- Artwork by Eli Jorgensen
Jason Ogle shows us how we can all be design superheroes with the right mindset. He reveals how grit trumps talent, every day. He reminds us of the peril that bad leadership and ego can have on a team and organization. He challenges us to never stop fighting for our users. He also inspires us to be a catalyst for our community.
Jason Ogle is human, not dancer. He fails early, and learns often. He’s a growth-minded, avid reader and listener whose vehicle is a rolling university, and a biz-minded, strategic designer who loves to make life better for his users. He’s a passionate user defender who fights for the users who are victims of bad design decisions. He’s an influential podcaster who uses the enchanting magic of audio to inspire and equip an audience of hungry and ambitious designers. He’s an evocative (often contrarian) writer who believeth in the power of the written word. He’s a self-aware and highly empathic servant-leader who believes that humans are so much more than resources. He’s also a loving husband, father of seven (one’s in heaven), and thankful believer who has a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Fun fact: He once had to get a manicure to be a hand-model for a tech ad, and he has a rare essay titled “Altars of Satan” given to him and signed by Eldridge Cleaver.
- Secret Identity (6:49)
- Origin Story (11:14)
- Biggest Superhero (21:31)
- Biggest Failure (28:51)
- Awkward Testing Story (35:06)
- Design Superpower (40:35)
- Design Kryptonite (43:04)
- UX Superhero Name (49:16)
- Fights for Users (57:09)
- Habit of Success (61:28)
- Recommended Book (67:10)
- Best Advice (69:58)
Andy Vitaly’s episode [PODCAST]
Batman + Wolverine Amalgam Series
Emotional Intelligence [BOOK]
Design is not for you [ARTICLE]
Golden Krishna’s episode [PODCAST]
Cultivating a Creative Culture [BOOK]
Justin Dauer’s episode [PODCAST]
The Life-Changing Impact of Empathy in Design [ARTICLE]
Doug Dietz [VIDEO]
Rocketman episode [PODCAST]
Alexa Roman’s episode [PODCAST]
Spotify is incapable of empathy and doesn’t care about their users [ARTICLE]
What if designers actually used the things they design? [ARTICLE]
Pat Flynn morning routine episode [PODCAST]
Get your FREE Audiobook from Audible
Dan Brown’s episode [PODCAST]
The Coaching Habit [BOOK]
Justin: Jason, it is my absolute honor and pleasure to be able to have this conversation with you, particularly on the milestone 50th Episode of User Defenders. As a former guests myself, an avid listener of the show, a collaborator with you in my own creative culture podcasts and most importantly as a friend, I genuinely respect and appreciate all you’ve done for those in our industry, particularly those seeking inspiration and motivation and of course for shining a light on those providing empathetic leadership, now in turning that light back on you, this is an opportunity for your listeners to glean sage advice from the man behind the Defenders. Jason, welcome to your own show.
Jason: Justin. Oh my goodness! I am absolutely humbled by that intro. Thank you so much, brother. I couldn’t think of anyone better to do this with and I told you that in my email and it’s true. I am humbled and honored that you are the guy on the other end of the mic turning the tables on me, so thank you so much for agreeing to do this man.
Justin: Oh, absolutely brother! This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me and you know like I said, as a listener of myself, your show has been an endless founder of inspiration and I couldn’t be more happy to be a part of this.
Jason: Thanks so much man!
Justin: So, it’d be great if we could just dive right in. I’d love to pick your brain, of course and to put your brilliance before your audiences. You’ve done so much before with others. This is a near and dear question to me. Every superhero of course has a secret identity in origin story. Of course, Batman is the best but let’s talk about yours. Could you take a moment to give us a look into your personal life?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely Justin! So as many of the defenders listening, probably know by now, I am a family man. I am happily married to my beautiful bride, Kelly. We’ve been married for I think 18 years now. 18 going on 19 I think this year. So, super thankful for that and we have 6 lovely children, as you mentioned in the bio, we had 7 but we lost him sadly a few years ago and there’s a whole story behind that you can listen to that in Andy’s episode, Andy Vatalia. I think his episode 37, if I’m not mistaken.
And I am a church goer, we go twice a week, believe it or not, and wrangle all the kids for that time as well. And I’m a worship leader as well. So, I’m a musician at the church. I haven’t done it in a while just because; there just has been a lot going on and I keep hurting myself, which is really weird. I keep hurting my right foot. I just fell on the ice last two weeks ago and crunched my ankle. So, I’m kind of recovering from that and I am a home coffee roaster.
Justin: Yay! Yeah! Right on! I mean that’s something we absolutely have to dig into and can you talk a little bit about that? I mean I’ve tasted some of your roasted beans before, they are absolutely phenomenal. What is your process?
Jason: You’ve tasted and seen, haven’t you?
And is good! So yes, I have a little Behmor 1600 and actually I had a Behmor 1600 I was I mentioning it to you before we started recording here. I’ve had my second fire in that roster and that’s because I got busy, I have a slight bit of ADD and even though I set a timer to go and check on the roast, I got distracted and I realized a few minutes later while the fire was already happening that I needed to go and pull the coffee beans. So, that did not work so well this time and the roaster is somewhere in a landfill, sadly. I probably should have figured out how to recycle it, but [laughter] it’s somewhere. But I do have another one and its sitting right here next to me, the unboxing will happen later.
Its interesting innovation and design, this is a good segue for design and the fella that design this roaster, his name is Joe Behm. I think he listens to people, I know he does because I’ve had conversations with them on twitter and stuff and he added a new feature into this, the upgraded roaster that I have that won’t allow you to be absent because I think he’s probably heard too many stories of fires happening in garages and such and houses. So, what happens is basically, if you’re not present three quarters of the way into your roast, the roaster will actually turn off. It’ll start cooling your beans and your beans will be not good, they won’t be drinkable. So, there’s stakes. He’s raised the stakes and I think, although it’s probably going to be a little frustrating for me, I think it’s for the best, it’s for safety and I think it’s a good design decision.
Justin: Know conversely, your house will be fire free.
Jason: So, there’s that.
Justin: Yeah! Exactly!
Jason: So, I roast to every week and it’s really just personal, I was doing it for a while trying to sell it and I do have a brand that’s dreamland roasters, there’s a twitter I think is dreamland roast, but I kind of slowed down. I think it was that right after I started the podcast, after I started Users Defenders, I actually kind of like switch passions a little bit, which is funny because I talked to Cassie McDaniel recently and she’s like you know, just your values will change, your passions will change and that’s Okay, you know what you value 10 years ago or what you were passionate about 10 years ago, you’re probably not passionate as much about today.
So, I am still extremely passionate about coffee, don’t get me wrong. It’s just the podcast has really busied me up so much that I haven’t been able to invest in much but that is the bucket list, my friend that is the retirement plan is my wife and I have talked about this. We do want to have our own coffee house, a coffee roasting business and that will be something that happens probably much later in life when I figured out how to actually provide for my family doing that.
Justin: Yeah, I mean that’s the dream. That’s something that I certainly, if I’m visiting a Monde pop kind of café, there’s a certain vibe and energy in a space like that where you can tell they’re putting the thought into every little detail that is their life and their passions. So, something like that would be phenomenal.
