When I was a freshman art student, there came a day when I realized that my favorite paint colors were running out. The problem was that I didn’t have the money to replace them. No ultramarine blue, cadmium yellows, or alizarin crimson. I was stuck with greens and opaque browns. I didn’t like these colors and I dreaded using them.
For a couple of days, I was like a parasite in art class, going from classmate to classmate, asking them if I could have a drop of this color or that. After all, I didn’t want to use the colors that remained in my toolbox. I’d rather deal with the embarrassment of begging.
Then came the turning point: I realized that the reason why I didn’t like those colors was not because I hated the way they looked. I hated them because I didn’t know how to use them. With those colors, my paintings sucked. Knowing this now, should I keep begging for the colors that fit in my comfort zone, or should I dare to use the more difficult colors?
Not wanting to back out from a challenge, I chose the latter. While my initial paintings with these difficult colors weren’t good, they got better as I became more comfortable with them. With the “easy” paint colors out of my reach, I was forced to learn how to use these difficult colors. By the time I had the money to buy new tubes, it didn’t matter so much what I bought – I knew I could paint with almost anything!
Web workers regularly face similar obstacles. There are some months where you have more down time, your internet gets disconnected, or you’re simply not inspired. These things get in the way of your plans and it seems like you’re not going to get any work done. You’ll be faced with the same crossroads I faced. Will you wait until things go your way or will you work through the tough times?
I find that although it’s difficult to work through challenges and limitations, doing so has its own rewards. First, you’ll be exposed to a new working process that allows you to refine your existing one. Your computer’s not working? Then write that blog post by hand. This might even force you to process your thoughts more slowly and to do a more thorough edit before it goes live. Or do a thumbnail of that design by hand so you can try alternative approaches that don’t come so easily to you via your favorite graphics program.
For me, the more important benefit is that you’ll gain the confidence to work even when the chips are down. There’s no better test of your quality as a web worker than seeing what you’ll accomplish when you have all these obstacles before you.
For example, if you have poor cash flow, this will force you to reconsider how essential all your business expenses are and what you can do to increase income. After this, you’ll know you can weather another economic downturn, if it happens. You won’t be vulnerable. While your competition is moping in a corner and grunting about “the economy”, you’re out there discovering the opportunities that she’ll never find.
By working through the tough times, you’ll feel like you’re a better web worker – and it’s not just in your head. You’ll know that you’re better because you were tested. Like me, you’d be forced to work with the difficult colors.
What tough times have you encountered as a web worker? How did you work through them? What lessons did you learn?
Note: This post is part 2 of a 3-part series on “Better Web Working”. Part 1 can be found here. Stay tuned this week for part 3.