Fighting the future or open to change? Which are you? It seems that most of us can all agree the world is changing faster than it ever has before.
Supercomputers in our purses. Tons of knowledge literally at our fingertips with the help of Uncle Google. Oodles of selfies uploaded every day. Our world leaders engaging in social media wars. Complete industries being born from “influencing” others on social media. And, coming sooner than we may think, the ability to travel the world from the comfort of our sofa thanks to dopey-looking virtual reality headsets. Am I the only one whose head is spinning from it all? I still remember what it was like to call my best friends in elementary school on the corded phone attached to our kitchen wall!
Depending on your threshold for rapid change and uncertainty, you may find these new developments endlessly exciting or completely terrifying. Or, perhaps like me, you may find yourself sitting somewhere in the middle. I am always grappling with the pros and cons of living in such a digitally connected era. I love connecting with so many of you on Instagram. Many of you are friends that I NEVER would have had the opportunity to bump into in real life. I am also grateful for the chance to impact potentially thousands of hearts and minds by hitting one little “SEND” button on an email newsletter from the comfort of my home. But, in the same breath, I also hate the way my brain becomes so readily dependent on that connection (and, let’s call it what it is: that validation.)
This is the kind of progress purgatory I constantly find myself in. For every step we collectively take toward the future, I feel there is another part of me with a white-knuckle grip on the past, wishing we could all just return to a time when life was more about living and less about posting. Have you felt this inner battle also?
It is with this confusing love/hate dynamic that I approach every new wave of change (especially as it relates to running a creative business in these crazy times) which can almost always be characterized by my Four Aspects of Technological Adaptation:
1: Complete resistance and general discrediting.
Example: “What is this weird ghost I see popping up all over and what does it mean. It’s ‘Snap-what?’ So is it only for teenagers sending stupid disappearing messages to each other and weirdos trying to sext? What is our world coming to…”
2: Curiosity, intrigue, and a dash of FOMO.
Example: “Wait a minute. This app lets you superimpose cute puppy ears on your face? And people are saying this SnapChat thing is actually legitimate for one-on-one engagement? Huh? Maybe I judged it too soon. How do you even use it? I don’t want to be the ONE person who doesn’t know how to use SnapChat if this silly ghost thing takes off…”
3: Experimentation and reflection. (This is the “Don’t knock it until you try it” part of the process)
Example: “Okay, I get it. This is fun. I am beginning to get the hang of it. But I don’t know if I like having one more way to document my life and use up my time. Oh well…I suppose I can see why people enjoy it…”
4: Adoption or rejection. (aka THE ULTIMATE TEST: Does this make my life better or worse overall?)
Example: “I love a good filter and doodling on my photos; however, I cannot say that I like one more thing pulling me out of the present moment and into my phone every day. Sorry SnapChat, I’m out for now.”
And that is how my inner dialogue goes with just about every new development that starts to trickle into the mainstream. Sometimes, l make my way through the four aspects in a matter of a few weeks or months and I can confidently decide whether I want to fold a new form of technology into my life. Other times though I am fighting the future because I remain stuck at the first one for way too long, hell-bent on judging new technology without even trying it because
a) I’m afraid of change, and
b) I’m afraid of feeling stupid for trying something new.
My point here is: In a world that is only going to continue to change (and quickly), are we doing ourselves a disservice by clinging so tightly to the past? Why are we fighting the future when things are going to change anyway? What might we be missing out on because we are afraid of what is on the horizon? Although I am very tech savvy, I had exaggerated resistance to technology when I heard about the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I stayed at the general discrediting phase for so long, mainly I think because after three years of really focusing in on my hand lettering skills, I didn’t want to have to learn a new process from square one.
So I dug in my heels and told myself I would stay a “purist” connected to the tactile goodness of traditional pen and paper. I actually remember when Apple announced the Pencil and I made jokes about it. (“Wow Apple…how revolutionary of you. It is a STYLUS. Doh!”)
It wasn’t until I opened my mind to all the new possibilities that my resistance finally started to soften. I finally realized that progress doesn’t have to compete with the old way or even eradicate it—it can simply enhance it. When I allowed myself to look for the possibilities for the future instead of romanticizing about the past, is when I actually fell in love with iPad lettering and what it could mean for my creativity. I actually remember the exact moment my mind opened up, if you can believe it. It was early last year when I came across an Instagram post by one of my favorite letterers/illustrators where she shared a mesmerizing time-lapse recording of herself creating a hand-lettered art piece. She had automatically recorded a video using an awesome app called Procreate.
I was hooked. The fact that you could erase, re-draw, hand-letter right on your screen and then to top it all off, this app would record the whole thing for you so you could watch it back! I couldn’t believe it. I had been spending many hours a day in my studio creating new pieces. While I loved the feeling of getting my hands dirty with paint and getting lost in the process of it, there was definitely a part of me that fantasized about curling up in my bed upstairs and creating digital versions of my art pieces on the iPad with this crazy cool new technology.
Would it be the same as my analog process? No. But could it still be as satisfying in a new and different way? Could I experiment and allow these new possibilities to actually push my art forward? I wanted to find out. Instead of fighting the future, I wanted to embrace it and see for myself the effect it could have on my creative process. And am I happy that I did. Not only was it a magical experience from the very first session, but it has completely revolutionized the way I create art.
I actually created a watercolor digital painting from the comfort of my bed. What? From that first piece I was all in. And things only got more exciting once I saw what I could do with the Apple Pencil, iPad and Procreate app when it came to hand-lettering. Since I purchased it I have been using my iPad to create almost daily. And the best part is that it hasn’t replaced my analog style like I worried it would; instead it’s actually inspired new ideas and processes that I can incorporate into my “offline” work. I especially love mixing the two — starting with an art piece I create in my studio, taking a photo of it, and then pulling it into the iPad to finish the painting layer-by-layer. I love developing new techniques, new effects, new ways to combine Procreate’s powerful features into something I could not have possibly dreamed of before.
Yes, I am excited about my new toy but more importantly I wanted to share a broader message about embracing these changing times and deciding for ourselves which new advancements can actually make our lives and work better. I think it’s worth noting that we have a choice about HOW we integrate new technology into our lives. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing, good or evil thing. We can embrace the possibilities of the future while ALSO thinking critically about our habits and the overall affect these things have on the quality of our lives.
If there is one thing I am sure of, it is that the world with its many changes is not slowing down any time soon! If we are going to talk about the rich, messy territory between personal growth, creativity and our work, then it is also worth discussing how these big cultural and technological shifts impact it all.
My Challenge to You This Week:
Identify a change (technology or not) that you have been resisting for a long time–one that you have made assumptions about in your mind that you cannot actually confirm because you have never tried. Then think about ways to actually engage with that change or new technology so you can decide if it is worth adopting not merely out of resistance but out of actual experience.
I’m curious. What one technological advancement have you been resisting? Facebook ads? Automation software? iPad lettering? Leave a comment for me below and let me know if today’s post has shifted your perspective in any way.