“I’m standin’ on the Monopoly board,
that means I’m on top of my game,
and it don’t stop ‘til my hip don’t hop anymore”
- Eminiem, ‘No Love
I love seeing work from people who are fully locked into whatever it is they do. Designers, race car drivers, athletes, chefs, musicians - to watch anyone work at their craft who is completely focused and devoted to it is very inspiring. Because usually, they are doing great things.
Those people are easy to spot, too. It’s the designer who posts a shot on Dribbble nearly every day and every post is excellent. Yes, they are working hard and long hours each day no doubt, but when you are constantly in that state of “flow”, it all comes together a little easier. You don’t feel distraction, you lose track of time, and all there is . . . is the work. And the work thrives.
During these times you don’t struggle to tap into focus and “flow”, the real difficulty is tapping out. Sometimes, the only way to do it is to go to sleep, but even then you close your eyes and start designing things in your head. I think we all experience being “in the zone” from time to time, and most people might view it as something that is short lived, or something you try to get back to every day. For some people that might even be true, but the people I am describing at least seem to be living in it.
When you find someone who is there, they probably seem bat-shit insane. While watching “Spinning Plates” (on Netflix now) I was really intrigued by master chef Grant Achatz. He talked about getting ideas for food and presentation from looking at a cherry hanging on a tree - he sounds off his fucking rocker, but what he is describing is also really beautiful and that process and state he is in is where we all want to be, and maybe need to be to do our best work. He was so inspiring, I got up and made salsa from scratch; that’s how powerful someone’s passion can be, and I think is the source of the most honest kind of inspiration - not the kind where you look at someone else’s work and set out to imitate it, but where someone else’s work motivates you to do your own.
Grant later says: “If I can’t taste and I cant smell, then I don’t even want to be”.
In my opinion, the greatest race car driver ever was Ayrton Senna, and he often talked about being in flow too. Part of his work-out routine involved meditation to sharpen his focus skills and once described driving at Monaco as "being in a tunnel that never ended, I just kept going and going". I also believe Senna's ability to focus in the car and drive without ever being distracted or intimidated by another driver was his greatest skill.
I know when I am in the flow state and focused strongly on my work; it becomes a sort of sickness. I don’t want to do anything but work. Then, the period of focus will end and I do not wish to work anymore. Something takes my attention away, or I am not as inspired to work as much as I did before. These periods can last a long time too, and then design just becomes boring work.
For those of you who are crushing it every day, I admire you a lot. Whatever your skill or craft is, if you're showing up and doing great work constantly, you're doing things right and your focus, and commitment to it, is something I continue to work on.
Keep up the good work!