Justin: On the superhero franchise, your superheroes are obviously very core to how really you project your podcast, your brand, your identity that you had those beautiful illustrations for every featured guests and early I’m a superhero phonetic myself. Every superhero of course has an origin story, so I’m very curious about yours. What inspired you to pursue a career in this exciting, challenging and really ever evolving field?
Jason: Yeah! In 1984 when I was still break dancing on cardboard outside and wearing the baggies and the big puma laces, my parents got an Apple2e computer and I fell in love with computing, I mean all I was doing, we had a dot matrix printer or do you remember those brother?
Justin: I had a Tandy 1,000.
Jason: Oh that’s awesome. We had one of those and you know you just had the print shop stuff or whatever it was so and then the games and things like that. I really didn’t get involved with programming though, but it was just kind like my fascination with computing started then. Few years later, my dad picked up a commodore Amiga, which was just game changing at the time for graphics. It was like incredible, like the visual, I mean in looking at back at it now you’re like, it’s of course a vast difference because Moore’s law and such but I mean it was incredible then and I discovered that there was something built in a little programming modules, almost like a terminal thing and it ran a programming language called A BASIC and I think it even came with a manual that showed you some basic programming functions. So what I did was I started just kind of trying them out and it was the whole cause and effect thing.
One of the cool things about the Amiga’s is that; you could actually make her talk, which was amazing and it had the robotic computer voice, but I love the whole causality of it, the cause and effect, like I could type some keystrokes here, some programming language and feel like kind of like a nerd, kind of like a scientists if you will, and then I could see a result occur like on the fly and that was also fascinating to me and that was love for me. I really was in the games that I could play on there. And then fast forward a few years, I fell in love with comic books and so that’s kind of the segue into the User Defenders theme of the superheroes theme that’s still stuck with me, but I used to draw wolverine, he’s my favorite superhero by far. Sorry Justin, I know Batman is.
Justin: That’s all right!
Jason: We’ve got a Marvel vs. DC kind of a gang war here.
Justin: But if you remember The Amalgam Comics series while go ahead actually at a Wolverine and Batman Hybrid.
Jason: No way! I am not aware of this.
Justin: You got to Google that after this.
Jason: I need to seek it out. That is cool! So yeah, it was like every day I used to actually try to get detention, so I could draw wolverine after school and I got pretty good at it. And then fast forward a few years later, 19, let’s say 95, it could’ve even been at the edge of 94. But right around there I discovered, you know, those CDs we used to get in our mailbox practically every day with 93 hours to America Online. Well, I tried it out and I couldn’t believe that. First of all, like the whole idea of the web, of the Internet of actually being in a chat room, where chat rooms were all the age then and I could actually hold a conversation with somebody on the other side of the world. That was super like cool to me.
And then I discovered the personal publisher feature that they had in that. That was basically a way to build your own website using their kind of WYSIWYG. It was like WYSIWYG, but you could also do HTML in there. So that’s what started it for me, it was taking my early exposure to programming languages with the Amiga and also my art background with the drawing and then being able to kind of combine the two. I called it the marriage of design and tech and that was kind of for me like that was it, like I was done, like I was so in love with the ability to communicate instantaneously to create something that anybody in the entire world could access with a few keystrokes on the web and being able to program my designs. That was it for me as I love at first sight, so to speak.
So, that’s my origin story and I decided a few years, I think this was 96 and I started making my own webpages for people and myself. I started like one of the first like underground Christian music like communities online and back then and my goal was to try to bring exposure to some of these artists that were so good, but weren’t getting any nods by the record labels. So, I started a website there, it was a community and it actually grew really big to a certain point and until I had to just stop, I had to kind of start getting more serious about earning an income and stuff, but I wasn’t smart enough back then to figure out how to actually monetize that project but I wished I could’ve figured that out because it was really cool.
Those are just going to some early things that I did, I realized that I was bagging Pedro crystals. I was putting pager crystals and dope baggies. That was my job back then when pagers were all the rage before smartphones and I just really – I was kind of tired of that dead end day job. I met my wife who might, who was then my became my fiancée and I just thought I need to kind of get serious about this and I spent two years trying to get my foot in the door inside of this industry and it’s kind of like, it is all about networking, it’s still is and I mean, you certainly have to prove your experience.
You have to grind, you have to crank on doing this stuff, but you really also have to reach out and build a network and be friendly to people and you kind of add value. So that’s what it was for me. I kind of built an awesome portfolio. I got my foot in the door finally after two years of knocking and not given up, I got my foot in the door at a really cool ad agency in Orange County in California. And the web was blown up at this time. It was right before the dot bomb but I was able to get in there and just really kind of to get going. But the funny thing is that my manager realized shortly after I started that I really didn’t have any real world experience, so I ended up.
I had a cool portfolio but I didn’t have any real client experience. So my first project or two were just awful, it was terrible and that was noticed, that was discovered. My imposter syndrome was especially know kicking in but the cool thing is that I was about to get laid off and my boss said, “hey, listen, we just can’t have you here, you’re an art director, you’re not producing art director caliber work, interactive art director and we’re going to have to let you go”. And I said, “Please let me, I’ll do anything to keep this job, I really want to do this”. And so he said, “Hey, you know what, you can enroll in some classes and give that a shot.” I did that. I was in school Monday through Thursday, every night after work, I was married by this time and thankfully we didn’t have any kids yet, made it a lot more doable and I got my certification in graphic design and visual communication and during this time in school, a really cool project landed in my lap and I got to the lead probably one of the most innovative a web projects that we’ve done at the agency at this time.
So, it’s just that the takeaway from that is just Defenders grit really grit. I have a tattoo on my left arm, it says “fall seven, rise eight” and every day I look at that and it reminds me like, you know what, it doesn’t matter how many times we fall than most important thing that matters is if we get up that the time one time more than we fall.
Justin: But that beautiful summary and as you cited, there was a really interesting time coming out like in the late 90s, early 2000s you know, graduating from College when the Internet as a career was this, everyone was kind of figuring it out. It was this brand new thing and you said, you told your mom and dad, you’re a web designer and they were like, a what? So, I mean it was really like you know, like I was graduating school at that time too. I went to art school with a formal visual communications degree and then I came up with the tech and design, I can tell that’s where things were going. I had a lot of print design classes in school and of course, you know, doing the hand letter set topography that was fascinating but tech was something to be discovered and it was a whole different level of problem solving and visual communication that just sells so much undiscovered interest.
I remember there was a recent quote from Jeffrey Zeldman where he said “sites back then had so much more soul and so much more character and so much more level of intricacy to them because everyone was figuring things out and they were pouring all this thought, an undiscovered nature into creativity on the web”. Site spec then had so much more character to them really, obviously we’re much more advanced now, but that whole level of undiscovered-ness in design was an absolutely fascinating time to be coming out.
