Today, I am 25. It sounds odd to say out loud, for I feel much older. I grew up fast. The oldest of 12, I acquired responsibilities quickly.
People say I married young, at age 21. Nearly four years later, I can say it was the single best decision I ever made. My wife is as incredible as she is beautiful and has supported me in everything I’ve done. We met at ages 15 and 13 respectively and were married six years later. Since we’ve known each other, I’ve always worked for myself. It takes a special bond and an uncanny amount of trust and maturity to brave the uncertain seas of self-employment together as a couple. Those of you who are self-employed or have spouses that are know what I mean. I am exceedingly grateful for her.
The past ten years have been comprised of entrepreneurial ventures. After starting several businesses—one I sold, another hibernated—my fascination for business continues to grow. I now make my living at a niche pursuit through the many facets of the seanwes brand.
As I’ve learned the value of stealing your education and developing a diversified set of skills, I’ve also begun to grasp the importance of delegation. Putting forth the effort to learn and do the necessary things to grow a business (even and especially when they aren’t my favorite) has allowed me to scale things to the point where I can appoint those tasks to other people who specialize in them.
As I grow in these pursuits, I’ve found much joy in sharing the things I’m learning as I learn them. This year, I made the significant commitment of producing a podcast to share these things. In addition to this twice-a-week show, I also completely phased out of client work this year to produce a number of courses that teach lettering. I’m working on building out a community forum, regularly scheduled live hangouts, and more that will allow for much deeper engagement on the many topics of design professionalism and business that we discuss on the podcast.
These new developments will be launching relatively soon in the coming months. The Community is now public and thriving!
What I’ve Learned
The past few years have been a whirlwind. So much has happened. So much has changed. I thought about listing a number of things in bullet points, and then I realized I’ve already lettered most of them!
I view lettering as a form of voice. I use it to speak the things I want to say. When I have a thought, I write it down and log it away for later. When I’m feeling inspired to create, I reference this list of thoughts and letter them.
What follows are things I’ve learned, in lettering form, along with brief commentary.
1. Learn & Never Quit
The older I get, the more I observe I have to learn, and that excites me greatly. We should never arrive at a place where we’re no longer learning. It is a life-long effort.
If you aspire to one thing, let it be learning to learn. When you love to learn, nothing is unattainable for you.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) March 2, 2014
2. Be Driven
There are enough articles with hacks on being productive to fill an ocean. I’ve contributed my fair share of those tips. But the cold, hard truth is that it comes down to a choice to be driven. All else flows from that.
3. Make Things, Not Excuses
If you look for reasons why you can’t do something, you will find them. Leave excuses to the lazy. That’s not you.
4. You Have to Say No to a Lot of Good Things…
…In Order to Be Able to Say Yes to a Lot of Great Things. This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned. Freedom comes from saying no. It’s hard at first, but with time you will gain more control over your life. Saying “no” is a practice.
5. Tools Do Not a Craftsman Make
“What pens do you use?” “Where do you get your tools?” I hear these questions a lot. It’s understandable. We’re all susceptible to thinking that if we only had the magic device, we could create like the person we look up to. But a tool is a tool. True craftsmen are such with or without them.
Medium and instruments aren't as important as the techniques. Give a true artist some crayons and you still won't be able to limit him.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) January 24, 2012
6. You Are More Than What You Do
“What do you do?” This is a common question we get. Our response is often so frequently repeated and knee-jerk that we get our identity wrapped up in our profession. But if this is the case, what happens when the job is suddenly taken from us? Who are we then? It’s important to separate ourselves from our vocation in this manner.
How much more intriguing and meaningful would our conversations be if instead of asking “What do you do?” we asked “What do you live for?”
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) August 27, 2013
7. Press On
If you really want to know whether you’re passionate about something, keep pushing through the opposition.
8. Endurance is the Price Tag of Achievement
You won’t know whether or not you love something until you’re on the other side of resistance.
9. Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
In contrast to the two previous pieces, sometimes you really do deserve a break. As a chronic creator and perfectionist, I need this reminder especially.
10. Focus On What Matters
It’s easy to get caught up in the superfluous. Take a step back and evaluate the important things in your life (Hint: they’re usually not things).
11. Giving is the Best Way to be Fulfilled
You know what feels great? Getting things. You know what feels even better? Giving things.
12. Inspiration is Everywhere
You don’t have to look far, you just have to look for it.
13. Do What Makes You Come Alive
When you start with money, you give it the power to dictate what you do with your life. Start with the passion. Start with the doing.
The drive comes from the passion. And the passion is only found in the doing. And doing is something that is *done*, not just thought about.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) November 19, 2013
14. Build Things You Enjoy
When you enjoy what you make, so will others enjoy it.
Instead of building things that cater to what you think other people want, build what you want and the right audience will present itself.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) June 27, 2013
15. What Are You Not Doing?
It’s a matter of priority.
I can’t stress enough that you need recharge time. It’s not uncommon for me to work 12–16 hour days regularly. I feel like I’m getting a million things done, but at what long term cost? Take time to recharge.
17. You Will Never Influence the World By Trying to Be Like It
We need people who are not afraid to be different. All advancement requires it. Don’t worry about what other people think. It’s time to take a stand.
18. Those Who Are Doing Things You Admire…
We all have the same allotment of time. What are you doing with yours?
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. If someone else seems to be accomplishing more than you, they’re sacrificing more than you.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) October 1, 2013
19. Deliberate Practice
Practice is good, but purposeful practice is better. Practicing deliberately is what will produce tangible results rather than mere passive improvement. Learn to set clear objectives to help squeeze more productive juice out of the time you already spend practicing.
20. Start That Thing You’ve Been Putting Off Today
You know what I’m talking about.
21. Make More Things This Year
This is my annual aspiration.
22. Life is Happening Outside Your Screens
We get so caught up in this digital world. Look around every once in awhile. Don’t miss life.
23. Practice Makes Perfect
There are no shortcuts. There are no shortcuts. There are no shortcuts.
You can read tutorials all day, but you’ll only improve by doing.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) February 18, 2014
24. Make Your Own Luck
I’m tired of hearing excuses. We all have different starting points. Hard work always wins.
If people spent the same energy they used comparing & complaining about their disadvantages on something meaningful, they’d be so far ahead.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) October 2, 2013
25. Ampersand Lifestyle
My motto: Create. Enjoy Life. Make Things. Be Passionate. Dream Big.
In the coming months, I will be launching a whole new section to my website, Learn Lettering. The resources I release will mark my career shift toward teaching. While I’ve already initiated this transition by phasing out client work and producing the podcast, the upcoming launch is what will officially cement this directional change in my mind.
Beyond the launch of Learn Lettering, I have a few speaking engagements and workshops in the coming year, and intend to do even more teaching, speaking, writing, and podcasting. In the next couple years, I plan to write at least two books. I know many people say that, but with you as my witness, I’m purposing to do so.
Update: True to my word, I’m now beginning to write my first book, The Overlap Technique, and am setting aside 3 months to do it. Subscribe below to get it!
Here’s to the next 5 years!