March 2, 2022No Comments

The difference between knowing vs. doing. Which are you?

Written by Nguyen Le

​Being a practitioner vs. being a theorist. In my opinion there are 2 types of learning you can do throughout your career. One is acquiring knowledge through – books, videos, articles, school etc. – the second hand experience. And the other is through first hand experience – actual application, through trial and error, through mistakes, through learning directly from someone else(mentors), and in a live environment. I find that if you skew too hard in either direction you are limiting your potential for growth as a designer.

On this blog I can only help you with the former. I can only share stories about my experiences, my journey and my design tips. But for it to become valuable to you, for it to impact you and your career. You have to reflect upon the words, what they mean to you and actualise it with application. Don’t hoard knowledge for the sake of it. How many of us just download shit and it just stays there in our downloads graveyard? Or went to a design conference, got pumped up by the speaker then when went home and nothing really changed. You can hoard as much knowledge as you want, but you have to put the things you “know/learn” into action or to give it meaning. Information on it’s own is not useful.

It’s a fine balance of both.

Theory

  1. Can help expand your mindset beyond your surroundings and assumptions.
  2. Can learn from the experiences of other people, who are masters in their field.
  3. Learn frameworks and patterns that have been tested and fine tuned by the best in the business. Less trial and error.
  4. Learn best practices and allow to practice on specifics in a controlled environment.
  5. Grasp higher and more introspective concepts.

But all theory and no application is all bark and no bite. People who talk a lot but don’t actually have the credentials of doing it and having gone through it. Theory is the benchmark and the gateway for application. It’s like a map for treasure. Having a map means you know the way and what to do. But in order to get the treasure one still needs to navigate and trek to the destination and sometimes it is not an easy journey. But if you have solid theory and insight the path is a clear one. This is how we can use theory to design and solve real world problems.

Practitioner

  1. You are learning on the job – producing work in an environment where you will need to face users, the market and to be able to think on your feet and adapt. There’s no safety nets you just have to execute, fail and learn.
  2. Finding your own truth and learning through your own experiences, on how to design, communicate and navigate around problems through practice and repetitions.
  3. Build skills of a designer/thinker/freelancer forged through doing a lot experiments and projects that synthesise the theory with practical application.
  4. Craftsmanship and beauty is forged by the practitioner.
  5. Nothing teaches you more than being thrown in the deep end and going into survival mode.

As you can see learning theory and being a practitioner goes hand in hand. When you've put in enough reps improving your craft then learn more theory, expand your mindset, insight and repertoire and execute on that – repeat the process. Learn about grids, learn about design theory, learn about design thinking, UX design, how to use the tools, how to deal with stakeholders, how to grow a business, how to design to elevate and to focus on people.

Roughly knowing a concept and truly ‘knowing’ what to do vs. doing it are 2 different things. You can read about design, watch things, save things, but in order to be better you need to execute. On the flip side if you execute all day but don’t focus on thinking bigger or finding a means to raise your ceiling you will stagnate. It’s about finding a balance between both. Keep learning and apply what you learn, there is no real end point. A lot of the times we know what to do - we just have to make it a priority to apply it.

July 24, 2021No Comments

Your goals and ambitions lie just on the other side of consistency

Written by Nguyen Le

Nothing special. No incredible lifehack or productivity booster. Just plain old consistent work that eventually snowballs into some incredible results. We are an instant gratification generation. We want things now. We want things to happen fast. But sometimes we need to be 'patiently impatient' to be able reach our highest goals and ambitions.

Patiently impatient - means in order to speed up and reach our goals sooner - we actually need to slow down which sounds counter-intuitive.

10,000 miles is a big distance.

But to walk 10,000 miles, it’s just one foot in front of the other, each step of the way.

If you focus on the 10,000 miles all at once it will seem impossible. If you focus on that first step and the next it all seems very possible...

Consistency gives us the momentum we need to move forward.

If we want to reach our summit and our goals that are 10,000 miles away, we must also need to know where we are going.

We need a map, a guide, a sherpa to show us the way forward.

So you must learn, model and study the people who have come before you and have done what you want to do. Find mentors, read, learn, work, and then consistently execute against what you learn from these resources - day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out. And that consistency forged through passion or pure perseverance will start to yield the results you hope to see. And a lot of times results beyond our wildest dreams.