Jason: Yeah, I absolutely agree! And there has definitely been some soul last I think in how we design websites now you know, for better or worse, I know that the business side of things is certainly helped a lot of us have jobs in this industry, which has been great and it’s obviously important, but I just feel like the fun, the playfulness, the experimental nature of just kind of how we made websites just early on as sort of been lost somewhat in general, but I know that there’s just like anything, I think there’s always resurgences and I think there’s some interesting things happening now and you know, when you mentioned Jeffrey Zeldman and I love his new kind of idea about content performance quotient and I think we’ve been designing websites wrong and I think we’ve gotten caught up with the whole social media rage and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding that as well behind the designers who are actually intentionally manipulating people to keep them on their sites longer and to keep them and to get them addicted so that they just go to their site more often.
I think there’s a lot of problems with that ethically and I’m glad to see a really a big conversation kind of getting out there more you know, it’s already been started and it’s certainly becoming more public and so I’m glad to see that, but I think the idea and I’m glad to see movements like this, like let’s stop focusing unless we’re a blog or something, you know, you do want people to kind of spend time reading your content and things, that’s fine or a social network which I just mentioned. We should be designing sites that help people accomplish what they need right away and then get them away into whatever else they need to do. I think that’s a great experience, right? If we can actually get them off our sites as early as possible, sometimes that’s the best experience of all.
Justin: Yeah! I mean we’re talking to the definition of content strategy at this point versus a colossal dump and forcing people to dig deeper versus getting the people the information they need and deserve as quickly as possible.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely!
Justin: So Jason, on the topic of your own work, who is the biggest superhero in your work? Who’s influenced you in and what kind of why is this person the motivator that they have been for you?
Jason: The answer might surprise you and Defenders listening, but it’s my wife. She’s been such a pillar for me throughout my career and throughout my ventures. I’ve been a dreamer. I’ve been known to be a dreamer and I think early on I learned that to try to align my dreams with reality a little bit too because; especially now and you understand this, Justin, having a family, you really have to weigh out the risks you take a little more and things like that. So, I mean you still can take risk but they have to be a little more calculated.
So, my wife has just been a pillar for me and kind of like let’s pick up where we left off with the agency, my first agency job, I got laid off a year later, just over a year later because everything fell apart. The dot bomb crisis happened and only sites like Ebay and Amazon really stuck around during that time that there was a lot of rebuilding that needed to happen in a lot of kind of reality checking about business models and what made sense on the web maybe cause you remember at that time it was like the dot-com, I mean it was huge. All you have to do was say dot-com to a VC and they give you millions of dollars.
Jason: Whether or not it was a good idea. You remember pets.com? No, Okay! Well, that’s why. It’s because that’s what happened with them and they got millions, I remember they had a Super Bowl ad. Those costs several million dollars to have little sock puppet the thing but look what happened. So, that was a really good lesson for all of us in business, the business side of the web. So again, it’s that kind of balance like we were having a lot more fun before this all happened, but I think we also were trying to understand how to actually kind of balance the business side of things out as well. So I think that’s been a really good lesson.
Let’s pick up from there, where we left off is I got laid off. That was my first time being laid off at a job and that hurt. It was hard. It was especially hard the first time. But I also got laid off like four other times after that I’d been laid off probably five times in this field, in this industry. And it can be somewhat cutthroat again, and just because it is more specifically marketing base, this kind of work is a lot of marketing based stuff and when times are tough, which we’ve had a lot of tough times from 2000 till now, especially in the economy, what happens is companies tend to cut their marketing budgets and that effects our business sadly. And therefore, unless there’s some really smart people that are trying to figure out how you know, kind of planning ahead for things like this and having a surplus and maybe not putting signs up, brand new signs up whenever there’s tough times like that happened to me at one of my jobs, which I’m sure we’ll get into the spending multi thousands of dollars upgrading the signage while you’re just not caring about your people in your journey.
I took a job at Starbucks after that I needed, I kind of thought about it and we need benefits. I had kids, we had kids at this time, we had two and I figured you know what, we had one in one on the way and I mean we need insurance and so I took a job at Starbucks part time and that was a grind, my friend, I actually was working the morning shift, I was a shift lead, so I would open the shop up. I would have to wake up at 3:45 AM Monday through Friday to get to the store, by 4: 15 to open it to actually get the pastries out and get the coffee ready to open up at 5. I did that. I worked until noon, 12:45 or so every day and then I actually got a second job after that I worked at a print shop because it was just really hard to get a job on the web at that time still.
And so I got a job at a digital print shop and that was really cool for like just kind of seeing the other side of things like having more of a well-rounded discipline even though that skill set doesn’t serve me specifically in my work today, I still have that idea, that knowledge of what it takes to actually get a tangible product made using a digital print medium, which has been really valuable. So at a certain point I was going doing the Starbucks thing, being extremely caffeinated. We actually started making her own drinks. That’s how like how caffeinated I had to be.
We called it a Jedi and some of my former coworkers there would remember we created this. It’s an iced beverage with five shots of espresso and it was like an ice upside down caramel Macchiato with five shots of espresso and extra Karma and the cup and that’s how we started our morning and we had a lot of fun, believe me, but you know, we used to dance for the customers, we used to like we used to just heckle with him, it was a lot of fun.
But I was tired, man. I was tired. I was just caffeine, overly caffeinated and then I went to the print shop job after that from one to five. There were days man, when I was falling asleep at the keyboard and then after that I would have to go in and actually go and do my own freelance work at night and then still try to get enough sleep to wake up the next day. I’m telling you, after a year of that and nearly killed me, I’m serious, I thought it was going to have a heart attack towards the end of a year of doing this. And again, I just attribute my wife for just being there and she wanted to be a stay at home mom with our kids. That was kind of a commitment she wanted to make and I was all in on it because I just feel like that’s the best thing for our kids, that she’s willing to do it. It’s not for everybody, I know it’s a calling but she decided that’s what she wanted to do and I did anything and everything I could to make that happen.
And we cut through that year barely and I’m not getting there were times when we didn’t have enough money for our rent and at the very last day, I’m not kidding you, we would open the door and there’d be a check for the amount that we needed for our rent, as just, you know, I mean whether or not you have faith or not, like you just got to go wow, there’s something happened in here, there’s something to this and that happened more than once. I think when you have that desire, you have that grit, you have that drive, you have that growth mindset. Things are going to happen for you that I think the world, the universe, so to speak will conspire to help you.
Justin: Absolutely! I think baked into that as well is a huge degree of humility. I know people who have tried to get a cut on their own and freelance full time or you know, are laid off and then there’s like people get stuck in kind of a pseudo self-pity mode and you know why is that I shouldn’t have to freelance. I shouldn’t have to do all this, so the fact that you’re able to put all that aside, put any sense of ego aside, why me and just do everything it takes. I mean that’s a non-trivial thing and I absolutely respect that. When I free-lanced for like a year and a half or two years before, that was kind of the hardest time in my career. It’s complete feast or famine, the way you income rolls in and I was the famine parts were the hardest and like you said, some days you have to skip a meal or I was looking into getting like a forklift driver or certification at that point just so I can do something during the night to keep revenue coming in.
The huge amount of respect for you there and I want to kind of arc off that humility into something else and there’s a huge degree of humility that is intrinsic to the value of the fail fast mindset and that someone is able to nimbly take that. Failure is a lesson that’s directly actionable on the next attempt. There’s clearly no time for pity or blame and that delicious frothy Latte of dynamism. So can you tell us, you know, riffing on that, can you tell us a story about what the biggest failure in your career has been?
