Lessons from the school of life

School very often forces people to learn for tests and forget everything afterwards. That’s not only bad, it’s the totally wrong approach towards learning. Just to make people comparable to each other does not give someone else the right to judge whatever you are doing. Here are some important principles that school usually undervalues throughout your education.


improve your strength, quit fixing the weakness

The most important lesson in life is to quit running after your weakness. Every human has loads of strengths, it’s important to build on those. You can always be something else, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get through stuff that you don’t want to do, or are simply not your strong sides, than going for what your skills tell you to do. Some people are great at math, others rock as artists. It’s not important to be perfect at everything, just do what you do and focus on it. And even if your biggest skill is to multitask, simply focus on that 😉

Positive Psychology these days tries to fix people up with improving their life rather through positive feedback rather than simply fixing flaws that are not necessarily worth fixing at all. To lead a happy & fullfilled life we have to be challenged, which is perfectly proven through the flow effect, how else is it explained that we don’t recognize time when we are perfectly challenged?

the Pareto Principle & Batching

Pareto’s Prinicple just tells us that most of the time when we work, we are simply not productive and that everything boils down to a 80/20 rule. This means basically 80 percent of the value you receive will come from 20 percent of your activities, friends, co-works, training habits, basically everything can be reduced to this. At least when it comes to productivity.

Most of the stuff we are doing each day is usually not as productive as it could be, leaving us doing either a lot of stuff we don’t have to do and could cut out, or that is simply put a leisure of us.

We can drop – or rather decrease time we spend on – almost everything, whether it be through outsourcing, batching or optimizing your time. Tim Ferriss and his 4 hour workweek concept are a good example for this whole idea of reducing your workload to do something fun. It’s important though, that not everything is wasting time, a lot of stuff is simply not being productive. Never forget we are all only human and don’t have to be perfect, it’s ok to not get everything done perfectly.

Batching is simply doing things that you are doing far to often and take some time each day to cut down the actual time you spend on it. Rather than check stats or email 50 times a day create automated systems for email telling everyone that you only check at a special time. Check stats every week, as you can’t influence them that much anyways and it’s just an ego trip.

Parkinson’s Law

We can do things quicker than we think.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Parkinson’s Law says that a task will expand in time and seeming complexity depending on the time you set aside for it. The more time you give yourself to complete a task, the more difficult it will become.

Reduce the time you spend, the level of your output might drop a bit, but your Cost-benefit will allow you to work more effective. The less time you have available the more your mind has to focus on the solutions and action, instead of doing more research and cluttering.

Whenever you think “Productivity instead of Activity” remember Parkinson’s Law and add the perfect addition of Pareto’s Principle with the 80:20 rule to the mix, 20% of your actions determine 80% of the results.

be aggressive, not passive

We are all living a more or less passive life, television or internet surfing, wasting hours away without really doing nothing. At least when we are passive consumers. Step out of this vicious cycle and start being aggressive about what you are doing. If everyone is passive and only reacts when someone approaches him, very little will get done. Simply do what you have to do instead of relying on others to help you. Don’t be passive aggressive, be actively aggressive 🙂

Trying to be an alpha male/female and making decisions while taking actions will help you in several ways….

  1. You don’t have to wait for others to make a decision.

  2. People look at you in a different way, as there are far less people taking action and responsibility.

  3. You can determine your life how you want it to be.

  4. You are rarely at the fate of others who will tell you what to do.

As you can see, it can really be hard to be an alpha male/female and take a stand. It takes an opinion, you have to be settled and know what you want to achieve. It’s far easier to be passive, but it’s less rewarding and will only get you to a certain point.

failure counts as done

Mistakes are good.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Wayne Gretzky

Eighty percent of success is showing up.
Woody Allen

If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.
Frank Wilczek

No matter what we do, we usually make mistakes and fail every once in a while. There are so many empty phrases around this whole idea, it’s better to use less of them. Just remember, first of all failure means learning and try to avoid making the same mistake over and over again. Usually it does not matter if you fail, it should not prevent us from doing something, it’s part of a learning curve and where we simply have to adjust what we are doing. It’s far worse to never fail, because you have probably never really tested yourself and your skills.

positive feedback loops are everything

Stimulate your inner demons and learn to talk in the right way with yourself. Don’t ask yourself how you could fail, ask yourself how you can improve, which steps can help you to clean up with life. You can file this under some wussy bollocks and go to the next step, but the mind is one of the strongest tools we can access and use to our advantage. Imagine yourself how you want to be, write down how to improve yourself. I am by no means I shrink, but if you are interested in evolving your inner game you should check out the whole NLP movement, pick up some books and maybe find a coach.

