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1. I’d wish I’d known succinctly that hard work would pay off.

I was frustrated by the perceived ghosts you’d hear about. I thought you needed glowing accreditations and prestigious college degrees and a host of frivolities like “good looks” and “family money” and “the right connections.” That wasn’t necessarily true, and I kind of knew it from the get-go. Common sense, well, made sense. I was frugal. I was practical. I was responsible. I just worked as hard as I could, and that opened each small door to the next big phase for me. Be it up in Alaska washing dishes all summer to get money for a computer, which then allowed me to ascertain the necessary, modern tools to be a designer, which got me into art school, which got me into a magazine job, which got me into an agency job, which got me to the point where I could be completely on my own, working out of my basement. Hard work got me through all of those steps and progressions. Dilly-dallying, blathering, moping, hemming, hawing, and procrastinating didn’t.

Aaron Draplin, Graphic Designer

Aaron Draplin Portrait

Aaron Draplin. Photo by MIchael Poehlman

2. I wish I knew to trust my own instincts

about what was possible for me to achieve instead of believing what others thought my path should be. And I wish I knew that the work I wanted to do didn’t exist yet and that I would have to make my own path without knowing the destination.

Kat Holmes, Founder


3. Being good at design just takes practice.

I was a terrible designer when I graduated from design college and honestly for a long time after that as well. It took many years of hard graft for things to click into place. You should make sure you like the area you work in, too. It’s very hard to be good at something you don’t love. I worked in advertising for years and it wasn’t until I made the move to film that I started to enjoy my daily work. Having to study craft and design from all kinds of periods and countries has helped me tremendously. You really have to study the world around you to be able to put pen to paper effectively, I think.

Annie Atkins, Graphic Designer

Annie Atkins Portrait

Photo Courtesy of Annie Atkins

4. If you fall in love with an idea, don’t ignore the call to pursue your passion and curiosity.

I went from being a fan of Dabble to running the company in just over a year. Speaking of passion, working 100+ hours per week isn’t a sign of success. Make time for your own hobbies and interests. Craft a sustainable balance between your work and personal time.

Jemal Swoboda, CEO


5. I have always believed that architects design better buildings when they have a rich life outside of architecture.

If I could give advice to a younger architect or even a younger me, it would be: Always read more, dance more, draw more, maybe occasionally sleep more. Look at more art, listen to more music, walk more streets with curiosity rather than a destination, and swim in every large body of water you encounter.

Deborah Berke, Architect


6. I’d tell myself not to give a F*CK.

Seriously. Sometimes we’re so invested in our work, it becomes a part of us—and that’s not exactly healthy. We put so much time, thought, effort, and that translates into emotional bond. And when our work gets criticized, we take it personally. It feels like an individualized assault on our character, our very being. So dramatic. Young people in their 20s can be so dramatic. Relax. It’s work. That doesn’t mean don’t do your best. Work super hard; bust out the most amazing ideas you’ve ever had. And then, let them go. It’s done. Whatever happens after that, just keep it moving. On to the next.

Rina Miele, Creative Director

Rina Miele Portrait

Photo Courtesy of Rina Miele

This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of Sixtysix with the headline “Six creatives recall their own growth as they reflect on what they wish they knew many years earlier.” Subscribe today.