“This is the Pen Tool, computer shortcut is the P. Once you hit P, you’ll see a –”

2nd semester of college, second week of Digital Illustration I.

And my teacher was talking through exactly what she’d assigned us to read the week before.

Time to pull out Inkheart.

Inkheart is a great book…

and by the time I tuned back into class, we were mocking up tea boxes for our final project.

And I had no clue how to make a line with that Pen Tool, let alone the elaborate illustrations I’d sketched out for my design.

I looked at the sketches.
Looked at the blank screen.
Looked at the sketches again.

My final tea box?

Hated it.

But as we started the critiques I noticed something really interesting.

The classmate who began his critique with negativity?

Harsh feedback.
No one liked the design.
The conversation highly critical.

But the classmate who presented confidently?
Rave reviews.

Guess how I presented my project?


Not one word about my failed design,
my loathing for the little 7-inch box,
the drab color palette,

Guess how my project was received?

Even the students I really respected –
the ones with really high standards –
they all said nice things about my design.

(And I got an A on the project. Because that, of course, is all that matters, right?)

Lessons learned?

  1. Stop thinking you’re so smart. You can learn from everyone.
  2. Don’t take yourself too seriously – the work you hate isn’t that bad.
  3. But above all: Stop with the self deprecation.

Be confident.
Make the ask.
Don’t apologize.

Y’know those pop up boxes that apologize for interrupting?

Hate ‘em.
(More than my tea box.)

Sole exception is Wait But Why. Their Twitter guy blows bubbles. All is forgiven.

I don’t hate the pop ups.
I hate the apologies.

If you’re gonna go all in with pop up boxes, go all in.

We’ve distorted permission marketing. Now we do apologetic marketing.

Sorry I’m interrupting.
Sorry I haven’t emailed.
Sorry I have a product to sell that will make your life better.

I’m all for nice. (Really.)
But niceties? 
In marketing? 

It just smacks of inauthenticity.
Worse, a sort of wishy washy, inability to commit. 

And it’s ineffective.

Doesn’t engender loyalty. 
Doesn’t promote clicks. 
Doesn’t do anything but sit – tail between its legs.

Believe in what you’re doing.

And show up that way.