A Personal Design Manifesto

1. Go Where You Are Needed.
2. Recognize Tradeoffs.
3. Welcome to a No Hero Culture.
4. Purposefully & Deliberately Expand Your World.
5. Multidisciplinary Approaches are Mandatory.
6. Know Yourself.
7. Know Your Tools.
8. Master Basic Skills.
9. If It’s Lazy, Don’t Even Bother.
10. Consider Scale and Legacy.
11. Take An Oath: As Little Harm as Possible.
12. Don’t Work for Assholes.
13. Self-Care is the Foundation.
14. Make Money.
15. Own Your Power.
16. Don’t Play It Safe.

Now, choose your own adventure: Scroll to a section that interests you or read all the way through.

If you start walking the way, the way appears. — Rumi

I’m inexplicably drawn to the places where design has been overlooked, cast off and undervalued. In my ten-year career, this has led me to small non-profits, state and federal government and international development. I’m not an early adopter, and I’m not cool. I have no interest in the slick, commercial side of design. I have no judgement for people that work in this arena, it’s just not enticing to me. Through my own preferences, I’ve limited myself to work within the spaces of policy, charity and development.

What these often bureaucratic and underfunded environments have given me are constraints; constraints that deal with budgets, red tape and poor technology infrastructure. These are the spaces that excite me most. It’s not a space for everyone, but it’s my space. It’s where I thrive.

When Marie Hallander-Larsson became HR Director of the Swedish Post Office, she printed out all the rules and regulations that could be found on the Intranet and which a new employee was expected to read. The pile of paper was 1.7 metres high. — Fredrik Haren, The Developing World

I frequently respond to emails and talk one-on-one with people who want to work in the design impact space. My least favorite person to talk to is the one who is demanding to know what career opportunities will be available to them and what their salaries will be after transitioning to the field. If you value predictability, safety, security and a golden ticket — this type of work might not be the best fit for your personality. There are no guarantees that working for humanity pays well or rewards you — especially in traditional ways.

If you haven’t figured it out already, spoiler alert: there is no social impact design field. There are only jobs that align with your values or not, and that definition is entirely up to you.

There are no clients for these problems. Who is the client for climate change, except perhaps the entire human race? Clients purport to exist for many of these problems; sometimes too many clients, even, which is a different kind of problem. — Dan Hill, Dark Matter

Working on value-driven projects can be immensely rewarding, but there are also aspect you’re sacrificing by taking on this type of work.

· You’ll likely feel like an outsider to the traditional design community, even if you’re armed with an MFA. If you’re family doesn’t understand what you do, you can shrug it off. But when someone at your local AIGA meetup doesn’t quite understand what you do, that can feel like a real blow. You can start to question what you are doing and if you’re a designer at all.

· You’ll feel a pull to want to improve your skills and mastery, but unsure how to make this happen in an environment that might not really understand why design is valuable.

· You might not even have a design related title on your business card. You might not even have a business card because the organization you work for is scrappy.

· You fear you’ll never be able to find a traditional design job — not that you’re looking for that, but still, it’s nagging and persistent.

· Because you’re going to the places that need you most, you likely won’t be working with a traditional design team or even with other designers.

· You might have to travel for weeks at a time because the research phase of design is what excites you most. Consider this your warning if you are interested in design research.

Fears, desires and doubts are normal. Every opportunity and decision has an opportunity cost — something to be sacrificed at the expense of something else. There are tradeoffs to working as a social impact designer. There are also benefits. But let’s focus on the tradeoffs for now.

Be honest with yourself about your priorities. What is important to you? Why this particular job? Why now? Know your priorities, and know that your priorities can change.

It is common today to locate one’s “true self” in one’s leisure choices. Accordingly, good work is taken to be work that maximizes one’s means for pursuing these other activities, where life becomes meaningful. The mortgage broker works hard all year, then he goes and climbs Mount Everest. The exaggerated psychic content of his summer vacation sustains him through the fall, winter, and spring. The Sherpas seem to understand their role in this drama as they discreetly facilitate his need for an unencumbered, solo confrontation with unyielding Reality. There is a disconnect between his work life and his leisure life; in the one he accumulates money and in the other he accumulates psychic nourishment. Each part depends on and enables the other, but does so in the manner of a transaction between sub-selves, rather than as the intelligibly linked parts of a coherent life. — Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft

You have signed up so a job that lets you lead with your values, and this is enough. Don’t expect to be a hero. The work you do is a privilege, not necessarily a platform.

