I aspire to acquire what could only be gained through time.
This was one of my childhood aspirations, and what I would tell people when they asked me what I wanted to achieve in life. It’s now been 47 years. In the eyes of the young ones, I’m an old soul — or in their lingo, a “boomer”.
Little do they know, my life has yet to begin. I realize now — that if I am to live my fullest life, then I must first learn about myself. I must first know who I am in order to be the full me.
The real me. Recently, I shared some of my experiments in R+D with a mentor who has known me since my days at Yale. In the message, I mentioned to him that I wish that I had accomplished more. I felt that compared to him, I had done almost nothing with my life. Sometimes I feel like a failure. I had wanted to do so much more, but I did so little. I half anticipated some type of answers about how different people would have different abilities and some may achieve more than some others — you know, words of condolences.
But no — he told me something else I didn’t expect. He told me that his life began after 50. In his eyes, I still have plenty of time to do what I want to do.
I can feel it now — little by little. That bit of R+D this year allowed me to align my inner self with my outer self in ways that I have never been able to do before. Having an anonymous identity allowed me to speak my truths in a way that’s free of dogma and prejudice. I felt more alive than ever before. During this journey, I rediscovered myself and looked at many things that have happened in the past. I’ve found myself from past self. I can now use this knowledge to influence my future self. What is that bit of aspiration that can only be acquired through time?
It’s wisdom. Also known as life experiences.
Hugh Dubberly. He who also works in the intersection of art and technology. In my 25+ years of career, I have met no more than five people who work in the same way I do — the synergists. I feel blessed that our paths crossed in the random universe when I was 19. When I was just a freshman at Yale.
Hugh is a design planner and teacher. At Apple Computer in the late 80s and early 90s, Hugh managed cross-functional design teams and later managed creative services for the entire company. While at Apple, he co-created a technology-forecast film called “Knowledge Navigator,” that presaged the appearance of the Internet in a portable digital device. While at Apple, he served at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena as the first and founding chairman of the computer graphics department.
Intrigued by what the publishing industry would look like on the Internet, he next became Director of Interface Design for Times Mirror. This led him to Netscape where he became Vice President of Design and managed groups responsible for the design, engineering, and production of Netscape’s Web portal. Hugh graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in graphic design and earned an MFA in graphic design from Yale.
The one thing that Hugh doesn’t mention in his bio but it’s the one thing that I think about when I think about him — and the one thing that I always mentioned when I talked to other people about him is this:
Hugh was the designer who designed the original MacOS logo. (Edit: He has since corrected me that he’s not the only one involved, and that there are people on the design team: Jim Faris, Bruce Mcintosh, Gaynelle Grove. In his words: “And it's a big nod to Susan Kare”)
And perhaps the funnest thing about that logo which made it special is the fact that Hugh actually draws users the same way as he drew the MacOS logo. Source: What is conversation? How can we design for effective conversation? by Hugh Dubberly and Paul Pangaro
Comparing yourself to others can be such a detrimental force. But even if you only compare yourself to your past self, it can be sometimes drowning.
When I was much younger, when both me and my sister had accomplished anything in school (e.g. awards, scholarships, etc), my parents (mostly my mom) would tell us that we should aim higher. This would sound very obnoxious, but it’s these jokes where she would say something like “you have good genes. Getting these prizes is what you should always get.” I think it’s just her way of asking us to always aim higher — I’m certain that it’s why I always work myself to death and try to give 200% of myself when I do anything.
But those words have a negative effect also. In my mind, there’s this voice that always tells me this: “you were given so much, yet you did so little.” I always feel compassion for those who were not as lucky as I was. Life is not fair, and if you didn’t have the right conditions and opportunities made available to you, then even with the greatest wills, you might not necessarily be able to do a whole lot.
I learned this thing about luck when I talked to homeless men on the street when I did street photography in New York. I learned from them that they could have worked hard, played by the rules, and still couldn’t land them a place to live. I learned that being able to live comfortably is not just a result of personal will.
I know that I was lucky to have parents who cared enough to send me to Yale, who are willing to invest in my future. I know plenty of billionaires who won’t do that for their kids. So I feel that given all these investments and conditions for success, what I had done so far just felt… so negligible.
But that’s why the words of Hugh meant so much to me. He gave me a glimpse of hope that I still have time. In some ways, I can already feel it. I have plans for three projects that I want to do. Four if you count something that’s only set in motion recently. Five if you count this one project that’s in my mind — which I will call my “life’s work” because it involves something that I don’t think is yet doable with current technology and science.
But now that I’m more aligned with myself, I can almost see the plans of how I will accomplish these projects. Once I can visualize how I would complete a project, I can always finish it. Clarity is often the only thing I need to find all the details.