Jason: Sure can, and this is one that still is kind of one of the big ones for me and maybe always will be because the good news is I learned from it. So, I work from home on Wednesdays and I have for the past nearly five years and actually before that I worked from home on Wednesdays when I worked at my space, 2000 from 2007, 2009.
So, it’s been really helpful because both jobs, the one I have now a work at NCM National Center Media and then they were both extremely early drives, especially the My Space One because you know, La Southern California freeways. But I will tell you that one day on a Wednesday I was working from home and I was working on my bed and that was the first mistake Defenders, don’t do work on your bed, you know, there’s a psychological principle of association and your bed should be where you sleep and where you do those things with your loved ones
Sleep of course we’re talking about sleep or sleep with your loved one and don’t do. That was a big lesson for me. I shouldn’t have been working on my bed. I think there was a reason for it. It was freezing in my garage where I typically work and I just decided well the next best place away from the kids as far as possible would be my bed and I just was really tired. I think I had started my morning routine. I wasn’t balancing out my sleep as well, so I was a little tired and I actually fell asleep right around lunchtime with my laptop open and then I awoke to a phone call from a project manager. That was bad. When you wake up, your mind needs time to kind of come to especially from like a little power nap. You need a little time to kind of get normal, and so basically with a phone call what the phone call was regarding was a project that I was designing that I was working on and it was basically my project manager telling me the client doesn’t like what you did, you need to try something else and I had put so much into this project, Justin.
I had put so much thought and effort and every detail and so basically, I flared up and I reacted and I shot the messenger, you know what I mean? I shot the messenger and that was bad, that was a big failure for me because all she was doing was conveying a message to me. I was tired; I was not in the right state of mind. I wasn’t on my bed and I didn’t put a pause between the stimulus and the response as somebody once said and so that was a huge learning for me. In reading Dr Daniel Goldman’s book, emotional intelligence, I learned a lot about kind of exactly what happened to my brain and to get a little scientific here. There was an emotional explosion, also known as a neural hijacking. That means that my limbic brain, also known as the Amygdala, it recruited the rest of my brain to its urgent and agenda overriding my neocortex brain, which is the thinking brain before it had a chance to glimpse fully at what was happening and to decide if it was a good idea. It was not a good idea.
Basically, I spent the rest of the day really looking at how I just kind of let her have it on the phone and then I spent the next and what I did was I had felt so bad actually, I think I roasted a bag of coffee for her because she did like coffee and I brought a bag of coffee to her the next day and I apologize profusely to her in person and I was forgiven. However, I was written up for that and rightly so, and that’s on my record now. And so that was my biggest failure in my career, Justin. That was unacceptable. There’s no excuse you know, even the bed excuse and being tired excuse, like there’s no excuse to treat another human like that, especially someone who was simply delivering a message.
And the other lesson is don’t fall too in love with your work. My God! You know like this work is not for us. I read an article on LinkedIn a while ago in the title of the article. It actually really offended me at first, the title of the article was “Design Is Not For You” and I just “wait, who are you to say design is not for me” and then I kept reading the article and he’s like, design is not for you, it’s for other people and I was like, “oh my gosh, that’s it!” It’s not about me, it’s not for me. It’s for others. So, that was a really big. That was my biggest failure Justin.
Justin: I think it’s really telling that a user interaction or let’s say unsuccessful user interaction in that capacity was something you said is your biggest failure, wasn’t that you did not optimize your Photoshop file or that you use the down menu and you should have used a checkbox or something like that. The fact that you’re setting a human centered interaction in that capacity, I think that’s largely telling about you as a person of course, is how you view success of your work and you were just talking about objectivity versus subjectivity.
I mean that’s a huge thing there, removing yourself from the equation, “design is for other people” and even in like a feedback session before he left for putting work in the law or from talking with my team when someone says, “you know, I like that”. Or someone says, “You know, that kind of sucks”. I mean there is zero value on something like that. It’s just subjective feedback that is completely unactionable. So those kinds of phrases to me are the equivalent of going to Burger King and off, you know, ordering a big Mac. So those are like swear words, it has to be this is successful because of X, so this is not achieving the project goals because of Y.
Jason: It’s like going to Blue Bottle and ordering a “Grande”.
Justin: Oh, good God! Can you imagine [laughter]
Jason: But, I digress
Justin: No, I hear you. You get me.
Jason: Oh yeah! Keep going, keep going.
Justin: In the terms of like you know, again, riffing on humans center of action or something that’s, you know, kind of crazy that’s happened or something that’s been mildly awkward. Obviously in our work, user testing is a paramount part of the process in that, our users are interacting with what we’re putting together and we’re again, we’re divorcing ourselves from any subjectivity and this and users are informing a better ultimate product. In that thing, do you have any stories or tales of anything that’s been like a really crazy, super awkward interaction with user testing front?
Jason: You know it’s funny when I was thinking about how to answer this question and I’ve had a little time because I knew that I wanted to do this, but I couldn’t really think of anything specific. Like if you listen to Golden Krishna’s episode, I think he was Episode 11. His awkward story is probably one of the funniest that I’ve heard before. So I’m not going to spoil it out to listen to it. I still crack up when I think about it, but I don’t have anything like that to share but I want to reflect on a time when I actually took some classes at my before we moved to Colorado Springs, we lived in Orange County, California. I took a UX course at Cal State Fullerton they offer. It’s actually a really great course and they keep getting better, so any Defenders out there and SoCal check it out and Hillary Beanstock, she’s one of the instructors, she’s awesome, she’s a real world practitioner who’s sharing her knowledge back but anyway, I did that course out there.
And one of the things, I think it was her that asks us to do this, there was a McDonald’s really close by the campus and she just asked us to go there and observe people. And I thought that was really weird, so I was like why? Why do I want to watch people at McDonald’s? But actually, I learned a lot from that ironically and what I learned was for one, we’re so busy especially now and it gets more and more, I think it becomes more and more severe. The more technology we get for better or worse, I’m on the fence about some of it, but I feel like we get so busy that we don’t slow down to actually just observed people to use our super power of observation and I just sat there and I just watch people and I was like, wow, I’ve never done this before, I’ve never and you know, you’ve got to try not to be creepy too cause that’s kind of the flip side of the coin. You could actually be a little weird, if you’re just staring at somebody but I think it’s just slowing down, slowing down and watching how people behave, watching how people order a big Mac, like you said, Justin, I mean it’s really interesting and I’ve actually been on the other side.
McDonald’s was my first job ironically when I was 16, that was my very first job, so I’ve been on the other side and where I’ve actually taken people’s orders and it’s just funny the way people order things and you get your regulars, you get to know them and you start to cultivate relationships with them and so there’s that whole human side of things. But I don’t know, it was really interesting to me to just slow down and actually set time aside intentionally on my calendar to just do nothing but observe, to do nothing but actually get out of myself, out of my own head and actually be other centered and to see what other people do, how other people live their lives. And isn’t that rooted in empathy, Justin?
