Easy Tips to Come up With Content Ideas

If you are feeling overwhelmed lately about what you’re creating, here are three easy, doable tips to help you become unstuck and gain momentum.

Tip #1: The Jenna Kutcher 5 Method

Think about 5 categories you are passionate about. It can be self-care, DIY crafts, plants,  digital art, etc. It can be anything you enjoy talking about or have a solid understanding of. It can also be something general or super specific to you. Jenna Kutcher developed the 5 pillar system and this has really worked in overcoming my mental block of developing creative content on my blog and social media posts.

My 5 pillars are:

  1. Anxiety/mental wellness
  2. Paper art crafts
  3. Inspirational art
  4. Plants/landscape design
  5. Business

Once you have figured out your pillars, you can start to cycle your posts to talk about the five every week. These pillars aren’t permanent, and will evolve and change as you move forward.

Tip #2: Stick to ONE Platform

It’s easy to feel stretched thin when you’re trying to do everything on different online platforms all at once. While it’s okay to have your business account on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc., stick to one you enjoy using the most. And to take it a step further, choose one that you love creating on. If you love writing, WordPress would be ideal or if you enjoy making videos, you can try YouTube.

I actually enjoy blogging the most and started blogging on WordPress first before I had an Instagram account. Also, if you stick with one platform, it is a lot easier to stay consistent and show up – this builds trust in you and your brand.

Tip #3: Change Your Mindset

This is a biggie because it affects everything you do. A lot of us believe we aren’t good enough to be a content creator, designer, artist, or an entrepreneur. But you are. You’re doing the thing, showing up consistently, and putting the hard work into this.

It’s probably the biggest mental roadblock that prevents us from creating and doing more. We worry so much about what we’re putting out there that we feel too overwhelmed to create anything at all. Take a deep breath and just keep moving forward. To be honest, nobody really knows what they’re doing either (me included), so don’t feel too stressed about it.

Start by saying, “I am a content creator” or “I am an artist.” Be a little bit more confident in what you do – you got this! The more you do this, it will encourage others do the same.

There you have it! Whenever you’re ready to take the next step to figuring a brand that fits you and your goals, here’s a free, quick-start guide to help.

Short, Uplifting Quotes That Will Inspire You to Keep Hustling and Feel Less Anxious

Sometimes, it takes reading a simple, positive quote that will make your day feel lighter and inspire you to keep on hustling. If it were not for these daily affirmations, I won’t be the positive, happy person I am today.

I’ve been known to be an optimistic person, but I wasn’t always like this. Before, I was a very anxious person with extremely low confidence. I had many cycles of doubt and uncertainty about myself, my skills, and my work. I was also very negative towards myself and constantly beating myself up about not being good enough and that I should simply to stick to my lane.

A few years ago, I made the change to collect positive quotes for me to read through every morning. This was a gentle reminder to myself to stay optimistic throughout the day, no matter how tough and hard it gets. I am not positive 100% of the time and I do experience other emotions like a normal human being, but I try not to dwell on those emotions too long. I do my best to stay focused and keep moving forward.

Being happy is an investment – to you and for other people. Happy people make more money, live longer, are more successful, have healthier relationships and, most importantly, have a positive influence on the people around them. Happiness is infectious and can create a chain reaction of good energy. The more joy you are able to spread, the more abundance you can create for others. It’s free and you can easily make someone else’s day, especially to a stranger who is going through a difficult time and needed it the most when they least expected it.

Here are my favorite inspirational quotes to help me get through mental roadblocks and empower me to keep moving forward:

If you are looking for more inspiration, take a look at five inspirational podcasts I selected to help kick-start your business and maximize results. As a huge podcast junkie, I have listened to many hours (65,000 minutes last year!) to figure out what the best, inspirational podcasts that will strategically help you move forward with your business.

Life is too short to not make the investment in yourself today. I want you to reminisce (not regret) about the things you DID to make your dream life possible.

