Over this past weekend, I watched the live stream of Tina Roth Eisenberg (a.k.a. “Swiss Miss”) giving her keynote speech at SXSW. She spoke about her experiences building her website and her amazing businesses: Studio Mates, Tattly, and Creative Mornings.
I watched as she spoke of passion and how her life and heart had led her from the Swiss countryside to the busy streets of New York. I was moved as she read and explained her own personal principles that have carried her through her brilliant career. She showed us video of her jumping up and down at the sight of a new design, and she explained the value of being fearless when it comes to enthusiasm.
The moment her talk was over, I stopped streaming it from my iPhone to my Apple TV and switched back to regular cable. The first thing that I saw was the movie, Forrest Gump. Then it hit me…
The way to a simple life and a great career as a designer, is to minimize what drains our mental capacity and to get out of our own way. Although Tina Roth Eisenberg is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, her ability to repeatedly get things done greatly paralleled Forrest Gump's ability to live a full life. (I know this metaphor may be a bit of stretch, but bear with me.)
I then decided to explore what elements were paralleled between the two, and why they could lead to a mantra for the modern web designer. Here’s a summary of what I came up with.
Swiss Miss's 11 Rules That She Lives By.
As Tina progressed through her talk, she walked us through the 11 rules that she has created to help guide her life and career. I found these rules to be extremely helpful so I’ve listed them here for your own reference and also as a means of comparison with Forrest.
- Invest Your Life in What You Love.
- Embrace Enthusiasm.
- Don’t Complain. Make Things Better.
- Trust and Empower.
- Experiences are Greater Than Money.
- Surround Yourself with Like-minded People.
- Ignore Haters.
- Make Time to Think and Breathe.
- If an Opportunity Scares You, Take It.
- Be Someone's Eccentric Aunt.
The Reasons Forrest Gump Would Have Killed It in Design
He Had a Repeatable Set of Principles.
We all remember the famous sayings from the movie like, “Life is like a box of chocolates” or “stupid is as stupid does”. These were simple and repeatable mantras that Forrest’s mom gave him to always help him get through life. I think it’s important for every designer to create their own set of principles that will guide them in their design career. Just like Tina had her list, Dieter Rams (one of the most well-known designers in the world) had his own set of principles that helped him measure good work versus bad work. It served as a guide to check everything that he designed without having to tax him mentally for every product he put out.
Forrest Gump was a massive success in business, but Bubba Gump could have never happened without Bubba. Forrest also saw the value in having someone like Lieutenant Dan around too. No man (or woman) is an island, and it's much more fun to surround yourself with talented people anyway.
He Worked Hard at His Passion.
Forrest worked really hard at his passion for Bubba Gump. The fact that he was slightly cognitively challenged kept him from thinking too much of himself instead of working. He didn’t see himself as some “great designer” that should be given everything on talent alone. He worked hard at what he did, and hear this… “There will never be a better substitute to working hard”. Talent is nothing without the work to back it up and see it through.
He Told Stories.
It is no secret that storytelling is one of the best ways to teach and learn. Forrest spent his entire life listening to people and helping them through their trials by telling them great stories (and even parables if you will). Following suit, Tina had some great stories to tell in her talk because some great things have happened to her. Stories are what make us human and experiences are what help guide us into creating them.
He Created Stories.
The only thing more important than telling stories, is creating them. The most important thing in life is creating and having experiences. Think about you own past. Do you have great stories to tell? If not, maybe it's time to get out and make some. Forrest and Tina both have a lot of stories to tell and it's part of what makes them magical characters.
His Life was Full of “Happy Accidents”.
Remember in the movie when Forrest was running and someone handed him a shirt? His face was imprinted on it and it turned into the “smiley face” cultural phenomenon. Or how about the time he was running through a football practice and it led to him being honored by the president for being an All-American?
When Tina watched her little girl come home from school with a poorly designed temporary tattoo, the Swiss designer in her was disgusted. She then did some research to see how she could create her own, but with better aesthetics. The result ended up being that people saw them and wanted them, and now Tattly is a million dollar business. The important thing was that she was “out there” and always open to opportunity. She never set out to do tattoos to make money, but it was something fun, creative and something she was passionate about. Now the business makes her “happy”, but its success wasn’t all accident.
He was Naive.
Forrest honestly wasn't smart enough to know whether or not anything he did would work. The fact of the matter is that this was a great character trait to have. When we're doing something great and unique, way have no way of knowing whether or not it will work. I find this exciting, because if there is no way to ensure success, that means that we can try any “hair-brained” idea that we have because it might just be crazy enough.
The Main Point
The main point I wanted to make here is that success can be much easier than we make it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of hard work and I know for a fact that Tina works her ass off, but I propose to you dear reader that many times we over-think and make things hard on ourselves before we even start. Maybe we need to be more like Forrest Gump with the creativity, savvy and grit of Tina Roth Eisenberg. Too many times, the only thing that holds us back is our own thoughts and ideas about problems that don't actually exist.
I say do great work, but be stupid about how you put it out there. Be naive, knowing that there are thousands of other people out there too scared to ship their work out into the world. Be crazy, enthusiastic and fearless like Tina, but think like Forrest Gump right before you ship.
After all, we're all weird and that's exactly what will make us great.
I love you Tina;)