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I hesitate to share some of today’s thoughts because this type of content seems to attract haters…or at least “spirited disagreers.” I’m not sure why that is, but it is true. So, if you disagree with any of these thoughts just know that they are truths to me, drawn from my experiences. Your experiences may be different and perhaps these things don’t apply to you. We all get a little bit different journey with a little bit of overlap.

I’m in my 26th year as a creative. During that time I have had the privilege to experience all I could have hoped for from a creative career and many great things I didn’t even have the courage to dream. From “copy store designer” to “Hollywood creative director” to “agency owner” I feel like I’ve seen the bulk of what a design career can throw at someone. Here are nine “lessons” I’ve learned along the way. Many of them relate to entrepreneurship and a few are more general, but all of them are kinda random due to #8.

Reflecting on my 26th year as a creative and the lessons I’ve learned. According to “FaceApp” this is what I will look like in my 46th years as a designer.

According to “FaceApp” this is what I will look like in my 46th years as a designer.

01: The Law of Reciprocity

It is hard to give away too much for free. It is hard to be too nice to others. I believe in the law of reciprocity. As I give value and be kind to others, somehow value comes back to me. I saw this in my agency business, constantly over delivering for clients, being generous to employees and now I see it in my content creation endeavors. I always try to provide immense value with a kind-hearted delivery, and trust that the law of reciprocity will work, providing me with immense value and goodness in return. It always seems to work. Generosity begets generosity. Goodness begets goodness.

02: You Don’t Have to Teach Bad People Lessons

Bad people who take advantage of, or drag down, others (in business and life) will eventually get what they deserve. It is not up to me to teach them a lesson or engage in some form of retaliation. I’m not advocating tolerating bad behavior when you see it (especially when it is inflicted upon you), but there is no benefit to putting it in your “emotional backpack” and carrying it around with you for years to come. Misery begets misery. Badness begets badness. Their time will come.

03: Mental Health > Money Health

Mental health is more important than money health. If you have a bad client or find yourself in a bad business deal, give them their money back and walk away. I have never ever regretted doing this, even when the financial numbers are big. Life is too short to endure the misery some bad clients can inflict upon you.

04: Loyalty Is Not Purchasable

You can’t buy loyalty from employees through compensation, bonuses, perks etc. People choose whether they give a business or employer their heart and for how long. Enjoy the time you have working together in a symbiotic relationship, business owner and employee, because it won’t last forever. But it can be great while it lasts. And when the time comes that it is over, support eachother’s future endeavors and don’t burn bridges.

05: You Can’t Hire People Better Than You

Sometimes, I hear people give the advice that you need to “hire people better than you.” Hmmm. As a business owner, you can’t hire someone better than you. Those people are usually out there hiring their own employees. What you should be looking for are people as good as you were three years, five years, ten years ago. You can, however, find people with a different skillset than you…but not necessarily “better.”

06: Customer Service and Relationship

Good customer service and relationships are 90% of the reason people will choose to work with you over someone else. The other 10% is because you can do the work (just like the tens of thousands of other people in the world who are just as capable as you are). Want to differentiate from the masses of competitors? Do it through relationships and customer service.

07: You Are the Secret Sauce, Trust Yourself

You are the secret sauce of your business. You are the reason it exists. Trust your judgement and decisions. Stop second guessing yourself at every turn. Your instincts have gotten you this far and will reward you in the future.

08: Document the Lessons to See the Lessons

There is a lesson to be found in almost every experience, good or bad. Decide on a place to document the lessons and you’ll be able to replicate successes of the past and avoid pitfalls in the future. The decision to document them is key. Once that is decided, your subconscious mind will start revealing the life lessons to you. If you want to remember something important, write it down.

Also, according to FaceApp this is what I’ll look like in my 66th year as a creative. Yikes! At least I still look like a nice old dude, albeit a little creepy.

Alrighty, I know this is a bit of a random article. But pursuant to #8, I had these random thoughts piled into a random Evernote document and I guess today was the day to put them into something a bit more formal. Maybe there is some nugget in there for you. Maybe not. Either way, thanks for taking the time to skim my musings.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.