Think Big With a Happy Mind

Wynwood Wall in Miami, Florida

My design professor one day showed students his fantasy master plan amusement park design if it were ever to be built. He designed this amusement park so it would be bolder and cooler than Disneyland and thought of the rides, attractions, and themes for each. It was a hand-drawn, complete set of construction drawings and plans where he figured out every little detail. At the the time, I naively thought it was silly of him to waste so much time and energy to do all this work for a park that would probably never come to life. Why would a 50 year old guy spend so much work on this crazy pipe dream? 

Maybe I was a little jealous that he was able to do this in the first place. But truthfully, it was because I was used to thinking small. I never did anything that bold, that different, or that big. On top of teaching and having a professional job, this professor did something for himself and was happy to work on his dream side project, regardless of what his 19-year-old students or anyone thought about it. He didn’t need anyone’s permission to go do the thing he wanted to do and just kept pursuing his dream anyway.

I never found out if his amusement park ever got built, but I do know this: if there’s anything I learned from his class, it is to not be afraid to think big. This professor wasn’t even a well-known landscape architect and his expertise was grading engineering, not amusement park design. But he followed his dream that made him happy and whether it comes true or not, all that effort was still worth it to him.

I used to do the right, “small” things that got me somewhere in life, but not where I wanted to be. I did things within my comfort zone and never thought that I was capable of doing more. I felt unfulfilled and unhappy. Though, as I looked deeper into myself and rediscovering who I was and wanted to be, I realized being comfortable and doing possible things wasn’t enough for me. My newfound mental clarity and calmness helped me figure out what made me happy and redefined my purpose. My purpose wasn’t to go to college, get married, and have a 9-to-5 job. I found out my true purpose was to use my creative work to help others heal and rediscover themselves so they can live a fulfilling life. This is what I was meant to do be doing and even if I don’t make a huge profit or reach millions of people, at least I did something that made me smile every day. 

We can pursue big things simply because they make us happy, feel alive, and be ourselves. Doing big things give us a bigger purpose and adds a lot more meaning to our work. It’s okay to do small things, but I encourage you to try to think and do bigger with a happy mindset. This professor didn’t let his academic or professional role define who he was; he defined himself by thinking and doing big in his own time.

When you build something on your own, you are building yourself too. So the more you do this, the more courage you have to do big things. It’s not to say that you won’t still be absolutely terrified every time you put yourself out there; I get the jitters too, every single time. But I keep doing it because I have a little bit more courage each time.
So, don’t be afraid to go wild with your ideas and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it. That’s what life’s all about: positively disrupt the world and dare greatly!

You Can Be Your Own Inspiration

The next time you hit a creative block, try looking inward for inspiration.

You have a lot more to say and more feelings to express than you realize. We just think they don’t matter or are not important enough to look for inspiration, so we seek out external sources as we’ve learned to do so. There is nothing wrong with Googling ideas or use music, art, books, or other media for inspiration – I refer to these all the time. But I think true inspiration can come from within, based on the unique blend of your personal emotions and experiences.

Pete Docter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, draws from his personal life and experiences for his storytelling in his movies, from Monsters Inc. to Inside Out. The character Riley from Inside Out was actually inspired from his daughter growing up and dealing with conflicting emotions from being an outgoing kid to a shy teenager. There is something deeply raw, personal, and relatable about using your own feelings and experiences that no amount of Googling will ever bring. What makes his movies captivating are not grand schemes and made-up gestures, but his genuine feelings and deep life experiences captured in his movies. It’s no wonder why so many of us, including me, cry in every Pixar movie.

Music artists and rappers draw from their own emotions and experiences all the time too, like Taylor Swift. And they are not shy about them either and are incredibly bold about vulnerable topics such as heartbreak, betrayal, and loneliness. I also think the feelings of distraught and pain are the foundation of a lot of good music out there, so don’t be embarrassed about feeling this way either. Don’t feel bad for feeling. 

