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A Brand Called You

Lesson 7 of 22

Generators vs. Drains

Debbie Millman

A Brand Called You

Debbie Millman

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Lesson Info

7. Generators vs. Drains


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:12:41
2 Defining Brand Duration:09:34
3 Finding Your Mindset Duration:04:57
5 Busy Is A Decision Duration:02:45
6 Honing your Mindset Duration:07:35
7 Generators vs. Drains Duration:19:39

Lesson Info

Generators vs. Drains

So I want you to think about how do you show up in the world? How do you show up? What kind of energy do you bring into a room? What kind of vibe do you give off? So years ago, one of my partners at Sterling, a brilliant man named Simon Williams, confessed to me that he thought there were only two kinds of people in the world. Generators and drains. (audience laughter) Generators and drains. So think about what those types of people could be. Generators are people that come into a room, bring energy, enthusiasm, inspiration. They create spirit, they always see possibility, they always are curious, they wanna do more, they wanna do better. Then on the other side, you have drains. And the drains are people that always complain. Always find some fault with something. Always think that something's not good enough. Always have something that they wish could be a bit better. And what they often do is complain. Complaining is a really, really interesting phenomena. Why do you think people com...

plain? Why do people complain? Anybody know? Anybody have any ideas? Yes. [Meeting Facilitator] Use the mic, please. So, so the answer was to bond with other people, bond with other people. So what are you actually bonding over? The same type of complaint. The same type of complaint, and how would you know that they were complaining, or that they felt the same way about the thing that you're complaining about? I think if you're on the same team, you're facing the same type of challenge, possibly. So somebody has to reveal it first. You don't just simultaneously, at the same time, say we hate this. Somebody has to reveal to somebody else. And the other person might not actually be feeling that way, or maybe they are. But as soon as you say it, it makes it something that is palpable, and other people can weigh in one way or the other. All complaining really does, all it really does is soothe one's self. You're complaining. You wanna get it out, and it infects others. People that complain a lot tend to be drains. They're the people that suck the energy out of a room. They're the people that are making things worse, as opposed to making things better. People only wanna hire people that they feel that they can work with and enjoy being with. Even if you have the most amazing work in the world, if you are somebody that gives off really bad vibes, you're not gonna get a job. You're not gonna get hired. People only wanna work with other people that they will like. People often hire for personality. Going back to Operational Excellence. You need to have this benefit that you are providing, but you also have to have an attitude that people are going to want to engage with. So I want you to think about how do I show up? Am I a generator, or am I a drain? Now, there's a really interesting conundrum that occurs with this question. Most people that are generators, think that they're drains. Most people that are drains, think they're generators. (audience chuckles) So think about, I know. I know. And I've had some amazing, amazing students come to me and say I really think I'm a drain. I'm like no, you're not. You're the most amazing, enthusiastic person in the world, and I don't know why it is that people that are generators are always worried that they're not showing up enough. That they're at fault for not doing something well enough. So if you jumped on the bandwagon of being a generator right away. Like I'm a generator! I want you to rethink the possibility that maybe you're not. Same with drain. How do you know? You can ask. Listen to yourself if you don't wanna ask. How often everyday do you complain? [Meeting Facilitator] And the question was how do you know? Right? How do you know if you're a drain or a generator. Yes, and you and I talked about this quite a bunch yesterday, and I was thinking is it really, is it one or the other? You can be both. It's not, it's a spectrum like everything else these days. The generator-drain spectrum. Where do you fall? I think that you can have an overarching tendency. Do you have an overarching tendency to approach things with abundance or with scarcity? This is something that I learned from Milton Glazer as well. You can approach the world in one of two ways. And I think it's very similar to the generator or drain analogy where you can approach the world as a world of abundance, where there's opportunity for everyone, or you can approach the world with scarcity, which is this is the last thing that will ever happen to me, and I'm never getting another job, and I'm never gonna find another person that loves me, and so therefore I'm going to settle into a job that I hate and a relationship that I don't really like just because I'm afraid of being a failure and alone. That's scarcity. Abundance is there's plenty for everybody, and I'm gonna keep working until I get what I really hope in my heart to be able to have. But I think a good gauge, a good tangible and empiricle gauge of whether you're a generator or a drain, is how much do you complain? How much do you engage in the act of complaining? Even if things are awful, complain to your therapist, but don't infect others with that toxicity. It's very hard to recover from that kind of energy. It really sucks you down. So this whole first section is about mindset, and I'm gonna go through the slides again, just to be able to talk to each if you have questions about any of them. I want to make sure that everybody understands all the concepts before we then go into our next session. So winning a job versus getting a job. So again I wanna review that this is about competing. You're competing for something that you want. You are not getting it. You are winning it. And so what you have to think about, in your mindset is how am I gonna show up and be the best possible version of myself. How am I going to be the best possible competitor? What would others do that I might not be doing? Don't, you can't wing things. We're going to talk how to show up in interviews in the next session. You have to be able to prepare for an interview in the same way that you would prepare for a marathon. You have to train, and you have to analyze every aspect of that journey in the same way that it would be unlikely for you to run a marathon without understanding the path of the race. So I want you to think about what do I need to do to get in the competitive mindset of winning this opportunity that I want. And then understanding that it is going to take work, and it might take a long time. Eighty percent of people give up trying to do something after the second attempt. Eighty percent of the people in the world, big fat stat for you, give up after the second attempt at something. I used to give up after the first attempt. Apply to grad school, one school, don't get in, move on to the next idea. It takes time to get the things that you want, and it also takes practice. And ability is not enough. You need to have an attitude, and you need to have a sense of what your benefit is in order to provide a reason for somebody to want to hire you. Your work is a given. Your work is a given. If you are a designer, people expect that you know how to design. If you're a photographer, they expect that you know how to take photos. So what else are you going to be able to deliver? We'll talk about how to understand what that is, how to find what that is, in our next session. So don't think I'm just telling you how to do things. This is really just about the mindset of what you need to be cognizant of as you engage on this path of getting the job that you love. I wanna give you good tools for this. I'm gonna jump in with a quick question. And, audience