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Why working solo is holding you back

A recipe for disaster

As a young designer, I found myself taking on large projects and a broad set of responsibilities often. I felt I had "something to prove" and all the responsibility allowed me to "show what I've got." I didn't see the point of working with someone else when I "knew" what I needed to do. Or what if they *gasp* do better than me. People will finally see that I'm an imposter!

Burned out and burned up

60+ hour weeks paired with constant dissatisfaction with end results had me teetering on a perpetual precipice of burnout. I was working so hard, yet remained so unhappy with what I was creating. After a couple of years of nearly losing my mind, I finally stepped back and took a look at what REALLY leads to exceptional design.

Isn't it obvious?

I'm sure this comes as no surprise to some. Honestly, I look back at my old way of thinking with frustration and pity. Even so, knowing what I know now means I can help others out of this line of thinking. For those that react with a "duh," perhaps you can pick up on similar behavior in others and lend some advice.

Steep mountains from the valley below

It took me reaching my lowest to reform my thought patterns around the entire design process. I was burnt, I was tired, I was severely dissatisfied, and, consequently, incredibly depressed. My value in my work and myself had deteriorated to dangerous levels. All this work and I still couldn't create things up to par with my initial visions. What was I missing? Was I not talented enough? Was I not cut out for this line of work? What is the point? How are these other people creating such fantastic products while I'm over here melting away? The answer was in front of me the entire time, but I still couldn't see it.

Erroneous envy

I took my inspiration from many sources: Behance, Awwwards, Dribbble, YouTube. I would shake hands with the best at industry events. "Look at them!" I'd say. "They have so many followers and are being invited to speak at all these events!" These were individuals like me, except they were achieving great things. But that's where I was wrong.

The team behind the veil

Yes, these were incredibly talented individuals, but the majority of them were NOT working alone. They had a team of specialized designers, researchers, and developers around them. They had several creative minds supporting each other and elevating good ideas to exceptional. They did one or two things incredibly well and allowed the others to improve upon it and get it launched. I was trying to do it all solo! What was I thinking!?

Leadership done right

It was a group of amazing managers and team leads that helped dissolve my flawed "lone wolf" mentality. When I joined, I still had that "just do it all" mentality. "Oh, we need some user data for this page. Give me the credentials, and I'll take care of it." It didn't take long for them to notice I was overreaching. They could have told me to stay in my lane, but they were constructive instead. "We have people for that, Randy, so you can focus and do what you do best."

Do best at what you do best

They made sure I understood that everyone was after the same goal. We all wanted things to perform well. We all wanted to make cool stuff. I just needed to reach out if I needed something. Want page metrics? Contact the analysts. Aren't sure if a design will work? The researchers are itching to test. Everyone played a part in the overall machine, so I should take advantage of their skills and supplement my own. Have an idea? Share it and see what grows from there. They would be able to produce results much faster than me anyway, so I needed to stop being a control freak and let them do their job.

Lone genius?

I think a great recent example of the power of a team comes from Dr. Katie Bouman, a member of the team that produced the first-ever image of a black hole. When she was being painted as the "lone genius" behind the accomplishment, she clarified,

No one algorithm or person made this image. It required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work...
Dr. Katherine Bouman, 2019

Rarely a "lone" anything

Rarely is there a "lone genius" or "lone designer." So much more can be accomplished with a team, no matter the application. A group of passionate individuals will materialize a vision more effectively than a single person. They might even outperform the initial idea. Take advantage of the pool of passion out there with supplemental skillsets. You're not going to be overshadowed, you're not going to underperform, and knowing when and what to relinquish control over so others can do it better is a sign of leadership and maturity.

Elevation through collaboration

Let go. Do what you do best and share your ideas with others. Work towards a common goal together. Nobody is out to get you or trying to out you as an "imposter". Just focus, collaborate and do your best. You'll go much further that way.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to share if you feel like it, and reach out if you'd like to chat.

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