We can let our emotions slide or we can look deeper into ourselves and find out what feelings are brewing inside. I used to use Google as a crutch for inspiration, but nothing truly creative came out of it. When I finally started doing self-work and self-discovery, my feelings and the journey of finding myself became the sources of my inspiration for my art, blog, and messages. I slowly peeled the layers of myself and expressed my deep feelings and process into my work. It felt very uncomfortable, vulnerable, and scary to truly see myself and share my experience, but I believe it gave a refreshing and relatable perspective on what I was going through. While my situation was unique to me, other people were able to resonate how I was feeling too. It’s fascinating how the more layers of yourself you expose, the more people would feel the same way too.

I now have ideas constantly flowing on what to draw and write about because I am so much more aware of my feelings and my life experiences. Instead of seeking inspiration outside, I have been using what I feel and experience in the moment and express them through my creative work. And the more you do it, the more it keeps coming to you!

You can still use your favorite music, podcast, books, and other external sources for inspiration. But I find looking deep inside yourself and really harnessing your feelings and life experiences can make your work incredibly intriguing, compelling and relatable. In a world where we feel invisible and disconnected, I think this can help you be more visible and connected to other people. It won’t be another blog post about the top 5 self-care tips or a fan art of your favorite anime. It would be something deeper and can resonate with others. 

I know you have a lot of feelings and emotions inside – we all do. But we don’t have to numb our feelings and experiences like we normally do. We can try and use what we’re feeling and experiencing into our creative work. The more you do it, the more confident you become and the more authentic you are to yourself. Dig deep, be inspired by your own self and maybe one day you can be a source of inspiration to others too. Good luck!

Make Your Mess Your Message

You are the author of your own story, regardless of the heartbreaks, rejections, and hardships you’ve gone through or you’re currently going through. Think of them as plot twists and help make your story more interesting.

I totally get not seeing the bright side when things don’t go your way, especially when the bad stuff keep piling up one after another. I applied to both undergraduate and graduate programs at my dream school and I didn’t get in either times. I was called pathetic by an ex-boyfriend after three weeks of dating and I went out with another guy a few times who just really wanted a one-night stand. I was never good enough for job positions I really wanted and simply accepted ones that paid the bills. As you can see, I have had my share of the soggy pie too, just like you and so many other people in this world.

What makes these setbacks interesting is what happens after. I didn’t give up and saw these failures as life experiences and part of my journey. That dream school I didn’t get into? I am working on a project with them right now. That ex-boyfriend who called me pathetic? He apologized for his immaturity back in college and we’re still friends today. The job positions I never got? I still didn’t get, but I now work in a job I chose to be in with a salary I negotiated for.

We can choose to stay down or rise up against the harsh realities of life. To be honest, I am just an ordinary woman who worked really hard on my achievements and extra hard on doing the self work to be the me I am today. I do not have any special skills to overcome my hardships, just my persistent willpower to keep moving forward and grow from these experiences. It helps to have a little bit of curiosity and some fun too. So don’t let the difficulties be the final ending to your story. All of us had gone through some sort of a hardship in life, the only difference is what we do after.

People who were nobodies became somebodies because they didn’t give up, were authentic to themselves, and chased their dreams. Steve Job’s story could have ended when he was kicked out of Apple in 1985, but he kept doing more and created Pixar a year later and developed the first Iphone 20 years after. He didn’t let any setbacks stop him and even had the courage to go on a spiritual journey which heavily influenced the design aesthetic of his future innovations. If he gave up at any moment in time, then a lot of the world we see today might have been very different.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg also fought hard in life and became an even bigger fighter for women’s rights and gender equality. In light of the sexism she faced in early childhood, the passing of her older sister and her mom before her high school graduation, and surviving cancer five times, she kept going and remained incredibly strong even in her final days. Her resiliency and perseverance made her who she was and she didn’t need anyone’s permission to be the woman she wanted to be in order for so many of us enjoy the freedoms we have today.

