One of my favorite classes in college was “Design Philosophy”. It was a mishmash of history, typography, production and techniques. It was not a portfolio class, but more like an art class, where we made more design that was like art.
The funny thing about Design Philosophy is that I was never quite sure what I was supposed to have taken away from it. Even 25+ years later, I’m still not sure.
But philosophy has never left my mind.
Life is hard and without getting to gooey, studying philosophy can help you find your way. A couple of years ago I read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. I thought Isaacson was a little too close to his subject and a bit too much of a fanboy. But there were plenty of excellent take-aways with a surprisingly large number that are of a philosophical nature.
After reading the book, I immediately went out and picked up one of Job’s favorite books, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a book that had been recommended to me years ago but I had never broken down to read it. Finally did.
Although a beautiful, thoughtful book, Buddhist philosophy is not for me. I do meditate on occasion, but just cannot wrap my head around Eastern thought.
The Western equivalent, Stoicism, I do practice. Daily in fact. Of late, it has become the trendy thing to do largely in part to Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way and it’s subsequent adoption by the NFL as a manual for success. Hey, whatever works.
Sports offer such a great metaphors for life. Especially baseball.
My all-time favorite player has been and will always be the Astros’ first baseman throughout the 90s, Jeff Bagwell. He epitomizes Stoic philosophy.
I’ll never forget a post-game interview he gave. He just came off a monster game — a home run, stolen bases, great defense and base running. An All-Star caliber performance. A reporter comes up to him in the locker room afterwards and starts rattling off everything he had done. Bags just looks at him and says “You know they pay me to hit home runs, steal bases and field the ball. I was just doing my job.” Not an ounce of sarcasm, just pure Stoicism.
I’ve always tried my best to carry myself with a similar stance. Put your head down and do the work. That’s what being a professional is all about. Don’t go out looking for glory, do the work and let it find you.