The Diary
The Sculptor vs The Gardener
There’s no formula, no numbered list, no perfect examples or repeatable situations that can prepare you for being a good leader.

I don’t know a lot about what it takes to make someone a good leader. It requires you to continuously consider future unknowns to make present actions through past outcomes. It’s a nearly impossible task, especially if you believe it’s something that can be taught, codified, and mastered.

I don’t.

A long time ago I heard there are two different ways to parent, that I think it also applies to leadership. That here are sculptors and gardeners.

Sculptors want to carve and chisel, molding people into the shape they envision.

Gardeners want to cultivate and nurture, hoping people grow into the potential they contain.

The sculptors have good intentions. They want to be purposeful and prepared, authoritative and decisive. They want to shape others into what they would like or hope them to be. But they are in for a life of frustration and disappointment. The inherit assumption is that there is one “artist”, or one source, of what can or should influence and change a person. The desire to prepare and predict specific outcomes in order to mitigate or even avoid dangers and surprises, dictates their interactions with others. In short, it’s manipulation.

Far too often this is what we expect and require from our leaders - to have a vision for outcomes and to make that a reality. And almost always it’s turns out terribly for everyone.

The reality is you cannot sculpt a person. We aren’t marble or clay, and life isn’t the isolated results of one person - despite how much you might believe or wish that to be true. No matter how prepared and informed and experienced you may be, you cannot control all situations and circumstances that influence life. You can prepare the ground, pull the weeds, water the soil, guard against dangers, but there’s no guarantee your seed will grow into what you want.

Fight against it all you want, but ultimately all any of us can really be in my experience, is a gardener.

The Post Mortem
Here are all the stats and data about the one-day design build and launch. It was fine.

It’s time to break down the events of the day. Looking back now, over two days and many more updates and revisions, frustrations and panics (at some point I lost hours of work — thank God Webflow keeps backups, from which I was able to restore quickly and effortlessly), I was definitely hoping for more ”creative” magic and absolutely underestimated the amount of time it would take to complete even just one page. Overall, I’m fine with the outcome. It’s not so much a design, as it is a framework for a design. It greatly lacks in nuance and depth, in need of more organic and diverse visual systems. Those will be coming.

Was I able to achieve my goal of showing the three levels of thought (ego, super-ego, and id)? Yes and no. Have a decent solution in my head that will take more time to execute (involving an open/close button, hidden within some fun illustrations that expand in a fun and revealing way). One of the biggest problems with any website or product is content, and I do feel that there was no issue with having enough of interest and help to say. As with most things design, this site will continue to evolve and improve (hopefully).

Some quick stats:

Begin Time:

8:11am EST


End Time: 

4:18pm EST


Number of Times Published: 

87


Twitch Viewers: 

7


Moments of Self-loathing: 

8,164

Here you have it. Numbers. So many numbers. If you missed it (and I know you did ... everyone did), the full sessions, sadly in two parts because my computer crashed trying to get Twitch to work, can be found here on YouTube. I'm so sorry for anyone who watched me ramble and hum and slowly die inside. I’m also sorry that it took me so long to figure out how to get my camera to work – not that anyone cared about seeing my concentration face.

Part One:

Part Two:

Between something and nothing
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky. They all look the same.

It’s near the end of the day and I feel closer to having a something completed, but further away from anything I wanted. I’m not sure what I wanted. If I did, it would be done. I still would like to crack the all to common dilemma of sectional stripes that seem to dominate every website. I will have to spend some time considering what to make bring it more to life, provide some personality and fun. I started a template for case studies, though was unable to finish an about us page. Those should follow shortly. For anyone who did “watch” throughout the day, I thank you very much for watching.

4 hours in and ...
I need a lunch break. The ideas aren’t flowing and I want to destroy everything I’ve already made.