There are many other stories of people who have endured and overcame their struggles too, from Stacey Abrams to Steph Curry to Chadwick Boseman. Before their successes, they were just ordinary people who did something and didn’t give up, no matter what hardships they went through. They didn’t let a lost election, their height, or their cancer stop them from doing more. They did the really hard work and hustled, and was able to craft their own stories out of it. 

You are not alone when it comes to the struggles and hardships in life. We all deal with something but, unfortunately, not all of us believe we can overcome it. I am telling my story because I believe hitting rock bottom doesn’t mean you need to stay down. Getting out of something hard can be messy, scary, and a lot of the times very uncomfortable, but it is the best feeling to be free and to continue to write and tell my story. 

You can’t control what happens, but you can control what you do next. I hope you are able to find the strength to keep going and make your mess your message. Maybe you can also find joy in both your pursuits and failures. Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. Who knows, you can be the next ordinary person who can be extraordinary and live to tell your own story. 

I started a side business for $800

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Starting a new side business during the pandemic and while many businesses are closing at astronomical rates is crazy, I know.

But I also know there is never a perfect time to start doing what you love, no matter what is going on in the outside world. If anything, it is probably the best time to see if your interesting ideas or hobbies can potentially be turned into something more. We have already witnessed that in a matter of six months, many company jobs are disappearing left and right and are not as stable and secure as we once thought before. Also, we now have more time to be at home and much fewer obligations to go to social events. So, I truly believe with a little bit of perseverance, confidence, and patience, it is very possible to start something new of your own, even during very difficult and challenging times we are now living in.

You do need some capital, but not a lot. In the olden days, a new business needed many investors and heavy duty funding to get started. Now, businesses can start for under $1,000 or even less than $100, depending on the type of product or service you are creating. My initial startup costs amount to about $815 and I have listed the cost breakdown below:

Startup Items Cost
Annual personal domain cost (from Namecheap) $9.08
Annual personal website cost (Business tier from Squarespace) $216.00
Apple pencil (1st gen) – discounted* $91.77
Apple 10.5 inch iPad Air 64 MB – discounted* $467.22
Procreate App* $10.00
Cardstock paper $20.00

Total

$814.06

*These are essential items for my side business.

I created an online greeting card store for my side business, with all cards available for digital download so I did not have to worry about prints or shipping at the moment. The mission for this business is to empower and celebrate people for who they are and the moments that really matter to them. The cards provided are beyond standard birthday and anniversary cards. They include cards that congratulate loved ones coming out, starting a new business venture, and hitting a sobriety milestone.

My side business requires a good digital pen, a tablet, and a design app for me to make high-quality designs for my greeting cards. I hate to admit, but the Apple products I bought are the best tools in the market now for creating digital artwork. They work seamlessly with my 2018 MacBook Pro and Pixelmator Pro to do final edits for both the card designs and social media photography. The investment for these tools are quite high, but are necessary for what I need to make my card designs. Also, I knew a good friend who worked at Apple to help get me a discount. And if the business doesn’t work out, I can still use the iPad to watch Netflix and look at recipes while cooking, so it is a win win.

The second main expense was purchasing the business subscription plan on Squarespace for my business website. I researched their platform before purchasing to ensure they are able to sell digital products and they do. I also played with their limited features using the 30-day free trial and thought the platform was easy to use, after some time figuring out how to navigate their tools, including changing theme colors and categorizing commerce products. I really like how the user interface is set up so you can manipulate as much as you want and, if I had any questions, I was able to read through a detailed, step by step guide with photos from their support page. For a non-tech person like me, it is the right decision to use Squarespace for my business website.