Surprised?

Yes, you’ll see people who use social entrepreneurship as a platform to further themselves and a curate a cult of personality. You’ll also see incredible social entrepreneurs who walk the walk and deserve a spotlight (Erik Hersman, I’m looking at you.); some deserving people choose to stand in the limelight, others don’t.

Do not pursue social impact design because you need attention. Complex, systemic problems are not solved by one person. They never have and they never will be. Don’t buy into the simplification of one solution or one person having all the answers. You know better. Resist the urge to always be a leader, always have all the answers.

Hero culture has become a problem in our profession. There are designers who are treated like celebrities by other designers. You see the same faces on stage at conferences, starring as guests in podcasts and peddling their latest books. My guess is there are some designers who talk a lot more about design than they actually practice. Personally, I’m tired of seeing the same designers everywhere. There are thousands of designers who can and must be part of the conversation. If you have a platform, invite them.

I don’t think hero culture it will ever go away, but I do have an antidote — creating a culture that is grounded in community.

Your experiences matter.

For John Dewey experience was at the root of all learning: ‘Every experience should do something to prepare a person for later experiences of a deeper and more expansive quality,’ he wrote. ‘That is the very meaning of growth, continuity, reconstruction of experience.’ — Pradeep Sharma, The Art of Critical Making

We use research, primarily ethnographic research, to help build the foundation for design-driven interventions. But it’s impossible for us to see, translate, explore and probe what we don’t understand. And there is a tension because nuance is key to discovery. It’s critical to every project you work on. Therefore, you must do everything you can to purposely and deliberately expand your worldview.

The design planner and teacher Hugh Dubberly has suggested that ‘seeing patterns, making connections, and understanding relationships’ are in fact the essence of design. Yet few designers would see that their design challenge is to understand, and often reorient, those relationships. — Dan Hill, Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary

Don’t assume you will work to develop cultural intelligence, as opposed to cultural knowledge, everywhere you go. That’s impractical and impossible. But make sure that you build cultural intelligence into every aspect of your project and your team.

I have met many industrial designers from different parts of the globe. One I met in Delhi had studied in India and Europe. “I know that a Frenchman has wine in his fridge, but he doesn’t know what I keep in mine,” she told me. “This means that I can design fridges for the French, but they can’t design one for me. — Fredrik Haren, The Developing World

Who you invite to the table matters. It is the most important decision you can make.

When I boarded a flight to Kabul in February 2012, I was heading to work as a project manager for an Afghan-owned media agency. The agency employed about 50 total employees, 10 were expats and 40 were Afghans. I worked with Afghans all day long. The agency even employed a cultural advisor, to ensure that all the work we produced was infused with cultural intelligence.

When I arrived, I loved my job. The disillusionment crept in slowly.

I was managing a media campaign focused on anti-poppy farming messaging, and it had run into several problems. There was a sand storm that blew down our billboards. The sound for one of the TV clips we produced was not up to professional standards, but there was an urgent broadcasting deadline. It had to air and yet it had to be fixed. The banners and signs posted in major cities had been taken down before the Naw Ruz (New Year) celebrations had even started.

But most frustrating of all were the tchotchkes. As part of the campaign someone had to hand out stickers and keychains with our campaign slogan. This could have been a requirement of the request for proposal (RFP) or it could have been thought up as a tactic that would separate our agency’s bid from someone else’s. At first I thought it seemed cheesy, but when I saw the monitoring and evaluation, report I was dumbfounded. The report contained two pictures of cars with some stickers slapped haphazardly on the windshield. There weren’t even people in the photos. The photo was sent to check off a box to fulfill a report. It didn’t appear that the stickers or keychains were even distributed as planned, even though I was under no illusion that this would make any difference to the so-called success of the campaign.

There has been much written about the failures of investment in Afghanistan, but when I look at the small slice of work that I was involved in over a year, I can’t feign surprise. The campaign, as far as I knew, wasn’t connected to any real policy strategies that would help farmers transition to different crops or offer subsidies to make up for the extreme difference in crop prices. Our agency was never briefed by our client on their other work in counter narcotics. We never talked with our peers about how to raise standards and creating meaningful evaluation of our work. We blindly responded to RFPs. Our company did not overly invest in training and development for local staff or up-to-date equipment, so we had to deal with technical problems.

