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Don't Plan For The Future

I attended a figure drawing class recently. I start by looking at the pose and draw one curving line that represents the neck, spine and then flows into one of the legs. It’s the overall shape of the pose. Then I draw an oval for the head and mark where the eyes go, and a line down the center of the face. I start drawing shapes for the legs. When I’m in the moment, not thinking and just doing, things sometimes start to look good to me. If I then think, “things are looking good, I want this to be good,” then things start going wrong. Rather than being at one with the model and the act of drawing, I’m distracted by the outcome, how good the drawing will be, what others will think of my drawing. In drawing, focusing on outcomes doesn’t produce good results. Being fully invested in the moment, losing yourself in the process - that can produce good results.

This applies to your art, your craft, and your career. When you lose yourself in a project, and your energy is going towards observation, perfecting shapes, light, and color, you create beautiful images. When you get into the flow and selflessly create great work, opportunities will come easily.

I talk to animation, visual effects, games students and educators a lot. They often want to know what the next big thing is, what is the shortcut to success. There are trends worth noting on the near horizon. People are excited about virtual production, and the use of real time tools like Unreal Engine in a variety of fields, for example. But ultimately I don’t believe in shortcuts to success.

“How much does a virtual production artist get paid?” This is the wrong question to ask when you are choosing the artform or role you want to pursue. If money is your primary motivator, there are more lucrative fields to choose that are less competitive. Dental hygienists are always in demand and earn a good living.

In a technology and art driven field, the opportunities and salaries of today aren’t necessarily a good predictor of the opportunities and salaries ten years from now. Things change so quickly. There will be roles that don’t exist today, that we don’t even have names for.

Who gets paid well? The people who are the best at what they do. People who become leaders in their field and leaders of a team. People who take on responsibilities. People who innovate.

How do you become someone like that? By finding what you like to do, something you have an aptitude for. The kind of thing that you can work on for hours and lose track of time. You’re happy to go down a rabbit hole watching tutorials, and practicing your craft endlessly. Like in the drawing example, you’re more focused on the process than on the outcome.

When choosing your path, don’t plan for the future, because the high rate of change means that everything you based your decision on will have changed by the time it matters to you. Instead, have faith that mastering your craft will open doors for you. Mastery itself is what you’ll have really learned about, and the ability to master a skill will give you confidence and shape you into someone who can apply yourself to whatever the future brings about.


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