been surfing you may be familiar with the term, Maytag. If not, hopefully you’ve done laundry once or twice and can make the connection. To be Maytagged is to be tumbled about as if you were in a washing machine. You don’t know which direction is up and you feel utterly powerless to fight the ocean. When you find yourself being Maytagged, the best thing you can do is relax and let it happen. Save your energy, cover your head with your arms if you worry about hitting the bottom, and wait for the wave to pass. It will, and you’ll float back up and hopefully be able to paddle away before the next wave.
That Maytagged feeling is very similar to the feeling of the moment the instant before you start a new trip:
“Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip? Once you’re off, that’s all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Last year I left my job to begin working for myself. I wasn’t sure what would happen and I was Maytagged as I tried to figure it out. The earthquake and convulsion gave way to clarity of purpose.
I wrote this on November 30, 2011:
A few months ago, I made the leap. I leapt from the land of having a corporate job to the village of “I want to run my own company.” The leap itself wasn’t hard. Getting to the edge before I made the jump was excruciating.
Was I making the right decision? What is it that I want, anyway? Who am I? What is a designer? All the deep, soul-probing questions that slowly stir in your head at 4am made my trek to the brink one that was coated in a foot of sticky mud.
I let myself stew. The synthesis portion of the design process as a cue, I allowed all of my thoughts to tumble and boil, knowing that the moment of clarity would come when it was ready. On a Thursday evening at the Sheung Wan branch of Café O in Hong Kong, understanding arrived.
With a new notebook I’d picked up in Japan and my favorite Muji pen, I began writing future statements about myself. “I am a professor.” “I have my own line of sneakers.” “I work with the smartest people.” “I have enough money to travel for inspiration.” I wrote about forty of these sentences, then started organizing. My statements fell into six different groups: Create, Curate, Convey, Connect, Complete, and Comfort. It didn’t hurt that both of my initials start with C too.
I took my C’s and started thinking about how they related to each other, and ended up realizing that I wanted to fill my time working towards Create, Curate, and Convey. Connect was the glue, and Complete was what I wanted each project to reach. Comfort was my end goal for the whole project.
The C’s are working for me so far. In my few months on my own I’ve been pursuing activities in each bucket, and have recently launched a company, Parallel Design Labs. As a promo video for our point of view as a company, I made a short movie that shows how we use the C’s in practice.
It’s been about a year and where have the C’s gotten me? I feel empowered, smart, satisfied. I’ve done a lot of Convey – most clients fall into this bucket. I’m working more and more on Curate, and need to get the next issue of Scree Magazine out. I also want to write more frequently. I have one big, exciting project that falls into Create, and will launch next spring, and I have continued a bunch of side projects in here as well. I still need to remind myself to set a Complete for each project and stick to it. I find once I articulate what the end point is, I meet it, but if I don’t I let things drag. Overall, I’ve reached Comfort. I’m on the way. I have a baby boy! I’m figuring out the balance.
Over the next couple weeks I’m going to re-evaluate my C’s framework and see if it still fits. I’m posting this so I stick to it.