Our world is complex. We cannot escape the systems we are a part of, and we can often not anticipate the consequences of intervention. But what we must do is take a multidisciplinary and systemic approach to our work.

What still surprises me about this project is that it happened in the sphere of development where diverse subject matter experts abound. Professionals in development often have a narrow slice of deep knowledge — whether it’s gender equality, youth development, public health and immunizations, economic markets or environmental impact. But none of these people were at the table throughout the whole project, from policy to execution. If a group of experts could not be corralled to come together on an issue and an approach, is it a surprise that we never once talked to someone who was farming poppy?

Strive to construct two types of networks: deep ones composed of experts and specialists, and wide ones uniting a broad range of people who may have little in common. Each network delivers different value. — Christopher Ireland and Maria Guidice, The Rise of the DEO

When you seek out projects and job opportunities, you must ensure other disciplines, skills and domains of expertise are included. Designers cannot and will not save the world. We live on a planet made up of complex systems, relationships and intricacies. If you are working on an impact project, but your team is only made up of designers, technologists and expats, STOP. This is a HUGE red flag.

Let Afghanistan be a lesson.

Knowing yourself meanings knowing your biases, weaknesses and shortcomings. This is a hard place to shine a light.

How do you begin this messy work?

You surround yourself with people you trust and people who are strong where you are weak. You go to therapy or church or mindfulness. You do something to get out of your own head. You give and get 360 degree feedback from your peers and colleagues. You learn what you do to numb down the emotions when life gets uncomfortable — whether it’s eating or drinking too much, staying too busy, shopping to take the edge off, and on and on. You do the self-development work, even when no one is giving you a pat on the back. This is work that never stops. This is the work that forces you to grow, feels messy and unresolvable, but is undoubtedly worth it. Rinse and repeat.

Four Common Mistakes That Help You Hide
1. Busy is the same as brave.
2. A mentor is going to change your life.
3. Waiting to get picked is the next step.
4. There is a secret, and you will soon learn it.
- Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
Technology is the answer. But what is the question? — Cedric Price

Technology is not always the answer. But understanding technology, its limits and its advantages must always be at the forefront of a designer’s mind.

Richard Sennett, in his book The Craftsman, describes what happens when CAD, computer-assisted design software, is misused by architects. Because CAD can render 3D images of buildings and objects, an architect could easily design a building without ever leaving her own office. Sennet believes that the weakness of CAD is that it can hide problems that a designer needs to confront. The Peachtree Center is Sennet’s siren song for what can happen when our tools purposely hide complexity.

In plan, the Peachtree Center populates the streets with well-designed sidewalk cafes. Yet the plan has not actually engaged with the intense Georgia heat: the outdoor seats of the cafes are in fact empty from late morning to late afternoon much of the year. Simulation is an imperfect substitute for accounting the sensation of light, wind, and heat on site. The designers would perhaps have done better to sit unprotected in the midday Georgia sun for an hour before going to work each day; physical discomfort would have made them see better. The large issue here is that simulation can be a poor substitute for tactile experience.

Knowing your tools — and especially the limitations of your tools matters. There has been a call for all designers to learn to code, but this advice is misleading. Learning a new and difficult skill should be applauded and we certainly need designers who code and developers who design. What’s missing in the broader conversation is the call to action for designers to understand is how their tools work and the potential pitfalls and limitations of their tools. This is my call to action: know your tools.

Everyone should learn to code. Not because we have a tremendous shortage of people who can produce things in [insert the name of your favorite hot programming language here] but because once you know how to make something, it changes how you see things. Once you know how to set lead type, typography looks different. Once you know how to assemble an electronic device, every computer seems a bit less mysterious. Once you know how to give a speech, you see things in the speeches others give. — Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

This is especially critical as we work on computers. In his book, You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier describes the process of lock-in that occurs during the design of technical systems. The process of lock-in starts when software needs to integrate with other software. To make software play well with others, decisions about how to accomplish this goal are typically based on existing infrastructure and design and technology, even if there are better and more elegant solutions. It’s easier to build around what already exists. He writes that lock-in “removes design options based on what is easiest to program, what is politically feasible, what is fashionable or what is created by chance.” The problem with lock-in is that we narrow our focus of what is possible and how things should work before they have the chance to truly be explored. “Lock-in turns philosophy into reality,” Lanier writes, and then, “entrenched software philosophies become invisible through ubiquity.”