Justin: Absolutely! So, very well said there. I feel like I’ve said this to some coworkers before and I think actually the last time Zalman was in Chicago, I told this to him as well. I feel like if you’re not a student of human observation, if you’re not genuinely fascinated by how humans interact with one another, you know, just how they’re experiencing their environment and again, not enough creepos sense, but if you’re not genuinely passionate about human interaction, you’re in the wrong field. You have to absorb those things almost as his fuel as a science and I think there are absolutely some quantitative and qualitative things we can take away from just simple observation and that coupled with what you’re talking about. I write in my book about the act of a linger, pausing to let these events kind of unfold and not rushing from point A to point B. There’s so much magic and so many synapses that are firing in those moments that are lost, we’re just you know, blind into the world around us. So I mean that you’re really dialing in your hitting home with me on that one.
Jason: I love that and I love, you know, in your book, Justin “Cultivating the Creative Culture” Defenders awesome book, and Justin and I talked about it on userdefenders.com/ccc. I love your Day One, how it starts on a Friday and you let the person that’s applying, you let them decide what you want to do, like a field trip and it could be a creative thing to a museum and that’s another part of just being intentional about slowing down and taking in your surroundings and just being practicing that empathy towards others, I think what a great first impression.
Justin: Oh, thanks! I appreciate that. And you know genuinely there’s so much more to be gleaned from something like that rather than looking at a portfolio, you can gain so much insight into what fuels someone. And again, in a human observation since like we’re just talking about, there’s so many magical moments to unfold there, so I appreciate that.
Justin: So on the point of, you know, we’re talking about a lot of comic dialogue here in about superheroes and I’m curious in your own life, what is your design superpower?
Jason: I guess it’s just I want to design stuff that works for people. I guess that’s my design superpower like I really want whatever I design. I want that actually be the right thing. I want that to actually solve the problem that makes life better for my users. Like I guess that’s my design superpower and I get so frustrated when I see bad design in the world, especially from enterprising companies. I get frustrated about it and I’m pretty vocal about it too because; I just feel like there is no excuse. I mean there’s probably are business things at work, but I feel like within the age of design leadership where design is as a seat at the table, like there’s just no excuse anymore to have, especially at an enterprise level company that has a lot of money like Apple or Spotify to actually not correct the bad experiences that they’re putting into the world.
Justin: Yeah! I have to ponder about the procedural breakdown and they’re like, what at least at some point in that process chain subjectivity is entering the equation. If it’s at the C level, if it’s somebody who’s a high level stakeholder, where does the science and the metric based design breakdown in that process, like you said, it’s a company that probably has reams of cash flow to do the best design, the best visual communication or the most usable product possible. Where does that break down?
Jason: Right! That’s what still baffling to me, that why I just, I don’t know, it blows my mind and that’s why I feel like that’s kind of the User Defenders mission. It’s like you know, I fight for the Users, that’s what Tron said and I just feel like that’s such a great example.
You know, we really, as any designer, anything we put into the world, we need to really do our best and I know there’s certain limits to what that could be there are certain boundaries as designers you know If we’re not the CEO of the company or whatever, you know, then you can be a champion, but you can also be shutdown. I understand that. So, kudos designers in these organizations that are making these issues known, you’re doing your part you know, whatever else is up to the stakeholders or business leaders. I don’t know where I was going with that but I just feel like that’s just an important thing, you know, we really should be fighting for our users in everything we do, as much as is within our power to do so. I try to do that.
Justin: Absolutely! And the point of power is obviously there’s an antithesis of that and everyone listening and of course you and I know that Batman has no weakness whatsoever, but superman does and that weaknesses as Kryptonite. So Jason, I’m curious, what is your design Kryptonite?
Jason: I love a little bit of bias I hear in here, the Batman. [Laughter] I love it now. You know what? It’s true. I think Batman versus superman, the movie he basically won. He really did.
Justin: He laid the smack down!
Jason: For sure! Now spoiler alert but so what’s my Design Kryptonite. Justin, this should be no surprise to you. It’s bad leadership.
Justin: I’m dying for you to flush this out.
Jason: Alright! So, I worked somewhere and we talked about this and you’re inspiring episode Justin.
Again, userdefenders.com/ccc. I worked somewhere and I moved my whole family for this job over a thousand miles away. We left our comfort zone. We left our family for this job because I was all in, man and the unfortunate thing that happened which was completely out of our control, out of anybody’s control, is the person that hire me, the leader that hire me, left the organization enough, just barely a few months after I started and the next six months or so was spent trying to find a replacement.
So, I guess it was really hard to find somebody and I think what happened, and this was the first lesson is that they settled on somebody and in my honest opinion and I think probably many others who work with this person, they would agree that the organization is settled and hiring this person in because the person that came in had an ego that couldn’t even fit through a door and this person thought that he was the biggest hot shot in the world, cared more about himself and his people cared more about his ego, cared more about his, what people said about him than about his people.
And I’ll just tell you one story and this is a story I didn’t tell on your episode, Justin. This is another thing that happened. This was toward the end of my very short tenure there after having again moved the family, bought a house out here for this job. And so what happened was I knew I was going to be going out and hanging out to vacation and there was a really big decision being made on our most important web property. The actual website of the organization and it was basically going to be redesigned and that was one of the reasons they brought me in for crying out loud, that’s one of the reasons they created my position was to be a part of this redesign and an a very important meeting like a kind of a discovery, kind of brainstorms meeting with like the most important people in the whole organization, quote unquote ended up taking place when I was going to be absent, unfortunately.
So, what I did was; myself and one of my designers, we in totally innovated around some ideas that we wanted to make sure we’re would be entertained at least even brought forth because we have been a part of that. We’ve used the product. We had a really good understanding of the pain points and some areas of possibilities. So we spent like a decent amount of time, I would say even a week, possibly nearly a week, innovating and actually documenting some ideas that we believe strongly would make this product way better for our users.
And again, there were assumptions, but they think they were very rooted in actually being users of the product as well. What I did was like anyone might have been the day before so that we were leaving, I shared these with this person, with this quote-unquote leader, and then I didn’t hear anything and I went on my vacation, came back, I think it was a two week. So I came back two weeks later and I think a week goes by, I didn’t hear anything from this person about what I shared. And so it was just kind of eating me up inside. And so I was like, I finally kind of made a meeting, put a meeting on the calendar and I ended up saying, “Hey, remember that thing I sent before I left about, you know, kind of our ideas and things and hoping that maybe you would be a champion, you know, we maybe share some of these innovations. Have you thought they were worthy of kind of being a part of this new project? And I’m not kidding you. I got so shut down by this person. I was punished for innovating. That should never, ever happen in a creative culture. If you’re a leader, you never want to punish your people for innovating and trying to make things better. I got shut down and he’s like, yeah. I deleted it right away.
He deleted that email that had the PowerPoint with all of our ideas. He need just like gave me the third degree on it and I’ll tell you that was the beginning of the end. I think that maybe even after that for some reason, I don’t know. I think it was an ego trip my friend, because I think it was like anybody’s ideas that were better than his, will not going to be entertained. I think that was it. You know and like I said, Justin and our interview, a good leader is the first to take the fall and the last to take the credit.
Jason: And this guy was anything but a good leader. And the other thing that I said and there was your ego is not your Amigo.
Justin: I love that.
