Throw Away The Box

“Boxes are for holding things, minds are for exploring things.”

Throw Away The Box: Origins

During a business presentation in Phoenix several years ago, an attendee asked this question during the Q & A.

“What did you do with your kids and what did your parents do to make you, and them, think so far outside the box?”

The answer was almost immediate for me – although I hadn’t really thought about it prior.

“No one ever told me there was a box.”

And this is true.

Apparently, my framework for how you pursue things in life doesn’t conform to what a lot (most?) people believe. I say that with a some apprehension because my framework – whatever that means – is the norm for me. It seems standard. Normal. I’m not stretching to go to this place. I don’t move into a “creative space” or conjure a muse to think the way I do.

Because of this, it is hard for me to view it as anything but standard. It is certainly my standard.

Here is an example

Yesterday a friend was adding some design elements to her home. This is something she seems to enjoy and spend time on. My personal interior design might be labeled, “Whatever shows up”. She’s a bit more careful.

She mentioned that she might be interested in going to school for interior design and color theory. She could see moving in this direction as a possible career.

I said, “Why go to school for it? You could start learning that today.”

“But how would I learn color theory and design?”

Go to: G-O-O-G-L-E and Search It

I explained to her that I was at my computer. While we were talking I Googled, “Tutorials on color theory for interior design” and some variations of that. Hundreds of articles, tutorials, videos, etc. immediately available. I then explained, that there are college textbooks and trade books available at the library or for purchase.

School, I explained, would slow her down. By the time she signs up for and waits for classes to start, takes a class, does the required assignments, and gets to the end of the semester, focusing on how to pass the test rather than how to design, somebody else will have started learning on their own, designed 5 or 6 spaces for friends and a few referrals, and will be picking up their first check for that work.

This is true with technology as well. There are so many available options to learn programming for free online. That, along with finding a mentor and/or creating your own project, are MUCH faster paths than school. Oh the same for film making, writing, etc. etc. etc.

It isn’t that I’m against school per se. I simply want to be honest with those who want to move their career forward in the fastest way possible. For some, school is permission of sorts. But the bigger danger is that many believe school prepares them for their career. It simply doesn’t. Unless you are actively interning in a role that lets you exercise the actual project type work you wish to pursue, you are misguided about what your education will give you.

So… if you MUST go to school for the confidence or you just like purchasing over-priced books and waiting for assignments to learn certain disciplines, at least find an internship at the same time. It is where all your real learning will happen.

I make this caveat: If you are going to be a doctor or an attorney, you need that schooling. It could probably happen much faster if they bypassed certain rote classes, but, in limited areas, no degree precludes any possibility of pursuing that career.

What about job requirements?

Okay.. here is a revelation for you. Nobody who needs the work done, cares about your degree. They care about what you can do.

But they need to reduce the number of resumes they receive. So they will post that they need 6 years of experience in a technology that is 4 years old.

How do you get around that? First, submit your resume anyway. Second, write a cover letter that explains why you are the right person. Third, job postings are horrible ways to get hired… so instead, network like crazy and donate/give time to causes you believe in where you can make great connections.

There are some who will tell me that this path worked for me but it doesn’t work today. That’s fine, I heard the same thing when I was younger and I just watched, first hand, someone very close to me grow their career in the same way I did. In the past two years. And they are passing people who are telling them it can’t be done that way, while they are doing it.

It’s an interesting situation because you are being told you can’t do what you are currently doing and have helped others do. So, either I and those I’ve mentored are simply so amazing that rules don’t apply… or we simply don’t view those “rules” as rules.

We have, in this instance, thrown away the box.

I think it is worthwhile to watch this presentation by Casey Neistat – who never attended film school but has had his films produced and has been hired by Nike and other big brands to produce films. Furthermore, he provided quotes and budgets as simple one line email responses… not big drawn out documents. This is something I’ve said to technology consultants for years.

While others thought about doing, he did.

Honestly, it is worth learning a bit more about Casey and his approach to everything.

How to be Heard

And if you are bound by or limited by boxes you’ve been left by parents, peers, or society, throw the box away. At least tip it over and look around outside that box. It’s sort of exciting!

Note: I give a presentation titled, Throw Away The Box: The TAO of Creativity & Innovation. It covers these ideas but provides exercises and ideas to stretch organizational and individual creativity. This isn’t an advertisement… just letting you know.

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