I’ve made some progress. As usual, I hate all of it. It's flat and dull and does’t have enough variation in visual engagement. The content is fine, but as I know all too well, no one reads. I need to discover some organic or more illustrative separator to make the page feel more alive. I also need to work on some secondary pages for case studies — which I imagine will be what people are more interested in anyway. Time to break for lunch. Hopefully I can find some inspiration.

Here we go

So much for getting a good night of sleep. My heart raced, swimming with thoughts and anxiety. What if I got COVID in the night and was unable to move and had to cancel everything, disappointing underwards of tens of people!? What if the power goes out? What if my computer stops working? What is an intruder breaks into our home and chops off my hands? What if I forget? An onslaught of unreasonable fears stacked up all morning as I just kept my eyes closed, hoping that pretending I’m asleep might make it so. It didn’t. But hey, none of those awful things happen. I don’t think.

You ready? 

Ok, I need to do my morning routines (put the dishes away, make breakfast, take the youngest to school). See you soon.

Programming myself to dream about a solution
No turning back now. Tomorrow I will do all I can to make a rich, unique, interesting, information, honest website to showcase what Pixel Recess is and can do. Or I will hate what I make like I almost always do.

Less than 12 hours to go. A mixture of excitement and panic accompany me as I get ready for bed. I like to believe that getting a lot of sleep will somehow give me superpowers to create the most awesome design solution of thing stuff ever. I know that is not at all true, nonetheless, here I am. I will see you all in the morning. Thanks for coming along.

The concept
Some joke about Freud in a bar with a Madison Avenue ad executive, an abstract expressionist painer, and a neurotic street performer.

For awhile I’ve been wanting to visually represent the many voices battling in our heads. The voices which create the essence of who we are. Freud called them the Id, the Super-ego, and the Ego. I want to take the general concept of these competing, yet equally present personalities and create a design that shows the battle between the professional, mannered, thoughtful words we use (Ego), to the introspective and contemplative inner voice that wishes to be heard (Super-ego), and the chaotic, self-doubting, purely emotional things that people are afraid to say (Id). The design will have to show the interplay of content and the visuals. I have no idea how I can pull this off, but it feels fun and authentic – two things our brand and work always strives to be.

Instant regret
Now I'm starting to think I made a huge mistake taking on this task ...

I am most certainly going to regret this. So many assumptions — like anyone would care, that I can even pull it off, that the world will still exists. I also hope that it doesn’t appear that I am cheapening or lessening the efforts of my entire field. Designing, building, and iterating on a website is not a casual or easy thing. First, there is no client but myself. Second, I created the branding, therefore I intuitively understand the visual parameters and guardrails intimately. Thirdly, this is a third thing, because just having two things feels weak. Anyway ... what have I done.

So I had this idea
I thought it would be a fun idea to design and build an entire website in a day and have people keep up with the progress.

It's Saturday, mid-morning, and I am sitting outside on the deck of my house. It's hot, but not stifling in the shade. I can feel the pollen invading my nose. Bastards. While looking through Chris Glass’s website, I saw his post on Cincinnati flags, which then randomly had me thinking about the old days of the internet (which doesn't feel that long ago for someone in his fifth decade of life), and a site I loved Coudal Partners and wonderful endeavour called Layer Tennis. World renown designers would arbitrarily compete by trading their creations and add to them round by round until a winner was declared. All of this flashed through my mind in just seconds.

While those thoughts collided, I also had a gurgling and growing anxiety that had been festering for months about creating a new website for Pixel Recess — and all the issues with creating something interesting and informational and unique. What better way to get something done by creating outside pressure and ridiculous goals and fun active participation int the creation of a thing than designing and building a website while everyone watches? And without thinking too much about it, I posted on LinkedIn and Twitter (sorry Facebook, I'm over you) that I would be creating a new website for everyone to watch.

So here we are. All of this is an experiment in shortcuts and empty paths to nowhere we call the creative process. I hope it’s worthwhile for you, as much as it will be in yielding something useful for Pixel Recess.