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Few Things I Learned in Last 4 Years...

Category: Productivity/Time Management
May 04, 2009

Things I learned in last 4 years As I am almost done with my 4 years of college and all there is left to do is walk the stage and receive my B.F.A. in Computer Animation from Ringling College of Art and Design. I still don't feel that I am about to graduate, it hasn't hit me yet.

I do want to take a moment and reflect back on last 4 years.

In the following article I will discuss some things I have learned about myself, what my passions are and how I became highly efficient and productive during my 4 years in college. Although I am happy where I am, I am not satisfied. It is a curse and a blessing for us artists, as we constantly pursuing the next stage of our artistic development. I hope that what I am about to share will help you as much as it helped me.

Also, the timing couldn't be better for this post. Not only I am about to graduate, I am also about to release an online guide/book on level design and 3d modeling productivity.Which will be launched in the next couple of days.

Perfect timing, and it wasn't even planned that way.

Which brings me to my first point.

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I talk a lot about planning and pre-production. As they are extremely important to our success as designers. I will never stop "preaching" about reference, research and knowing what you want before modeling and designing it. But once you are past the pre-production stage, it is the time to let go and believe the process of production. You have done all your work in pre-pro and it's time to let it go. Allow mistakes and happy accidents to happen. Do not be too rigid. Allow the pre-production do its work.

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Don't over-analyze your work. There will come a time where you will look at what you are creating and think it is the worst thing you have ever done. It is usually during the middle of production where nothing is making sense and it looks like a mess. Ask others for critique, people who know what you are going for and what you are trying to achieve and know that it will happen and it is just part of the workflow.

Again, trust the process.

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It is better to be specific rather then general.

It is better to be highly skilled in one to two areas then be a jack-of-all-trades.

One thing that companies such as Pixar, Sony, EA and Dreamworks that came to our school stressed were, get your portfolio more focused on what you want to do.

Be specific.

Do you love animation? Modeling characters? Environments? Lighting?

Don't say you love them all. Pick something that you absolutely love doing.

For me it is level design and 3d environments.

What is yours?

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Get started on something. Get started today. Don't wait any longer. Don't wait for tomorrow to start. Don't read anymore, don't watch any more tutorials. Start on your project today and learn as you go.

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Stick to 30 days working on a project. 30 days will do two things. One it will help you develop a very important habit that will stick with you from that point on and two, it will make you push through that uncomfortable middle gray zone, what Seth Godin calls the dip. Getting past through that dip, will make you stand out among the rest because that is where most people quit.

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Post your work for critique. At Ringling we had to develop thick skin when for a year and a half, our animation thesis had to go through full faculty crits on weekly to monthly basis. This made our work better and more professional. Post your work on forums, ask for critiques, post your work on your blog, get others to see it and give you feedback.

Develop thick skin.

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The work you create is not about you. Unless you are the only one who will be seeing it. Your work is about your audience, the player, and the community. Everyone who will see your film, download your map and read your articles.

What will they get out of it?

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Every project, push yourself past your own comfort zone. Do something that you haven't done before. Expand your skill by taking on projects that you wouldn't think you'd want to do.

But, it is important to be passionate about them.

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Pure passion will take you further then talent with no passion. Philosopher Eric Hoffer once said,

"We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents."

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One hour of highly focused, uninterrupted work is better then five hours of stop and go work.

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Time will go at the same speed and pace as it has before and always will for everyone. We all have the same hours in a week. It's all about how you decide to spend them.
Getting something done and released is more important then working on a perfect map then never sees the light of day.

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Surround yourself with people who are as passionate as you are.

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The following books have changed my life in last 4 years:

Purple Cow
The Dip
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
The 4-Hour Workweek
Power of Less and the last one is
The Greatest Salesman in the World

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Don't keep your ideas, your best work tips, the magic trick and the secret hot key in yourself. Share it. Don't have the scarcity mindset by thinking you will be one step ahead of someone else. It is a game you don't want to play because you can't win.

Once I stopped keeping all I thought I knew to myself and began to share it, things began to change.  It took a while but once that inner shift happened, I promise your life will change for the better. If you ever want to know how I did something, I'll gladly share it with everyone. Step-by-step.

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You must be extremely specific of what you want to accomplish and know what outcome you want from that project.

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Life is too short to do what you hate.

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Helping someone else succeed feels amazing.

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I love doing interviews on my website because I get to showcase some amazing artists out there. Its not about me and I love that I get a chance to let you guys read and see the work of some of extremely talented and inspirational artists out there.

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Parkinson's' Law. This law describes, "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Meaning that if you give yourself one month to complete a map that takes a week. You will fill that whole month with activities of creating a map that could actually take a lot less. 11-day mapping challenge was Parkinson's Law in effect. I gave myself 11 days and I filled those 11 days with work to get a map done doing the best I can. I learned a lot about myself in those 11 days.

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"If you want to succeed, double your rate of failure."

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Do what you have to do but focus on the work you love.

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Passion, passion, passion.

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Other people help you push yourself to achieve more then you can ever achieve by yourself. Surround yourself with those people.

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Learn how to draw.

Focus on form, line, composition, value, direction and mass.

I never drew in my life until I was 24. I set my mind to learn and forced myself to develop the talent to draw through pure passion. I took 6 figure-drawing classes in a row, over 4 semesters at my community college. Same class, over and over and over again. I drew every single day for one hour for the entire year.

I am able to draw and paint now.

It is a skill I acquired that I value the most.

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Study fine art, illustration, graphic design, painting, drawing and architecture. It will help you become a better level designer and 3d environment modeler.

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60-60-30 rule is extremely powerful and not really known.

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Understanding how to rig and animate a 3d character will help you become a better modeler.

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Story is king. If your story is amazingly good, people will overlook the technical aspects of your work. Not to say you should focus on story only and forget about good animation, modeling and lighting. But if your story sucks, the best animation, texturing and lighting will not help.

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I've never regretted thigns I've done, I've only regretted things I haven't.

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In famous words of Gary Vaynerchuck, "Hustle and Passion!"

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And last thing, my sister created a custom t-shirt for me with my all time favorite Bruce Lee quote written on the back. It says, "to hell with circumstances i create opportunities."

Updated & Revised - Preproduction Blueprint: How to Plan Your Game Environments and Level Designs

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