Maximize your current potential

27.7.2015 - 16 minutes read

This question comes from Jaime Kerwan:

„Hello, I am a 3d modeler from the Detroit area.  I graduated with a BFA in Game Design and Production from a local art school.  My school, unfortunately suffered massive structural changes that seemed to really negatively effect many of the students experiences, including my own.  My final class (animation) was rushed through with little guidance by an instructor that simply stopped caring.  Since graduating, I have transitioned from 3dsmax to Maya, of which I’m regularly using.  I would love to become a better animator as this was my initial desire since enrollment in my school.  I’m currently unemployed, and stuck in MI for the time being.  I’ve been working on rebuilding my 3d portfolio since a personal loss turned all my previous work to ash – things happen, I guess.  Due to my current state of unemployment, I have all the time in the world to learn.“

The first thing we need to do is to realize that there are actually two parts of this issue:

First part:
You are now in a situation you don’t like and you want to change it.

Second part:
You share the situation with other people and there is a competition between you.

Right away I invite you to read my previous article about core values as it will help to build a great foundation for this following mindset that you need to adopt in order to get out of your painful situation:

No matter where you currently are in life, no matter what happened last year or yesterday this should be your mission: Maximize your current potential.

And I am saying the „current“ for a reason.

Don’t worry about tomorrow, do the best you can do today. You can have the best plans for tomorrow but if you don’t start today the „success of tomorrow“ will become just a mere illusion.

A lot of people got their concepts and ideas a bit twisted and I did too. I fell in love with the power of visualization and I was using it in order to change my painful situation in the past not realizing I’m missing the other half of the equation. You can visualize success all they long but if you don’t act, the thoughts you hold onto in your head remain just thoughts in your head. You need to take action, it doesn’t need to be anything big, start small and build your way up. Become the best at what you are doing right now right here. Don’t worry about the pathway to the future (Jim Carrey). Focus on what you can affect and do right now in this very moment.

Pick a path you want to follow and focus on each and every single step.

When I discovered this I was able to double my income in less than a year. I was highly ambitious and was trying to figure out a way how to increase my income for a long time but I was paralyzed by the over thinking and over planning of every step I wanted to make. I was crippled by trying to come up with a BIG idea that would turn my life around. Once I stopped this and realized all there really is is this present moment and that I need to take action right now I felt a huge relief. I started falling in love with every single animation I was creating, with every single movement and every single frame and guess what, suddenly doors started opening. I let go of the intense struggle for success and instead I focused on my craft and the things I was doing on the day to day basis. Only now, much later I can fully grasp the concept and talk about it and make it available for you, but to be honest its no secret, you can actually read about this everywhere on the internet, I guess the tough part is to realize it and take action.

What about you? Are you trying to think your way to where you want to go? Or are you building your castle brick by brick every single day like you are supposed to?

With this „mission“ you should be able to change any situation you are currently in – this helps fix the first part of the issue.

Enough of the conceptual stuff, even though its very important that you understand this I guess it will also be a great value to you if I share with you what exact steps I did to push myself from the bottom.

The key thing I did was to realize that I need to separate myself from the average artist. Do the things that other people don’t. Have the qualities that other people don’t. And by doing this you should have the power to fix the second part of the issue – which is being in the exact same situation as other people.

Here is a cool way to think about it – place your shoes in the position of a person responsible for the hiring, what qualities do you think they will seek? Once you know that, just go for it.

Here are some of the steps I personally took immediately:

1. Keep a journal.
Write instead of thinking. Thoughts are not real unless you materialize them, just by the simple act of writing you will have a much clearer and focused mind. You will be able to separate the important from not important and your life will appear easier, simple and better. Eventually you will become to know yourself better and you will appear more centered and will be able to present yourself better. Which leads us to the second and maybe most important step.

2. Improve your presentation skills.
Somebody much smarter than me once told me that it doesn’t really matter how good you actually are it only matters how good you present yourself to be. It was my wife and she was totally right. You can have the greatest animation or model but if you do a sloppy job on the presentation no one will be impressed. And its works the other way around too. If you have an okay model but you know how to sell it, you will show the qualities that people care about the most. Believe it or not, its the character that gives you the job most of the time. Become obsessed with the presentation, don’t lie, don’t cheat but boost your portfolio to the max.

