40 - halfway there

This week I’m turning 40.

I thought that was a big enough sentence to stand on its own. However, I won’t spend this post trying to share words of wisdom from what I’ve learnt about life so far because if the last couple of years has taught me anything it’s that I don’t know much about what’s actually going to happen. And besides, whenever I’m looking for long-term life advice, I still think Sam Altman’s ”The days are long but the decades are short” has far better advice than I could deliver.

What I do want to talk about is context switching and why I think it’s important for perspective and future growth. I designed (and coded the HTML) for my first professional website in 1997 (although the first snapshot at web.archive.org is from 1998 but I made that version too). I’ve been designing websites for the last 24 years and it does feel like a long time. I’ve spent about 60% of my life perfecting my craft so, by most standards, I’m considered to be senior in my profession. But this post isn’t about looking back, it’s about looking forward. Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to live a long and healthy life meaning I’ll work until I’m at least 65-70 years old before I can retire. If we look at my career from that point of view, I haven’t even made it to the halfway point!

Albert Einstein famously said “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know” - ironically: one thing that I have learnt though is to take quotes on the Internet with a grain of salt - and it’s a quote I can relate to. I do think though that it’s not as much about realizing how much I don’t know, but rather being OK with not knowing.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks intentionally thinking about my future career path. Where do I want to take my career? What kind of work do I want to do? I truly believe people benefit from thinking about where they want their career to go and planning for whatever steps that may include. In the same way I love to think about future strategies for my clients, I love thinking about it for my own business and for me personally.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be leading an UX-upskill class at Hyper Island called “Design principles” and when I read the program description I was instantly drawn to this section:

The digital age brings great wealth, freedom and power to millions of people - but not yet in an evenly distributed fashion. The underlying premise of this program is that a UX Designers’ main purpose is to fix that distribution problem by designing products and services that will be used by more people sooner.

Never before had something resonated with me in the way that paragraph does when it comes to what and why our work with digital tools can be important. I’m saying can be because, in all honesty, most of us haven’t begun to address these issues. Truth be told, a lot of the products we’re building help bridging the gap even further (#gigeconomy).

So, here’s my challenge for you. What’s your plan for the next week, year and decade? It’s a tough question. It means that you can evaluate where you are and if that place is right for you. Just because you’ve done something for, say, 24 years doesn’t mean that is going to be your path forever.

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