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.

BILL GATES

Be focused and consistent. Consistency pays off.

Intellectually you could know where the summit is. But if you don’t take that first step, and move in that direction, then you are not really going anywhere.

If you are reading this and think that I'm always on top my game and that everything is easy don’t be fooled. I can binge watch netflix with the best of them.

But one thing that I’ve fortunately learned to do is to be consistent. Consistent with how often I learn, how often I ship, how often I design,how often I write and how often I try to put myself out there.

What could you achieve if you committed yourself to being consistent?

When the world is not watching, when nobody seems to care, when you don’t see the results immediately. You have to embrace and enjoy the process of being consistent. Even if it feels daunting at times.

You can’t control the results of a particular outcome that is external to you.But you can control the consistency of your actions, that can help you achieve those things.

I started posting on dribbble for fun. 1 shot at a time. I started with 0 followers.

When I started this blog/newsletter. I started with 1 letter, 1 sentence, 1 paragraph then 1 article. Over time it has become many articles. When I started writing there were 0 readers. I’m not a natural writer, it doesn’t come easy to me. I’m not even a good writer. But I’m consistent and I love connecting with people and sharing my thoughts and ideas.

When I created my own products for the first time, I started with just an idea, then I validated that idea with my audience. I then consistently executed on that vision until I shipped it. Each day I planned and chipped away at it slowly. And now I have a product that I am extremely proud of. And a home to a community of awesome designers. The business has done 7 figures and helped 2000+ designers from some of the worlds best companies, Apple, Google, Slack, Huge and Work and Co. I just took it one day at a time and tried to help designers as much as I could. Bring value to others.

I didn’t do anything special. I just showed up consistently. I was consistent in putting the reps to do the work, even though it seemed like no one was watching. I showed up and executed.

In total my writing and work has been viewed 10 million times – if you want to get exact it’s 10,288,656. And has been read by over 250,000 people. When I started, I started at the same place as everybody else. It was at 0. I focused on the process and I focused on having fun and being consistent.

And because of that consistency, people start to notice, you start to provide value to people, and then it creates this habit loop.I don’t even consider myself a writer but over the last few years I haven’t gone more than 2 weeks without writing. Consistency creates habits.

But what happens when you don’t have time to show up? 

Your life is busy and you have a job and don’t have hours on end to be consistent. You have a life. I too have a family, friends, a life, hobbies, other kinds of work that I pursue. Being consistent doesn’t mean working yourself to the ground. Nor does it have to be grandiose like spending hours upon hours being consistent and ‘hustling’. While neglecting everything else that's important in your life.

Consistency can be set to your own timeline on your own terms. One small commitment to yourself each day.

It can be 30 mins to read. 30 mins on a side project. 30 mins to learn something new. 30 mins to exercise. 1 small consistent thing that you can do, to move you into the direction that you want to go.

I’d like to share a story about Masayoshi Son CEO of Softbank one of the largest companies in the world. When Masayoshi was in university he wanted to make $10,000 a month, that was his goal. The problem was he was a top student at the time and he didn’t have the time to get a regular job. But that was the goal and the outcome he wanted.

He was Japanese student at an American university. So he asked his friends if there was a job that he could take where he could earn $10,000 a month by working 5mins a day at. His friends burst out laughing and told him that it was impossible unless he considered selling drugs. Since he didn’t want to do that, Masayoshi Son found another way.

He brainstormed. What would be the best and most efficient use of his time? He pondered…

He concluded in order to achieve what he wanted he would need to invent something. It was the only logical way he concluded where he he could leverage that amount of time into that kind of cash output.

So he invested only 5 mins a day, consistently over a period of days, weeks and months. Eventually it lead to him to invent the world’s first electronic dictionary. He eventually sold it to sharp for $1.7 million. After 18 months and 2 inventions later he’d made $3.2 million total.

In the end he told his friends that it was possible to make more than just $10,000 even if you just spent 5 mins a day consistently on something.

Crazy story I know. But there is a lesson there.

What could you achieve if you consistently invested a piece of your time everyday on something?

Don’t underestimate what you can achieve with just 30mins a day consistently doing something. Start forming some consistent habits today. You are planting the seeds for success which you can sow in the future. Your goals and ambitions lie just on the other side of consistently showing up. We all start at 0. Where we end up is through our passion, perseverance and the consistency that we show.