“You live in your own reality”, this may sound like some joke phrase, but the one who has the strongest reality is either insane or someone very powerful 😉

don’t fear the fear

Fear is something natural and it’s probably far too easy to say that we should not care about it too much, but actually it’s important to learn to accept that fear is just a chemical process and social conditioning. Nowadays most fear is overrated, it’s not that we are a the brink of death every time it pops up. It can be everything from failing a test, to talking to a women or something else, that’s actually not that dangerous at all once we come to think of it.
The first step to mastering fear is to be rational about it. What can be the worst outcome of what is causing us fear? What will happen if we fail this test? What will happen if we get burned by approaching someone we don’t know? How will it change our life? After all life will be pretty much the same and we will adapt. Our society fuels all those fears and tries to sell us illusions of safety, but be real about it, life will never be save and that is a good thing. Just as George Carlin or Tyler Durden said we give up far too much and get attached too just as much, “and all for the illusion of safety”. Let the chips fall where they may and let’s evolve.

don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen

In pretty much any experience there are always things that you can learn from it and things within the experience that can help you to grow. Negative experiences, mistakes and failure can sometimes be even better than a success because it teaches you something totally new, something that another success could never teach you.

Whenever you have a “negative experience” ask yourself: where is the opportunity in this? What is good about this situation? One negative experience can – with time – help you create many very positive experiences.

How to save your photoshop brushes

Creating photoshop brushes is a lot fun, but once it came to sharing them I ran into a problem I knew how to save them, but I did not know why the hell all my brushes were 200MB big, then I understood. First of all you, if you don’t know how to save your photoshop brushes… here is a simple instruction how you can save your photoshop brushes…


You simply have to click on the spot marked in the above picture and pick the tab save brushes. Now you have saved all your existing photoshop brushes. Sounds to easy to be true, eh? You are right! It’s not that super duper easy if you actually want to share only a few custom brushes. I thought it’s possible to save single brushes simply by clicking on them. Oh poor me, how was I wrong 😉

There is one problem, you have to actually delete all the brushes that you do not want to use save right now! Go ahead and save your whole set of brushes before deleting them all! You only have to keep the brushes you want to share. Now save those remaining brushes and you have a brush set!
You can simply reload your old brushes by double clicking on your previous brush save. Tadaaaa!

After reducing my brushes to the handy set of brushes I posted yesterday, the size was down to 7 MB, which is a very shareable size nowadays. At least compared to those 200 MB it had before. Always remember to save your stuff before you delete it, otherwise it’s, well, …lost. Now go and share those brushes you have created 🙂

Digital SLR quicktip – Lense Changing

A lot people who never worked with an SLR and decide to get one with a couple of lense think that they can change the lense anywhere and any way they want. This is only partially true. In case you change your lense everywhere without thinking about it you are prone to dusting your sensor, and there is nothing more irritating than cleaning it every few weeks. Once there is dust on it you will see the dust in every picture you take. Dust happens, if you use your camera a lot and change your lenses a lot, you have a higher chance that a few flocks of dust, pollen or something else that flies around in the air, will hit your sensor. Once it happend you can only clean it, either by yourself, which I was too scared to do myself, or you can pay someone else about 15-30$ to do it for you, which I decided was cheaper than a new sensor in case I fuck it up.

Practical tips to keep the dust away

  1. Change your lenses in a save environment, which means inside of something, weather is is your car, home or just some simply wind protection like your jacket. It will not keep the complete dust away, but you can reduce the danger.

  2. Turn your camera down when changing the lense. It protects the opening of your camera and makes it harder for dust to enter it. Changing your lense quickly in this position takes some training and an additional set of hands helps wonders 😉

  3. Use a small air blower(no compressed air as it can damage your camera) regularly. Just get the dust out of your camera before it hits the sensor, you don’t have to go into sensor cleaning mode, you just want to reduce the dangers of the dust that is already in your camera, but not on your sensor.

How to take the perfect photo

Taking pictures has to do a lot with technique, but after all, everything that matters is that you add your own point of view to a picture. It does not matter if there is grain, motion blurr or a strange perspective, all that matters is that you are doing something that will move others. There are a lot of different ways how you can achieve this, just look at those 6 examples:

  1. Take a picture noone has seen yet

  2. Take a picture of someone in a unique pose

  3. Take a picture that offers stunning beauty

  4. Take a picture of a place that makes people want to be there

  5. Take a picture of a place where people are afraid to go to

  6. Take a picture with that tells an amazing story

  7. Just make sure that you take a picture someone else wants to reproduce, getting ripped off means you are doing something right!

