Paul McAleer

Helping people by design.

The Year That Was

The first two drafts of this post were obliterated by Safari. It's quietly informing me of this fact with a thin strip above where I'm writing. Its words are bleak and cold, as one would expect from a modern Apple product: “A problem occurred with this webpage so it was reloaded.”

The problem. The problem is that I meticulously itemized a lot of things about this year to share with you. I extolled the awesomeness that was my life in 2015 (and totally glossed over some of the more difficult stuff). I counted how many times I said “Good morning” on Twitter this year (349 times thus far). I noted where I spoke, that I moved, and that I did all of these great things. And I was going to share that with you.

Instead, we're here in this very different moment (well, you know, you're in a different one... but, temporal mechanics are what they are) and instead I want to make my message a little simpler. Easier.

This year was very hard. This year was also loaded with rewards. I had moments of much anger, grief, and loss. I danced spontaneously. I loved and was loved. I was admired by some and forgotten by others. I mentored people. I led people. I let other people lead. I faced some of my deepest fears and cried a lot. I worked on my shit. I let people down. I let myself down. I put myself on a pedestal. I looked cute sometimes. I bought many things, many of which have little to no value. I sold a lot of things. I gave a lot of things away. I clutched to old beliefs and questioned others. I successfully avoided Folgers. I drank with friends and co-workers. I shared joys and sorrows. I was excited. I was horrified. I protested. I boosted. I celebrated. I spoke and listened to many, many people. I worked on my identity. I was more me than ever, and I still felt like I had a long ways to go.

And I hope it was enough for this year. I hope it helped.

I hope to do better next year.



Sunday is probably my most super duper productive day around the house. It's the day I catch up on laundry, pick up the yard, prep dinner, spot clean, and generally do chores (sometimes with the Broncos game on in the background).

Yesterday I sat down with my son to figure out everything that I needed to do and the stuff I wanted to do. His wants, of course, went right on the list. But as I was rattling off chore after chore and playing football with the kiddo, my wife said, “And relax.

“Relax?” I said.

“Yeah, you need to relax too. That's important.”

Over the past few weeks I feel like I've been relaxing very, very little. I've noticed those hard-to-change bigger patterns taking hold again. And one of them that pops up around this time of the year is, in fact, a declination of self-care. 

I added relaxing to the list. When the time came, I took a half-hour, put on some soothing music, and took a nap. I gave myself permission to just decompress and relax. It was refreshing and 100% necessary.

Take care of yourself first.

On Apple Music

Many words have been spilled over the mess that is Apple Music, to the point that towards the end of July it felt like everyone just let their hair down and admitted that it's not all peaches and cream. Jim Dalrymple declared he was done with it, and then Apple directly helped him get some of his music back. (Will they help every person who has had this problem, or only prominent bloggers?) Khoi Vinh was so impressed with the power behind Spotify's new Discover Weekly playlists that he said, “More and more, Apple Music is looking like a disappointment.” 

After using Apple Music for a month, I agree. Apple Music suffers from a number of major problems and, worse, it's not a matter of just fixing one thing to make it all work. But, I can say that it certainly appears that the underlying information architecture of Apple's music offerings is the root cause, and the other issues we see – everything from syncing stupidity to poor experiences to UI weirdness – is the IA wonkiness manifest.

I'll talk about the underlying IA, followed by the modality Apple has enforced and how it impacts the UI and search, and then share a parting thought on Apple Music. 

How is this an IA problem?

So let's take a half-step back for a sec. When it comes to working with gobs and gobs of information, making sense of it is critical. And that requires the design of an underlying structure that matches the mental model of a user as much as reasonably possible. That structure drives the organization of the information or... yep... the information architecture. This is often expressed as a sitemap or navigation within an app or site but, those elements can exist independently of a broader IA. With Apple and its ecosystem, we need to look at a much higher level than just the Music app or just iTunes (but, god, iTunes has a terrible IA). We need to look at the product offerings and how they play with each other first.

