“What if?” and the Successful Business Owner


Convoluted pathIn an interview with Peter Stemmler, A successful German-born illustrator, author Adrian Shaughnessy* asked, “If you were starting your career over again, what would you do differently?”

His response: “…Maybe I’d get a good office chair right away…don’t save on the monitor—get a good one; go to work on a bicycle; do some kind of sport like running; don’t work every weekend; drink your coffee with sugar then you don’t have to eat all those candy bars; get a cell phone….”

So, in other words, he’d only change the small stuff. But when it comes to his career path—his previous work as a wedding and portrait photographer, his degree in Political Science, his internships as a designer and art director before he “accidentally” fell into his career as an illustrator—he wouldn’t change a thing.

I think my answer might be similar to Mr. Stemmler’s response. It’s my convoluted path to business owner and creative professional that makes me most qualified to do my work.

Case in point: in college I majored in Psychology and minored in Music and Biology. While music kept me rooted in the arts, Psychology and Biology led me to develop my analytical side. A PhD program in Neuroscience led me to find my way to developing new exhibits at the Science Museum of Minnesota. There, I learned to write and design for a target audience, and became resourceful in assembling a team of professionals—science advisors, exhibit builders, graphic designers, editors, programmers, marketing professionals, and museum leaders—to achieve the common goal of creating and promoting a successful traveling exhibition. Along the way, I fell in love with graphic design and enrolled in and completed a college program in Graphic Design and Visual Communication.

Would a straight path to becoming a graphic designer have been simpler? Absolutely. Would I give up the experience and education I received as the result of my convoluted path? Never.

The fact is, most of the business owners we work with here at Mix are in their second or third careers; they’re former executives, financial planners, furniture sales people, scientists, and corporate climbers. And now they’re seasoned business owners, growing their businesses and clientele year after year while following their passions.

What do they have in common? They don’t waste time asking “What if?”. Instead, they’re asking themselves, “What have I learned?” and are leveraging their experience and education to create new product lines, bring on new team members, and launch targeted, innovative marketing campaigns.

And so I suggest, the stronger alternative for the business owner to “What if” just might be: “Given your experience and education, what will you do next?” With the ambition and the right team, the possibilities may seem limitless.

*Adrian Shaughnessy is the author of “How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul.”

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