Conversation with Debbie Millman
It gives me great pleasure to introduce someone who I admire. Respect, appreciate. Look up to I can call her my friend. She's a mentor. She's a boss named one of the most creative people in business by fast company. One of most influential designers working today. She is an author and educator curator, and if you haven't listened to design matters podcast, it is amazing. I was interviewed by Debbie onstage at how designed live. And she had information about me. I I literally have no idea how she got it. I think she called my mom amazing researcher and amazing creator. And I would like to if we can not quite sure how this is gonna happen. I think it's gonna be auto magic. We're gonna go live to Debbie Millman Wu Random water Debbio team up with a brand new word on a magic auto Magic. There we go. Thank you so much. I really, really so grateful for you to join us. I was just singing your praise and I want to just say it again to your face. You inspire me every day. I think you always see...
me tweeting and sharing your class on creativelive a brand called you. You've been traveling all over the world. Doing all kinds of setting stuff on your podcast is my favorite. Thank you for everything that you do. Thank you. All right. What? We're gonna talk, Teoh. We've got 100 souls in this room here in Seattle. You've been to the space, I believe, and we are hanging on the edge of our seats. What we're talking about is designing our life where, you know, you gave me an amazing lovely blurb for the book. So you know that we're in the middle of a system where we are imagining what's possible for ourselves. We're designing a plan to get there. We haven't quite yet executed against us and against it, and then we're gonna amplify it with our community. But in the in terms of designing our life, you have designed one of the most extraordinary lives of any creator I know. And what can you share with us? What's the secret? Well, there was not one secret. Um, I was listening to your interview with the student that you had in the studio, and I got to hear a little bit of the end and you were encouraging her to just start posting. You just start. My question would be, if not now, when? When? And I think a lot of people things that if they wait, they'll be more confident or there will be more secure or they'll be more talented. The fact of the matter is, if you're waiting for a feeling state toe happen in the future to make you feel better than you do today about doing something, you're gonna wait for the rest of your life. The only way to start to feel more comfortable about doing something is to actually do it. I had spent a lot of time thinking and talking about confidence, and a lot of that was motivated by a conversation that I had with Dani Shapiro. And I know that you and I have talked about this about the nature of confidence, and I had interviewed Danny Shapiro and she's a writer, quite a good writer, um, for my podcast and after the podcast, we went into my office at the School of Visual Arts and she saw on my desk a whole bunch of books that had been stacked up on confidence. There was a whole school of confidence books that had come out around that time, and she looked at the books and she kind of scoffed and she said, Oh, I think confidence is a graded And I was like, What? Because for me, it was the Holy Grail. That's why there was a step of puts their said that most of the most of the really apparently confident people that she knew were kind of jerks and that they were a little bit arrogant. And she felt that if you were confident that that was something, if you were truly confident that that was something that was just inhabiting, it was something you needed to show. So anybody that was apparently confident was likely compensating. And she said that what was more important than confidence to her was courage. Courage doesn't take that first step when you don't have any clear understanding of whether or not you're going to be successful on that step into the unknown, that step into the faith of just doing it for the sake of the joy of doing it was really more important, but because I'm still I was still on that search for the Holy Grail called confidence. I spent about another year thinking about that conversation and really trying to understand the nature of stepping into that courage. And then what happens? And I decided that my definition of confidence waas the successful repetition of any endeavor. That is what helps create confidence So courage is the birthplace of confidence. You take that step into the unknown, hoping that you will be able to do something successfully. And then that successful attempt, if you are able to do it successfully, breeds more confidence as you do it over it over. Now, the likelihood of that happening successfully the first time is not something that we should count on because think about all of the things we experience and try to do. Is humans walking, talking, eating like the most basic things takes practice. So if the most basic things practice, even even honey trading takes time, right, even the most mundane thing needs to be practiced in order to do it. So if you expect that you're going to be successful the first time, it likely means you're a superhero. And unless city of us air storing in the Marvel cinematic universe of movies likely were just mortals. And so my my suggestion is to expect that anything really great is going to take some time that you're likely going to fail, that if you're not failing enough, you're probably taking not taking enough risks and that you'll begin to develop confidence as you practice doing it successfully. So if you if you see it as a practice that if you start you're not gonna be great, think about how we learn how to play the piano takes time, and then over time you