Here, then, are Apple's major top-level categories in its music ecosystem:

Music (iOS)
iTunes (Mac/PC)
iTunes Store (iOS)

Notably, the iTunes Store is separate from Music on iOS. That's not gonna happen on Android which muddles things up. Otherwise, though, this top tier looks pretty good. Three big buckets.

Let's go down a level with Music on iOS.

Music (iOS)

Apple Music

For You




My Music


Apple Music

Top Results





Music Videos


My Music





Music Videos

Now Playing

Up Next

There is something very important here: the split between My Music (which I'm going to call "your music" because that's a model problem too) and Apple Music. That split, as it turns out, is quite critical to the conceptual model of Apple Music.

When I first saw the unveiling, I was excited by the idea of one search box just finding everything whether it was in my music, Apple Music, or the iTunes Store. That was my mental model based on a seemingly-ubiquitous search box throughout the app. Essentially: I'll pay you $10, just let me have access to music.

That is not the case. Apple has a strong wall between these three camps: where your music is, where streaming music is, and where music for sale is. From Apple's perspective, they have three distinct information blobs out there and there is no overlap.

On top of that, your music itself consists of purchased tracks, burned/ripped tracks, and tracks downloaded from Apple Music. These are roughly speaking the types of music you may have.

But wait there's more! Any or all of these types of music can exist in multiple places at the same time, giving them another dimension. They can be in the iCloud Music Library, they can be on your iPhone, they can be on your Mac/PC, they can be on your iPod, they can be on your iPad, they can be in your purchase history, or they can be in "the cloud".

If you subscribe to iTunes Match, all of your tracks are duplicated in the cloud (allegedly). If you use iTunes Music Library, it does this across multiple Macs/PCs too.

Do you see how this is getting muddled? So if we look at the structure of just Your Music, it's really:

Your Music

Purchased Tracks (from iTunes Store)

On device

In purchase history (not "anywhere", just a record in a database)

Burned/Ripped Tracks (from CDs, other stores)

On device

Downloaded Tracks (from Apple Music)

On device

Cloud-only Tracks (flagged as "yours" in Apple Music)

You can see that the complexity is ratcheting up here. This is, interestingly, a throwback to the old "syncing is hard" problem. Syncing is hard. Because if I add, say, “We're Gonna Make It” by the Orange Peels to My Music, there's a lot of questions going on there. Did I burn it? Is it an MP3 on my computer? Did I buy it from iTunes? If I remove it from iTunes, where does it go? If I buy it and get a copy from Apple Music, which one wins? What happens if I have the MP3 on my Mac, use iTunes Match and Apple Music, and get a copy from Apple Music on my iPhone? Which one is my file? If I cancel those services, do I have anything?


This is why a single box search that spews out multiple possible types of returned searches can be messy (although, for me, ideal!) When I search for "Janelle Monae", the modality of the interaction now matters. So, Apple generally forces you to enter a mode in order to search. On iOS Music, search is conspicuously absent from the main navigation (I personally think this is a huge flaw). But when I search, I get a split tab right up top: Apple Music and My Music. The iTunes Store is gone because that's in a separate app, so my mental model doesn't even think about buying music here (and, cheers for that.)

How it Manifests

Here's an example of that modality and weird IA problem. One of the things I really enjoyed on Beats 1 was the show Time Crisis with Ezra Koenig, lead singer of Vampire Weekend. Let's say I want to find that show.

I head over to iTunes on the Mac and jump into the "online" side of the search box. I type in "time crisis". And I get... store results.

Not the Time Crisis I was searching for.

Not the Time Crisis I was searching for.

Remember, these are my main uppermost level options within iTunes:

Your iTunes Store/Apple Music menu. Which is for which service? You just have to know.

Your iTunes Store/Apple Music menu. Which is for which service? You just have to know.

So where would you go?