Jason: Those are some things that I just – unfortunately, this person didn’t, didn’t know, didn’t learn or didn’t care to have the ability to try to learn. You know that’s my design kryptonite is bad leadership. Justin, I know that concept is near and dear to your heart as well and you wrote the book, quite frankly, wrote the book on “Cultivating a Greater Culture”.
Justin: Yeah! Ego! Jason is absolutely, I mean this is a known quantity for us. Ego is absolutely cancerous to a creative culture, to doing good work to success really have a product. It’s all about one person at that point and in terms of running themes. We talked about subjectivity versus objectivity. That is 100% subjectivity and belittling those you should be raising up, so that is anti-leadership. And you know my jaw dropped the first time you told me the first part of that story in our own dialog and now its job further hearing the other side of the coin there are. Hopefully, that fellows that you’re referring to is moved into a different career path
Jason: That person is no longer at the organization.
Ultimately, people like that have to end up like kind of starting their own thing because God help them if they lead another team at an established organization.
Justin: It’s all for the best at that point. So, in terms of fighting the good fight, Jason, you are UX Superhero, which you clearly are. What is your UX Superhero name?
Justin: That means when you mixed this that needs a reverb on it and echo.
Jason: Oh yes! I like that idea. So yeah, I think The Catalyst or just Catalyst. And the reason for this is I love the idea of a catalyst and I’m not an engine person, I’m not very crafts like I’m working on it, but I think there’s the catalytic converter and that’s a very important part of it. I think my roaster has a catalytic converter that actually suppresses smoke, which is nice when they reach second crack, but basically a catalyst I think is a spark. It’s a spark that distributes into something greater, something bigger and it causes something really the thing that’s supposed to happen that causes it to happen. And so I liked that idea and I was thinking about like, what’s why catalyst? And I started thinking about my interview with Laura Klein.
She was an episode 43 and her episode, I think it’s called Making New Designers and I love what she said. The last thing she said to me on the interview, she’s like, “Keep making new designers, its good” and I thought about that as like, you know what? That’s really cool because that’s what this show is all about. It’s about making new designers. And the other part of this is that the inspiration is certainly a really large part of that because we have to stay inspired to do I think, our best work and so that’s really a cornerstone mission of this podcast is to inspire and equip. But I thought about this too, but taking it a step further and this is something I talked about with Joe Johnston, at the end, I actually got a little dusty in the room and I was explaining this, I got a little emotional.
What I realized is that I am still thankful Defenders listening. You guys and Gals, you’d been so supportive to me and you are sending me emails and tweets and how about how much the show means to you and how it’s helped you in your career. Like there’s a guy named Marius that I think he’s overseas, I’m positive, he now live in the United States, but he is moving and he’s a leather craftsmen. He’s moving into UX. The podcast inspired him to just have the confidence to go for a job to change careers, you know, later on in life.
And he got a joy landed a job in UX and you know what he did, man this is so cool. He actually crafted me, handcrafted me a leather belt. That’s probably going to be in my mailbox in a few days, just as a way of saying thank you to me. So, I think about people like Marius and I know he’s going to do just his attitude, his passion, his excitement for what’s to come and for the difference you can make through design. Like that’s contagious to me, man. And I get to hear from people like Marius and also the other thing is that the next Doug Dietz, this is what I told Joe Johnson, the next Doug Dietz is listening. The next Margaret Hamilton is listening to this show that excites me to know that whatever is being said on these interviews and whatever is being put out into the world like that could be the catalyst. That could be the spark that inspires that next Doug Dietz, you know, or Margaret Hamilton to take action into design something that changes the world. And that is not an under, that is not exaggerating. I believe that is happening and I believe that’s going to continue to happen.
And I want to take a second to just kind of say to describe who Doug Dietz and Margaret Hamilton are there. They’re both completely different in different time zones and different fields, but Doug Dietz was the inventor of this adventure series, MRI for children and the reason that he created it, I get emotional thinking about this and there’s a video again, we’ll show link to it. There’s a video of him describing why he did this. Basically, he was observing, he was a big part of creating these large MRIs that are instrumental in medical science and helping to identify cancer and really important life threatening diseases.
But what he observed when he watched children go through this thing, they were terrified, understandably so. And so he says he broke his heart, you know and the kids have to get medication, which isn’t great either, in order to put them out, in order to get an MRI like, come on, there’s got to be a better way. And so what he did was he used design thinking and he innovated around this device for children, a target audience of his, and he created a fun adventure series where he made it into like a pirate ship and he made the background colorful and he made it a fun experience for kids who are getting through this thing and going, can I come back tomorrow and do this? Like I’ve done an MRI, I’ve hit the panic button, it’s terrifying in there.
So that to me like that is designed at his finest and it’s not a screen-based. And I think that’s the other thing is that as designers, as UX designers and web designers, we think, well, we’re only going to be able to innovate around screens. No, not at all. And even those screens are important, your experience that you’re gaining through designing for screens could actually transport you into another area that’s not screened based, but will actually save lives too. So, I just think that was a super inspiring thing. The next Doug Dietz is listening, Margaret Hamilton. They may not ring a bell at first, but she was a programmer and I think one of the unsung heroes of the Apollo Saturn space missions, which my father happened to be a part of and I interviewed him for a userdefenders.com/rocketman, which was a really fun one to do, but she is a, was a programmer on those missions who led a team credited with they actually developed the inflight software which included algorithms designed by various senior scientists for the Apollo Command module also including the Lunar Lander and the Skylab Project.
So, the important part of her mission was – you remember, I mean, computers were so slow back then and they were big as cars, right? I mean typically. So you can only fit so much of a computer in a lunar module, right? That’s going to the moon. And so she had to use her programming superpowers to design sub routines that would only run the most important procedures at the given time and that the crucial moment because of her intelligence and her team of doing this, knowing that the processing power was so limited that the sub routines and a code that she wrote help that lunar module landed on the moon because there’s only so many processes that can crunch at one time. So she made sure that the most important ones were actually sent first and that actually what helped make the Apollo moon landing possible. Not talked about as much, but listen, the next Margaret Hamilton, you’re listening right now. I know it and you’re going to do something credible. You may even be a part of the Elon Musk’s a project and going to Mars, who knows? It’s exciting to me.
Justin: He brought that back in is basically, beautiful these, I mean you’re talking about an awesome responsibility Jason and awesome opportunity really, I mean the opportunity to put all the spotlight and all the brilliant designers and UX and design thinking superheroes you have here. It’s really a fuel for an industry and you know, I kind of lead with this in my intro and it wasn’t pandering and ended capacity. The value you’re bringing, the value of this podcast brings to our industry, to inspiration to human centered design is really a measurable. So again, thank you for that.
Jason: Thank you so much Justin.
Justin: A lot of these everything we’re talking revolves around fighting for the users and you cited Tron before and you know I have a small side project, a UX shorts, T-shirt designs is I fight with users and clearly we were aligned on the awesomeness of how far ahead of its time it was for trying to be saying that and when of course we understand, you know, the duality between the simulated world and the tangible world and the movie sense but for you personally, how do you fight for your users?