members, feel free to jump in with questions during this quick review section. What are the best ways to gauge your ability? The best way to gauge your ability is to ask people what they think of your work. And I'll talk specifically about what to do when you're showing your portfolio, but I'll give you a little bit of a reveal now. One of the things that I always ask my students to do when they're showing their work to anyone is to ask that person what is one thing that they would recommend that you take out of your portfolio. Hearing great things about your work is wonderful for the go, but it all dissipates pretty quickly. If somebody tells you what they don't think is as good as the other things in there, you're immediately learning about your range. Now, you might love that thing and think I don't wanna take that out, I love it too much. What you then might need to be able to do is talk about that specific thing with more authority. With more of a reason you made the choices that you did, maybe they don't understand what you did, but then talk about some of the strategic decisions you made about those choices. Whether it be color, lighting, whatever. But if you begin to hear the same response from different people after you ask that question a number of times, you might consider taking it out. But it's good knowledge for you to have, and the more you can ask people about how you can show up better, the more you're going to learn how to show up better. You can make the decision about whether or not to do that yourself. Nobody's gonna force you to do it, but it's always really good to get that information and have that as directional guidance. Early you said that branding is something that's out there, it's already existing, but what if you take some brand and make changes to it, you add your own unique twist to it. Is that also branding, or are you doing everything else that everybody else does. I'm not exactly sure what you mean with that question, so brands are tangible entities. And we create those brands using a whole series of symbols and messaging and positioning to create this thing, so they don't just ka-pop out. You have to create a set of symbols and you're able then to communicate via those symbols what this thing stands for. Brands are constructs that we create, so in order to make changes, so the question is how do you make changes to those brands? It seems like I am confusing the brand and an idea or a thought. Right. So a brand is this thing that you have as a result of all of the positioning that you've done. So you're gonna be positioning yourself in the marketplace and as a result, you will create a brand persona. You will then stand for things, and I'm gonna talk about how to do that. Again, don't worry that you're not gonna be getting the actual tools to make this happen. This is all about the mindset. This is about how do I start to think about how I show up, how do I start to think about what I want to stand for, what do I need to know in order to create a foundation of this journey. We're now setting the stage for the journey. But in terms of making changes to a brand, brands change everyday. People change everyday. And so you're constantly evolving, and if you're not evolving, chances are you're dying. So you always want to be refining and perfecting the brand in the same way that you always wanna be refining your education, and you always wanna be learning and trying new things. That's the way that you grow. And so brands are always growing and always evolving, but the brand itself was something that was created via the positioning of the product or person. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay, good. Any other questions? Yes, you have to use the mic. Hi, what would you say the difference is between being skeptical and complaining and once you find yourself in a complaining situation, how can you shift that? So that's a great, great question. And it's interesting because we talked about skepticism yesterday. Skepticism is really curiosity, about whether or not something is true. Skepticism, though, is different than curiosity because you're coming to the questioning with doubt. And so what you're then seeking the person that's sharing whatever that information is to prove that it's true. And so the skepticism comes from disbelieving in some way. So think about how you respond to things that you're not sure about. I tend to respond to things that I'm not sure about with I can be very dismissive. So if I don't know about something, and somebody else thinks that I should, I immediately get insecure, and I respond in a dismissive way because if I'm dismissive then it doesn't show that I'm being insecure about something that I don't know. I'm dismissing it as if it's not important that I know about it. So I think it's really about acknowledging why you are approaching not knowing something, or not believing something, in the first place. Are you approaching not knowing or believing something because you're afraid of being seen as somebody that doesn't know it already? And if you're in a teaching environment, the expectation is that you don't know these things, or are you being skeptical because you genuinely don't believe what that person is saying, in which case, rather than approaching the response with a palpable skepticism, then maybe you should approach the situation with more specific questions to really suss out whether or not whatever that person is saying is meaningful to you. So it's really the way in which we respond, not the actual words that we use to respond because you can be dismissive, and that dismissive comes from insecurity mostly because if somebody is genuinely cool about not knowing something, then they're just like tell me more. They wanna know more, but if they're scared that somebody is gonna judge them for not knowing, then most of the time our response shows what we feel about ourselves not knowing it, as opposed to their sharing it. So does that help with that question? [Meeting Facilitator] And Brian from the Internet has a question. Oh, Brian! Hi, Brian! [Meeting Facilitator] I just wanna kind of continue this talk because it's really great. Brian wants to know what are some, what's some advice you can give for the best ways to push for a better solution without coming across as a drain. Coming up with solutions. So I work for a man for years and years and years and years who hates conflict. Hates conflict. He'll do almost anything to avoid conflict, and so if I were to come to him initially, I worked for him for 20 years, if I came to him with complaints like so-and-so isn't doing this and this is not working out, and this isn't happening right, he would clam up and shut down, and I'd feel even worse because now nobody is actually listening to what I'm saying when I'm complaining. What I realized is if I came to him with a whole series of possible options, possible solutions for things that I felt weren't working and tried to approach it from a more objective place, because what he's reacting to is my workplace isn't good. He's reacting to she doesn't think that this is working, and I'm the boss, and I'm not in control of this, and I'm not making this happen in the right way, so therefore, she's being dismissive of me or critical of me and that creates conflict. So if I came to him with I'm feeling like this is not quite right, the functionality of this team isn't quite what we need it to be. Here are some suggestions that I think could potentially make it better. Can you help me pick the right one. The response was much more, let's get in the trenches and do this together. And so it was less a you're judging me for not being good enough and more let's work on this together to make it better. And it's really, it's just a sort of slight tweak to how we show up in that kind of environment with always remembering that other people feel the same way that we do when we are either criticized or feel like we are not showing up the right way or doing the right job, even the people above us, even the people that are more senior to us. In many ways they probably feel it even more than we do.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