Right. I think, “Ah, okay. It was a radio thing. I'll go into Radio and search.” That way I can maybe tell iTunes that this is the mode I want to search in. Guess what? Nope:

I guess I'm not “in” Apple Music...?

I guess I'm not “in” Apple Music...?

Here is the wall between the store and Apple Music enforced, big time. Turns out, I have to go into an option of Apple Music in that topmost nav: either “For You”, “New”, or “Connect.” In other words, that simple-looking navigation is indeed modal, as I thought... it just isn't the same model I was thinking of.

Once I'm “in” Apple Music by clicking “For You”, I can search Apple Music.

Once I'm “in” Apple Music by clicking “For You”, I can search Apple Music.

Note that the wall is back here. I can no longer search the iTunes Store!

Forcing a mode of working upon people is not an inherently bad decision. As noted above, Apple has chosen to structure this in a complex way. But there are ramifications to the modality that go unaddressed in the UI and UX, and we're worse off for it.

And this is why I won't choose Apple Music

This is a fucking mess. I have to do too much thinking in order to understand where my music is, what constitutes “my” music, and on top of that, I need to deal with the “oops! it's gone!” problems all streaming services have.

No streaming service is perfect. And I like a number of the radio shows on Beats 1. But, remember, they're free anyway; you don't need to subscribe to get them. Given that, I suspect I'm going to edge back to rdio in the next month or so and reconsider using streaming as a primary music method altogether.

Apple Music exemplifies the worst of Apple at this moment in time: it looks great, but from an overall IA and UX perspective, it's really, stupefyingly bad. I question whether Apple has the focus to see this product through, as it seems to be an also-ran that will tick the “Hey! We've got a streaming service!” checkbox and not much more (although I wrote about bigger things coming). A disappointing mess.


The website is not the goal

Years and years ago, I had a client that came to me looking for a website. Just a website. “Sure,” I said, “I can build one for you.” I worked with them to make something super great. It launched. Then they asked, “So, do we need to update this, ever?”

That website was a starting point. I didn't know about managing content. I didn't know what to say.

A couple of years after that, I had a client that came to me looking for a website they could update themselves. “You bet,” I said, and I worked with a friend to build them a website with (oh boy) a custom CMS that was really an inventory management system too. It launched. Then they asked, “So, how often do we need to update this? What happens when we have images larger than a screen? Why can we change these things and not these other things?”

That website was also a starting point. I didn't know about building a process and teaching curriculum around a new technology. I didn't know what to say.


A website is a vessel. It is means to an end. That end may be more business. It may be a new way of doing things. It may be hiring more people, or firing some (yikes). It may be creating a process. Less and less, it's "just a website" or "just an app". It's a window into the organization or the person on the other end. It's a hello. It's a how are you. But it's rarely the end all be all.

Resume the Résumé

I review a lot of résumés. And I see a lot of different approaches. But there are some things that I note and look for right away. So consider these when you're polishing off the ol' one-pager, updating your portfolio, and buttoning up LinkedIn.

  1. Your résumé should be a one page PDF. Listen: I love text files too, but this is not quite the time for it. PDF is pretty standard for better or worse. Consider this your constraint.
  2. Edit the hell out of the thing. Both in text and design.
  3. Don't use buzzwords. They make you sound cheap, not knowledgable.
  4. If you include an objective, write it using your own language. Everyone is a "passionate, user-centered crafter of experiences." That's not you. What do you bring?
  5. Get your point of view across. You have a perspective as a designer. What do you care about? Make sure it comes through in your writing and the way you position your work.
  6. Include relevant stats and numbers that matter. Did your design launch? How did you know it was successful?
  7. Summarize key projects/stuff you did at your job. I don't need a 3-paragraph review of everything that happened at your last project or client. I need to know what you did that matters (to you, to the client/company, to the world, etc.)
  8. Charts of experience look nice but aren't as useful as a narrative. I don't know what a "10" in Axure is, anyway.
  9. Show your work. Where possible, tell me about the deliverables you have on your portfolio. Wireframes by themselves are 99% meaningless, other than being able to tell that you can use [app name here].
  10. Edit the hell out of the thing again.