July 24, 2021No Comments

A strategy for accomplishing your goals

Written by Nguyen Le

"How do you prioritise in order to accomplish your goals? If you're trying to learn new technology, if you're working on projects, reading, business, family etc. How are you able to effectively manage and juggle these tasks? That's where I struggle the most, trying to get everything done. I think I tend to put too much pressure on myself but trying to get everything done can sometimes be overwhelming." This was a great question sent in by Ian one of our readers.

I used to never set goals, I just went with the flow. And that worked for a while – until life threw all sorts of shit in my direction that made winging it a lot less productive. So I wanted to be more purposeful with how I planned my time. And how I could get the most shit done on top of family life, health, work, business and just having a fucking good time.

How do I get so many things done?

The key is focus, which comes through prioritisation. So how do I prioritise and focus? What I do is to pick just 1 major goal for the year. So think of it as a pyramid.

At the top is your goal. Let's say hypothetically it’s:

1. Goal

Get a new job at a top tier tech firm. 

2. Strategy

Next in the pyramid is brain storm as many strategies as you can which can help you accomplish your goal: So for example you could -  Connect with hiring managers/design leaders, get better at the design process, create a wicked folio, learn how to code etc. Out of all the strategies pick the few that you are excited about, find effective and execute them throughout the year, which leads to step 3. 

3. Actions

At the bottom of the pyramid is the actionable stuff. What do you have to do day to day and month to month to support your strategy (which will move you closer to your goal) So you can say after every weekday I’ll spend 1 hour learning how to code. So you’ll do that for 1 month. Which will make you more proficient in that area. Then in month 2 you can connect with influencers via twitter and dribbble where you spend that hour everyday tweeting people in the industry and building relationships. 

So you focus on small day to day tasks that aid with 1 big goal. This will help you move whilst still managing to balance other important areas of your life. If you respect the process the results will come. If you try to do too much at once it leads to spreading yourself thin without much progress or impact. Worst yet you might feel overwhelmed or even burnout as you try to juggle too much. When you focus and see little results it also allows momentum to occur. Make yourself accountable to these daily tasks even if it’s just an hour a day. Cut out TV or anything that is not bringing great value to your life.

Effectively achieving your goals is about reverse engineering small actionable steps that help you execute on your strategies, when your strategies align together they position you closer to reaching your goal. They all stem from daily bite sized actions rather than lofty goals with no direction that you try to achieve in one night.

If you are feeling overwhelmed for prolonged periods, take a break because it'll lead to burnout. Don’t be too hard on yourself – patience is key. 

Another tip is to pick a goal that by proxy will support other areas that make you happy. You should push your comfort zone a little, and some days will suck, but overall you should be enjoying the little steps. What is the point of reaching your goals when you are hating every step required to get there everyday. 

Example of the framework in action

1. So if my goal this year is I’d like to help and reach 2,000 new Process Masterclass students. To achieve this goal I will need to continue to learn and apply new things (which I love doing). I will need to provide value and help students 1 on 1 as much as I can, which allows me to talk to students and see their growth which is awesome. It will allow me to support my family financially. So 1 goal can actually touch on other aspects of your life positively during the journey and not just the end result. 

2. Some strategies that could work. Build awareness for the class by upping traffic from Dribbble, sponsoring Design Newsletters, Start a Youtube channel, Build my email list to bring more awareness to the class and to provide upfront value etc. 

3. So 1 day to day task that I can be applying from January-March is to be posting daily on to Dribbble. Which brings people to my newsletter and the Process Masterclass site – read some of my content and see if I am a right fit for them. If I just work on this I know I will be moving a step closer to my goal. And from here I execute on various strategies every month or so. 

You can use this framework to achieve your big goal for the year. What is the 1 big thing you hope to achieve this year? 

I’d love to hear it – comment below, email me or tweet at me. If I can help in some small way, I would be more than happy to help you on your journey. 

July 24, 2021No Comments

My productivity hack for getting things done

Written by Nguyen Le

Today I'd like to share with you a super simple productivity framework that I use. I get asked a ton of questions about, design, career advice, freelance and how to get things done in general. So how can we get the most of “what we do” to achieve the goals that we want. This is how I approach my work most of the time.  