An even deeper locked-in idea is the notion of the file. Once upon a time, not too long ago, plenty of computer scientists thought the idea of the file was not so great. The first design for something like the World Wide Web, Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, conceived of one giant, global file, for instance. The first iteration of the Macintosh, which never shipped, didn’t have files. Instead, the whole of a user’s productivity accumulated in one big structure, sort of like a singular personal web page…Files are now a part of life; we teach the idea of a file to computer science students as if it were part of nature. In fact, our conception of files may be more persistent than our ideas about nature. I can imagine that someday physicists might tell us that it is time to stop believing in photons, because they have discovered a better way to think about light — but the file will likely live on. — Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget

If more designers can speak the language of programing, or maybe more importantly develop a philosophy about their tools, lock-in won’t be shaped by one type of professional or forgotten. Possibility still has a chance. If we want to remake, recreate and reshape our world, we must first understand our tools. [Hat tip to Douglass Rushkoff.]

Social impact designers are valuable because they are generalists. We can just as easily conduct ethnographic research as we can facilitate a workshop. These skills are valuable and critical to doing impactful work.

That said, you cannot call yourself a designer if you don’t know how to visualize an idea. Fashion, architecture, furniture design, metalsmithing and digital media all different disciplines are grounded in the ability to visualize in order to create to create something new.

It’s misleading to call yourself a designer if you don’t have visualization skills. If you call yourself a designer but you don’t know your tools, or even worse, why visualization is important, that’s a problem. You do not have the skills you need. Your strengths might not be in traditional design competencies. But don’t dismiss these skills.

If you’re feeling insecure, there is an easy solution to this problem. Go back and get the basic skills and training you need. You cannot work as a design professional without a foundation in design. It doesn’t have to be a formal degree or come with applause or credit. Do the work and gain the skills to properly credit the profession you represent.

Don’t be lazy — it will show through in your work, guaranteed. I’m overwhelmed (or maybe underwhelmed?) by the enormous amount of social impact design that is put forward that is lazy in its breadth, understanding and possibility.

Take for example, the toolkit. They’re a lazy form of social impact design. Leave the toolkits to the businesses trying to lure in clients — that’s what they were made to do. IDEO, Microsoft and IBM are all putting out popular toolkits on topics that are interesting. Sure they may have some useful tidbits or ideas, but their toolkits are marketing materials.

If your idea of social impact design is to create a toolkit, you are doing a disservice by limiting what people think social design is and can be. You also have an unrealistic understanding of your audience. Do you think nurses in Kenya are going to read your toolkit, let alone use it? What about recent immigrants who have questions about enrolling their children in school? They are not reading, using or thinking that toolkits have the answers to their problems. You shouldn’t either.

I’m picking on the toolkit because it’s ubiquitous and I don’t see anyone else speaking up about how the toolkit is the social designer’s version of a white paper. But there are other lazy forms of design and activism out there. Don’t fall prey.

A hashtag is not helping. ‪#‎yesallwomen ‪#‎takebackthenight ‪#‎notallmen ‪#‎bringbackourgirls ‪#‎StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething. Hashtags are very pretty on twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing into your computer and then going back to binge watching your favorite show. — Shonda Rhimes in a commencement address at Dartmouth College

Doctors have the Hippocratic Oath. Lawyers undertake an oath, or sometimes multiple oaths, based on where they are admitted to the bar. Even federal government employees swear to the U.S. Constitution on their first day of employment. Designers are also professionals, but even though esteemed designers and professional organizations have proposed their own codes, no one talks about them and they feel dated. Why?

Designers in the social impact space should also take an oath to do no harm. I’m not proposing a one-size fits all set of values for you to agree to. In fact, this document is the foundation for my own personal oath.

I’m asking you — as someone who wants to be in this space — what you’ll do when you approach the murky, unclear gray areas in your own work. It’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when.