It takes work to get the work you love. It takes knowing how to interview well, how to communicate flawlessly, how to articulate your own purpose and to simultaneously do this while facing tremendous rejection. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. In her class you'll learn how to:

  • Create a meaningful philosophy that will guide your career
  • Present yourself in meetings and interviews
  • Network and standout from your competition
  • Find discipline in your approach to work
  • Sell yourself with more confidence

Are you spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job? Are you doing everything you can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? What else should you be doing?

Join Debbie and answer these questions you should be asking yourself...


a Creativelive Student

B R I LLIANNNNNNT !!!! I love the such solid human being that she is and her grandiosity of holding our shoulder and say : go head! Dare to be your best self, own it. Here are some tips .... !!!! Uhuuuuuuuuu!! So inspiring! Thank you so much, Debbie. For couple of days you were my very BEST FRIEND :) Thanks Creative Live!! This is NOT a live "manual" on technical skills. If that is what you are looking for go some steps down and there are plenty of people teaching that, like traditional schools do. You will only learn what is "there" for you to learn if you are open TO HEAR with sincerity. Debbie tells several things that works and that doesn't in professional field besides showing what successful business look for in the people, or partners. Out standing!! I would love to watch another class with her.


I loved this course. Five Stars. I was initially drawn to this course because of the title. I had read Tom Peter's article (with the same name) in Fast Company magazine many years ago, and found it really inspiring. This was before 'brand' was a household word. Anyway, the course is geared more towards designers looking for their dream job than a typical branding course, but as it happens, I am a designer, so it was quite informative. I can also use much of the advice and lessons and apply them to my own business. From contacting potential employers or clients to creative self promotion, there's valuable lesson to be had. I watched and listened to this course in one day, almost straight through. I highly recommend it. Great insight, great advice - whether you're a design student or not. If you're the creative type, I think you'll find this both enlightening and very enjoyable.