It took me about six months to launch my side business. I worked tirelessly around my full-time professional job, which I thankfully still have and currently working remotely. I was drawing, sketching, and making edits during my lunch break and late evenings after an 8-hour workday. It was definitely hard, but I was doing something I enjoyed, so it did not feel like work. I recommend keeping a day job if possible, so income is still being generated and you can be a little bit more creative about what you want to do for your side business.

When I first started, I was overwhelmed with self-doubt, fear, and a lot of anxiety. I thought too much of what I had left to do and if the work I was doing was going to make a difference at all. So, in order to keep focus, I just concentrated on the next, small steps and just kept going. Instead of thinking about the big picture of a beautiful, finished website of my brand that showcased my greeting card designs, I focused on the little tasks that will take me further to it. It really worked, because now I am here and I recently launched my side business a few days ago.

Also, only mention your side business to a few people when you are first starting out. This helps keep the outside noise down and lets you focus on what you truly want to make and show the world. The first lucky few will be the ones who are likely to support you throughout the whole process anyway.

Right now, I am slowly building an online presence using social media. And using the same mindset as before, instead of trying to make a seemingly far reaching goal of a thousand sales, I figured I will try to make just one sale. I will continue documenting my side business journey and see where it takes me. Even if this takes me nowhere, I am uber happy to have put something out there that I can call my own. The feeling of joy from producing your own creative work and having purpose beyond my professional job is one of the best feelings you can have. Anyone can achieve the same fulfillment, including you.

Check out my side business here! Thank you in advance for your support! 🙂

ChubCatArt Website

FYI, none of the products or services mentioned are sponsored. This blog post is based solely on my own personal opinions.

A Message to My College Graduate Self (Ten Years Later)

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You did it! You survived four years of studio without noise cancelling headphones and managed to pull all nighters for projects without drinking any coffee. Your road to professional and personal success is only the beginning and you will achieve much more than you realize even when the odds are stacked against you.

I know you will harness your creativity and intellect to visualize beauty and function in the midst of seemingly impossible landscapes and you will produce ideas that not only impress others, but also surprise yourself. Like any professional creative pursuits, this will take time, patience, courage and a lot of hard work to get there, but the rewards will be immense for your career, as well as, for your personal endeavors. It will not be easy and there would be many times when you want to give up and cry in the office bathroom. It is okay to fail, as long as you get back up and continue to move forward. How do I know this? Well, ten years later, I am a forward-thinking landscape designer with a salary I wanted and working on projects I enjoy. And so much more.

I cannot tell you how I got to where I am today, but I can reveal this: continue to be your weird, unapologetic self and just keep going. Be original in your work because there is no one else like you. Also, have some fun when being creative and do not be so serious all the time. You can have a child-like mind when it comes to creativity, without actually being childish in front of people. There will be moments when you have no idea what you are doing, but you will figure it out eventually and be wiser than the day before. Learning new things will be scary, but you will be glad you did.

It will be a year later since the Great Recession ended. Times will initially be tough as jobs are slowly being recovered. Though, the bright side is that many landscape design firms will restructure their workflow and team sizes to become more resilient during economic downturns. Professionals in the field still reminisce about this period six years later during an office tour or eight years later in an interview. People never forget and are very understanding about the times that are bad in the past and will also be incredibly forgiving of any economic hurdles in the future.

You are stronger than you think because you have already accomplished one of the greatest feat in life, which is getting a college degree. That’s more than what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg can say. Now, these billionaires have also achieved beyond what most of us couldn’t thought was possible and yet they have made it happen. The final lesson here is to not be the next Zuckerberg or Jobs, but to be you and make your ideas happen. If studio classes have taught you anything, it is that you can make it work and pull off a decent, presentable project by the due date. You can do it.

You have come so far when you began this journey four years ago without knowing anything about the program or profession. Now, you have the foundation and tools to help provide creative solutions to real world problems. Your future success awaits and I look forward to seeing you do it.

