(My) Empire State of Mind

I don't know what it is, but something about New York City seems to bring out the best in me. It is very cliche to say, but this city is so inspiring. You can either ride the wave of energy or get buried by it. I'm choosing to ride that wave and seizing the opportunity. Today we made our first contract offers to three people at Xhatch, a huge step for Adam and I. As I sat at East River State Park I looked at the Williamsburg Bridge, just thinking about what we have done.


We haven't done anything. All we have done is set the pieces to do something. Life is about momentum and taking advantage of that. We can take all that energy (positive and negative) and utilize it or get overwhelmed by it.

We have decided to utilize it. We could worry about our budget and if we should take a bank loan or get an investor, but instead we're going to capitalize and look at it in the most positive way possible.

It's a very good time to be in New York City and be in the midst of energy and people. My goal here is to spend as much time as I can from designers and get inspired, visit art museums and of course, the Apple Store.

My goal is simple: to utilize as much physical, emotional and spiritual energy on what I love and not let negativity (brought upon myself or others) interfere.

Let's ride that wave of energy.


Decision Point: Declining Admission for Grad School in 2009

As I was on the Apple Store website (no surprise here), I saw the promo about the back-to-school sale. Upon reflecting, I realized that this would have been my last year of grad school at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Let's take a look back at the decision to decline admission:

I vividly remember getting the call from the admissions office that I have been accepted for the Master of Fines Arts (MFA) program at CCA—a very prestigious school in the heart of San Francisco. I was at my job and got the call, then called my brother Daniel to tell him about it. There was one problem: it wasn't a full ride and I would have to either take a loan or try to bootstrap $20,000 dollars. Grad school was something I had been pursuing for three years and CCA was on my top five for schools I wanted to attend. It would be heart-breaking for me to decline something I had been working to attain.

I had to make a decision of whether to go or decline admission.

Choice 1: Go to grad school

At the time, I wanted to become an art professor which required a MFA. If I were to go to grad school, it was a very clear path. That is, if I could find a job in 2011. Again, at the time, I had no idea what the economy would be like in 2011.

Would I have to teach somewhere I didn't want to be like South Dakota? No offense, SD. Even with such a clear path, there were unknown variables. Where I would live was a huge factor for me.

Choice 2: Defer grad school, stay at my current job

My other choice was to defer grad school for a year and keep my admission. However, that didn't change my financial situation and I would still have to try to come up with the $20,000. I know myself better and knew I would NOT save up that much money to go to school. Instead, I'd probably spend it on traveling or computers.

To be honest, I did not like that job because it was a job, not work (that's a different post). If I was not going to go to grad school, I wanted an opportunity that I could develop into a career. Choice number two was not an option.

Choice 3: Find something else

The other option was to just find a new career path. It was scary because at the time all I wanted to do is paint and draw. I had many heart-to-heart conversations with my brother as he commuted from Oakland to Sacramento daily about what I should do. In the end, I decided to quit my job and figure out a new career path. If I wasn't going to do art, I wanted to do something artistic and creative.

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I moved to the Bay Area. Would I meet some girl at school and be married now? Would I find some booming startup to work for? Would I be $20,000 in debt now and working some job just to pay off the student loans?

One thing is for certain: I would still be a student and my career wouldn't have started yet.

Many reflections. No regrets.

Why I Ignore People's Advice

As I grow older, I begin to realize that as you move through life, it's better to ignore the majority of people and keep a close group of friends to pay attention to. It is up to the person to determine "who" and "how many", but for me, it decreases by day. I have learned the majority of people who give you advice do not look at it from your perspective, but tell you what they would do if they were you. Here are a few situations that I've encountered in my life where ignoring people's advice has helped:

Don't get an art degree. You won't be able to find a job.

When I enrolled in college, I knew I wanted to study painting and drawing. "So what are you going to do, sell art on the street or try to get in a gallery?", people would ask. The honest truth was I wasn't sure—just knew that I wanted to paint and draw. While earning my bachelor of fine arts, I learned about visual culture, art history, drawing, problem solving and conceptualization. As I grew my career into UX design after college, I realized I was wireframing (literally) in my sculpture class to learn about structural integrity and sketching ideas.

Don't quit your job during the recession

In 2007-2008 I had the most miserable job ever. My boss was so passive/aggressive and always questioned my work, or if I was even doing it. Working for a non-profit at the time , it was difficult to get buy off on utilizing this thing called "Social Media." This was in the midst of the economic crisis. What did I do? I walked out and quit my job. I didn't get laid off. I didn't get fired. I forwent my unemployment and resigned.  From there I reworked my skills and got hired by ExactTarget.

Going freelance is too risky

After a good year and a half at ExactTarget, it was time for me to move on. My dream was the travel the world and freelance. It is 2011, and the economy still relatively sucks. Though a lot of my close friends encouraged me to make the jump, most people thought I was stupid for giving up a great job for "the unknown." My mindset was simple: low risk, low reward. I had to think of the worst case scenario but also the best case.

These are three quick examples of how my life might be different if I listened to everyone. I definitely suggest reading Hugh McLeod's book "Ignore Everyone" to reflect on this.

Always trust your gut feeling. It's always right.

