At Debbie Millman’s presentation at IdeaFestival 2014, we are again reminded of the profound importance of failure in living a creative life.
When she was a young girl, Millman imagined a life “like Mary and Rhoda’s” on the Mary Tyler Moore show. She wanted to be a career-woman — little did she know just how complicated her own journey would be.
Millman is now President Emeritus of AIGA, the largest professional association for design in the world. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine and Co-Founder and Chair of the world's first Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting, "Design Matters," the first podcast about design on the Internet. In 2011, the show was awarded a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award.
She is the author of six books on design and branding. Last year, an exhibition of her visual essays debuted at the Chicago Design Museum.
But before all that, Millman traveled a rocky road. Her work was met with many rejections. AIGA was initially a road block, and early on, Millman was humiliated by criticism she received on a 2003 weblog about her role in giving a design award.
Here at IdeaFestival, she narrates her career trajectory — with design, journalism, business, marketing, and leadership stepping-stones — to illustrate how each mis-step has created a new opening.
So often, we are our own worst enemy. Those who are successful, Millman says, “didn’t determine what was impossible before it was possible. Just the possibility of failing turns into something self-fulfilling.”
Humans, Millman says, are like computers. “The computer will do absolutely nothing unless commanded to do so.” It’s only our perceptions of our abilities that limit us.
Whether you’re starting out young, or reconfiguring your life mid-way, there is always time to “rewrite the possibilities of what comes next.”
“Do what you love.” Never put off your dreams. Never underestimate the “strength of imagination.”
Millman puts it best:
And don’t waste time.
Not 30 years from now,
Not 20 years from now,
Not 2 weeks from now,