The Divine Alchemy of Mastery in Digital Design
I went to sleep like a guilty pup that had ruined her owner’s shoes. I didn’t successfully execute the detailed planning that was made for the day. That morning, “Master design’’ were the words that were written all over the whiteboard, and typed on the ToDoist app in bold font. ‘’Who does that? Which crazy person thinks that’s feasible?’’ I asked myself. Although the goal was not to accomplish what was written on the whiteboard in a single day, it was a goal that was set in my mind’s stone (yes, those exist) for an extended time.
Somewhere in the North-Western Hemisphere, Alan Cooper, Bret Victor, and other pioneer scientists are trying to derive logic out of this. Nobody can MASTER design, can they? That too, digital design. All that there are, are strong opinions backed by obscure data that are to be placed in the navigable sections of the brain so one can reach, and pick out the prescribed method of research, and execute with heed. When the brain is not capable enough, the internet provides for the insufficiency. It only takes a bit of googling, memorizing, and practising skills. I am not saying it is easy but you get the drift.
Does reading a dozen, listening to a good deal, and applying the principles hastily at work ensure mastery? Wait, no. Of course not. Shakespeare knew plenty of words, and how to pronounce them. Yet, only when he created The Sonnets, and The Hamlet, did he encounter a tinge of mastery within himself, or that I surmise. It's true that he did learn how to write sentences from his peers, but to make the string of words alluring was his ingenuity.
In the world of beg, borrow, steal, and “creativity is a remix”, where, and how does one discover mastery? Should I be convinced that every design-related video I watch, every footnote I read, and every hyperlink to an artwork I find inspiration from, will result in mastery towards the end?
When I was losing my head, there was a special cosmic ordering waiting to happen.
I heard from a dear friend that a guy from the Nordics knew the answer to this very deep, perplexing question; that he is arriving at the city of my dwelling, to address a crowd in a conference hall on a topic that is unrelated (I gather he is an artist with trust issues). My dear friend told me that she had convinced her famed boss, and arranged for me a 15 min private chat with the Nordic guy. And that he is willing to reveal to me the answer to the mastery question (looks like he finds my pertinence to be trustworthy or such).
So I’m meeting this guy tomorrow. I am as excited as when Anthony Bourdain found his eternal love for food, when Larry David diagnosed humor in his bones, when Jain imagined the tune of Makeba, and when Chimamanda Ngozi first breathed her feminist air (which was on the day of her birth).
I woke up early, packed my bag with a notepad, and a pen, and scurried to the hall. There he was, a tall guy, who looked effortlessly stylish, with an aura of wisdom that I haven’t felt anyone else possess.
Now I am in the hall with him. Only the two of us. The 15 mins I was waiting for is right here. As soon as we introduce ourselves, he starts talking.
He says, ‘’I see you want to know the secret to mastery. I will tell you all about it. But you know, once I tell you everything, and then you start following what I have just told you, you have not really mastered how to think through mastery. But I guess that’s alright. Inspiration comes from borrowed ideas. Doesn’t it?”
As soon as I heard those words, something happened. My brain tuned itself out entirely. I could see that his mouth was moving but I could hear nothing. I think he was telling me about how to attain mastery, I was not sure. Just not to offend him, I sporadically said, “Oh! Wow… That’s what it is. Well done. That’s cool.” After what seemed to be like an eternity (15 mins), I found his mouth stop operating. That’s when my brain decided to tune back in. My attention came back to my body. I could see him smile full-on, and tell me that I was the first person to whom he revealed his mastery formula.
I didn’t have it in me to tell him that I zoned out completely. That I heard nothing at all. I finally gave him a handshake along with a sloppy fist bump, trying to show my solidarity and walked away from the hall.
That night, I wasn’t sure if I could sleep. Yet I did. I slept pretty well. I realized that although I did want to know how mastery can be attained, I wanted to figure it out my way. I didn’t want to borrow the Nordic guy’s idea of mastery. I wanted the mystery of mastery to remain for me to uncover. I wanted to find my ingenuity with mastery.
I wanted to master mastery.
Could I ever tell my friends that I was this close to knowing the mastery formula from the tall, haloed Nordic guy and yet semi-voluntarily chose not to hear it? Oh, I didn’t care.
I guess it’s better not to know certain things, and explore them for ourselves for a deeply satisfactory outcome.
Topic for discussion: How well are you sleeping tonight?
Thank you for taking the time to read this short story. Let me know if you enjoyed it. I will make more. :) Much love. <3
Images sourced from MixKit