Thoughts about Grok 2013

Here’s a personal recap of Grok. Other posts with topics that were discussed at the 10/20s will hopefully follow soon.

On March 1st 2012, I gave myself an elating and somewhat frightening birthday present: I started to freelance, encouraged by a few web contracts and naive optimism. And because I knew this would be a lonely road in my dark half-basement, I bought tickets for the Interlink conference, where I had a great time and met wonderful people. Fast forward June 2013, I now work at a startup but still freelance on the side, and I just came back from my third conference: Grok in Greenville, South Carolina.

It was an incredible experience, that is very different from Interlink or Brooklyn Beta because of the format. In both previous conferences, I really appreciated the parts where I got to talk with the speakers and meet other designers: these were occasions of sharing much more valuable knowledge, experiences and advices on a more personal level. That’s what Grok aimed to recreate: those deeper conversations that really push you forward and inspire you to do more, in the form of small group discussions (10/20s).

I am amazed by all the talent that was gathered in Greenville, and as I listened to their stories it made me reflect on my own craft, and how I could do better. I’m impressed by all those brilliant folks and it made me feel that I’m not there yet, but I know that I still have tons to learn and that I can only progress to be a better designer and person in general.

Side note: I don’t know how you Grokers juggle with your families! you have all my admiration for that.

Some Grok Moments

About Fear

In the last 10/20s, we talked about our fears regarding our professional life. Matthew Smith (aka @whale) mentioned the fear of being disapproved of, and this insecurity being the force pushing his work forward (quoted from my notebook, and also read in the Great Discontent). Many of us feel that way, and I found myself nodding in approval at this moment. I have heard that a lot, and one related quote that stuck in my mind was something I read when I was a teenager: “When you think you’re good at what you’re doing, then you stop making progress and being good” (I think that was Elijah Wood, about acting). So a little fear is good, the only thing is to not let this insecurity take over yourself.

Wise Words

Bryan Martin (@bryanrmartin) from Rice Bowls also talked about the fear of never reaching a point where one is satisfied, this insecurity.

“Everything is hard and I think you should just deal with it.”
Bryan Martin

I personally don’t know what he’s talking about, because he does amazing work and I can’t wait to try the game Hunger Crunch and squish monsters too. Bryan was full of wisdom, and as I heard other people talk about him before his presentation, it got me curious to know his story. After the talk, I understood why he inspired such respect and admiration: Bryan is one of those humble, goodhearted people, who talks with disarming honesty and openness. Based from the tweets, a lot of the audience felt the same way and were touched by the pieces of wisdom he shared.

“Celebrate and savour checkpoints”
Bryan Martin

I think that’s one of the most important thing to take from Bryan’s talk. As designers driven by insecurity, it’s important to celebrate checkpoints, to look at what we have accomplished for at least a few minutes, before being dissatisfied again and producing new work. Mark it with anything that makes you happy, and remember it.

Go ahead, make a mess

I could go on and write more, but for now, that will do. I’m happy to have met fantastic people, and strengthened existing friendships. Now I need to go make something.

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