Also: go read what my colleague Pernilla Peterson said, because her advice is all excellent.

I may edit (ha!) or refresh this post as more things come up.

Cross the Streams

It's been made pretty clear over the past few weeks that streaming music is not a sustainable business model for artists. Streaming Music is Ripping You Off. Open the Music Industry's Black Box. And the fact that you need to play a song 1.8 gazillion times in order for an artist to earn enough to buy penny candy (which costs a quarter).

In other words, this is horrible. But! From a user's perspective, streaming music has a lot going for it. It's eating away at pure digital sales and has been for some time. In other words, tech got the user model exactly right, and did nothing for the business model.

That's not to say that was a goal of rdio, Spotify, Google, Microsoft, or even Apple. It's pretty clear that the music industry has an entrenched way of doing things, and change – on any scale – is difficult.

That all said, I see one natural conclusion for streaming services: they'll become music labels.

It will be a slow change, due to contracts and deals and the like. But think about it. They've got the distribution in place on the software and, in some cases, hardware side. They can, in time, provide exposure in a way a music label could not. Apple has already been producing music videos for some artists. Contracts aside (and, again, those are a major aside) it's only a hop, skip, and jump to having Drake cut a new single and having it solely on Apple.

That means a very different future landscape if it happens. It means that some services – stores, if you will – get exclusives and artists all to themselves. Or, they get them first. That sticks a very smart wedge in the “every streaming service has the same catalog, more or less” scenario we're in now.

Truth be told, I can only see Apple pulling this off at scale given their current marketing stance. My serious problems with the app and UX aside (again, another major aside), they've very much planted themselves in the “we're for artists!” camp with the Connect feature and initial launch positioning.

Tidal is interesting. Their pro-artist stance hasn't been the #1 focus for them. Apple calls it out as a key differentiator: “We've set out to make music better. ... To deepen the connection between artists and fans.“ Tidal, on the other hand, focuses on streaming quality which, ultimately, is not enough. (See: Pono.)

Now, this all said, it's entirely possible that Apple is just spending a ton of cash on marketing for a streaming music service that's an also-ran with its own radio station. But its ability to pull in talent, its huge cash reserves, and alleged attitude towards music suggests that they're looking to do something more.

And by becoming a label themselves, Apple could – again, in theory – change the pay equation for artists. Say... 70/30. Or 80/20. Otherwise, it's all looking pretty bleak.


I turned on the light to my closet and walked in. It was 7:30 on the morning of a client meeting and, as usual, I needed a dress shirt. I don't have a wide range of dress shirts since I can get away with casual shirts at work, and so my selection is somewhat limited. But on looking at my options, I was disappointed. All of them fit well except in the arms which, as usual, were too long. I chose a solid blue shirt, conservative but business-friendly, and went on my way.


It's no secret that I'm short even though I look tall on Twitter. 5'6" is my height but, honestly, that's when I'm wearing my Chippewa boots in the fall or winter. I'm 5'5 1/2" to be precise. And, due in part to my short stature, I also have relatively short arms and legs.

When I was younger, I didn't quite understand why my school uniform pants always needed to be hemmed. And as I progressed into men's sizing, I didn't quite get why a 30" inseam on pants meant that I was still dragging a few inches of denim on the floor. But there I was. Once I entered the business world, though, I knew I had to get my clothes tailored to some extent. That meant dress pants for sure (although there was a time where I tried to get away with cuffing – a bad idea) and that was also true for my lone suit and lone blazer.


The following week, another client meeting and another round of frustration with my dress shirts. I chose a white shirt, somewhat formal but not too too formal, and finished getting dressed. I had bought that shirt last year during a dress shirt replenish, but never took the time to get it tailored. I wore the shirt but felt really bad about it all day even though it was under a blazer – it circulated in my head as one of those things that you notice immediately but almost no one else would. (“Can they... tell? Do they think I look silly?”) I'm sure it manifest itself in my stance and confidence that day.