Jason: I think it’s just, I like to watch them, I want to observe them using the design. I think that to me there’s no better way to know whether it’s working or not and actually watch them struggle with it. And it’s humbling and it’s in a good way because again, we tend to fall in love with our designed maybe even more than the problem that we’re trying to solve and so I think that when I have a chance and I try to always make sure that I have a chance to do this, to actually watch people use the design, it’s really great.
I read a tweet out there once and it was so cool about user testing. It’s like watching someone use your design is kind of like watching a horror movie where instead of like just running away from the house, like they just run into the barn or something. It’s like and you just want to tell them like go the other way. It goes like it’s totally like that. And another little tweet able thing I saw a long time ago was, you know, not testing your design with users is like getting into a taxi cab and just saying, just drive, you know, just drive, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter where I’m going, you know but anyway, I think that’s a big part of it. I just try to observe them using it and struggling with it and try to learn from it.
And I think another way that I fight for the users as we kind of touched on before is, just kind of being vocal about bad design being served to users, especially by enterprise level companies who have the capital to fix it. You know I mentioned Apple, you know why, oh why? Does Face Time not have a dial key pad yet? I can’t push one for English because there’s no key pad on there. I think they’re working on it. I hope they’re fixing it, but why can’t I use my magic mouse while it’s charging? Justin
Justin: I think of that how Seinfeld used to have that, it’s like who is the UX wizard? Who thought of this one?
Jason: Yeah! And then Spotify. I mean I’m probably talk as much about Spotify as Jared Spool does about United Airlines. I feel like I don’t get it, like there’s so really creative people. I just saw an article yesterday that their in house agency one, the agency of the year from ad age, like they have some really smart creative people there, but they keep focusing on aesthetics and not on usability. It drives me insane. It should be function over form. It’s quite the opposite and it bothers me to no end, I’m telling you. I’m a paid subscriber, so I can complain. It’s like voting and then complain.
You can complain if you vote. So, I feel like those are just the things that bothered me and I think I fight for the users by trying to expose some of this and I mentioned in my interview with Alexa Roman, I think she was Episode 45. We talked about “Criticize by Creating” and I liked the idea that it’s kind of a stoic in nature, which I also appreciate but I just don’t think we can fight for the users and be still look about this stuff.
I think we have to kind of expose some of it and we have to draw attention to it and of course as a designer I want to be respectful of some of the reasons why certain things don’t change. But come on, it’s been five years for Spotify, has been nearly five years. They haven’t done crap to make their app better at all or even driver friendly. I just noticed that audible just the other day. My update recently, they have a driver’s interface, a driver UI, as say brilliant. Most of your audience, what are they doing? They are listening in their vehicles. If I die in a car accident, it’s probably because; I was trying to use Spotify’s App while I was driving, which I probably shouldn’t be doing, but I mean just make it easier guys and gals come on. There we go, my soapbox, I’m going to step off.
Justin: I was going to drop the S word modify. I know you’re very passionate about that one. So, you kind of did it organically for me.
Jason: Okay! Check out my article. I wrote about it. I wrote about both the Apple and Spotify will be link to them, but at the Spotify articles called “Spotify is incapable of empathy and doesn’t care about their users”
Justin: No fluff in that title.
Jason: No, just to right to the point.
Justin: So you know, on your journey of fighting for the users and you just walk us through. You’re clearly, you’re passionate about articulating your process there. What one habit in that process do you believe, but you know most contributed to your success on that journey?
Jason: My morning routine. So, I started a morning routine that was about two years, two plus years ago, and it actually was because I listened to Pat Flynn’s smart passive income podcast and it was Episode 150 Defenders where he talked about his morning, how he started a morning routine and my manager, my awesome manager, Jeff actually told me about Pat’s podcast when I was just starting to get into podcasts because of my drive and the first one I happened to listen to was 150, so that shows you, like when I first started listening or went around that when that date was, but basically he runs through how he had a conversation with Howe Elrod, Howe Elrod who wrote the Miracle Morning Book.
He talked to him I think maybe 10 episodes before that or so, and he was inspired to start it and it was a Friday on the way home after my managers told me I listened to the episode and I knew I needed something in my life, there’s a Bible scripture that says “bodily exercise profits little”. That was basically my life verse for a long time and I didn’t do anything for myself. I didn’t do anything for my health. And I was wondering why I was so grumpy like a lot I was and I was often you know, as we mentioned in my failure story, I always kind of quick to be reactive and quick to be emotional and instead of just kind of letting things process.
Basically, I just said I need something, I need this in my life right now and I just, I said Monday, it’s happening for me, is Monday I’m starting my morning routine and so sure enough I did, I woke up, I can’t remember it was 4:30 or 5:00, it might have been 5:00 the first time, but I normally wake up at like 7:00 or 7:30 if I’m lucky. And I woke up early and I’m not kidding you, it felt like Christmas morning. I mean as we mentioned, I’ve got a large family and I have a lot of small children. It is really hard to find time for myself and I realized that the most ideal, the best way to do this is to be to make time for myself before they wake up. And they typically wake up around 7:00 and we have a rule, they don’t, they can come down until 7:30 and so basically that’s 2 ½ hours that I get to develop for my personal growth and that was it for me, man. Like I’ll tell you this podcast is a result of my morning routine because; when you are taking care of yourself and you are just feeling awesome, just something magic happens where you want everyone else to feel great, you want everyone else to feel awesome and you want to help people, it’s incredible what happens.
Basically, I was driving to work one day, I was listening to music that day, after I listened to some podcasts and then the song fight for you came on by Morgan Page and then I realized that I’ve been putting, I fight for the users on my LinkedIn and my other social media preferences. I’ve been doing that for years before and it just finally those neural synapsis fired and those pathways connected where it’s like, this is what I need to do, I need to create something that can help designers. It’s my time to give back and so anyway, I attribute all that to my morning routine. I’m not kidding. It’s been huge for me.
The morning routine and by the way, John, John Maxwell, and I’m a quote sky, I love quotes John C Maxwell, a wonderful leadership author says “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily, the secret of your success is found in your daily routine”. So that’s been absolutely huge for me and the other thing that’s been huge for me is a growth mindset and I talk about this as much as possible because I feel like effort trumps talent any day because if we believe we can grow and we believe we can learn anything we really truly desire to, there is absolutely nothing that can stop us.
And I think about John McEnroe, he was a really grumpy tennis player who had a fixed mindset. Anytime he made a mistake, he threw his racket on the ground, broke it, he yelled at the ref or the judges, whatever it was, and he blamed everything else. But just his inability to actually want to try harder to want to put effort in and sadly, the Columbine kids they had fixed, she mentioned both of these cases that are book, Dr. Carol Dweck Growth Mindset Book. The Columbine kids sadly had fixed mindsets too and they were being sadly picked on by a lot of the other kids there and they didn’t believe they could ever change, they didn’t believe they could ever grow and come out of that. And that was a really terrible ending to that story.
But one of the things Dr. Carol Dweck says in her book, there’s another great quote I want to share and this kind of ties into the show as well. She says, “We like to think of our champions in idols as superheroes who were born different from us, we don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary”. I love that idea and that’s the whole idea of this show, why I like the superhero concept is because when you really dig into superheroes, like Bruce Wayne is a perfect example Justin. He’s just a dude, I mean of course he is a rich guy, that helps a lot too to get the cool stuff, but he’s just an ordinary guy, he’s got struggles; he’s got challenge, what a horrible backstory this guy had. He could have let what happened to him with and getting when his parents were being murdered in front of them.
