Show Your Work
by Jeffrey Henderson·
I recently received a thoughtful question from a creative in Germany. He wanted to know if my work was driven by a manifesto of sorts.
I cringe at words like manifesto and ethos because I didn’t score well on my SATs.
That’s more about me than the question.
What’s important to know is that my life is a lot like Coehlo’s Santiago. I went on a journey to find something and I found it. The treasure was always there but I kept going in 50–11 directions seemingly without purpose.
Lucky for me, I told people what I was looking for and left a trail behind me.
Mom Taught Math
Never take advice from someone who got the answer correct on their first try. They assume it was the only way to get there. They shrug if you tell them that their way doesn’t work for you. They are confused to here about another way.
My brother would joke about Magic Johnson not being a successful coach because he’d tell his players “just get the rebound over their center, go behind your back and between your legs in the same dribble then throw a no look bounce pass 80 feet with your offhand while a blow a kiss to the cheerleaders with your other hand”.
Only Magic could do that.
So I prefer to see pages full of wrong answers with red marks and dried tears. I like knowing that your first answer wasn’t your only answer. I like watching you dig deeper because finding a hundred dollar bill on the front porch might mean there’s a million dollars in a coffee can in the attack.
There’s beauty in that mess.
There’s also intent.
Those who come behind you can see where they may take a different path from the one you chose by flipping a coin. They may have a better answer. They may find a better solution.
My final solutions are typically how people judge me — Yeezy or Cole Haan — but they are probably not how people who know me will remember me. The people who know will know that I don’t talk much and I typically think in riddles.
I’ve been called Yoda by more than a few people.
I typically tell people about setting goals with my Tokyo & Damon Haley story. I’ll link once I find it, but it essentially says that I told someone I barely knew about an audacious plan and he booked in his calendar. For whatever reason that was my motivation. He was calling me on my bullshit or motivating me on my promise.
Ultimately he would not have cared if I hadn’t met such a grandiose goal, but by putting my wish in writing I was allowing others to check in on me to make sure I was working to accomplish the goal that I’d set for myself. Not everybody knew my goals, but the collection of people were the embodiment of the mirror I’d created for myself.
They weren’t telling me what they wanted me to be. They were telling me what I wanted me to be.
Our ecommerce site is my blog is my email signature. It forces me to be positive yet simple. It forces me to create tangible over theoretical. It tells everyone what to expect from me. It reminds me that other people care that I care. It allows me room to be great when great is possible.
I like to write because my first thoughts are riddled with four letter words, incoherent run-on sentences and hip-hop & basketball references from 1992. My vocabulary is far more eloquent on paper and that says tons.
But the benefit of me writing it is that people remind me every day what my focus should be because I wrote some random thought at 2AM after watching an even more random tweet. Those mental markers provide the world with a way to guide me when in need it. I hope that they are useful to others but their interest becomes useful to my growth and my path.
I evolve so the words may need a grain of salt here or there, but ultimately it’s useful in it’s disorganized form. I don’t have a Top 10 Tips to Blah Blah Blah. My SEO suffers but I’m guessing I could hire an intern to patch together my ramblings if I thought anybody really needed it.
For now I’m content answering amazing questions with some old man ramblings while I watch HGTV marathons and read about food justice on the Twitter.
PS — at some point my kids will read this with horror before sending me edits so I sound halfway literate. Hopefully you’re reading this AFTER their embarrassment.