Not long after that, I found myself at Nordstrom Rack trying on new dress shirts. I found one that fit really, really well. It was a reasonable $35. I looked at my reflection in the dressing room mirror and nearly bought it. It was a good shirt.

But here's the thing: the shirt in my closet at home was also a good shirt. Its sleeves were just long and a little big, that's all. (If I ever took up weightlifting, and somehow only grew larger muscles in my arms, this shirt would have me covered.) But it was nothing a tailor couldn't fix. I left the store empty-handed, and called the tailor just down the street from work. $14 to shorten sleeves and a week turnaround. No worse than buying a new shirt online, say, and waiting for shipping. I dropped by the tailor and tried on the shirt.

“How short do you want the sleeves?” he asked. Ooooh, the voice in my head thought, he totally can't tell.

I pulled up the sleeves maybe 1/2" or so and said, “That's it. Not much.” He marked the sleeves. I paid my $14, changed back into my other shirt for the day, and was off.


All of this made me think about how willing I was to purchase a brand new 100% fine shirt which, I might add, would have likely also needed some tailoring. I was almost willing to spend about $50 for a new shirt that day at the store, versus plunking down less than $20 to take care of the shirt I already had.

For quite some time I just thought that clothes were supposed to fit off the rack, and if there was something wrong with the sleeve length or what-have-you, too bad for you. My stance on this has changed. Yes, it totally sucks that I have to tack on $20 to just about any pair of pants I buy unless I happen to find one in a short length (which, thankfully, happens.) And no, I don't plan on getting my entire wardrobe tailored.

But there's something to be said here about the idea of reinvesting in what I already have versus throwing it out and getting something new. New is appealing. New is flashy. New is... new. It sounds good to have new stuff. Look! I got a new shirt! I got a new phone! I got a new pair of pants!


I picked up my shirt a week later at the tailor. I was genuinely happy as I got the plastic-wrapped shirt off of the rack and said thanks to the tailor. I got it home that evening, put it on and...

The sleeves were too short.

They looked ridiculous. It appeared as if my arms had grown out of my shirt, leaving no fabric behind. Worse, the arms were now so short that the shirt pulled across the chest and back. The tailor had ruined my perfectly good shirt. And this, unlike the sleeves being too long, was something others would absolutely notice.

In the end, I made the best decision: to stick with something I had, but update it to reflect how I actually was in that moment. Unfortunately, the too-short-sleeve-shirt was a byproduct of a tailor who made a mistake. While I might go to him again, I am worried to take another shirt there. Pants, no problem. But now I know that this tailor isn't where I'll take my shirts. Lesson learned.


There is value in sticking with something that is familiar and seeing it through to whatever you need now. It can be tough sometimes. It may cost money. It may not be possible today. It may be possible tomorrow. It might hurt, because that shiny new thing is shiny and new. But it may, in the end, be the totally right decision... even if there are mistakes along the way.


This is based on a piece I wrote for The Weekly, my email newsletter.

UX is dead

UX is dead.

The industry is dying. Our practice is being watered down. It needs to be saved. We need to name it in order to save it. We need to be acquired, acquihired, or go it alone. We need to do these activities and stop these other activities. We need generalists. No, we need specialists. No, we need certification. We need to argue less. Well, no matter: UX is dead.

To be honest, I don’t believe this. I’ve considered it and read about it and re-read about it. I’ve wondered if it’s true. But it is not. The truth of the matter is that UX is in an exceptionally strong place.

Over the past few years notable people made bold declarations about UX. Peter Merholz, for example, said that there is no such thing as UX design. Upon reading his article and other similar pieces, I initially became defensive. They didn’t match my experience; UX was still needed, perhaps more than ever. I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the past few years that absolutely needed these techniques, philosophies, and practices. Without them, simply put, they will become irrelevant.

