I’ve always considered myself poor at design or anything requiring aesthetic talent.

As a kid, I remember a particularly hard homework assignment in grade school. It was 2am and I came to a problem where my teacher wanted us to draw: a baby in a womb. I decided I didn’t have the talent to do it myself. So I gave up and called in (woke up) the best help in the world. Mom.

The feeling continued into adulthood. When I started my first professional job after school, someone told me about Flash. This looks cool. So I built my first website using Flash. I showed it to some folks. They laughed because I didn’t know any better to use much smaller sized images. My website took forever to load. When it finally did load, they laughed some more, “That’s it?”

They weren’t intending to discourage me, but clearly from this exercise - I suck at design.

The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind Of A Mess

Dave Smith

Dave Smith criticizes Amazon’s latest product, the Fire TV, especially its new, hyped Search feature. And he’s right. I used my new Fire TV’s voice search to look up “House”. It only gives me House episodes I can pay for on Amazon, even though I already have access to the entire series of House through Netflix, which is also installed on the Fire TV. This sucks.

A couple weeks later, my wife and I wanted to watch Mind Games (Christian Slater’s new show about all my favorite pop-psychology books). I used the voice search and asked for, “Mind Games,” thinking, “Of course, I’m going to have to buy yet another episode of this show on Amazon.”

Oh, wait. There are results here from Hulu Plus, which I also have installed on the device. Amazon’s Fire TV just searched across Amazon and Hulu for the show.

Is this something Dave Smith and I missed? Or was this a recent update to Amazon TV’s software?

This is the best thing ever.

Game of Thrones and House of Cards - two successful and popular television shows.

I couldn’t stand them.

I turned the Game of Thrones pilot off after 15 minutes. But everyone kept telling me how great it was. So my wife and I, together, gave the pilot another watch. Turned it off again after 15 minutes.

Terrible show.

Finally another friend convinced my wife and I try to try it a third time. We finally got through the first episode. We tried a second. Before we knew it, it became our favorite thing to watch on television.

We binge watched all three seasons available online.

I have the same exact story for House of Cards.

It’s funny how often I have this harshly negative reaction to things on first pass. And we’re talking about things as inconsequential as TV and electronic devices that just help me watch more TV.

How often am I doing this with actually important things?

For years, I’ve never been “a designer”. I always let someone else do it. I’m not good at it.

But I kept giving it more chances. For practice, I’d design something no one would see. Or I took a shot at designing an online homepage for my mom. Or I’d take a website like and make my own tweaks to see how I would change it.

I don’t know when it happened, but those chances added up to something. I got better.

This dawned on me recently when people have started to ask me to talk at conferences about design, because they’ve enjoyed how I’ve designed my latest product, Draft.

Me? Talk at a conference teaching people about design?

Somehow, I’ve become a designer.

I see this pattern in my life where my first or second or even third look at something is viscerally negative. I quickly give up on it.

But if I give it a few more chances, it grows on me. The thing gets momentum. Maybe the creators of the program needed to get past a hump before they found their rhythm. Maybe the product’s designers just needed a bit of time to figure out the next version. Maybe it was just me who needed to learn something about the show or the product.

Maybe it was just me who needed to learn something about myself.

I really do enjoy this. I really can do this.

And all it took was a few extra chances.

P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter: here.

Or please let me send you my latest newsletter.


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