Gavin Strange encourages us all to celebrate those small but significant ‘Tiny Wins’
As we hurtle or stumble towards our end goal it's easy to disregard those small achievements along the way, but as Gav Strange stresses, celebrating the tiny win is just as vital.
Hello everyone, how goes it? Good? I hope so. Today I want to write about something that I think, I hope, is pretty universal to us all; ‘tiny wins’. Specifically the importance of small successes over waiting and hoping for that big one that’ll propel you to new heights.
I think it’s totally natural when you’ve been working on a project for a chunk of time that the anticipation and pressure you put on yourself for it to blow up and take you somewhere new is sometimes tricky to reconcile. It’s tough, especially when a piece of work has been your entire focus for a long time. Every spare thought is about the piece and the next steps, it’s also about the finish line too. Seeing the whole thing in your minds eye, ready to release to the world or package off to the client.
Whatever its end state may be, you’re excited for that feeling of completion. With that comes the anticipation of what happens with that project, because of that project. The bigger the project the bigger the spoils at the end of it, right? Fame! Fortune! Instagram Likes!
Well, like all things in life, it’s never that simple, but you’ll be a better creative for it. Each project, each output of yours is a stepping stone, when you drop one in the water it gets you a little further along. Sure, the big stones help you more than the smaller ones, but they don’t always get you that much closer to your goal, they just give you a little more stability, a smidge more confidence.
See it’s not about that one big thing that’s going to change everything and get you where you need to go, it’s about constantly laying down new stones to carry you along. It’s incremental!
!! CAVEAT KLAXON !!
Now, of course, there are lots of brilliant people in the world who did a big ‘thing’ and it changed the world, catapulted them to fame and changed their creative path forever. That’s amazing and well done you if you can do that, but I think this is really quite rare. I don’t have any data to back this up but I think there’s definitely a much bigger number of brilliant but normal folk in the world who are incrementally raising their game and honing their craft
!! CAVEAT KLAXON OVER !!
This is the thing, this is our life’s work. There’s no ‘get rich quick’ scheme. It’s about putting in the hours, putting in the effort and building on what you’ve done before. It’s exciting to think about what you’ve done but even more exciting thinking about what you could do.
Little bonuses are nice though of course, that piece of art that catches someones eye which gives you a confidence boost or that big commission which bags you a bit of cash and a fresh dose of recognition. These are all fantastic motivators but they’re the outcome, not the goal. Let these lovely ‘tiny wins’ propel you forwards to do more.
In the brilliant Netflix series ‘Abstract – The Art Of Design’, graphic design legend Paula Scher says she’s driven by the hope that she hasn’t made her best work yet.
I’m driven by the hope that I haven’t made my best work yet.
I love this. I love that someone as accomplished and revered as Scher is continually pushing for that next thing, that next stepping stone. Quality that comes because of quantity.
There’s a video series that I’ve long loved; The Run Up. A documentary DVD from 2004, produced by Upper playground. It’s been a permanent fixture in my life since then as it gave a glimpse into the working artists I adored like Mr Jago, Futura, Jeff Soto and more. One stand out interview that I would always come back to is that of Mister Cartoon, LA-based tattoo artist. He spoke, with great candor, about his path to recognition and attitude to perseverance.
I had to put in 20 years of work that I wasn’t doing interviews, I wasn’t getting applause. It’s the little successes that equal up to the big success. It’s successfully taking out the garbage. It’s successfully complementing another artist when they got down. It’s successfully keeping your trap shut when you’re in the presence of older people who know what they’re talking about, because you can’t learn nothing when you’re talking.
That’s always stuck with me. Especially the part about successfully taking out the bins. It seems trivial but it’s just as important as everything else. It’s knowing that success doesn’t boil down to a single project, it’s about the bigger picture of what you did to get to that project. It’s being incremental in your progression. It’s laying down those stepping stones, as many as you can.
I’ll leave you with the wisdom of Mister Cartoon…
Love you bye!