Recently, I worked I worked for a for-profit company that is bringing privatized education to developing countries. The company is using technology, i.e. tablets with curriculum, and economies of scale, i.e. trying to create a sizable business in order to bring down costs, to bring education to the last mile. I strongly believe that education is the world’s greatest equalizer. I care about this cause, but the company’s concept is controversial.

Is it OK that the school charges money for uniforms and requires students to wear them? How does this question change when you operate as a for-profit and know that parents more highly respect schools that require a uniform and wouldn’t pay money to send their children to a school without a uniform?

The company I worked for is part of a pilot project to test the impact of school privatization. I conducted ethnographic research to figure out how to best introduce the privatized school concept to parents. While neighborhoods had a collective choice of whether or not to participate in the pilot program, what if what if this country’s government decides to privatize its entire school system? What role have I played in this? I believe my former employer is doing good and trying to fill an enormous need, let me be clear. But how do I know the implications down the road? Who loses in this game of privatization?

We are often told that ideas — breakthroughs, even — happen when ideas from one domain are transferred to another. Bestselling business books, like Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From and IDEO’s Ten Faces of Innovation, all promote the idea that great ideas come from cross-pollination. IDEO hires for what they call T-Shaped people, those with both depth and breadth. And this depth or the idea of cross-pollination is alluring. In fact, I believe in this, too. But all of the antidotes in these books have a happy ending, a lucky accident.

What happens when we’re not so lucky? What is the impact of ideas — and even more so, policies — that fail? What do we do when we work on projects that bring up ethical questions? It’s impossible to predict every outcome and possibility — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. A tool for designers to do as little harm as possible is to understand systems.

Donella Meadows, an expert in systems thinking, believes that some of the most complex, gripping and unsolvable problems we face globally are a result of system failures. Solutions proposed by designers, policy makers and those trying to do good often only address a narrow slice of the problem, which could result in many ways — from not addressing the root cause of the problem to causing unintended and even more serious consequences.

A tool for understanding systems is called systems thinking. Peter Senge, in his book The 5th Discipline, describes systems thinking as: “A way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems. This discipline helps us to see how to change systems more effectively, and to act more in tune with the natural processes of the natural and economic world.

At the very least, in the social impact space you have to understand the difference between development and charity. They are two very different systems, with different approaches, models and expected outcomes. Don’t expect a charitable solution to contribute to development that’s resilient. Don’t expect development to flourish through unsustainable giving programs.

‘If you put in enough resources — enough muzungu [foreigners], technical assistance, and money — lives change. I know that. I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve lived and worked on, and managed development projects.’
A senior officer with Britain’s Department for International Development (DIFID), Bland has spent thirty years working in the field of development. He’d run DIFID’s offices in Russia, in Ukraine, in Somalia, and in Kenya, implementing and overseeing countless development projects in some of the world’s poorest places. Now he was trying to decide whether DIFID should back Jeffrey Sachs and his Millennium Villages Project. His main concern was ‘sustainability’; what would happen when funding for the Millennium Villages ran out?
Broken water pumps, half-finished health care clinics, abandoned housing blocks, roads that lead to nowhere, dams that have collapsed — Africa is strewn with the remains of well-meaning development projects, Bland pointed out.
‘The problem is,’ he said, ‘when you walk away what happens? Who will fill the pot holes and mend the pipes and pit latrines. Who will buy fuel and spare parts for the generators? Who will pay Dr. Buhamizo’s salary? — Nina Munk, The Idealist: Jeffery Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty

This needs no further explanation.

There is a misconception that self-care is pampering. For me, self-care is composed of the practices, chores and errands that I don’t want to bother with, but always make me feel better. These are the things that make me an adult.

I ask myself: Have I gone to the grocery store? Do I have ingredients in the refrigerator for a quick and healthy meal? Are my favorite clothes clean? Have I gotten a good night’s sleep? Do I have enough down time this week? Am I prioritizing the relationships that matter most? Do I have anything I’m looking forward to on my calendar? Have I moved my body today?

How does self-care relate to design? If you have a job that requires you to continually sacrifice your self-care, that doesn’t allow you the time off to take a mental and physical break, you will come to resent your job, and potentially the choices you’ve made throughout your career.

The last thing that the social impact space needs is people who are burned out, resentful and not able to show up for themselves. Make yourself a priority. Create the time, clear the space and put yourself first. It’s not optional.

