Friday, 26 April 2013

How far will drive and motivation take you?

Six years ago my line manager at school asked me to "skill-up and learn photoshop" or words to that effect. "OK..." I thought. Then being an arrogant and immature little schmuck I wanted to reply... "But I don't even want to learn Photoshop." Thankfully I had a bit of EQ and thought to rephrase this as "Can you put me on a course then?" Money was tight in those days, our department could just about afford a book. Thankfully there were online tutorials (PSD Tuts, Smashing Magazine etc).

In hindsight, this lady had a lot of foresight and she continues to make these forward-thinking decisions which pay off. She runs a successful, highly-skilled department which is always two steps ahead of the game. 

It turns out that the new and undesirable challenge was actually a blessing in disguise. One year later, I got a promotion based solely on my ability to do "a bit of photoshop and that" and for the following 4 years, our students were achieving way above their expected grades thanks to the lessons I'd learnt online, from my housemate (a pretty amazing graphic designer),  our wedding photographer and from my wife. Here's some of the students' work. They were all doing A-levels at the time, but the quality is not too far from industry-standard:


We can often shirk away from new challenges, it's never comfortable thinking about change. Perhaps it will be difficult, but it's generally worth the investment in time, energy and money. I think about a few of my friends who have developed so-called "ill skills" in order to pay the bills. I've already mentioned my housemate. Well here's the full story: at the age of 19, he didn't know what he wanted to do, he just knew he didn't want to be wasting his life. One day he decided he wanted to be a graphic designer but didn't know how. He figured he'd have to go to college and then his mate just asked him how much he wanted it? If he really wanted it, he should just go out and f***ing do it! Based on the clients he now works with, I'd say he's made a decent investment.

Example 3: My wife was making a new film 3 years ago and she knew that she would need to learn some new Special FX as her film involved complex pans, tilts and motion rigging. Rather than pay out top dollar and outsource it all to a production studio, she realised that it was important for her to understand these programs and scripts. It would be a good investment. So she met with a good friend who is a Flame and Nuke artist, he's worked with Aardman animations:

But my wife being someone who takes a belts and braces approach to learning, she decided to seek out lessons and support from another friend of ours. He worked on Quantum of Solace, Avatar 3D, Harry Potter, X-Men and The Dark Knight. In the end, I think it paid off. The finished film is stunning, as I believe all 10 readers of this blog will agree!

Here's a short preview of her finished film:

Example 4: Another friend of ours had a Philosophy degree and was sick of being unemployed or in jobs he hated (working in a bank, identifying terrorist bank accounts etc) , so he decided to learn to sew. Yeah that's right, just from scratch on his granny's old sewing machine. He started making clothes for friends. Now he has his own bespoke streetwear company which sells products out of Comme Des Garcons in Japan and France. He still works from his London workshop and he's made jackets for Usain Bolt, Ed Sheeran, 1D and Tinie Tempah to name but a few.

The following year is a new chapter for me in several walks of life. Professionally, I'll need to develop new skills in programming and computer science in order to teach my new subject. Whilst this is daunting, so was Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. I have to remind myself of where I came from with that.

This was my first "before and after edit" I ever did in Photoshop:

Just copy and pasting into seletions and a cheeky invert.

A few years on:

Now we're erasing boats and stuff
Whilst the months and year ahead are going to be tough as many of us embark on new journeys, I hope we have the will to embrace it and develop some ill skills. If we can pay the bills at the same time, then that would be an added bonus!

Special mention to the birthday girl. Wishing you all the best sis!

Yeah that's right, we were cute as kittens back then.

An afterthought: Most of our life's challenges would not have been possible without a certain support network. Whether personal or professional, I guess it's key to have good people around you. This is something we're not really taught at a young age. We just like to be friends with the cool kids. Looking back, where are all the "cool kids" now? The year ahead brings great personal challenges for me too, so I hope as a reader of this blog, my friends can also support me in this next chapter of life.

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