successfully do it well. And one of the examples that I like to give about confidence is driving a car so I can't see anybody chase. But I'm going to assume that if I ask this question almost all the hands in the room, we're gonna go up. So, Chase, you have to tell me, Can we please Let's turn. Let's actually turn the camera on to the audience if we can. Is that so that I could see this? Is that possible? Now, camera guys like Oh, because it s how many you, when you were learning to drive, were nervous the first time you got behind the wheel. Okay. Did everybody raise their hands? Almost everybody Right up. All right, on the ones that didn't are psychopaths. People now, after driving for a least a year or more, are deathly nervous about getting behind the wheel. Raise your hands. Okay. You all have core confidence park evidence because you learn how to drive. And then once you did it successfully think about for anybody that's ever in the room. Has ever gotten a ticket, a speeding ticket? Don't you feel after this speeding ticket like you're gonna get another ticket immediately and you drive really carefully because you no longer have that confidence until you build it up again until you drive successfully without being pulled over again for speeding. It doesn't mean you're not gonna speed. You just know that you can successfully get away with it. I mean, that's that's confident. That's car confident. So what I recommend that you do is try to take small steps, um, and small moves in the direction that you want to go in and then keep doing it until you start to feel more confident doing it because you've already done it. You know, the reptilian brain which we all have, which is the oldest and in many ways strongest part of the brain because it controls all of our involuntary behavior. It's a very powerful part of the brain. You can't will your brain to digest food. You can't will your brain too continually beat your heart. So what we need to understand is that fear is in the same places all of those other involuntary behaviors that that part of the brain that reptilian part of the brain is what keeps you from making a lot of really risky moves because your reptilian brain wants to keep you safe from the lions and the tigers. And so you're never gonna be able to will yourself to be like, who changed? Awesome. Let's pile on. You're gonna be changed. Uncertainty, insecurity, reptilian brain, reptilian brain. So if you know that you could be a little bit more gentle with yourself in terms of being able to step into that unknown space, know that you're going to go be doing it and feeling uncomfortable. But that doesn't mean that you don't do it anyway. Amazing. And you're tiger thing. We just covered that. So our little head heart connection there. Thank you very much. One of the things that I observe and I think a lot of folks in popular culture, we look at our heroes. And so right now I'm looking you that the audience is looking at you and thousands of people from around the world are tuned in there like, Yeah, but that's Debbie Millman and Debbie Norman is a genius Designs before I put my make up. Debbie Millman is a genius designer. She sold her company for tons of money. She's published all kinds of books. She's the chair for the Masters and branding at SV issues. You know the list just goes on and on, and there's a belief that you never started at Square one. So I would love for you to share What was it like when he filmed the first episode recorded the first episode of design matters. Okay, So even before that, I have to say that my hosting design matters Waas a bit of a Hail Mary in trying to reestablish my connection with my creativity because I was running a branding consultancy and I was running the branding consultancy at that point for about 10 years. I started its sterling in 1995 and I started design matters in 2000 and five. And when I got to Sterling, I had gone from previously being a designer and then going to another company. That was a very, very, very procedures designed company at the time. And I wanted so badly to work there that I took a job not as a designer, because they wouldn't hire me as a designer because they didn't think I was good enough. I went as an account executive, never having been an account executive before, which is the person that managed the creative process. I mean, it wasn't really, really great at that either. And then I ended up leaving that job in getting another job where I waas I've taken what I also thought was again another step down. It was in a branding consultancy and I got hired as a sales person and I thought, OK, well, I've reached the sort of bottom rung of what is possible in my creative career. But then when I ended up, finding out was that I was really good at sales and I had never ever known that I never had an opportunity to be in a position where I was selling anything. I actually think it was just my desperation that was wearing off on people. Somebody, case, Um, when I for the first time in my professional life was actually good at something, I That's all I wanted to do. I became sort of addicted to the idea of being good at something. And when I had an opportunity to make money for the 1st 100 my life and to be successful was like, OK, I'm gonna give away everything else that I'm doing. I'm not gonna write anymore and I could paint anymore. I'm not gonna draw anymore. I'm not gonna do anything, but just work 24 7 at this thing that I'm good at. So I could be good. All the time on that lasted for about eight or nine years. And then I would I felt like I was losing a piece of my soul. My creative identity had all but disappeared, and I got a cold call from a Internet radio network. You know, that was 2000 and five. So, you know, you do have just been launched, and so people this. This this, um, fledgling Internet