(Note: I graduated from college in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. The ripple effects of the Great Recession remained in my industry, even many years after it ended. Many professionals in my field remember the tough aftermath and their proactive decisions then that have led them to be here today. While I know this worldwide pandemic has devastated our economy, do keep in mind that we will get through this and know that opportunities will come, just delayed for now. As we slowly recover from this, people will be very understanding about these unusual circumstances and be intrigued about your story on how you overcame it. Carve out your own story, as I have done, because it is the one thing you can still control even during difficult times.)

Make Work Interesting For You

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This can apply to any job that is inherently interesting or one that is dreadfully mediocre. If you have some flexibility to make work more interesting for you, then why not add some joy and enthusiasm to your work? This should not be reserved for a fresh grad from college and it is something I still continue to do in my professional job even after 10 years of graduating from college. It helps pass the time quicker and your supervisor may actually reward you for your newfound work ethic. As long as this is not offensive, unprofessional, or risk client confidentiality, then it may be something worth doing at your job.

I first did this when I volunteered as a gardener for a local cemetery while in college. My responsibilities were to help maintain the cemetery grounds by weeding, planting, pruning, and other light laborious tasks. I was tasked to help devise a planting plan for their annual bed mound. Although I could easily just come up with a bubbles of plant labels on a planting plan and call it a day, I decided to make it more fun for myself and, also, for the visitors. I came up with the idea to make a “volcano” concept: a metaphoric explosion of annual Iceland poppies with yellow and orange flowers snaking down like lava towards the bottom.

DESIGN CONCEPT

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PLANTING SCHEME

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The concept sounded absurd, but it was bold, different, and completely surprised my supervisor (in a good way). He loved the idea and believed it could really brighten up the space, providing a little bit of peace and calmness for visitors to the cemetery. It did, based on the feedback from visitors in the next couple of weeks after we planted the annuals. It was a great success in a way that it really did lighten up the area and helped create an inviting space for all, from a visitor to a passersby. It was a space not only for those who passed, but for those who are still living too.

FINAL GARDEN DESIGN

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If a 12 feet diameter planting bed can make such a big difference, then I believe you can too. Try and test if you can make the work you do more interesting for you, whether professionally or something so menial like a house chore. It does not need to be over the top and just needs a little bit of effort to go the extra mile. People, not just our bosses, can tell if we put effort in our work or not. For example, we can already tell whenever a chef puts love into the meal based on his or her presentation and taste, so any signs of apathy will be noticed. But if we go above and beyond our responsibilities, the rewards can be immeasurable.

Doing something fun, unique, and exciting in your work can produce big results. And big results can lead to bigger opportunities. Whether you are just starting an entry-level position or in a job for over ten years, you can make your work interesting and still maintain professionalism. I learned personally over the years that the more creative, original and bolder the design is, the more WOW factor and reaction I get from my supervisors and clients. And the feeling never gets old.

Life Threw a Big, Fat COVID-19 Lemon, So Make Lemonade!

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The aftertaste is bittersweet. On one hand, we are spending more time at home with family and commuting less. On the other hand, we are spending too much time with family that makes us want reasons to drive out more. Now, where do we go from here?

A lot of people having been thinking that lately. We are living in a period where most of humanity are thinking about what to do next, all at the same time. We are not living our day to day schedules anymore, passing by life like we used to. Up until end of last year, we became very familiar with our normal routines that we had no reason to think beyond the usual, regular actions of eating, working, playing and sleeping. Then the pandemic happened and we abruptly became derailed from normalcy and sidetracked from our life pursuits and goals.

Now, we are all thinking. We are putting our minds at work like never before and it has been interesting to hear about life-changing ideas from high-level, tech CEOs to a bored kid with a computer. We are also thinking about things we never thought about until now, like how to really make ends meet, how to teach your children their grade level math and English, how to adjust to the new work from home environment, and how to support local businesses.