3. Start a blog and write about what you are interested in.
I am so mad I didn’t start my blog earlier. It helps on so many levels to have a blog and share your concepts and thoughts. Not only you will crystallize your vision and you will become really juiced up when people come and comment but your potential employer will know that you are dedicated, focused and passionate about the thing you do. By having a blog you also increase your chances on being found on the internet.

4. Improve your networking social media skills.
If you are looking for a job or if you just want to get better at your craft it is crucial that you pay attention to what’s going on in your industry. Not only it is very appealing for a company that you care about the current situation in your industry, but you will learn so much!! Connect with people on linkedin, ask them for help or direction, be proactive. No one is going to be mad if you are nice and polite.

5. Define your path.
If you already took a few steps in the right direction, you keep a journal and a blog, now it should be the time to start messing with the deep stuff. If you did that right away you might get confused and lost (like I did :)). But once you are writing you should already have a decent idea about the stuff you like, don’t like, want to do and stuff you want to avoid at all cost. Figure out what is it that makes you happy and juiced up about life. Define the purpose of your life. For me it’s all about growing better, stronger and happier, becoming more conscious and aware while spending quality time with my family (I’m currently in a cafe sitting next to my beautiful wife.)

6. Start a project and finish it.
Don’t just do tests, man, I did so many tests, so many useless hours were spent on tests. Test on this, test on that, the only time I really significantly grew as an artist was when I said I would do something and I actually finished it. It doesn’t need to be a 2 minute short, or the whole high poly model. Pick a project that will take you 7 days to finish and then spend an extra week on the presentation. Get someone else to help you, ask your friend to light the scene for you. Give them credit and enjoy the fruits of your collaboration, he will have an awesome animation shot using his lighting as a demonstration of his skills and you will have the animation nicely lit as an extra layer of polish/presentation. Ask your friend for his kickass model and rig it and animate it, learn to use the win-win philosophy. Once you are done with your project, rest for few days and start a new one.

7. Educate yourself and share knowledge.
This goes hand by hand with having a blog. You need to educate yourself in all aspects that even slightly affect your chances to get a job. Communication, marketing, management, planning, animation, drawing, modeling, programming, design and of course self discovery and self improvement. Imagine the game dev industry or the film industry is a world with different nations and their languages. No one can understand Japanese because they have a completely different language. In order to speak to them you have to know their language otherwise it’s confusing for both of you. Now substitute Japanese for programmers, you can’t really understand them unless you learn their language. And no, I don’t want you to become a programmer, I just want you to learn their language in order to work efficiently.

8. Read.
If you are not reading because you „just can’t find the time“ realize that you need to make that time. Carry the book with you and every time you are waiting somewhere don’t reach for your smartphone but read the book instead. Also what I find really great is to make a 15 minute break from work and just go somewhere quite and read. Reading is a meditation in a sense, it refills the creative powers for me, it gives me energy.

9. Get in shape.
I am a very practical man, Im not about building muscle for the looks, Im all about having a healthy lifestyle that supports my vision. I know that if I am fit, eating healthy organic food and drinking plenty of water I will have the energy I need to make my dreams come true.

10. Learn to accept and reject.
Don’t drift through life, learn the power of knowing what you want and doing what you want. Don’t accept something just because it was offered to you and don’t reject something just because it seems scary. Once you defined your path you know it’s better for you to say no to getting drunk or watching TV and instead spend the time doing something that will increase your chance of getting a job: write an article, read a book, watch a TED talk, improve the design of your website, update your CV, connect with new people on linkedin, start a project, exercise, meditate, enroll in communication courses, basically do any of the things that are in line with your ultimate goal.

These are just 10 things I personally did and I think it’s a good idea to give them at least try as the results are well worth it.

Let me know if this article was helpful to you, send your thoughts and questions to the comment box below or use this contact form to send me a private email.