He could have let that define him. He couldn’t let that define them in a way that’s totally negative to where he just says the victim and he doesn’t do anything to make things better, but he chose to do the opposite and actually make a difference and fight for good and to make a difference for his community. I guess that’s why I just love this idea that we can all be superheroes, all of us, if we have a growth mindset.
Justin: Absolutely, Jason! I mean tremendous way to the phrase that I mean you are incredibly well read. Like you said, you love to quote things, you guys have a quote at your fingertips and I want to riff on that for a second. If you could recommend one book to our listeners and I’m sure this can be a show onto itself, I’m sure you can have a podcast and books you would recommend, but kind of a challenging one, if you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would you pick there and why is it?
Jason: I’m going to cheat a little and I’m going to recommend three. Okay! Well, first of all, say the Bible for spiritual issues that has been my lifeline has been my light unto my feet, so much wisdom in there and especially in the proverbs. Ironically, there’s 31 proverbs and there’s 31 days in a month. So, reading a proverb a day is really been a great benefit for me. So that’s a good one. That one’s you know it’s on the bestseller list and to take it off because; it’s just like always on the bestseller list, but the mindset, as I just mentioned, for personal growth, I absolutely love the ideas in there, it changed my life because I realized that the only person stopping me is myself and that’s for all you Defenders listening to the only person stopping you from growing into whatever you would desire to do is yourself, so have that growth mindset.
And also lastly, ego’s the enemy for designers and I’m telling you that’s written by Ryan holiday. It may seem like an ironic choice for designers, but I will tell you, especially Defenders starting out my heart is especially for younger designers, newer designers starting out, trying to navigate this ever evolving field as we talk about. If the first tendency when you make a mistake is to blame and I’m telling this from experience because; that was when you grew up, when you’re starting out, you want to have the imposter syndrome is pretty strong. The tendency to blame, the tendency to kind of pass the buck is very strong and it has to do with ego, is rooted in ego and the things you design, it’s easier to fall in love with those things.
So, I just want to say like any designer starting, I really recommend that book, it really puts things into perspective of like our ego is holding us back and it’s not realistic. It’s not a realistic portrait, especially for growth. So, Ryan holiday does a really good job of explaining all of that and in that book and I want to also, this is kind of a little shameless plug here. Audible is a partner of the show and I have a link Defenders listening. If you’re not an audible subscriber yet, you can get the other two books. I don’t think the Bible is on there, but you can get the mindset and ego is the enemy for free if you go userdefenders.com/freebook and I get 15 bucks for that. So, that’s kind of a win-win and it helps the show and it helps you so I would love it if you’d take advantage of that, but that would be my answer to that, Justin.
Justin: Riffing on that chase, there’s a lot of clear takeaways from those people, those authors, their lives, and their careers. For you personally, what is your advice for aspiring UX superheroes? You kind of said it before, the huge opportunity here for listeners right now to become the next superhero in any way you could think in product design, UX design, visual design, what have you, what is your advice as a very broad question I realize for aspiring UX superheroes?
Jason: Absolutely! This is one of my favorite questions actually and I mentioned that a lot when I ask, when I ask my guests this question and it’s really, it’s to be thankful. I mean that’s one of them is be thankful, respond to people that reach out to you. Like I can’t tell you how often, like there’s been a number of times we’re all reached out to somebody who is maybe even like a web celebrity type of person to be a guest on the show or just to tell them like, ‘’hey, you know, I admire your work and then to never like care back, never get a reply or even a thank you’’, like that’s not cool. I think there’s some pride and some ego in there and I think that’s not the way to kind of continue to grow and is it, are you too busy to be thankful or you’re too busy to even give a simple reply? I don’t think so. And so I would say like first and foremost, be thankful, practice gratitude and attitude of gratitude that will take you a long way. And I say that today, higher attitude is probably the best soft skill you can have in trying to get work in this field.
I would say just try to keep a good attitude when you’re trying to get work because you can always grow when you have a growth mindset. You can always learn skills but if you’re a jerk, nobody wants to be in the same building with you, let alone even receive emails from you, if you’re remote. So, I’d say that is a big one there, Humility as well. Stay curious. Design is about people. If we’re not curious about people, we’re limiting the boundaries of our design superpowers. Become like children, that may sound weird, but I have a four year old daughter who asks so many questions and it can be somewhat frustrating at times, but I’ll tell you, when I look at the big picture, I’m inspired by my daughter and her name is Emory and she’s always asking me questions and she’ll even say, Daddy, I have a good question. She want to say Daddy, I have a question. So she say, Daddy, I have a good question.
One of those was she asked me, Daddy, why do we drink our spit? And so I said, well honey, that’s a really great question, and I said it’s because it has nowhere else to go. And then the other day, she asked if she was looking, she was probably about five inches away from my eyes and she’s like, Daddy, are those seeds in your eyes? Like, just random
Endless curiosity! Absolutely! So, I’m inspired and if you have kids or even if you don’t just try to become, you know, like children in that way. I think it’s so inspiring and ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer. And again, that’s kind of one of those areas when we’re newer designers, it’s easier to kind of fall into like, I don’t want to be exposed, I don’t want to be found out.
No, it just takes that high road of humility and be willing to be vulnerable and transparency. You know what I really don’t know, but I’d love to find out. Use that growth mindset and say, I’d love to find out the answer to that. So, ask a lot of questions. Dan Brown, I can’t remember what episode he was on, but great interview and he asked his superpower was the question and I love that, that was really great to me to hear that because we can learn so much, especially in this work if we just ask questions.
A couple more, but fight for the users as we talked about and design every experience like it’s your last because you know what it just might be.
Justin: Right! I think being endlessly and restlessly curious, you know, if we’re in a workshop or kicking off a project and there’s levels of implied or hierarchical or chart based in your room and as someone sea level you know SVP what-have-you, is saying something that you feel is presumptuous or has subjectivity interlace into it or is off base in any capacity. It’s our responsibility as people in this industry, let’s say to be endlessly and restlessly curious and to ask, just ask why.
Well, Jason, I and certainly your users, once this is a in hand or in phone or in your bud, have found this dialog to be absolutely fascinating and informative journey, really on the man behind the podcast that’s really come and say this with no pandering whatsoever, it’s really become a jewel of our industry, User Defenders as a staple my own podcast list and is served as oral coffee for my ear buds on many a morning commute. This opportunity to talk to you today and to put your own story and knowledge and advice and background before the Users I couldn’t be more thankful for this. And I found this personally very rewarding. And again, thank you for the opportunity
Jason: Well, Justin and I thank you, first of all for that super generous word.
I can’t tell you how much that means to me and I said it before. I’ll say it again. I couldn’t think of anyone better to do this with me and I’m so thankful you took the time and thanks for all the value you added to my answers. So, I feel like you know were kind of brothers from another mother and so it was super fun and super enlightening and I’m just so grateful.
Justin: Thanks again, brother. In keeping tradition, let me close with this, fight on my friend.
Jason: Thanks pal, you too.
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