Let’s run this down, first of all you have to know what you want to do, you can either do this by trial and error, plan out whatever you are doing and arrange it, or get a concept of randomness. If you strive for a concept shooting, you should be sure that every tiny aspect of your picture turns out perfect, so you have to be sure that you know what you are doing. A good place to start your education of digital photography is the digital photography school or browsing dslr forums.

Photos of the same subject in the same angle without another perspective are simply a waste of time, they might be beautifully crafted, but after all they are nothing more than another picture that will not change the world. Rather be crass and hated by half the people who watch the picture than end up in the mediocre world, at least that is what I think about this :).

Visual Overkill destroys Creativity

This is a ranting post, if you can’t take it, don’t bother reading it.

The internet is one huge and shallow place, you can find tutorials, loads of beautiful photoshop collages and digital art that will make your eyeballs pop. Pretty much everything related to visual design. That’s exactly the problem. Once we start to dive into the digital worlds of visual RSS subscribtions you will get 20-50 articles a day with plenty of beautiful pictures. So many things will hit you that you can’t even remember what you have seen in the article before. Top this, top that lists, actually not offering anything innovative or new, just giving what the boring masses want to see, easy to consume visual eye candy.

Visual overload will kill your creativity!

If you really want to create something stop looking at what other do and start doing your own stuff. Lately it’s simply sickening to see tutorials exploited to the fullest without a single string of creativity attached to them. It’s like painting with numbers, it will not do you any good even though it gets you results. After a while design, which some people might call applied art (actually design is not art! it’s a craft.), becomes boring. Concept art on the other side is almost never boring.

Design & Illustrations are only beautiful, skilled or technically advanced, but they have not much more to offer. There is a small amount of creative guys and a herde of simple people ripping them off. And you know why? Because there are so many creative magazines and tutorial zines starting every week where you can find the same pictures, the same tutorial, the same guys… the sadest part is, that there is so much input to find and only so little of it sticks out to be reminded. This is one ugly rant… 😈 It’s just that I can’t stand it anymore and I will abandon my RSS reader I guess, or cut it down to 10 subscriptions at max. Edit: As I found out, I could not go any lower than 21 subscriptions without quitting my rss reader completly. Let’s see if this will help reducing the visual overkill.

The Value of a single Article

Lately RSS has been a poison for me, it’s a great way to keep up to date and after picking a decent reader and having more than 60 feeds in it this whole experience has been a blast. That’s one of the reasons for me to go on a media diet, which means that I won’t consume everything that is in this reader, as it’s simply information overload. RSS is the new subscription of your regular magazines, news and gossip. Why do you need design mags when you can putt 10-20 design e-zines into your feed reader? One thing has been obvious though, one becomes very selective fast and scrolling through almost anything in the reader. Reading is done with just a very very small amount of the information you find. In case you are a creative writer and love to share your experience you are in serious trouble.

How do you determine the value of your article in those fast living times?

Your article must face 3. criteria

  1. Simply be a great article, be web ready, easy to scan and has to offer something that people want to link to.

  2. Make it into the top search engine spots.

  3. Be challenging enough so people leave a comment and return to check out if others replied to that comment.

This means, your article has some value in case it survives the test of time. Otherwise it’s just a time filler and will disappear after a short time. You have to make sure that it will end up in the search engines, in case you write for your RSS readers… nice attempt, but your article will be forgotten very fast.
To be honest with you one article has little to no value at all unless you get really lucky. Everything you do should add up to one big picture. No matter if I am writing about building creative capital and maximizing your creative potentials, or Tim Ferriss talks about Lifestyle, the topics may vary widely, but after all it’s all adding together to build a good picture.

What is your goal?

You have to define your goal, otherwise you will swim in mediocre worlds. My goal is to create a valuable website for creative people who want to monetize their works outside the box. Building another stream of income through the internet, ideas on traditional and new value of works & how you can promote yourself. I’d love to have several articles stick out really good, but my first plan is to write about a few regular topics and try to suck up traffic from that niche. The master-plan behind smashill is to build a solid readership & connect with people coming here. This may sound arrogant, but there are millions of worse blogs with far more traffic than smashill. It’s due to the lack of incentive, connection with my readers and promotion. Your articles only have so much value and after that it comes down to “selling” your content to visitors that want to read it.

