Moving Forward

by | Nov 16, 2016 | My Story | 2 comments

^ Photograph I took at 7:30am on 12 Sept 2016 in Grand Teton National Park

I have some news.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how I wanted to make 2016 my Year of Clarity. For a while, I’d been feeling lost. So this year was about searching for meaning, digging deep, and moving forward.

Today I’m happy to announce I’ve succeeded in finding clarity this year. And that feels pretty good. Because I accomplished what I set out to do.

Last week I said farewell to my job as Communications Coordinator of the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce. Working there was an incredible opportunity to foster my skills, learn about business, meet lots of people, build things, help implement change, the list goes on. I’m extremely thankful for my coworkers and the people I’ve met.

There are a few reasons why I left my job at the Chamber, but the primary reason is that I simply needed to chase something new, and I’ve decided to make a big investment in my skills and my future like I never have before. On November 4th, I was accepted into General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive, a 10-week, full-time program to learn UX Design.

The program’s admissions process included several notable experiences, including a personality assessment (which I’ll write about at a later time), and an assignment to design a mobile app. There were three options for the mobile app design, and I chose to tackle the one that read “Design a mobile app that improves the experience of splitting the bill at a restaurant.” Here are a few screenshots of my design:

Words of Wisdom

I’ve had some amazing conversations over the past year with some of my closest friends, as well as some new faces. I’m immensely grateful for all the mental and emotional support and advice I’ve received this year.

Here’s a couple nuggets of advice I received that have stuck with me the most:

  • You are not a wedding photographer. You can’t categorize yourself like that. You’re so much more. You’re a storyteller. And you can do anything in the world you want with that.
  • Pick a direction and run with it. You may discover it’s the direction you should have taken all along, or you may find out it’s not. Either way, you’ll be closer to where you want to go than you are right now.

Books that Moved Me

A few notable books really helped me through my journey this year. Without them, I might not have gotten out of my funk. (Just as a note, if you purchase any of these books through Amazon by clicking these links, I’ll get a few cents of the profit. Anything that’ll help pay my gas during my time in the UX Design program is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.) Here they are:

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl taught me that fear + inaction is crippling, but fear + action is life-changing. It’s okay to own your story — in fact, it’s paramount to a life of meaning.
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg opened my eyes to the world of habits, and helped me learn how to replace bad habits with good ones.
  • Quiet by Susan Cain gave me the courage to own my introversion and helped me to recognize the quiet power I have that I was unable to see before.
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins helped me to recognize that, in order to find your life’s work, you must try many things. Try, fail, and get up again. You’ll never find what you’re looking for if you don’t do anything at all.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert helped me to live beyond my stupid little fears.
  • Manage Your Day-to-Day gave me insight into the time management strategies of incredibly smart people. It’s helped a lot.
  • The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown, an audiobook of a workshop she taught, is full of life, sound advice, and humor. The best solo car rides I had this summer were while this was coming through the speakers.

Fun side note, I challenged myself to read 20 books this year, which I haven’t done for a long time. I’ve read 17 so far. Nearly there! Join me on Goodreads, and check out what I’ve read in 2016.

Creating the change I wish to see in my life

For a few years, I’ve struggled through a cycle in which I feel simultaneously proud of what I’ve accomplished and frustrated with where I’m at in life. I expected more of myself, and I let myself down. Some of it might have been complacency, while the rest was definitely indecision and a lack of confidence. But there’s also another factor I did not expect: my personality type.

While I know that the personality assessment I took as part of the UX Design program’s admissions process is probably not 100% definitive, it’s still eerily accurate. It revealed some of my shortcomings, which were all true, and a bit painful to acknowledge at first. But now that I’m aware of them, I can work on them and move forward. (This may sound cryptic, but like I said, I intend to go deeper with personality in an upcoming post.)

There comes a time in every person’s life where he or she must face a series of truths. Some people face these truths early in life, and for some it takes a while longer.

My truth is that, since my childhood, I’ve always had this feeling that I’m supposed to do something with my life that will touch many lives. It’s taken me a long time to confront this idea, but I’m finally beginning to. While I have touched many lives with my photography and the work I’ve done at the Chamber, I don’t feel like I’m creating any change in the world.

To be honest, deep down, I know that wedding photography isn’t what I should be doing for the rest of my life. So I’ve reached an impasse. Why continue chasing what I shouldn’t be doing, when I could be chasing what I should be doing? (I still enjoy wedding photography, and will continue to do it part-time, but I’ll be taking on fewer clients moving forward.)

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I want to do just that. I want to help leave the world a better place in some way before my time is up.

I want to do that through storytelling and design. I want to create experiences that make life easier, better, and more delightful. And I want to finally get the many novels in my head written because they’ve been haunting me for years.

I’m finally taking ownership of my destiny. The most important thing is that I’m making a decision after years of indecision. I feel happy and at peace in ways I haven’t felt for ages.

Join me

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! I plan on documenting my progress through the UX Design program, and writing about other things besides. If you’d like to follow along with me on my journey, I’d love it if you joined my email list below.

What’s my list about? Simple. It’s just me sharing my story, and hopefully creating some value and food for thought in the process. I won’t be selling anything. If that sounds good to you, I’d love to have you along with me for the ride.

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by Brandon Smith

I'm a UX/UI designer, writer, and photographer dwelling in Los Angeles. Stories are my life. Find me on TwitterInstagram, Medium, and Goodreads.

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