The Power of Negative Thinking

Someone pointed me at Natalia Ilyin's brief rant about how designers can't write—but, worse, believe they can anyway. It reminds me of the endless string of self-help books and slogans we've seen over the last several years—things like The Secret—that suggest if we only believe in ourselves, the power of positive thinking will carry us through.

This is bullshit.

And it's not just bullshit for the big things, like cancer, but for the little things, too, like writing ability. Believing you're a good writer (or designer, or marathon runner) won't make it so.

Instead, I recommend my new, patented technique for self-improvement: The Power of Negative Thinking™.

It works like this: look at your work, what you're doing, how you're doing it, and focus on what about it sucks.

Chances are, you can find a lot. Absorb your work's flaws. Study them. Learn them. Look at how other people, people better than you—which is near everyone, right? remember, we're looking at the thing you suck at—dealt with those areas.

Now, next time you do that sort of work, pay attention to those flawed areas. That's where you need to improve. Learn from the other people (people better than you). Do it better.

Once you're done, look at your work, and focus on what about it sucks. And so on.

That is how you get better at something. If at first you don't succeed, suck, suck again. Eventually, you'll suck at something else instead.

But why listen to me? I suck at this, too.