What do you have to offer?

How do you get people to read? First way is to create good content, that alone will work for some people to propel their business, but most people will have to do some heavy marketing. I have not done enough marketing so far and continue to pump out articles, which is probably the wrong approach. My best going articles have been my textures, and those will have an additional value for people who are going to search for those kind of textures in the future. So instead of writing more and more, which would be a way to go, my next goal is to find people to team up with to move to the next level of traffic.

There is no money to be made online!

There is no value in digital products. Absolutely none, you can copy them, reproduce them, mix them and offer them to be downloaded and shared. Unless people understand that there is no money coming from their products, there will always be the fight we are seeing right now. Music/Film industry versus some mid-aged digital pirates sharing their products. I can understand every artist who hates people downloading his stuff, but truth to be told, it’s the fault of the industry. Offering shallow artists a way to broadcast their message towards millions of people was never good! There were simply enough kids who did not know better and bought all the bullshit stuff! Those kids don’t have to buy it nowadays, they will simply hit the internet, download it, listen to it 5 times and get another bunch of songs, ultimately to be sued by some kind of industry who gives a rats ass about the fans. Everybody else stops tripping on the bullshit music once they discover their own taste in music. The problem we face though, is that this mentality has hit every other creative industry as well.

The old business model is outdated

The old business model is simply no good anymore, people are sick of buying stuff they can create with a blank CD and some MP3s themselves. Why should you buy a CD? To support the artist, yep, that’s about the only thing. You could probably simply send some money to the artist via paypal or wire transfer and be better off. At least you would be sure that he receives the money. Noone cares about artists! People simply want their cool products, and a lot of them don’t want to pay for something that can be easily reproduced.


Offer value instead of products

In case you want to sell digital products such as e-books or programs, forget about it unless you target companies or have a bigger picture behind your marketing efforts. There is short term profit, but actually you should sell a service that offers more than a simple product. Why do you think should the average Joe buy something he can get for free? Think about adding additional value, and use the standard edition as promotion or marketing. You want people to buy your product so you have enough money to make ends meet(if those ends are a Sports-car or whatever, so be it)! Joe does not care about your needs, he wants something for his money, so you better offer some additional value. A special edition, unique prints with signature, something that will have value in the future!

Digital mass Products are marketing

Digital Products are nothing more than marketing. The costs for online products are extremely low, and people can even go on the dark side and share your stuff without costs. If you compare the real value of a creation process with the value of a digital product, the digital product will always kill your profit margin. There is no value in an item that can be copied without the loss of quality, everything you can get for that is a compensation for your efforts or some goodwill spending. Think of your digital products as a marketing product instead of something you will make a lot of money with. Share your digital products with private users and charge companies who want to use them Out aim should always be a big audience and influence. Use your Creation to build a fan-base that pays for unique items & promotes your stuff freely.

Do what you love

First of all, if you are in this creative business you should either do what you love, or do what you have to do(some people are forced to express themselves creatively). In case you are into this there is usually the urge to create. Simply create and do what you love, follow the true artist’s spirit. Earning money with the creative industries has been the save road for the feint hearted who did not dare to enter the art circus. There will always be a need for designers, creatives and people who create stuff, but you have to measure up against people who care less than you and create something unique. The mediocre creatives will starve, there is simply no room for overpriced products on a market where everything can be outsourced.

Unique things have value

Whatever you do, it has to be unique, or at least have your signature on it, otherwise it’s worthless. Sounds harsh, but it’s simple as that. This is what makes stock art & photography possible. Devalue your work and compete with the amateurs if you are up to it. Be aware that you compete with people who do it for fun and earn their main income with something else. They don’t need the money, so they can compete cheaply!
There are loads of artists making a good living with their works, even street artists who do not charge their creations on the public walls. You have to find a model to monetize your efforts in case you want to make a living out of it. Creative works can be easily reproduced and have little to no value, as long as the living expenses for people around the globe differ widely. If you want to go the creative road nowadays you have to face the brutal truth, there are loads of people from other countries charging less and working harder. There are people who want your stuff for free and will not spend a dime on your works and go for people who think promotion will pay the bills. Outsourcing & no material value are the poisons of the creative industry. Make sure that your works, no matter what you do, have an additional value attached to it that can not be digitally reproduced if you want to charge for it, otherwise there will always be someone sharing it or picking the cheaper alternative!