Gary Bacon

Creating New Mental Pathways

Early On

When I was young, my parents bought me a book about Abraham Lincoln. The intended audience was geared towards kids. I remember being impressed that Abraham Lincoln taught himself how to read and write. He had a love of reading and read whatever he could get his hands on.

This impressed me so much. I thought to myself, “If he can teach himself how to read then I can teach myself to do anything.”

That started my love of reading. I’ve been self-educated my entire life. Any interest that crossed my mind would have me burrowed at the local library in a mound of books. Many memories of my childhood were spent in libraries. I love it.

Once the Internet became mainstream, I was amazed at the amount of information one could absorb. At age 13, I taught myself HTML. At age 15, I was working on learning CSS and Javascript. By age 16, I had created my first e-commerce client website. It was for a local trophy shop.

Mental Fatigue

There are times that I feel worn out after a long day’s work. Why? It is emotional labor. When you boil down what I do for a living to it’s simplest form, it is “problem-solving”. When crafting a user experience, you take the business goal and provide the simplest way possible for the user to achieve said goal.

That takes a lot of iteration, refining, and thoughtful consideration.

After Age 25

If you don’t spend a lifetime of learning, you’ll start to set your worldview in stone.

By the time we get to the age of 25, we just have so many existing pathways that our brain relies on, it’s hard to break free of them.

Source: What it takes to change your brain’s patterns after age 25 via Fast Company

Thankfully, I work in technology. The industry is always changing and always evolving. Processes, frameworks, and tools change every 2 years and the pace only seems to continue to march faster.

I have to stay up to date. I’m always reading. I make an effort to be constantly learning.

In the past, I’ve worked with some folks who got their education, started working on the day-to-day tasks, and forgot to stay current. It can be tempting to wear down a rut and continue doing what feels safe. However, the danger lies in that you blink and the world has changed around you.

I never want this to happen to me.

Repetition and Practice

Learning and making new connections don’t last for long–unless you practice them. You have to make them into new habits for it to stick. Practicing builds muscle memory.

Do we want to be better at sketching our designs and how our users might use them? We need to practice our sketching. Drawing the same design elements or scenes repeatedly teaches our muscles to sketch quicker.

Source: Developing a UX Practice of Practicing

Focus on learning something new.

Spend your extra time in a book, try a new experience, learn a craft, and expand your worldview. Then keep it up, practice, and master it.

Once you feel it has been mastered, move on to the next adventure, or try something that compliments what you’ve just learned, and learn again. And again. It never stops.

That alone is so fulfilling.