radio network called me and asked me if I'd be interested in being a host. I thought they were offering the job. In fact, they were offering me an opportunity to pay them produce the show. But I was so desperate to be doing something creative that would sort of keep me accountable to doing something on a regular basis that I decided, you know, I had some money. I was until I was doing was working and making money at that point. And so I decided to invest a little bit of that into myself. It wasn't that much money at the time, and so I started the show. I started it on February 4th, 2000 and five, and it wasn't alive. Internet radio show. The Producers sort of reminded me of Wayne and Garth from It was sort of like this. It was a remote. They were in Arizona. I was in New York and I sort of felt like they would. They were living in a basement smoking bomb hits while they were doing the show. Me? I did it for four years. I did it for four years. Not knowing what the hell I was doing just for the sheer joy of feeling creative again, Um, and the soundest terrible. And it was the early early stages when I actually started uploading to ITunes. There was no podcast section. I only was uploading because the show was airing live. And then it was re airing at, like, two in the morning. And so my friends that couldn't listen to it live and didn't want to stay up until two in the morning. We're asking me how they could listen to it. And mostly it was my father actually on. So I thought, You know what? Let me let me start uploading. It is a fundamental musician to ITunes and then point people to Exactly. And that's and that's how it started. And I remember when the podcast section been launched, I think was in October of that year. They had a list of the top podcasts, and I think I was number 85 on the list. But there were only podcast, so that impressive. But it was still, you know, meant that I was there. And so it started. Really? As I joke it was it was through telephone line. I remember my first guest was John Philbrick, who is a friend of mine who's very gregarious, very talkative. And I felt like it bye bye choked that he could just take over cause he's so gregarious and he at the time was a book designer, Simon and Schuster, and I remember taping up all over my office, all of things that would remind me of things that I could talk to him about. That's how how nervous I waas. But I really love doing it, and I kept doing it and after four years build rental but late, great build rental invited me to do it to take the show to Design Observer, which I did. And I've been there now for over 10 years, just on Design Observer, and still it's one of the oldest and longest running. It's still independent. I'm not part of any network. I love having my freedom, and it turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of my life. But who would have known, You know, I didn't even I had no no knowledge. It was just something that I pursued and that I liked it and I kept doing it, and I'm not the best. And I'm not the biggest. And I'm definitely not the richest, but I and just so grateful to have the opportunity to do it the way I want to do it. And so that's just a big gift. But you are the most awesome. Can we give Debbie a round of applause? Thank you so much staring. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing with us. Your story. I want to add something because I do understand what it means to want things. You know what I didn't really know. I started design matters in 2000 and five, and at that point, I waas, um, in my forties and like in my early to mid forties and And that's the thing I'm probably most known for now, in your two years from 60. So that's kind of crazy. Amazing. I want I want everybody to know that, you know, a lot of people ask me what kept me trying to do things, what kept me wanting to do things because I've gotten a lot of rejection in my life and I've been really public with that and one thing that I do want toe let people know is that I I always felt not as good ads, lots and lots and lots of people. And yet, even when I was rejected, I kept trying to have something better. And so a lot of people have asked me, Why did you keep? Why did you keep pushing? Why did you keep pushing? And I finally realized what it was. I finally realized that my hope for something better for myself was bigger than my shame at at what I had experienced in whatever it was the rejection or whatever. And so I think about for everybody that's in your audience, that's really trying to design a better life or create something bigger or more exciting or more loving or more open. Think about what it is you really want more than anything else. And if that's what you want more than anything else, if that's the one thing that you want, then pursue, it is if your life depends on it, because it does and and you have the power to make that change if you want it badly enough. So we just wanted to say, you know, I've always wanted a lot for my life and I still dio I never feel good enough. And no matter what anybody might say about somebody stature in the world, the one thing I've learned after doing 500 plus design matters interviews is that no one feels 100% secure. Ever, ever. So. So know that you're in good company and know that if you really want to make a difference with your life, you can. So that's it. Ladies and gentlemen, the inimitable Debbie Millman. Thank you so much, Debbie. A big part chase. You know, that's the thing about you. You have such a big heart combated a lot of stuff, but I have a big heart. I'll take it. I'm so grateful for you. Thank you so much for showing up for our community. You're You're an amazing inspiration and so grateful for your time. And I'm gonna give you call later. We'll chat. Okay. A round of applause for Debbie all. Thank you so much.