I’m reminded of another person who said UX would go away. His name is Paul McAleer, and he said that in an interview prior to the 2013 UX STRAT conference – oops. And you know, I still agree with this viewpoint. I do think that in the future, UX will go away as a practice. But that is a distinct position from declaring that it is dead or nonexistent.

This isn’t just a semantic argument. UX grew from a place that was closely aligned with digital products – interaction design, UI design, graphic design, and a subset of IA that is focused on navigation. Understandably this led to confusion of UX and UI. This confusion is noteworthy because so long as we apply UX practices to digital products we run the risk of being deemed UX/UI or UI designers. It’s also noteworthy because we’re just now starting to collectively pull away from it.

This coupling is problematic. Technology in general, UI inclusive, moves at an incredibly fast pace. It has not slowed down during my 32 years in tech and I think that’s fabulous. But some of the best UX practices have drawn from more established, slower-paced areas. We want to stop and slow down and, say, do research… but the fast pace of technology demands we do research much faster. Thus, the practices of UX have always been in a fast/slow position when they’re fully aligned with digital products. This is an uncomfortable place to be, this grey area.

So when it comes down to it, I infer from Peter's piece that he’s had the good fortune to drive UX maturity to a point where the organization no longer needs “UX design”, and it’s fully integrated into the organization. It’s not dead, in that case, just superfluous as a separate practice.


Several years ago, my boss – a product portfolio lead – asked me about the future of UX and my centralized UX team. I laid out a prediction in line with my UX STRAT interview, and also suggested that my team would much later be disbursed to individual product teams. But UX was still young in that organization, and it wasn’t strong enough to support a distributed team just yet.

A month later, the entire product team was reorganized. My team was broken up and disbursed.

While I’d like to say that everyone was ready for this change, that was not the case. We ultimately did not have the organizational nor financial support to succeed. In time, the UX team was re-centralized. Later still it was moved out of the product organization altogether.

This concern over where UX lives and the amount of influence UX has often demonstrates an organization that does not consider design a core value and instead sees it as a requirement with no true authority – a checkbox on a list of deliverables. It is common, still, and traces back to the UX/UI coupling.

Similarly, I strongly disagree with the idea that agencies that provide UX services are out in the cold… or will be swooped up by a bank. There will always be a need for an outsider’s perspective, always. Organizations that grow past UX/UI are going to need a hand in figuring that out. Now isn’t the time for a milquetoast approach to design work. This is the time for agencies and companies to truly state their case, hire intelligent people, and line them up to do big work. It requires evolution from the client – internal or external – too: asking for “just an app” isn’t going to cut it in 2015. UX experts will need to assist clients and give them a boost on the UX maturity scale. It’s a change management problem.

I had a chat with a good friend recently who is about 7 years into her UX career. She’s been doing fantastic work, starting with user research, wireframes, and information architecture. But she recently started working on business problems and strategy – to her delight. A concern she brought forth was her place in the community: several events she had attended focused on perfecting skills for digital products… like user research, wireframes, and information architecture. She was concerned that she was outgrowing the industry. At some points, it seems like a lot of training and growth is geared towards new practitioners instead of those of us with a decade or more of work under our belts. But that’s the fast/slow contrast fully at play here. We ultimately have a degree of freedom in our careers and our work that we aren’t familiar or comfortable with because these growth and career directions are being defined just-in-time.

I get this; I’ve felt this too. I started on a path to be a programmer but shifted over to photography at my earliest chance. My art school experience was instrumental in developing my career, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, because it exposed me to different ideas, disciplines, and ways to define success. It sounds a lot like where UX is headed.

A few months ago my team had an offsite event focused on improving processes. One of the many thoughtful workshops centered on career definition. Upon reflection, it wasn’t hard for me to envision a time in the future when I’m not “in” UX. That doesn’t mean I won’t be using UX techniques, Post-Its, or whiteboarding the hell out of things; it simply means that my focus will shift to other areas. I suspect it’ll have something to do with baking, a long-budding passion of mine. No matter what it is, it’ll have something to do with making the world a better place.


