The diploma is not what I am here for…

Eric Stevens
Jun 28, 2016 · 6 min read
Shift Design 2016 — Team Design Challenges

The unsolicited advice in form of spoken monologue as an overflow from Always. Be. Hustling. — read as a manifesto, from Eric Stevens at Shift 2016 to young, brilliantly talented, designers. The title — The Diploma is not what I am here for… — is flat out stolen from Paul Keim a friend I drink beer with and talk about deeper things — you should find someone like that in your life.

These words are mixed and mashed up — improvised on and stolen from *three books & two authors, leaders & friends over a course of thirteen years of work and life.

The last night of Shift 2016, at the last campfire, I stood up to read this out loud — softer than expected — to 100 young designers who are about to step out of their world abruptly into ours…

Shift Design 2016 Campfire

I am an observer, a container that fills up until it can not hold its contents. Imperfect, but earnest.

Learn, lead or leave

I am hear to learn from your method the craft, to learn from the founder, from the stakeholder, from the grey hairs. I will cull out the dated bullshit, diligently master it, refine it and validate it. I will share it, proclaim it and lead with it. And if conditions are obtuse I will leave with it, character in tact, to rinse off the frustration and repeat the principle of it all.

Apologies.. I am paralyzed to speak, so I speak.

I am not here to make friends, but to make collaborators. To foster genius and gut. To do the wrong things at the right time. I am here to be myself, and I hope to meet you at yourself.

Now.. Lets get serious.

Everything here is Wonderful — Best Made Co

Everything here is Wonderful

Stop attending and show up

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes you a mechanic” — Laurence J Peter

Or.. than going to design school makes you a designer. Sting a bit? Stop going — show up. But.. Show up for something. If you show up IT will meet you. IT is opportunity. Showing up is purpose.

I guarantee each one of you carries disability — which paralyzes you. Fear, anxiety, not knowing who you are.. or what it is that you do — Am I better? Good enough? Do I have what it takes? Do I have enough to make it through another day?

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” — Anais

Change your perspective

Aim beyond what you are capable of. Develop a disregard for where your abilities end. Try to do the things that you are incapable of. Nothing is impossible. — Paul Arden

Shift Design 2016 — Tent Village

Your dreams should scare you

“It is not the job of dreams to be sensible or logical. It is the job of dreams to be nigh on the fucking impossible. To scare the holy shit out of you. To push you to the very limit. To find what you are indeed capable of. To push you beyond what common sense says you can do. That’s the job of dreams.” — Hiut Denim Co

“IF you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else.” — Paul Arden

You will hear this, it will nag you to the core —

It is never the right time

No one will give you money

You don’t have enough experience

You are too young

You will hate this job..

It only happens in Silicon Valley

Everyone is smarter than you

You are not paid to think

Design is not R&D

We are looking for someone just like you, but not you

Oppose it, Defy it

Dream big, plan diligently — Execute often

“All the rich and powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good-looking. [Donald Trump] They become rich and powerful by wanting to be rich and powerful.

Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have, but with out a goal its difficult to score.” — Paul Arden

Make a fifteen year resume?

Shift Design 2016 — Cavern Lectures

Don’t seek approval. You will stop when you don’t receive it. Don’t ask permission. You will stop when you don’t receive it. Sometimes being subversive is the right way.


“Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.

Devour films, books, music, paintings, poems, photographs, conversations, dreams, trees, architecture, street signs, clouds, light and shadows.

Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. IF you do this, your work — and theft — will be authentic.” — Paul Arden

Ebb & Flow

Flow is where we grow, its a greenhouse, its the honeymoon. Its all the daily love and adoration John & Owen gave you wrapped in a bow and tucked under your sweet pillow. Unchecked, flow will give you ego, pride, & arrogance.

It will drown you — in yourself. You over-educated ass.

The ebb is where we break, it is famine, its the divorce. The ebb unchecked is where we wear thin, where we burn out — we give until we are gone. Unchecked, ebb gives you apathy, depression and a damn good reason to drink.

It will parch you to everything — anything good. Ebb is just ’good enough’.

You need both equally, and they will come in waves — surf the waves

Tide in.
Tide out.
Not Hungry.

— Hiut Denim Co

Again. The diploma is not what I am here for. The title, the raise, recognition or success. It — is — just, not what we are here for.

I am hear to learn your method

the craft

to learn from the founder, the stakeholder, the grey hairs.

I will cull out the educated bullshit, diligently master it, refine it and validate it.

I will share it, proclaim it and lead with it.

And if conditions are obtuse I will leave with it my personal character in tact — to rinse off all of the frustration years of sweat and tears and repeat the principle of itagain — and again — and again.

Show up. Show up humble.

Thank you for reading. This is an inspired overflow from →

All photography credited in caption. References and excerpts are cited from these * two authors & three books which you should buy, read and attempt to live by:

Hiut Denim Co Year Book 3
Paul Arden’s Books — It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. & Whatever You Think Think The Opposite.

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