If you don't know of designer/entrepreneur Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka SwissMiss, you should. Her keynote at South by Southwest Interactive 2013 really stood out - not for its technological profundity, but rather for the refreshing reminder that we are the captains of our own careers and our lives, and not the other way around. Tina spoke about her journey from growing up in the Swiss countryside to becoming a designer and entrepreneur in New York. She sees very little distinction between her professional and personal life, though not in the typical "I have no work-life balance" way that many of us suffer from. Her 11 rules (+2 bonuses that I liked) for living and working your dreams are about as good as it gets. If you have an hour, I suggest checking out the film of her keynote here. If not, my version of CliffsNotes from her talk are below.
Life is a series of decisions: decide with purpose. Live by your own standards; set your own values; set your own rules. Or, borrow from these...
1. Invest your life in what you love.
Focus your attention on the things that interest and inspire you, and let go of the things that don't. Work doesn't have to be dreadful. It can and should be fun. If you haven't found what you love, never stop looking for it.
Bud Caddell developed this Venn Diagram: "How to be Happy in Business," and it says it all in terms of how to live/work your passion. Aim for that sweet spot.
2. Embrace childlike enthusiasm.
3. Don't just complain. Make things better.
Tina made a personal vow on how to handle her own complaints: either do something to fix the situation, or let it go.
We should all take our side projects seriously.
4. Trust and empower your team.
The shift from being a maker to a manager is really difficult, but we have to enable and trust other people to to the things that we direct as we rise in the ranks. Directors who meddle in the details of every decision, who do not empower their team to take ownership, inevitably lose. Talent will hemorrhage and the desire for the team to take risks and innovate will be diminished.
5. Experience > money.
Money is not the driving force. Tina cares very deeply about making the best product possible, which gives each project a certain quality and particular authenticity. The money always follows. She believes that when things fall into place, "it is the universe telling you to keep going." Furthermore, the people she hires know the money will come later if they do great work that they care about. So far, that seems to be working out pretty well.
6. Surround yourself with likeminded people.
There is nothing more important than making connections in real life, getting out from behind the computer screen.
Tina started Creative Mornings to gather the creative community to hear a lecture one morning a month, with breakfast, and it drew a crowd that has grown exponentially from filling the SwissMiss studio, all the way to the Met. There are now more than 45 chapters of Creative Mornings around the world.
Wanting daily interaction with likeminded people, Tina built a supportive, creative space as a work-share called Studiomates. These people have influenced her work and contributed to it very deeply, and she credits much of her success to this community.
(I think my dad said something along those lines to me when I was in high school.)
Step aside from ego, and collaborate.
Tina believes that when you put really talented people into the same room, of course you will collaborate. She designed TeuxDeux because she couldn't find a to-do app that she really liked. Her studiomates built the app.
Other projects that came from Studiomates:
- A Book Apart
8. Ignore haters.
There are people who build things, and there are people who tear things down. Stay away from people who are fond of disliking things.
Tina has even monetized the hate by responding with a link to this tattly tattoo:
9. Make time to think and breath.
An empty mind can create quality.
Tina made a list for one week of all the tasks she did, how long it took, and a rating of how each task made her feel. Then she got a personal assistant to do the stuff that really dragged her down. Taskrabbit and Elance would be good resources to check into.
10. If an opportunity scares you, take it!
11. Be someone's eccentric aunt.
Tina had an eccentric aunt that inspired her to pursue her passions and live creatively. We should be that eccentric aunt to someone else through collaborating and inspiring a passionate sense of potential in others.
Pick the right partner.
That's the key to making the whole kid + career thing work!