Devotion to your practice: why I am a designer

I've been working with my good friend Kelly at coffee shops a lot lately, and a lot of our conversation that comes up is about work. People must think we're insane or just workaholics. Kelly recently write a blog post called Why I Do What I Do (and love it) and it really got me thinking about why I design. For me, it's simple.

I want to be a warrior in my practice and serve with honor, devotion, strength and loyalty.

I am very inspired by Bushido. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. This is seriously how we should treat our jobs. I doubt we ever hear a samurai complain about not getting paid enough. I doubt we ever hear a Navy SEAL say they are over-worked. These brave warriors devote their lives to be the best of the best and carry out their service with honor and integrity. I want to do the same with my job.

Elite Status

For me, this isn't about being elite in the sense of society, but by craft. We should all strive to be the best we are at what we do. If you are a Quality Assurance Specialist, you should conduct your job with crisp focus and attention to detail. If you are a receptionist, it is your job to carry out your duties as best as you're able to. For me as a designer, it is my moral obligation to create the best solution: something created in the most efficient way all the while having a cathedral-like finish in detail. SEAL Team Six is a great recent example of where elite training can take you, all the while seeking absolutely no personal attention for it.

Being Fearless

The role of a designer allows you to test your fears: feedback from clients and solutioning. My calling as a designer forces me to be able to talk to anyone with the up most respect while being fearless—the knowledge that I have been trained for this.

Testing Your Spirit

This last week I probably worked about 90 to 100 hours. My friends thought I was crazy. I however, saw it as an opportunity—a great way to test the spirit and see how much I can actually handle. I really didn't stress about it. There would be too much shame if I did not deliver what I said I would. I can sacrifice my mind, body and spirit a bit if it makes me stronger. I can assure you the next time I work that much I will have a much stronger tolerance to it.

Final Thoughts

So that pretty much sums up why I try to work so hard. It is not because we have to, but we should. We often see a little bit of adversity as something being negative when in reality it is a great opportunity to do something noble—to serve ourselves and those around us.

Maybe it's time we stop complaining about how much we get paid, what projects we're doing...and unleash the warrior within.

I design to serve the world.

Old and new @Square readers. (Taken with instagram)

Old and new @Square readers. (Taken with instagram)

Really great use of books. I might do this for my apartment.

Really great use of books. I might do this for my apartment.

Meet Gato Guapo - Barcelona's Zen Kitty


Every Sunday I walk by Santa Maria del Mar and see this lady on the street with her cat, who is usually wearing lays or other accessories. He just sits there and sleeps right next to her. Keira calls him Zen Kitty, which is totally true. He is so disciplined. If you give the lady money you can pet the cat.

One day I was standing there and a Spanish woman walked by, paused, looked at the cat and yelled "¡Que guapo!" which means "how handsome." It cracked me up because I've never heard anyone say that about a cat. I've called people guapa before but to human beings!

I asked the lady what her cat's name is and she said Noè, but pronounced "no-eh" which is the Catalan name for Noah. I told her that the word gato in english is cat, so Noè is CATalan. She laughed.

If you are ever near Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, go meet Zen Kitty and call him "Gato Guapo."



What sex is like with certain tech roles

In the age of technology and the rise of the geek, men and women often are trying to shack up with people in the industry. What is your sexual experience going to be like with each of these people? Here's a little cheat sheet:

User Experience Designer (UXD)
The UXD is going to care a lot about your story, audience and do what it takes to give you an efficient design. They are user-centered by nature, so it's all about you. Before the UXD does work, he or she might ask you to have a discover session to get a sense of what you desire, features you want and get a sense of your estimated timeline.

Summary: "I don't know if it will actually be good, but it sounds good!"

QA Specialist
A QA Specialist is not going to often work you outside of production. He or she will make sure that all cases pass before giving the green light.

Dinner (Pass)
Movie (3 bugs found)
Foreplay (Fail)
Sex (Pass)

Summary: "You missed something"

Technical Support
A technical support specialist will open a ticket for your sexual experience. You need to tell him or her what the issue is, what your setup is like and the priority of it. If the technical support specialist can not deliver on the success, he or she can escalate it to someone else.

Summary: How can I help you?

iPhone Designer
It's all about tapping, dragging, flicking, swiping, double tapping, pinching open, pinching close, touching and holding and shaking.

Summary: "iLike"

Front-End Developer
Very knowledgable in positioning, style and form. He or she will also make sure your sexual experience renders in Internet Explorer.

Summary: "Layout and style, baby"

Back-End Developer
A back-end developer is really educated, talented and skilled. He or she will probably ask for you to provide a feature set of all the things you want done to you, how much time you think it might involve and prioritize it before any action takes place.

Summary: "Depends on what you want."

Penetration Tester
A penetration tester is someone who is going to be bly familiar with how things work...and knows how to exploit them. He or she will know all of your vulnerabilities and their job is to make sure it does not get exploited. It's a tough job to test penetration. After the session you'll receive a severe audit of your performance and infrastructure. The penetration tester will also recommend best practices and tools to use to make sure you are not penetrated by unwanted sources.

Summary: "Get pregnant? Not on my watch!"

Project Manager

A project manager is responsible for the overall success of your experience. He or she will sync up to find out what your needs are and the certain deliverables you require. Often the project manager requires other talent to accomplish the project, but it gets done.

Summary: "Room for a few more?"