Nobody has all the right answers and that is okay. We are imperfect in our solutions for now, but we will get there. The important thing is to keep thinking and act upon those ideas. Do not let the noise of media, online trolls, and protestors in front of government buildings get in your way. They have infinite time on their hands, but you do not. Your time is precious and more finite than you realize. If you are frustrated about something, then go to the proper channels to actually make a difference in your community, like emailing your local city council members or maybe even be one in the near future. There’s endless possibilities with unlimited, free thought.

A lot of us do not like change and prefer to stick with the status quo. But if people just accepted the norm, then we would not have internet on our phones, original content to watch, or the ability to connect with people from all over the world today. If Henry Ford did not make automobiles affordable and accessible to all Americans about 120 years ago, then we probably would still be traveling over predominantly muddy roads today. Thinking about ideas that can change the world can be both priceless and lucrative (later on). For now, let’s dial it back and figure out the next steps.

Sometimes, to think of better ideas is to ask better questions. Instead of thinking how my small business last six months from now, how can it last for another 20 years? Or more critically, how can I make it last with the least amount of effort that can produce the biggest rewards? With regards to college, how can a college student learn the major more effectively out of the physical classroom for the time being? Remember, we are taught tools and theories in school, but it is our responsibility to think and learn for the rest of our lives.

It is true that life throws us lemons, some bigger and have more rot than others. The silver lining is that you can still make lemonade even with this sour fruit. So, I believe we can think of ways to turn the COVID-19 lemon into lemonade, instead idling by or complaining. “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself,” a quote paraphrased from Alan Kay, a computer scientist who pioneered graphical user interface (UI) design.

We all have the power to think of creative ideas, even in the messiest and scariest period of our lives. We need to continue our thinking and not stop. And when we act on some good ideas, these are what will help get us out of this worldwide doom and gloom. It is time to make some fresh lemonade!🍋

Your “Tick” to Creativity

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(Photo taken from an art gallery in The Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, 2017)

When you hit a creative block, it sometimes helps to follow your anger. Criticism rather that polite praise can work more wonders than you think. Throughout my personal and professional life, I have received a fair share of hurtful comments, outlandish critiques, and harsh judgements. Of the many, those from a very strict manager I used to work with were the most critical, toughest words I have ever received for my concept designs. Deep down, I knew he was coming from a place of heart and did this in my best interest to succeed professionally. He wanted to push my potential to the limit, even to a 25-year-old entry-level employee with barely any experience in the industry.

Whenever I showed my manager my crappy concepts, he would sarcastically ask, “What would the client think?” I would go back to the drawing board, huffing and puffing inside, knowing fully well that I had failed in his eyes. Rightly so, I did suck at developing residential design concepts in the beginning. I also naively thought they were good and, looking back, they were terrible and my manager was right. While his critiques were big blows to my self-esteem, I channeled my frustration to developing better and more creative designs, to prove my worth and to show him I can get to his level one day. I eventually did get much better and faster at developing concepts, after many hours of practice and many rolls of trace paper.

So that this impressed my new manager at my new job recently. When I showed him three concepts for a neighborhood park, the manager was actually taken aback and was torn between choosing one of the three. That was the biggest compliment to date in my professional career. Not positive words like a “good job”, but the reaction of surprise and indecisiveness of several great designs was the long-awaited approval I have worked so hard for.

If it weren’t for my previous manager’s criticism early on in my career, I probably would have foolishly still been producing unaspiring work today. His critiques were my main motivation to do better and propelled me to become a full-fledged professional who can come up with really cool, interesting concepts for many different types of design projects now.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. One outlet of inspiration is from constructive criticism, as this is actually my biggest driver to keep improving and keep going. Try to use criticisms to your advantage and not only do better, but also overcome and overachieve in front of others who have placed doubt in you. Take actions to prove them wrong and be “so good they can’t ignore you” (a quote by Cal Newport). Find what make you “tick” and funnel all that energy to become somebody others never thought possible. You would surprise even yourself at how far you can go.

Another person’s doubt could be the path to your greatest victory yet.