Starting From Zero

Laying the Foundations

I’ve written before about the immense pressure we work under, in the increasingly connected world we live in (both here, and elsewhere). This pressure, it seems, is inescapable. We live our lives forever under the spotlight, seemingly on an endlessly spinning treadmill. It’s incredibly difficult to step out of that spotlight for even the briefest moment (and that treadmill should keep on spinning, preferably faster as you grow).

I suspect I’m not alone in harbouring deep-seated worries about all of this: “What if I’m forgotten?” “What if industry moves on?” “What then?” These worries are only compounded when one intentionally, or unintentionally, takes a step back.

Sites Down

For the last two years since calling it a day after a lengthy run as one half of The Standardistas, I’ve drifted a little – unanchored – nowhere to really call ‘home’. I haven’t really had a web presence per se, and what I do have is good, old-fashioned HTML, not a style sheet in sight. (Hold that thought, we’ll return to it later.)

That isn’t to say I haven’t been busy. I’ve spoken, and run workshops, at a number of conferences. I’ve kept my hand in by writing, most recently in a series of a dozen articles on creativity for The Pastry Box. I’ve also maintained my focus on education, a topic close to my heart (my new #ixdbelfast course, in particular, is shaping up nicely).

I also ran a design conference, Break, which (a few long overdue loose ends, notwithstanding) was – by all accounts – a success. (It certainly taught me a great deal about Kickstarter.) Of course, there have been a few other projects, here and there, but what’s been missing has been a place to call ‘home’, somewhere to tie it all together.

A Place Called Home

Sometimes you intentionally ground the ship, sometimes you unintentionally run it ashore.

Periodically, it’s important to burn everything to the ground so you can make a fresh start, unencumbered by past baggage. How long must that fire rage? It’s difficult to say. Speaking personally, it’s been raging for a good two years now. It feels like it might be time to rake over the coals and get back into the fray.

I can’t really put into words the journey of the last two years, all I can say is that I have – consciously or unconsciously – allowed everything to collapse around me.

I’ve had nowhere to call home. Every time I sign up to a service and have to complete the dreaded URL field, I shudder, knowing that there is no URL, really.

Living in Fear

So: Why the good, old fashioned markup? Why the lack of a style sheet? In a word: Fear.

When I first became involved in the wonderful world of the web (over two decades ago) it was all so easy. HTML, CSS and, if you were adventurous, a little JS; the entire domain of knowledge lay well within your grasp. Here. Now. Everything’s changed. Keeping abreast of everything is beyond comprehension. It feels like everyone knows more – much more – than you.

As I try to rebuild a home, I find myself endlessly gripped by ‘the fear’, driven by ‘the pressure’. I worry, what if I dive back in and discover I can’t swim? That worry is acute, and I suspect it’s held by many, afraid to admit that they’re finding it hard to keep up.

Our domain of knowledge is expanding at an alarming rate. Perhaps the answer lies in admitting defeat – or perhaps, to put it in a more positive light – admitting that your domain is enough, and that the way forward isn't holding everything in your head, but instead by working with others. Drawing strength, collectively.

Brick by Brick

You can feel ‘the fear’, but sometimes you know – you feel deep down – that the time has come. That you can’t stay out of the race any longer, that you need to get moving again, dust yourself down and re-enter the world afresh, and – with a beginners’ mind – embark on the next phase of your journey of discovery.

The world is accelerating, yes, but you don’t need to be all things to all people. It’s fine to step out of the spotlight. It’s fine to step off the treadmill. Everyone needs a rest from time to time.

I’m hopeful I’ll be back soon, building brick by brick. I’ve a lot of new thinking to share, and I need to build a new home. See you there soon, I hope.

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