Competence, Confidence and Baseball

One fact about playing baseball: To advance to the next base, you need to leave the one you’re on.

Baseball forces you to advance to the next base or be thrown out. There’s a risk in leading off, leaving the base and moving to the next. You might fall. You might miss the base. Yet moving forward is the way the game is played. It’s not just about hitting the ball. It’s about making it on base, and then making it home.

The same can be said for competence and confidence. You need to know more tomorrow than you do today. In order to become more skilled and more knowledgeable, you have to leave your current levels behind and step up to the next. And then you need to keep going, continuing to build. You can’t go back to where you were previously, and you can’t stay where you are or you’ll be run over. You must leave the current level of competence behind in order to attain a higher one.

Successful creatives understand that they should never stop learning

Competence and competence are partners in the life and training of any creative professional. When confronted with a skill or knowledge we don’t know, we can either back off (I have watched students and interns do this) or step up to the plate. If we take it on, we gain knowledge and skill, acquire trust in our ability at that level, and then build more competence which creates more confidence. Successful creatives understand how the “game” works – we should never stop learning. Acquiring competence and the confidence that goes with it is never-ending, as long as we’re practicing our craft. If we don’t keep going, we’ll be ejected from the game.

Unless learning something changes you, it’s of no value. If you haven’t been transformed, you haven’t learned anything.

I am as confident in what I can’t do as in what I can do. In other words, there are things I don’t know, and don’t attempt or pretend to. There are other things I don’t know that I can grasp while in process, so that every design project I take on includes a knowledge and often a skill gain. If a project doesn’t stretch me or provide some level of challenge for me, it’s not worth much to me. My greatest successes as a designer have come from having to learn something new in order to accomplish a project.

Unless learning something changes you, it’s of no value.

When I don’t know something, I seek out someone who does know. I’ve discovered there’s a certain joy in learning something new, because it becomes life-changing. I will never think or perform in the same way once I have learned a new method. There’s a snowball effect – learning one new thing leads to learning another, and so on. Each new thing you acquire means you’re not the same as you were before. You’ve enlarged your territory, stretched your boundaries, added to your skill set, grown in assuredness and belief in your abilities. Eventually, you become someone that others want to learn from.