.: 2 January 2015 :.

10 Things I learned in 2014

You know it’s been a good year when you have no trouble recalling what happened. This year has not been just ‘good’, it has been amazing. I started studying at the world’s best design school and moved to Sweden, a country I had never been to. I did not just visit my first design conference, I presented in front of all conference attendees. Most importantly, I got myself in a spot in which I can do what I love every single day.

I started studying at the world’s best design school and moved to Sweden, a country I had never been to.

So many adventures, stories and experiences, all in one year.
These are 10 things I learned in 2014.


Normally I don’t write annual reflections because I think reflecting should be done more frequently. However, because one of this year’s goals was to write daily I figured out it would be nice to write about this year.

1. Motivation helps but commitment is key

Halfway trough this year I dedicated myself to writing daily. In the beginning I was really motivated. People were reading my blogposts and their positive feedback gave me new energy. There were also times I did not feel like writing. My motivation vanished but my commitment kept me going. Once I realized that these difficult days were the days I produced the best work, I learned that motivation helps but commitment is key.

Your motivation can decrease, but commitment will keep you going.

2. Embrace uncertainty

I used to be the kind of person that liked to know what was going to happen. I was not a control freak but I just preferred controlling a situation rather than letting go. Uncertainty could cause me to stress.

This year, I moved to a country I had never been to and forced myself into situations beyond my control. I dove headfirst into opportunities without having expectations.

Not only did I learn to deal with uncertainty, I actually started love it so much that I look for it now. Besides that I became confident that I can manage myself in every situation. As a result, my life is much richer and I fewer stress.

Embrace uncertainty by forcing yourself into situations beyond your control.

3. Have zero stress

One day I cycled home at about 07:00 am after having spent and entire night at school on a prototype, which kept failing. I was not cycling home to get some sleep, I was just getting a shower in order to present the final prototype two hours later. I felt stressed and tired. However, on the bike I realized that if I could handle the stress at that moment, I would be able to handle stress anytime in the future.

Rather than thinking short term about the presentation, I started thinking about the long term. Five years later I would have forgotten about that particular presentation, but what remained would be everything I learned during the project.

I realized that even tough the prototype failed, the project taught me more than any other project. From a learning point of view the project was a definite success. This positive energy helped me to get through the presentation, in which I focused on what I learned. From that moment onwards, I never stress about the quality of my work.

Besides that, I learned to deal with stress as a result of uncertainty, by just embracing (#2) it. Finally, I learned to deal with stress as a result of a lack of overview, by making lists (#7).

I am reaching a point in which I have zero stress in my life.

You can have zero stress by dealing with the core causes of your stress.

4. You cannot fail

I used to be quite harsh on myself. As a result of my perfectionism, I was never quite satisfied. This year I changed perspective. I started to consider personal development as a goal. From this perspective, failure does not exist. Every situation leads to learning. I just try to expand my comfort zone by diving headfirst into new situations.

If learning becomes your goal, you cannot possibly fail.

5. Writing is powerful

I thought I was not the writer type of guy. Nevertheless, I dedicated myself to writing daily. Initially I wrote when I felt like I had something to say, later I started writing to find out what I had to say. The represents the power of writing I discovered. Writing helps me to discover, structure and solidify my vague ideas into ready to use knowledge. Besides that, writing enables me to reflect and grow.

Writing helps you to discover, structure and solidify you ideas.

6. Become a better presenter

This year I have gotten many opportunities to present my work to expert people in the field of Interaction Design. One time I video recorded myself presenting. Looking back, I realized I was not all that good ☺. There was a clear gap in the level I thought I had and what I actually had. From that moment, I started to prepare my presentations better. This made me more confident about what I was saying, enabling me to concentrate more on how I was saying it.

The more confident you become about what you are saying, the more you can focus on how you are saying it.

7. Lists free your mind

Sometimes my brain nearly overloaded. There are so many things I want to do, learn and achieve. This year I started to use Wunderlist more frequently and it felt like a relief. I make lists for everything now: inspirational people, great resources, long term goals etc. Making lists not just helps me to free my mind by externalizing my ideas, it also stimulates the development of new ideas.

Making lists helps you to free your mind, making room for new ideas.

8. How to travel

Of course I traveled before but this year it was different. I was on my own.
I used to be the kind of traveler that wanted to see as much as possible in the shortest possible time. Being alone, I took the time to try to immerse myself in my surroundings. I talked to random people, sat in parks and tasted the local food. This made me realize that traveling is about much more than seeing, it is about experiencing.

Traveling is about much more than seeing, it is about experiencing.

9. Online presence pays off

This year I launched my new portfolio, started blogging, got invited to dribbble, became more active on twitter and expanded my linkedin network. I noticed that building an online presence takes time, a lot of time. However, I did experience some of it’s potential: I met great people and received work opportunities. I will definitely continue this in 2015.

Building an online presence takes a lot of time, but it really pays off.

10. Have a better focus

This year, by life became a lot more hectic. I met many more people, received many more emails and got more active online. More things asking for my attention, but fewer time. As a result I found it harder to fully concentrate. This year I realized that focus is a decision. I can decide to turn off my phone. I can decide not to visit Facebook. I can decide to sit in a quite room. I do not have to give in to distractions. I still have a lot to improve on this one ☺

You can consciously decide to neglect things asking for your attention.

2014 Was amazing, hopefully 2015 will be even better! Happy 2015!




Do you have comments or questions on this article?
Please shoot me an email.
Martijn van den Broeck (@MartijnvdBroeck)

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