My children’s karate Instructor loves to teach about karate and about life, which is not an easy task. One day during class, the instructor looked around the room at the black belts and asked a few of them to give some advice to the little kids. One of the most skilled black belts stood up and spoke about something the instructor once told him—“stay humble.” Those two words stuck with me from that day forward. Stay humble.
What does it mean to stay humble? The better we get at what we do, the more foreign that phrase seems to become. Staying humble means remembering where you came from. Allowing yourself to be critiqued. Listening to others instead of talking about yourself. And subtly influencing design rather than forcing your point of view on what others are creating.
Humble designers never stop getting their hands dirty. They don’t have to tell people they are qualified; they show people their qualifications by doing great work. In the process of doing this work, people begin to respect these designers not because they are told to, but because they want to. People are more impressed with your skills/qualities when they get the chance to see them firsthand rather than reading about them in a resume. Go figure.
I encourage designers to grow in their careers and be proud of their accomplishments, but I challenge them to always stay humble. Achieving new levels of excellence is what design is all about, but doing it with grace and humility is what will make you, as a designer, unforgettable.