“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”

DALE CARNEGIE

It's about prioritising

The hack is simple. Do the most important tasks first. Or more specifically do the thing that will give us the most amount of impact. It’s about the output of high value activities vs. time. And then try prioritise those tasks first everyday and tracking it. 

If you could only do one thing a day that would drive the most results what would that be?

Once you’ve done the high impact activities – the activities that really move you close to your goals.

Then you can move on to the secondary tasks that come our way. Answering emails etc. Don't get distracted by the secondary tasks first.

Our capacity to operate at an efficient and optimal level everyday is arguably only a few hours. 

Think back to your day, how long was your most productive AND creative stretch? That’s the window that you want to maximise. 

So you have to prioritise and use that peak mental energy effectively. 

To be productive don't get sidetracked

Everyday, month, and year we are bombarded with a ton things that we have to do. Tasks and activities we perform that zap our mental energy. It takes up most of our time, yet it’s output doesn’t necessarily add any extensive value to what we want achieve. 

It’s this vicious cycle of meetings. 

Replying to emails. 

Checking and consuming social media. 

Working on our folios when we should be out building relationships and getting leads with clients. (If you want to freelance)

Working on tweaking our logo rather than going out there and doing the HARD thing like generating revenue. 

You get the drift, it’s the law of diminishing returns. 

The goal is to reserve that peak mental energy of a few hours everyday and use it for high impact activities. Prioritising like mad. 

20% of the work creates 80% of the results. Focus on that high leverage work.

So you don’t have to work yourself to the ground to get results. The hard part is being honest with yourself, what is the most important thing I can do to achieve the outcome I want. What can I today? This month? This year. It won’t always be the easiest tasks, but it’ll be the most important thing you can do to leverage high volume output. 

Once you identify the outcome you can brainstorm different ideas for getting stuff done. 

Example of a goal and high impact activities

If my goal as a freelancer was to get clients. High impact activities would be:

  • Identifying who my ideal clients are
  • Identifying where my ideal clients exist and how I can get on their radar
  • Creative ways I can get the attention of my ideal clients. Creating a roadmap and strategy that I could execute against. 
  • How to generate value and build relationships with prospective clients.
  • How to turn prospective clients into leads by building trust and that upfront value. 
  • How to turn leads into paying clients. 
  • How to turn clients into repeat clients and brand advocates. 

You need to prioritise and focus most of your energy on this. Everyday I would pick a cross section of this and work on it.

80% of everything else that you do won’t matter.

Revenue is the lifeblood of a business. Your optimal time should be used to work on high impact activities as a priority. The reason we avoid these activities is sometimes we don’t face the music. It’s feels more satisfying ticking our random to do list off, even though it's not really doing anything that is generating much value, but it's easy to do and it feels like we are doing a lot.

Continuing on from the above example. 

Don’t spend 6 months working on a folio in isolation. 

Instead get in front of your ideal clients. Try cold emailing (it’s a lot of rejections and it’s hard, but done right it can yield results), creating content, providing value, connecting, and building awareness with that audience. Those are the hard things that you should be doing. 

Work harder and smarter

Hard work is always part of the equation, but working yourself to the bone won’t necessarily garner better results, if the person who is productive leverages their time better AND works hard. Their results will be worlds apart from the person who just works hard. Focus your energy on that 20% that generates most of the results and prioritise it. The more focused you are the more it keeps leveraging on itself, creating a compounding effect. 

When I’m at my best that’s how I operate. I have a clear overview for 1 month, what I hope to complete in that time, my hypothesis for what those activities will yield results wise. (Which I measure at the end)  And then every week I track what I will be doing. Each day I have 1 key thing that I hope to complete. And usually 5 secondary things that are optional that I can do if I have time. 

In summary

  1. To be at your productive best, leverage and prioritise your best mental energy (which is usually in the morning, but you can define when that time is best for you) and focus on doing the hard tasks that output the highest amount of results and leverage first.
  2. Focus on delivering on that 20% that delivers the most results.
  3. Focus and try to accomplish 1 key thing a day.
  4. Track your month. What were the results? How much was useful and optimal work?
  5. Track your year and then repeat the framework. 

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