This concept of our work being bigger than just digital has been a thread that’s been showing up in talks, events, and conferences over the past several years. Abby Covert's superb How to Make Sense of Any Mess is an IA book through and through but is geared towards a broad audience. The fourth edition of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web elevates the conversation above tools to focus on IA fundamentals that can apply to a wide range of problems. Both of these books encapsulate the spirit of what design can do without the trappings we’ve long felt as an industry, coupled to digital UIs. It’s empowering.

That sense of empowerment is something we all can and should build in ourselves. And so, when we’re working on UX – either formally or informally, in the field or not – it’s incredibly important for us to devote time to working on ourselves. If your interests are outside of the digital sphere, that’s actually a great thing! Learn from that! Work on that! Be present with that! Use your skills to see what tools and techniques you can apply in those spaces too. The best way we can infuse ourselves with that sense of possibility and wonder is to keep fresh on what’s happening elsewhere.

That’s where I am today. With the help of others, I started taking design principles and applying them to myself. This attitude and approach, where I was my own client and I needed help with everything from research to feedback, is something that helped me significantly over the past few years. I even started to write and speak about it. Taking these tools and techniques to other areas of my life didn’t diminish my enthusiasm for design. In fact, it supercharged it. I’m bullish on UX.

UX is absolutely not dead. UX is a field that ebbs and flows with new energy and new talent, echoing what came before. And it’s simply too big to be “just” for apps and websites. As high technology continues to push itself out of dedicated computers and phones, our skills and abilities will be needed in many more places, in many more industries.

But we can’t forget why we do this work. We’re curious. We’re intrigued. We can help others. We can inform others. We can ensure those without voices are heard and respected and understood. In the end, UX is all about people. And because of that, UX will live on for a very, very long time.

UX is alive.

I can't

A few years back I wrote about an extremely powerful technique in doing user research: sketching with users. The idea of just handing someone a Sharpie and a piece of paper is a simple one, but for my research it has been one of my favorite and useful tools.

There's one part of that post I want to come back to, something that I have faced a lot. You see, when you get the title of “designer” or anything with “design” in it some funny things happen, in my experience. First, people may devalue your skills (“I can have my dog design a website!”) Second, people may admit they can't do what you do (“I can't sketch!”) Both happen, sometimes simultaneously. Here's what I said in 2013.

Now, you know that some people react with, "I can't draw!" or more precisely, "I claim I don't know how to think visually because I fear that it requires some sort of title with 'design' or 'artist' in it and I don't have that but help me here and please don't judge me okay because it looks like you have those skills!"

Now, as a thought experiment, consider something you have in your mind that you say you can't do. It's there. Maybe it's old. Maybe it's something that just popped up, some challenge, some new thing. And now, deconstruct it. Why are you saying that? Is it that you can't do it, or can't do it well? And how are you defining “well”, anyway?

The truth is, you can do it. Whatever it is. Big or small. There may be things that need to happen, yes. And importantly, the outcome may not be exactly what you expect. But you can do it. For me, I found it way easier to be challenged externally than internally. If someone told me I couldn't do something, I would fester and get upset and then come back and do it. But if I took it and fully internalized it, for the longest time I would take it as truth.

It was so easy for me to apply this to other people. Look:

So it was my responsibility to help those people [who said they couldn't sketch] through the process, guiding them and sketching on another piece of paper right next to them. It wasn't to upstage their ideas, but to help them feel comfortable and willing.

Not bad advice for working with yourself, either. Guide yourself. Help yourself through the process. Don't upstage your ideas. Help yourself feel comfortable and willing.

If you have this happen to yourself, this “I can't” mentality, please question it. Do what you need to do to access your self – your true, loving, honest, caring self – and start there. Don't start at the outcome. Start with what you can do, your power, in this very moment.


Copyright 2016 Paul McAleer. Thank you for reading. Namaste.