Unexpected Gifts for Artists and Designers – The Gift of Problems


As we head into the holiday season and gift giving is on the mind, for the most part the thought of a gift is a pleasant one. The anticipation of opening up a beautifully wrapped gift from someone special is a treat. But what if you opened the gift and it was a big ugly problem?

“Here, take it back, I don’t want it!,” I know I would say that.

Even the word problem (besides being used in the context as a math problem – which is a big problem for me), is considered any thing, matter, person, etc., that is difficult to deal with, solve, or overcome.

Big negative, right! But maybe not and this is why.

I had another one of those light bulb moments as I was thinking through some of my current challenges in my design business. My thoughts took the turn and I considered what if I look at this ‘particular challenge’ as an opportunity for growth and a chance to really think about some of these challenges from a different viewpoint rather than seeing it as a negative.

Usually when there are problems, not only in business but in life we respond a certain way. I believe much of this response ties into our subconscious and how we were ‘trained’ to deal with problems as a child.

Did we blame? It’s YOUR fault
Did we hide? I’m not dealing with it
Did we get upset and freak out? OMG the world is ending
Did we blame ourselves? I’m so stupid…

I would guess, for the most part many people did not approach problems as a child as something to grow from and look forward to.

This perception is something that comes through time, experience and maturity. I know as a parent, when my kids were young my reaction to problems was stress. Now as they’re older and issues come up, (when I’m at my best), I can say, “what do you think you should do? How do you think you can solve this?

Notice the work “you”. I don’t take ownership unless I’m asked for my advice. And even then I want my kids to take ownership of the issues that are theirs and not learn to blame.

However, I’m also one to take ‘ownership’ when someone else has an issue and somehow I feel responsible. Like I need to fix it.

So taking my own advice, I’ve had some opportunities to ‘work’ through some frustrating situations this past month.

My first challenge, I can look at as a chance to work on my own confidence in my skills and what I offer. Instead of immediately second guessing myself, I can analyze the problem and in the areas of my work that I know I need help in, I can start getting the help by asking for it (sometimes as scary as it is we have to say “help”).

If I go even deeper, then I know that rejection is at the root of this issue. For many artists and designers rejection is the four-letter word.

I can also use these problem opportunities as a signal to work on and fine-tune my business process. Sometimes what seems obvious to me is not obvious to clients. I’m very detailed in my work however maybe I’m not communicating as directly as I need too. After all, I don’t like confrontation. I really am a behind the scenes person working very hard for my clients but not verbalizing everything that I actually do.

And in another situation, instead of avoiding discomfort of confrontation, I can work through it – face the fear of who knows what, listen carefully to what I know to be true about myself and then approach and deal with the situation directly, with confidence.

Often when uncomfortable situations come up, my first response will be avoidance. I don’t like the feeling. But when I stay in that feeling of rejection, fear, uncertainly, and even anger a bit longer and become ok with it, then it’s empowering.

I believe in creative fields, to be empowered, gain more awareness and professional experience we often (always) have to go through the fire of rejection, uncertainty and confrontation if we want to grow. And this growth is a problem wrapped up, ready to open and willing to be solved.