3 Dangerous Ideas from Designer James Victore
Are you ready to take risks in your creative life? Or are you not sure if you’re ready? Designer James Victore has a message for you: start now. His new book, Feck Perfuction, is a guide for creating freely and fearlessly.
In the three tips below, James breaks down how to find your voice, face your fears, and get going!
1. The Things That Made You Weird as a Kid Make You Great Today
When I was a kid, I was full of wordplay and jokes. I loved to sing loudly and poorly. My best talent was entertaining my fifth-grade friends by drawing naked ladies. They looked more like lumpy potatoes, but my audience didn’t care. Unfortunately, my level of energy and enthusiasm lacked appreciation at home or at school. I was called “creative”—and it was not a compliment.
As kids, we’re all weird. We have our interests and activities, and we like to run them full throttle. As we get older, we realize there’s a price to standing out, so we shrink from our weirdness in fear of anyone finding out who we really are. Being weird or different—even creative—should be not a source of shame or embarrassment but a torch to be held high. Weird is about the courage to be who you were born to be. Nerdy, goofy, fidgety; these are strengths. These are gifts! The things that made you weird as a kid are the source of your character and creative powers. These are the base elements of who you are. Not perfect. Not trying. Just yourself. If you hide them, you risk never knowing what you’re capable of.
Professionally, weird is a benefit. For some fields, it’s a damn prerequisite. Any “successful” actor, chef, musician, athlete, or comedian, when asked what contributed to their success, will answer, “When I was a kid…” Pop-culture icon and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson remembers looking up into the night sky as a child and says, “The universe called me.” When you accept your weirdness and believe in your gifts is when things get really weird. That’s when your cause inspires others.
When people see their own struggle reflected in yours, you create the potential for shared humanity. Your weirdness speaks to them. That’s when you find those people who accept you precisely because you’re weird and different. Ultimately you’ll hear that glorious refrain: “Oh, you’re weird, too? I thought I was the only one!” This is how you form relationships and businesses. This is how you find your audience.
Accept it: You’re weird.
2. The Success of Failure
When I was a kid, I worked winters as for the National Ski Patrol. Being a ski patroller sounds glamorous, but it actually involved a lot of waiting. To amuse myself during the downtime, I taught beginners how to ski. More often than not, what began as simply learning a fun sport would slip, twist, and slide into an emotional shit show. Skiers want to ski; they don’t want to fall. Falling is a big part of the ski learning curve, but mounting frustration and snow down your ski pants does not lead to progress. I quickly learned that if I wanted to actually teach people to ski, I had to first help them deal with their feelings of failure when they fell.
We hate to fail. It makes us feel like we’ve done something wrong. But by putting yourself in a position to fail—on the ski slope or in your business—you’ve done something very right.
The first step down any path is most likely failure. Most great tales of success begin rather grimly. Failure is a teacher—just not always the kindest teacher. Its lesson is to not quit and run in the opposite direction, but to learn from failure, to follow its lead. Failure is a test. Its purpose is to weed out those of us who don’t want things badly enough. It presents a choice—you can stay down or you can get up and try again. Failure is a shepherd who’s smarter than you.
Because of our reluctance to accept the hard lessons of failure, most of us fail even bigger—and don’t even know it. We slip into a mediocre life. We quit our goals, lose our “crazy” aspirations, and choose the “easy way.” The consolation prize is a flat screen TV and a bag of chips. From the outside, this looks like success, but it’s actually settling for less—comfort disguised as success.
The path to success is marked by failure. Not just once, but again and again. Accept it and learn. Reject it and…well, fail. I still teach beginners how to ski, and my best lesson is still, “If you’re not falling, you’re not skiing.”
3. Just Start
Most people start by stopping. An utterly genius idea pops into your head—start a business, write a story, quit your crappy job—and you let it die a death of inertia. You fail to start. This makes complete sense; as Newton’s first law tells us, an object at rest—like your ass—tends to stay at rest.
For any creation, any new project or new move in your life, starting is the hardest part. Too many of us are waiting to start. But while you are waiting, others are already living the life you want—the only difference between them and you is that they started. There are no special instructions, and no one is standing in your way but you. Don’t think, don’t rationalize, just do. Start and don’t stop—cuz momentum is your friend.
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For more honest creative advice, check out Feck Perfuction.
James Victore is a designer for bold believers, an advocate for creativity, and an artist whose work has been exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He lives, loves, and works in Texas.
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