I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias. We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do. — Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Making money is a form of self-care. Money allows for choices and choices can grant freedom.

I have actively been thinking about negotiation and money since my first adult job. At 23 years-old, I was offered a job with an organization that encouraged and supported female entrepreneurs. I was thrilled. I knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit, and this job seemed like the perfect fit. Until they gave me an offer letter. The proposed salary was less than $20,000 for a full-time job in Chicago. I was planning on living at home to get on my feet, but I knew this offer was unreasonable. Why have a mission to promote economic independence for women and yet offer your employees a salary that does the exact opposite? I knew their values were out of alignment with mine, and I turned down the job. It took me five months to get another job offer (which was not in the social impact space). My offer letter was for $51,000 as a starting salary. $63,000 if you included the benefits. I was the exact same person with the exact same skill set. I was stunned.

Most of our interactions with others are essentially a series of negotiations, and we do ourselves a huge disservice by not knowing the basic tenets. — Tina Seelig, What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

When I started working in federal government, I naively assumed that government jobs do not pay well. This is an incorrect assumption. Government needs certain skills sets and must compete with the private sector. I knew there was a pay scale, but I didn’t know how it worked. I knew I had to negotiate, but I didn’t know how it would be possible.

When I joined the federal government, I naively assumed that because I was joining a system with a pay scale, systematic yearly reviews and that I was joining a team whose leadership was all female, that I would be paid fairly. When I received my offer letter, I was disappointed. I tried to negotiate, but it went nowhere. I guessed that maybe government jobs didn’t pay as well as the private sector. Still, I thought the job was the best move for me, so I took the position. Just months in, it occurred to me that the Senior Designer on our team had nearly the same credentials on paper. We had both earned MFAs from prestigious design schools in New York, we were roughly the same age and had the same number of years of work experience. I earned $30,000 less per-year, didn’t have seniority or an enviable title.

You can’t un-know a number. I started comparing everything. The resentment built. I talked to my boss who promised a raise, but it was clear that the pay system that promised equality was now trapping me. I ended up switching jobs twice in one-year to get the pay bump to a better than average salary. Meanwhile, my old colleague has been promoted internally and is considered part of the leadership team where we once both worked. Lesson learned.

Money matters. Titles matter. Getting a seat at the table matters. You don’t give these things up just because you decided to work for a cause. The more benefits you have, the larger the dent you can make in the world.

As an aspiring or practicing designer, first acknowledge this: You are privileged.

Yes, aesthetics are important no matter where you are on the social hierarchy, but design has evolved as a means of differentiation. You are living in a world of more than enough if you are employed a designer.

You are choosing to work in a social impact space, but that means you have to deal with a different type of privilege — power and access to resources.

In Afghanistan, I ate dinner at Ashraf Ghani’s house. He has since become the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I received this generous invitation through Chris Anderson , whose foundation owns the TED Conferences. I have been driven around in my boss’s Bentley in Dubai. I have had access to wealth, power and prestige abroad that I had never had exposure to at home.

I have also seen the exact opposite. Those with no property, no jobs and no way out. I don’t want to promote poverty porn, so I’ll stop there.

I have had to learn to live in a world where extreme privilege and extreme poverty coexist. To do this, I’ve had to keep humility as my constant companion. I own the fact that I do miss the privilege, wealth and opportunities afforded to me as an expat. I’m still the 1%, even if I’m not in the company of titans or my bank account says otherwise.

You can’t accurately see until you abandon your worldview. Your worldview is incredibly useful in everyday life — it’s the set of assumptions, biases, and beliefs you bring to the interactions you have with the world, and it saves a lot of time. Because you don’t have to come to new conclusions after each interaction, it’s easier to process familiar inputs and easier to be consistent. But your worldview, by its nature, keeps you from seeing the world as it is. A lifetime spent noticing begins to turn into the ability to see what others can’t. — Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

And lastly, but importantly. Don’t play it safe.

And most of all, don’t play it safe. Resist the seductions of the cowardly values our society has come to prize so highly: comfort, convenience, security, predictability, control. These, too, are nets. Above all, resist the fear of failure. Yes, you will make mistakes. But they will be your mistakes, not someone else’s. And you will survive them, and you will know yourself better for having made them, and you will be a fuller and a stronger person. — William Dereiesicz, as quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education